What does Israel do in Gaza? Does the IDF deliberately rape, torture, and murder Palestinian civilians, as Hamas did to the Israelis at the dance party and in the kibbutzim? Does the IDF take delight in killing, in as sadistic a way as possible, as many Gazan civilians as it can? No, of course not. The IDF tries instead, to minimize civilian casualties. It has no desire to harm the truly innocent. Unfortunately, Hamas wants to maximize those civilian casualties, and to exploit that result to undermine Israel’s standing in the world.
Whenever it can, the IDF warns civilians away from areas about to be targeted. These warnings are enormous undertakings. When the IDF had concluded that it was first going to concentrate its war-making in northern Gaza, it dropped 1.5 leaflets on that area, urging inhabitants to move south of the Wadi Gaza, so as to avoid the most intense fighting that was about to begin in the north. 900,000 Gazans ultimately heeded the warning, and headed south on the north-south corridor of Salah al-Din Street. Hamas fired on, and killed, some of the Gazans trying to move south, in order to keep their civilian shields trapped in the north. Later, when the IDF began to attack Hamas in the south, it dropped both leaflets, and sent emails, with maps included, that showed Gazans the precise areas in the south, in and around Khan Yunis, where the IDF would not be attacking, and that, therefore, they should move to for safety’s sake. It was the same with buildings — schools, apartment buildings, mosques — where the IDF was about to attack. The IDF messaged, emailed, telephoned, and used the “knock-on-the-roof” technique to warn civilians living in or near those buildings soon to be targeted to leave them. Furthermore, Israeli pilots will call off an airstrike if they detect too many civilians near the target.
The result of the IDF’s attempt to minimize harm to civilians can be seen in the statistics about casualties. The UN has reported that in all the wars since World War II, the average civilian-to-combatant ratio been 9 to 1, that is, nine civilians killed for every combatant killed. The American and British armies have worked hard to bring down that ratio, and succeeded. In Iraq, when the Americans were fighting forces loyal to Saddam Hussein, the ration was 3 civilians killed for every combatant. In Afghanistan, the ratio was estimated at between 3 and 5 civilians killed for every combatant. But in the Gaza war, the ratio was much lower still. As of January 6, the IDF believes it has killed about 9,500 Hamas fighters. As of January 4, the Palestinian Ministry of Health claimed a total of 22,500 dead; it does not provide a breakdown between civilians and soldiers killed. Using these figures, we find that at most there have been 13,000 civilian deaths and 9,500 combatant deaths, for a ratio of 130:95, which is far lower than 2: 1, and perhaps the lowest such civilian-to-combatant ratio in a war since such records have been kept. It is no wonder that British Colonel Richard Kemp has called the IDF “the most moral army in the world.”
So let the spectacle begin at the ICJ in The Hague. South Africa claims that Israel is “committing genocide” in Gaza. Israel should begin by noting how the Palestinian population of Gaza went from 410,00 to 1.3 million during the time Israel occupied the Strip. It should note, further that the Palestinian population in Judea and Samaria (a/k/a the West Bank) increased from 600,000 in 1967 to three million today. There was no “genocide” in either place. But what about now? Israel should mention how Hamas tries in increase civilian casualties among its own people, by placing its weapons, its rocket launchers, and its fighters in and around and under— in the 300-mile network of tunnels —civilian structures, in order to use its own civilians as human shields. The Israeli legal teamnat the ICJ should present the evidence of all the ways that the IDF attempts to minimize civilian deaths in Gaza: first, by warning Palestinians away from those parts of Gaza that were soon to be targeted by, for example, dropping 1.5 million leaflets in northern Gaza; second, by providing maps both in emails amd in a million leaflets dropped south of the Wadi Gaza, showing places in southern Gaza that were not going to be targeted by the IDF, places where Palestinians would be relatively safe until further notice; third, in warning Palestinians away from specific buildings, including schools, mosques, apartment and office buildings, through messaging, telephoning, and the “knock-on-the-roof” technique. Lay it all out for the august judges in solemn conclave assembled at the ICJ. Tell the justices about how the ratio of civilians-to-combatants killed by the IDF in Gaza is 130:95, or less than 2 to 1, far below what has been recorded in previous wars anywhere in the world. And let those justices hear about the wounded Hamas fighters who since the Gaza War began have been treated in Israeli hospitals, and their lives saved as a result. All of that evidence shows a clear lack of “intent” by the IDF to commit genocide, and fatally vitiates the claim, made by South Africa, that the Jewish state has been “genocidal” in its conduct of the war against Hamas killers in Gaza.
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