This is a Numbers Game

Coverage of the Israeli – Palestinian conflict is no longer about condemning terrorism – it is about numbers. With the war on Hamas swelling by the hour, it is inevitable that international spectators of the Gazan theater who represent humanitarian organizations will rise to the podium to denounce the injustice brought to the civilians of the region. But when the finger is pointed to the perpetrator responsible for the violation of international law, the finger is pointed at Israel.

At this point in the war, no matter which side one may support, it is clear that Hamas is failing in its supposed mission to “protect” Palestinians from the IDF. One of the biggest ways to see this is that if Hamas were indeed trying to protect the average Palestinian, then they would be the party initiating a ground offensive this week – not the IDF. As we witness the constant volley of rockets targeted at populated cities like Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Eilat among others, it is without a question that Hamas’ agenda is to kill Israeli civilians. But these same champions of human rights who call for an end to the conflict care less about the history of Israel, Palestine, or what is written on Hamas’ charter when drafting their speeches – they are too busy putting together polished infographics and rhetorical articles highlighting the numbers of the war.

Public attention is easily drawn to the number of civilian casualties on both sides. Instead of analyzing the conflict by comparing the motives of the IDF and Hamas, reporters, organizations, and even presidents of nations turn a blind eye and choose to reproach the side where the statistical scale tilts toward. Bold headlines incessantly charge Israel for the murder of 300 Palestinians while slapping Hamas on the wrist for the death of 20 Israelis without considering the circumstances behind those numbers. Instead of organizations such as the United Nations, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch praising Israel and the Iron Dome for limiting civilian casualties, spokespeople provide a skewed picture of the war by labeling Israel as the aggressor responsible for violating human rights while Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization that has publicly announced its intent to target innocent civilians, gets out of jail free hiding under the blanket of Palestinian bloodshed.

The absence of a viable peace process and lack of defensive infrastructure in Gaza mandates that when war takes place, civilians bear the brunt of the battle every time. Hamas acknowledges the fact that rockets fired at Israel will be terminated and civilian casualties will be prevented. Surprisingly, the fact that they are even able to target metropolitan cities altogether is enough for them to celebrate a victory. Hamas knows that their aggression warrants a response from the Israeli military to return the rocket fire in Gaza’s direction; therefore it is Hamas’ best strategy to force Israel to kill Palestinian citizens by embracing human shields and encouraging the public to ignore IDF warnings by staying in their homes. This consequently creates a public relations nightmare for Israel and the IDF, which has spent much of its time and resources knocking on doors and dropping leaflets warning innocent Gazan citizens to seek shelter so that it can target Hamas without unwanted casualties.

We have reached an inflection point where it is safe to say that the motivation of critics outspoken against Israel comes from baseless hatred toward the state of Israel and its people. When the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses the Jewish state for carrying out “systematic genocide and “ethnic cleansing” while he and the rest of the world refuse to acknowledge the corruption taking place within his own country alongside the mass murders of civilians in Syria, Egypt, Iran, Libya, South Sudan, Pakistan, Iraq, Nigeria, and Afghanistan, the source of conviction in labeling Israel as the sole violator of human rights stems from pure anti-Semitism.

While propaganda will continue to detract bystanders from gaining an unbiased picture of the conflict in Gaza, we must ask critics: is the deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians by Hamas not enough to sound the humanitarian alarm? How many Israelis must be killed in order for the world to recognize that it is not just Palestine who is suffering? The numbers are irrelevant when looking at the full picture. We need to stop letting statistics sway our opinion and start doing our own research.

The bottom line is that if it was not for Hamas’ blatant disregard for its own people and its neighbors, we would not be having this conversation.

Nathan is a senior Economics student at UCLA and the youngest graduate of the Maher Fellowship led by 30 Years After, a non-profit civic action organization that promotes the participation and leadership of Iranian-American Jews in American civic, political, and Jewish life. He is also on the student board of Hillel at UCLA.

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