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The media and anti-Israel activists have been pounding Israel on the high civilian death toll in Gaza from Israel’s response to the October 7 massacre. Critics claim that Israel is committing a “genocide” of Palestinian Arabs and are trying to “ethnically cleanse” Gaza of any Muslims. The incendiary comments fly in the face of Israel’s concerted efforts to minimize civilian casualties as it tries to eliminate Hamas terrorists.

The New York Times blamed Israel’s use of large bombs in dense urban neighborhoods, when normally lighter weapons are used. It contrasted the high percentage of Gaza civilian deaths relative to past Israeli wars with Hamas as well as America’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the Russia-Ukraine war.


There are many other factors that Israel’s critics and the media fail to mention or highlight.

Subterranean battlefield. As opposed to America’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Hamas’s fighters are almost all below ground. The firepower needed to penetrate both buildings and dirt requires much heavier armaments. The collateral damage to civilians is consequently greater.

High percentage of youth. Almost half of Gazans are under 18 years old, with roughly 39.75% under 14 years old. By way of comparison, only 13.2% of Germans are under 14 years old, 15.43% of Ukrainians, 17.47% in the United Kingdom and 17.96% in the USA. That means that all things being equal, it should be expected that young Gazans will unfortunately die in bombing campaigns at two to three times the level of other wars like in Russia-Ukraine now.

Refusal to move away from battle. While Israel has urged civilians to move away from battleground areas, Gazans have been reluctant to do so. The leaders of Hamas have urged them to stay put, while the Palestinian Authority claimed that Israel’s humanitarian pause to allow civilians to leave the battlefield was a form of “ethnic cleansing”. The United Nations Secretary General uttered much the same. The combined result was too many civilians declined opportunities to flee the war zone, resulting in many deaths.

Israel doesn’t have luxury of time. Israel does not have the luxury of time to battle jihadists the way the United States did in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

  1. Israel is facing existential threats. While the United States wanted to defeat terrorism, it was not an existential threat to the homeland. The small bands of jihadists were thousands of miles from America’s shores and the integrity of the US was never at risk. That is in sharp contrast to Israel which is fighting: Hamas terrorists on its immediate border on the west; Hezbollah, also sworn to its destruction in the north; Syria and Iran to the northwest which is on the verge of nuclear weapons capability; and various other jihadi terrorist groups to the east in the West Bank. Israel’s basic existence is at risk and putting down one front quickly is required should it need to fight on another front.
  2. Hostages. No other modern war has seen the ripping of hundreds of civilians from their homes to be taken hostage into underground tunnels. Israel needs to mobilize quickly to save those civilians, a dynamic without comparison in the Russia-Ukraine war or other battles.
  3. Extraordinary volume of reservists. In light of the existential crisis and hostage situation, Israel activated almost the entire country’s reservists. These people are not the 18 to 22 year-olds regularly serving in the army but people working throughout the economy. Pulling 300,000 people from their jobs can only be maintained for a short period of time before the country’s economy gets crushed.
  4. Global pressure. Whether Israel killed 2,000 or 20,000 civilians in Gaza, it was going to face enormous global pressure to cease operations. Global powerhouses like Russia, China and the United States can ignore that pressure due to the scale of their economies, the strength of the military capabilities, and having permanent seats at the United Nations Security Council which protect them from draconian resolutions. Israel is very small with few allies and therefore needs to conclude its military operations as quickly as possible.

These points are in addition to the scale and barbarity of the October 7 attacks which dwarf the 9/11 jihadi attacks against the United States.

The security needs of the small Jewish State have no comparable to any country in the world. Israel’s immediate goals of eliminating Hamas and saving the hostages must have global unambiguous support. The tragic loss of life among Gaza civilians – even though they support Hamas’s terrorism – should be mitigated by the world pressing Hamas (not Israel) to release hostages, encourage civilians to leave the fighting area, and get Hamas to surrender.


Related articles:

The Death of Civilians; the Three Shades of Sorrow

Unequal Tallies and Israel’s Soft Force

On Killing Terrorists

A New Low: UN Saddened By Deaths of Terrorists

Civil Death and Terrorism

Hamas Is The Very Definition Of A Genocidal Group

Cause and Effect: Making Gaza

Eyal Gilad Naftali Klinghoffer. The new Blood Libel.

{reposted from the author’s blog}


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Paul Gherkin is founder of the website FirstOneThrough, which is dedicated to educating people on Israel, the United States, Judaism and science in an entertaining manner so they speak up and take action. In a connected digital world, each person can be a spokesperson by disseminating news to thousands of people by forwarding articles or videos to people, or using the information to fight on behalf of a cause because In a connected digital world. YOU are FirstOneThrough.