On the asymmetry of the Israel-Hamas war

Associate editor of The Guardian Seumas Milne talks about the “one-sided burden of casualties” on Gazans of Israel’s recent strikes on Gaza. Rory McCarthy also repeats The Guardian line:

But this remains an unequal conflict. There have been thousands of Palestinian rockets fired – 2,000 only last year – and they have killed 13 people in Israel in the past four years. But in the last five-day operation alone at least 106 Palestinians were killed.

This asymmetry is often brought up to bolster the argument that Israel is a regional tyrant. But this kind of underdoggism lumps ordinary Palestinians together with Hamas, in a way that Israelis and Gazans themselves wouldn’t, as the objects of Israel’s aggression – as if Israel were targetting all Gazans instead of carefully aiming at Hamas positions.

It unthinkingly demands an even playing field without any apparent attempt to evaluate the aims of the weaker side. Hamas as it stands is inimical to a healthy democracy – this is why it has been boycotted by the US and EU since it assumed power in last summer’s putsch. Hamas‘ stated aims are to wage war on Jews, cancel Israel, claim the land as Waqf, and Islamify everybody and every institution there. It squashes journalists, trade unions, women, LBGT people and dissenters, and allows or encourages the targetting of religious minorities.

On the other hand Israel has its own far right minority – which is not on the whole militant but which is pro-settlement and in favour of annexing Palestinian land. But the majority of Israeli citizens, like most Palestinians, want a two-state solution along the lines of the Taba negotiations. Israel, as well as being up to its eyeballs in a disastrous occupation, is within its borders a zone of tolerance and democracy.

So you wonder why, when Hamas is targetting civilians and mostly missing and Israel targetting Hamas and inadvertantly blowing up civilians in the process, commentators like those in The Guardian should imply that if these children preparing for missiles in Ashkelon:

Ashkelon children March 2008

looked more like these blasted-up Palestinian children:

dead or wounded palestinian children

then Israel would have a better moral case for defending itself.


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