Exposing the Myth that Palestinians Target Israeli Civilians

Op-Ed by Don Shay
June 10, 2015

(ANTIMEDIA) I’ve always found it fascinating that supporters of Israeli-sponsored terrorism criticize Palestinian militants for targeting civilians—in spite of the fact that Israeli soldiers kill far more Palestinian non-combatants and destroy much greater amounts of civilian property. One can verify this claim by familiarizing themselves with the casualty statistics of Israel’s last rampage in Gaza last summer, also referred to as “Operation Protective Edge”.

During Operation Protective Edge, more than 2,000 Palestinian civilians were killed, among them 550 children. On the Israeli side, 5 civilians were killed, including 1 child. This is a ratio of 550-1 for the number of Palestinian children deaths versus their Israeli counterparts. More than 3,300 Palestinian children were injured, of whom over 1,000 were permanently disabled. On the Israeli side, 261 Israeli civilians were injured (included in the casualty reports were those who sustained injuries while running to bomb shelters and were not wounded by Palestinian weapons). Nearly 20,000 Palestinian homes were razed or severely damaged, compared to just one Israeli home being destroyed. While Israel’s property damage amounted to $11 million in reconstruction costs, Gaza’s property damage surpassed $6 billion in reconstruction costs over the next 20 years.

And we’re expected to believe that Palestinians are deliberately targeting civilians while Israelis do everything they can to avoid harming civilian lives and property? Does such data vindicate Israel’s position that it isn’t targeting civilians? Does such data undermine the claim that Palestinians are the only ones targeting civilians? While I will never argue that numbers tell an entire story, I can say at the very least that these casualty statistics suggest Israeli military operations are killing civilians and destroying civilian property at a much higher rate than operations conducted by the Palestinians. Such data is worth considering when we analyze Israeli arguments demonizing Palestinians for their choice of tactics in war.

We’ve had it pounded into our heads that Palestinian militants are the bad guys in this conflict because “they purposely target civilians.” That statement couldn’t be further from the truth: Palestinian projectiles, or what the media refers to as “rockets,” have no guiding system. This means Palestinians can’t target anyone. They can only lob a rocket into the sky and let gravity take its course.  Palestinian rockets are guided by gravity, not by Palestinians. Palestinians do launch them, but they do not dictate who or what the rocket targets.

If your concern is targeting civilians, Israel should be held to a higher standard of criticism because her forces have modernized weapons in their arsenal which allow them to avoid and reduce civilian casualties. Israeli missiles are capable of targeting a specific location and confining the blast to a desired radius. How then, is it possible, that Israeli forces do everything in their capacity to avoid causing civilian deaths while causing the most civilian deaths in the conflict? Israeli apologists will argue it’s because ‘Palestinians are using their civilians as human shields,’ or whatever other ludicrous explanations are offered by their political pimps. Such an argument is not an argument at all, but a confession of ignorance.

Israel is purposely targeting civilians because that happens to be the only way it can ensure its strategic goals. Last summer, Israel announced its intention to enforce a 3 kilometer buffer zone around the entire Gaza-Israel border. The size of this buffer zone effectively amounts to roughly 44% of Palestinian territory, which is ultimately forcing thousands of Palestinians living in that area to either flee or die. During its operations in “Protective Edge,” Israeli military forces destroyed neighborhoods and turned entire civilian zones to rubble. Israeli forces deliberately targeted civilians and property by bombing houses, businesses and other civilian infrastructure. Israel is documented to have done this at great lengths.

This is the grotesque absurdity inherently present in Israel’s narrative: Israel purposely targets civilians and their property while purporting to be the good guys defending themselves. They then demonize Palestinians for “targeting civilians”–despite the fact that Palestinians are in fact doing no such thing. You can make the argument that Palestinians are putting civilian lives’ at risk by launching unguided projectiles, but you can’t make the argument that they’re deliberately targeting civilians. For all we know, they want those rockets to hit Israeli soldiers, not civilians. Regardless, it is simply hypocritical and silly to say Palestinians are wrong for doing what Israelis do, but on a smaller scale.

For argument’s sake, however, let’s assume that Palestinians are deliberately targeting civilians and they just don’t have the capacity to achieve that goal. Should we take seriously the argument that Israelis have a right to engage in the practice of indiscriminately killing civilians with modernized weaponry while simultaneously condemning Palestinians for doing the same on a much smaller scale? In order for the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians to reach a peaceful end, we must accept Israel’s role in perpetuating it. Only when we recognize that Israel is the main obstacle to peace can we begin to advance a discussion that offers tangible solutions to the conflict.

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