Yet another conflict in an unbroken string of conflicts has broken out again between Israel and whatever group claiming to represent Palestinian interests of the day; this time it is Hamas.
It certainly isn't the first time this has happened and it certainly won't be the last. But, typically, the usual suspects have lined up on both sides and have started screaming accusations of terrorism and murder at each other. It seems they feel whoever yells the loudest wins the arguement.
But there is one argument that one side uses that is disgusting, disturbing and needs to stop. That is the Body Count.
The “Body Count” Argument goes like this. Hamas (or the PLO or Hezbollah, or whatever the group of the day is) has “only” killed X number of Israelis. But Israel has killed Y number of Palestinians. Therefore, Israel is in the wrong and is the guilty party. This logic is then followed with accusations of Israel being a terrorist state, murderers, barbarians, etc, etc.
Team Israel usually responds to the body count argument thusly: If “they” (Hamas, PLO, etc) would use some of their resources to protect their people, stop using them as shields, or stop instigating conflict with Israel when it knows this will result in untold death for their people, X number of Palestinians wouldn’t die. Besides, Israel uses every method at its disposal to avoid civilian deaths.
Both of these are disgusting arguments. They reduce human life to the level of poker chips. Would the cause we supposedly care so much about be any less or any more significant if the same number of people died on both sides? If Hamas were able to deploy chemical, biological or nuclear material on its rockets, and was able to kill hundreds, possibly thousands of Israelis at a time, would your support or opposition to the Palestinian cause be any lessened? One death is one death too many in this endless circus performance. Israel’s cause is not lessened or strengthened by the number of people they have killed or avoided killing. The Palestinian cause is not helped or hurt by the number who have died pointlessly in yet another incessant conflict.
But as disgusting as it is, it is also a fatal argument for many of the innocents who we supposedly care so much about. Focusing only on the number killed on both sides, inspires putting civilians in the line of fire for the propaganda advantage their deaths will earn. If you think this is ridiculous, remember the Yugoslavian civil war of the 1990’s. In that conflict, war crimes became a valuable propaganda tool for each side. As a result, they began committing these crimes against their own people and then blaming their enemies for the outrage. It reached such a horrendous level, that at one point the Canadian commander of the UN forces in the area said that if each side would stop killing their own people, there would be no civilian deaths.
The cold hard fact is that both Palestinians and Israelis care nothing about each other’s lives. Both use brutal, harsh, cold blooded methods with virtually no holds barred in their attacks on each other. Palestinians cheer when Israelis civilians are blown up by suicide bombers and Israelis say “they brought it on themselves” when told of Palestinian civilian deaths. Israeli and Palestinian children are kidnapped and murdered just because they are Israeli or Palestinian. The outrages are too numerous to list, the pointless, stupid deaths that proved nothing too many to count. Both sides are dripping in the blood of innocents and don’t care.
The fact is Hamas and their allies are firing unaimed, unguided rockets onto civilian targets. They care nothing if these land on schools, daycare centres, hospitals or shopping arcades. They would probably cheer the result if it did. Israel is more constrained by the expectations of a nation state and legal constraints but if one of their 120mm shells goes awry and lands on an apartment building instead of an ammunition dump, they have the ready made excuse of “fire came from that location”. It is a fact, they don’t really care where their shells land.
So let’s stop the body count. Let’s stop saying the side that kills the least or seemingly tries to “limit” casualties is the automatic winner in these incessant conflicts. If we insist on using this argument, then let’s admit that for every one rocket Hamas sends into Israeli territory, the only legitimate response for Israel is to fire one 120mm shell into Gaza, unaimed, unguided. Just a blind shot that could land on a hospital, school, daycare or shopping arcade. Then both sides are equal and no shouts of murder, terrorist, etc, etc, can be allowed.
Or, we can work to stop the incessant killing altogether and stop being apologists for each side. Condemn Hamas as much as Israel. Say the side that uses violent means to destroy the other is the guilty criminal and will not get our support. Murder, kidnapping, assassination, suicide bombings, drone strikes, rockets and shellings are not acceptable means of resolving differences and until each stop employing or supporting these methods, each has lost our support, attention and indeed even our care.
Ghandi drove the British out of India without firing a single shot or taking a single life.