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On the casualty ratio in Gaza January 19, 2009

Posted by dorigo in news, politics.
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In this short post I wish to discuss whether during the 22-day-long war in Gaza the israeli defence force (IDF) has been, as some commenter claimed here, “the most moral army in the world”. It is indeed reported by media that the IDF makes phone calls to civilian houses before those are bombed, that leaflets are spread on areas which will be targeted, etcetera. I think these are commendable actions, but on the other hand the media these days are full of news that report despicable episodes by the israeli army, which tend to demonstrate the opposite. Leaving aside the endless debate that such conflicting evidences would set up, let me stay on the easier ground of mathematics, and aseptically discuss the civilian casualty ratio in Gaza.

First of all, there are a couple of caveats to mention. The ratio is not too easy to ascertain, because -to some extent- many of the Gaza “civilians” might be considered supporters of the Hamas force. So we have to stick to numbers provided by Israel itself, rather than rely on the claims by Hamas that just 48 of its combatants have been killed in the attack. Israel sets that number at “at least 500”, and I will take 500 as a fair estimate, ignoring the Hamas claim and the rather propaganda-sounding “at least” by the IDF.  Let us give the number a 20% uncertainty: 500+-100. As for the total casualties, their number is less uncertain: most sources set it at 1300 or above, if we stick to palestinians who have lost their life until today. More can die of the wounds in the near future, but the ratio we are to compute should not be affected by that.

The other caveat is that one could argue that it is unfair to judge the actions of the IDF on the basis of the casualty ratio, because the action was aimed at eradicating the weapons potential of Hamas rather than Hamas itself, and the weapons had allegedly been concealed in homes, hospitals, schools, places of worship. This objection to me is not too valuable, because it amounts to declaring that the action had been decided in spite of that practice. Or, to put it another way: if Hamas uses the horrible practice of human shields, Israel uses the even more horrible practice of ignoring it!

Now, let us look at the numbers. (1300-500)/500 = 1.6 \pm 0.5, roughly. That means that for each Hamas fighter, more than one civilian has been killed.

Let us now look at some statistics reported one year ago by Haaretz  here, about the civilian casualty ratio of air strikes. It is reported at 1:30.

So I am led to conclude that the IDF considered not enough the air strikes, and needed a different strategy to counter the Kassam missiles; and that they did not really care about the civilian losses they would inflict on palestinians, this time.

And a warning: Of course, I am willing to hear other opinions on the matter; this blog is usually censorship-free. Since, however, I am bored by allegations of being “anti-semitic”, “communist”, of “caring zero for the other wars in the world”, “where were you when Serbia was bombed by your country”, etcetera, I will apply some measure of censorship here. Either leave your name and address, or refrain from posting meaningless, insulting comments, please.

Comments

1. Mythos - January 19, 2009

Interesting article.

~ Mythos
http://mindofmythos.wordpress.com

2. cormac - January 19, 2009

T. – I couldn’t agree more with your post. In the worst sort of war, where both sides clearly target civilians, it is reasonable to compare the mortality rate. Again, the sheer military might of Israel puts it beyond the pale (even if they are more ‘restrained’ than they might be).

Here is my own contribution: the western world recognizes and legitimizes the government of Israel, in a way it does not recognize Hamas. Therefore, we should expect Israel to abide by our ‘norms’ of warfare, even while their enemy does not. Add to this the feebleness of the enemy and the cynical timing, and Israel’s position seems to me to be untenable…one wonders just what will constitute too much for the UK and US

3. Luboš Motl - January 19, 2009

There are 1.5 million inhabitants in the Gaza strip. The number of Hamas members is estimated between 10,000 and 200,000, so the ratio of the general and Hamas populations is between 600:1 and 7:1.

So for every Hamas member, a blind unfocused action would kill between 7 and 600 civilians, and that’s surely exactly what the Hamas members want to see by hiding themselves in between the civilians. If the IDF can reduce this figure 7-600 to 1.6, it’s nothing short of an amazing example of a human surgical operation.

I don’t know how the IDF is achieving such incredibly human results and I don’t have a clue what kind of garbage must be filling your skull if you end up with such a diametrally opposite appraisal.

dorigo - January 19, 2009

Hi Lubos, my skull is filled with a lot of things, but I can still compute the ratio between 1,500,000 and 10,000, and it is not 600:1.
Whatever it is that fills yours instead, is preventing you from even the simplest calculations.
Cheers,
T.

4. Ahmad from Gaza - January 19, 2009

Destruction is not a nice sight. Nevertheless, I can tell you in the name of MANY friends here, that our people, the Palestinian people, are better of today. Hamas is the real cancer in our society and with the big blow they got we have a chance for normal life.
Just watch this video and see what they have done with our children: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTGbP55HGi8

Dear false Ahmad,
your IP comes from North Miami Beach, Florida. Please buzz off and feel very, very ashamed.

Cheers,
T.

5. Amos - January 19, 2009

Dorigo, your math is off in a different respect. The ~500 number represents an estimate of the number of Hamas killed who were NOT brought to Gaza hospitals (because Hamas does not bring its wounded or dead to hospitals) and thus is in addition to the ~1300 killed.

Of those 1300, some 60% are conceded militants.

Of those who are not conceded militants, those who were voluntarily feeding and housing militants are not, under international law, civilians.

In all events, the idea that a ratio could be illuminating here is silly. The relevant question is the intent of the individual acting soldier, and that has to be judged on a case-by-case basis.

Finally — when you speak on a subject so far out of your expertise, about which you know next to nothing, and accuse the homeland of the Jewish people of genocide and war crimes…. I’m sorry, but those are fighting words, and you have no business claiming to be offended by the response.

dorigo - January 19, 2009

Dear Amos,
thank you for the information. I had not considered this, but all the media around the world speak of 1300 dead in Gaza, so I hope I will be excused. Anyway, I do not see how you can with one hand claim that Hamas corpses are not brought to the hospitals (or burial sites) where they can be counted, while then 60% of those that do get to the hospitals are still hamas militants. Let me remind you that there are about 400 children among the 1300: neither does your math work well to me.

You say that the relevant question is the intent of the individual soldier. I disagree. I believe soldiers are better than their generals. And in fact it is their generals who decide how to take Gaza.

About what I know: you are delusional if you think you know what I know because of what I write here. But you do have a point. I can take a measure of offense, if it is attached to some witty comment and spelt by a person with a face. Anonymous comments get to the trash bin if they do not behave very, very well.

Cheers,
T.

6. Doug - January 19, 2009

Dorigo,

First, war is always ugly, disgusting &c., and the idea that citizens can remain unharmed, especially since war is now (and has been for about 150 years) always total war, is a poor starting point.

Second, that Hamas uses human shields IS more despicable than that Israel “ignores” them (and buy ignore we mean they phone ahead to warn about impending attacks). What sort of shit-head coward fires a rocket attack from the roof of a hospital with the vain hope of killing a couple of Jews indiscriminately? If this is what lives in the heart of the Hamas “freedom fighter”, I say they deserve their hellish fate. Even if we deem the IDF to be at fault, to be senseless brutish beasts in their great oppression of the Palestinians, then Hamas and their ilk are NO better, excepting that they have crappier weapons and worse aim.

Third, if Hamas was so concerned about its own citizens as they pretend to plead in front of the eager cameras, why launch continued, stupid, un-winnable attacks day in and day out? With the amount of material aid coming from European and, yes, American (that great satan!) sources, Gazans could be affluent, well educated, and every other adjective that you would like to use to describe prosperity. Instead they funnel their money into buying overpriced rockets to fuel their idiotic rage against an entire race.

Finally arguing about the ratio of two numbers with Lubos is moot. Don’t be a child.

7. Tony Smith - January 19, 2009

Miles Copeland III (whose mother was a British Special Operations Executive and whose father was in the OSS and was a founder of the CIA and organized the Egyptian Mukabarat) wrote in his blog,
The Copeland Chronicles:

“… The analogy being effectively promoted by the Israeli PR efforts has been duly picked up US politicians and media is to ask “what would Texans do if Mexico was lobbing missiles into Texas”. We all know the answer to that one – basically they would bomb the bejesus out of Mexico and think nothing of it. …
… The problem with …[this analogy]… is that it is effectively a “it all started when he hit me back” scenario.
To be accurate we have to go back further in time and ask what Texans would do if Mexican immigration into Texas got to the point that these new arrivals decided they rightfully should be an independent state of their own …[and]… make Spanish the official language and Roman Catholicism the only accepted religion.
… this would lead to a Texan civil war which is exactly what happened in Palestine when Israel was established.
To carry the analogy further suppose … the Mexican side won resulting into thousands upon thousands of “Anglo” Texans … forced out of their homes … and ending up in the desert in camps in the parts of Texas that did not fall to the new Mexico/Texas state.
And suppose further that China, Russia and the rest of the world recognized this new state and indeed began giving it vast sums of money to make a go of it and even more, all the latest weaponry to keep what they had and even take more as the years went on.
Do we imagine that the Texans would go quietly and accept their new lot without a fight? …
Suppose in this process that the Mexican Texas now built settlements and road blocks in the lands that the “Anglos” had been pushed into so that life for them was much like house arrest, no jobs, no prospects, no respect. … Sound familiar?…”.

Tony Smith

8. dorigo - January 19, 2009

Doug,

Motl is very, very childish most of the time, and I am answering him with his token. If you don’t like this, you are free to walk away, but please see behind the appearances before you cut judgement -at least when you comment here.

Then, “Hamas and their ilk are NO better”… Who said that the IDF is worse than Hamas ? I said that both are doing terrorism. So I agree with you there.

But then you say “a shit-head coward … vain hope of killing a couple of Jews indiscriminately” ? You almost managed to make me laugh despite the serious issue. Killing Jews indiscriminately ? You move war to Gaza and you expect your soldiers to be showered with roses ? You are delusional. The fact remains: somebody shoots from the roof of an hospital, and instead than trying to take him down (for instance by firing bullets from a helicopter, with some risk for the involved soldiers) you bomb the building ? A hospital ? Please, refrain from commenting here if you cannot show a better measure of reason than this.

Cheers,
T.

9. Amos - January 19, 2009

Dorigo:
1. The 1300 number comes from Gaza hospitals and civilians authorities. They certainly can tell that a certain number of persons who come to them–or are brought in by, for example, the red cross–are obviously militants.

When Hamas handles the transport of its own wounded or killed, they do not bring them to hospitals. This is their own statements to the media at the beginning of the war, that they do not bring them to hospitals because they do not want the public to get an accurate count of the damage done to them.

2. Press coverage of the middle-east is an absolute disaster. Much of what you see is literally a show; a few people sitting quietly in front of hundreds of cameras who, when the journalists stand up to start shooting, suddenly stand up to start screaming and throwing rocks. It’s a show, literally a performance put on for your entertainment, because Europeans just loooooove watching violence in the Holy Land, just like during the Crusades!

3. Regarding soldiers and generals: Maybe that’s true in other countries. In Israel as a matter of doctrine, leadership comes from the front-lines. In other words, the generals literally lead the troops into battle.

But that’s irrelevant anyway. The point was that as a matter of international law, what’s relevant is the intent of the individual soldier.

4. On your last point: Its true that your blog does not demonstrate the outer limits of your knowledge. But, on the other hand, your postings on this subject do not imply a body of understanding as to either international law, war or war crimes in general, or the politics of the Middle-East.

What you do with anonymous comments is your own business; mine are not anonymous.

dorigo - January 19, 2009

And in fact you do not get censored…

Maybe the IDF is different WRT leadership, but who takes the decision to bomb buildings rather than shoot at the shooters who fire from their top ? Not the soldiers; nor is the soldiers who decided to go to war, but the Israeli government, at a time when it fixed the consensus on their politics, just before elections. I may be naive, but I challenge you to give me another credible reading of the events. Who knows, I may learn something.

Also, I repeat it in this thread as I said by answering your comments on the other: I do not strive to be knowledgeable here, I am just discussing my ideas, and I am happy when others teach me a thing or two. But don’t patronize, or your efforts become useless.

Cheers,
T.

10. Amos - January 19, 2009

Dorigo:

“who takes the decision to bomb buildings rather than shoot at the shooters who fire from their top ?”

Many of your comments demonstrate a startling lack of knowledge of the war and the tactics involved.

The practice by Hamas has been to (a) put non-combatants on the roofs of buildings, and (b) shoot from the ground. Israel’s counter-practice has been to first target the buildings with non-explosive bombs (i.e., lead weights), which chase the non-combatants away, then follow-up with explosives. This is a new innovation intended to reduce non-combatant casualties.

“nor is the soldiers who decided to go to war, but the Israeli government, at a time when it fixed the consensus on their politics”

But war is not a war crime. War, in and of itself, is consistent with international law when justified by defense, which is indisputably the case here. And even war crimes are not, as you alleged, genocide. (Genocide is a war crime, but not all war crimes are genocide.) It is simply absurd–and deeply offensive–to suggest that what Israel did had anything to do with genocide.

Intermixing combatants with civilians, and targetting civilians — which are the _core_ of Hamas’ tactics are both, by the way, real, genuine, indisputable, war crimes.

“I do not strive to be knowledgeable here, I am just discussing my ideas,”

Tossing out “Israel is committing genocide” is not a good way of starting a conversation on a subject with respect to which you are concededly not very knowledgeable.

“Who said that the IDF is worse than Hamas ? I said that both are doing terrorism.”

Wrong. Terrorism is the use of military force by a non-state actor, directed against political officials or civilians installations of a different country, for the purpose of drawing attention to a cause or effecting a political result. IF (and it is not the case) the IDF were targetting civilians intentionally for the purpose of killing civilians or driving other civilians away, that would (in those specific instances) be a war crime, but it would not be terrorism.

Terrorism is a distinctly worse practice under international law than even the war crime described above. Why? Because, since it is committed by a non-state actor (although almost always sponsored by a state, in this case Iran) the victim country, to protect itself, is forced to endanger civilians. It is also a distinctly worse practice for a second reason, which is that (by refusing to wear uniforms — exposing civilians to harm, and by targeting civilians, among other reasons) it is a complete rejection of the entire system of international law developed for the purpose of limiting and preventing war. It is an abject rejection not just of a country, and of peace, and of negotiation, but of civilization itself.

11. Abe Bird - January 19, 2009

Whats so important in mathematical equation of dead and injures on both sides?
Why shouldn’t Israel ignore the human shield and let the Hamas freely act against Israel civilians and military units using that tactics? Is it morally doing to mix civilians in battle? When one talks war the other side answers with war. It is quite illogic to assume that any state will give permission and advantage to its bitter enemy that is trying to kill its citizens by daily efforts. It wasn’t one rocket, nor 8 rockets. It was daily rocketing for 8 years! Escorted by other terror methods such as suicide bombers, buried explosives, shootings, setting fire etc.
The IDF entered Gaza to meet the terrorists and hit them. Those terrorists felt safer to force their civilians to stay at place use them as a shield. The IDF targeted only known terror sites and places the terrorists escaped into. When civilians were located with the terrorists, the IDF stopped the shooting. You can see on the YouTube some cases that pilots diverted the already launched missiles from the terrorists’ target, while the terrorists run and stuck into near civilians’ flocks. What other army gives up tackling so easy and sure target?

dorigo - January 19, 2009

Interesting. Abe, we are seeing two very different movies of the war in Gaza, it seems. Can you tell me how the bombing of the UNRWA, which was condemned by Merkel, Sarkozy, Brown among others, fits your description of “When civilians were located with the terrorists, the IDF stopped the shooting” ? Justa clean example, to try and understand.
Thank you.
T.

12. Hatim - January 19, 2009

Tony Smith:
What you said is exactly what happened, nothing more, nothing less.
It might not be proper to say thank you, but I do thank you for this clear understanding. Most of the talk goes to the details for the actions taken, not to the root of the problem.

13. sciencetourist - January 19, 2009

Dorigo;

Curious if you have ideas about a way forward towards peace? Israel could do nothing and Hamas could continue to fire the ineffective rockets. That risks Hamas getting lucky and taking out a bunch of Israeli civilians. Israel could also depopulate the Gaza strip in about 30 minutes. I think we all agree that would be horrible.

I always feel the need to point out when this issue comes up that, by 1967, the majority of Israelis had been expelled from the Arab countries after 1948. How should they feel about ‘right of return’?

I ask these questions as I find all the pontificating on all sides of this debate from the endless peanut gallery of the internet to be very absolutist. Either ‘war is not good’ (which I agree with), evil Zionists must be slaughtered (which I don’t), Israel has a right to defend herself which no one, especially Hamas, seems to disagree with but leads us into arguments about humanitarian war, as much a contradiction as war crime is redundant.

So, do you have a plan, or are you just complaining from your safe European home?

dorigo - January 20, 2009

Hi Sciencetourist,

no, unfortunately I do not have a plan. I think the best attempt could and should be tried by Israel itself, by relinquishing at least part of the settlements snatched in the last few decades, provide humanitarian aid to Gaza, throw money for its rebuilding, and allow a UN force to take over the management of borders. This would be a serious attempt at a durable peace, but I understand it is hard for a israeli politician to even start a discussion on such topics.

Cheers,
T.

14. Amos - January 19, 2009

“Can you tell me how the bombing of the UNRWA, which was condemned by Merkel, Sarkozy, Brown among others, fits your description of “When civilians were located with the terrorists, the IDF stopped the shooting” ?”

It isn’t at all clear that Israel in fact bombed, or shot at, the UNRWA. One of the things we have seen in previous wars is that the Palestinians will shoot at their own people and blow up their own buildings in order to claim misconduct by Israel.

15. Hatim - January 19, 2009

Amos.

I would accept any argument you may raise, but to say:

“It isn’t at all clear that Israel in fact bombed, or shot at, the UNRWA. One of the things we have seen in previous wars is that the Palestinians will shoot at their own people and blow up their own buildings in order to claim misconduct by Israel.”

This is completely ….. (I cannot even find a description!). Defending your party (or stance) cannot be in such a way that you even convert the truth into false while the whole world have seen it by their own eyes.
Do you think world leaders, who turned a blind eye for more than 3 weeks would condemn something unless it really really really happened.

16. Amos - January 19, 2009

“Do you think world leaders, who turned a blind eye for more than 3 weeks would condemn something unless it really really really happened.”

Oh, please. Europeans have had a Holy Land fetish since Byzantium. They love to believe everything that happens there is barbaric and just cries out – pleads – for Europe to come in and civilize things.

Europe believed there was a massacre in Jenin for years, for example. The Palestinians figured out a long time ago that faking an atrocity is a great way to get on European TV.

dorigo - January 20, 2009

Amos, your denying of evidence unfortunately qualifies the rest of your contributions here. Unless you claim that UN officials are all anti-sionist bastards, you have to accept their reports of the attacks to their buildings in Gaza.

Cheers,
T.

17. Hatim - January 20, 2009

Hi, Amos and Sciencetourist
You think Palestinians should remain completely defenseless against the people who are sitting on the land they used to live in, which people never once showed any serious intent in creating peace in the middle east – with their expansion of settlements rather than dismantling them, strangling the Palestinian economy with blockade, launching attacks at will without having to fear serious retaliation from the Palestinians.

No wonder the Palestinians are sympathetic to those who resort to “terrorist” means. Anyone living in those kind of conditions next to a neighbor who lives on the land that was yours and who’s got much bigger guns and are much better organized than you are would too, just like the Jews in Masada, 2000 years ago, fighting with “terrorist” means against their Roman occupiers.

I say let us _arm_ the Palestinians with a regular army, the F16s, Apaches, Tanks and all, the way we do Israel. I guarantee you that there will be NO MORE suicide bombers. Because then, the Palestinians can have a fair fight.

dorigo - January 20, 2009

Hatim,
“I say let us _arm_ the Palestinians with a regular army, the F16s, Apaches, Tanks and all, the way we do Israel. I guarantee you that there will be NO MORE suicide bombers. Because then, the Palestinians can have a fair fight.”

Although I understand the motives that bring you to write such a statement, it is a nasty thing, and you are not doing much good to the cause of peace by uncorking the suggestion of arming the palestinians. I wrote here that terrorist is hamas and terrorists are the leaders in Israel, but there is, indeed, a difference between the two. There is no such thing as a fair fight in modern warfare, by the way.

Cheers,
T.

18. Hatim - January 20, 2009

TD #21:
I agree with you 100%. Your mentioning of the agreements that had been signed in the last 5 decades is really nice. I am sure you will have some people arguing that the “Arabs” are the ones who did not fulfill their agreements.

19. sciencetourist - January 20, 2009

> You think Palestinians should remain completely defenseless against the people who are sitting on the land they used to live in, which people never once showed any serious intent in creating peace in the middle east

I said no such thing but the ship has sailed. Israel could turn the entire middle east and some of Europe into smoking ruin in a couple of hours and the French couldn’t stop them so get back about Hamas.

Actually your post reminds me of the 80s charity song:
Rearm the world, rearm the children
It’s time to make a better place so lets start killing …

Do you have any other ideas besides local nuclear holocaust? I guess the Jews could all leave. Should they go back to Egypt, Iran, Syria etc?… One of the great missed opportunities was Ho Chi Mihn offering a Jewish homeland in Vietnam in 1940s. (think of the restaurants)

Any unbiased, if such a thing is possible, reading of the history of Zionism (or history in general) reveals a lot of gray areas and moral ambiguities. How do they move forward from here is the question. All those who have profited from leaving the Palestinian people in an enormous refugee camp since 1949 have blood on their hands and cash in the bank, and not all of them are Jews or Western arms dealers. Why can’t they all just give every Palestinian man women and child one million Euro each and carve some heinous borders in stone and declare peace? Cheaper in the long run then endless asymmetrical munitions expenditures. Us ‘Westerners’ are printing money in a frenzy to stop bankers from detoxing so turn Gaza into a rich nation and accept a few settlements. But that wouldn’t involve guns, is that OK with you?

20. sciencetourist - January 20, 2009

dorigo:

>I understand it is hard for a israeli politician to even start a discussion on such topics.

One of the many tragedies of Israel is the control the fanatics have over the process. A Jewish friend once said maybe the Jews never had a homeland because they don’t get along with each other.

I agree that all moves should be made by Israel and obviously, given my above response to other poster, think that a massive international aid project would have to begin. Should / could this happen while a large portion of the surrounding players, read: warlords, deny Israels right to exist at all? Given the overwhelming military imbalance that question is not entirely rhetorical.

21. Hatim - January 20, 2009

An aside remark:
Israel is a secular state (as far as I know) so there is no need to mix things together by mentioning religion.

22. Haelfix - January 20, 2009

I believe IDF did everything they can do to minimize civilian deaths, short of backing away from a head on fight with human shields, which sadly one cannot always avoid. Its clear that it was in their best interest to keep the number as low as possible, which is why i’m confident thats true..

30 years ago, all this stuff wouldn’t even be covered by the news to such precision and the engagements would be far more bloody. In WWII both the axis and allies indiscriminently bombed entire population centers. Times really have changed, and people are far less able to stomach that sort of thing (this is a positive thing in the course of human history)

That doesn’t mean I don’t think the Israel can do better, but still we’re sideline commenting a military operation with scant information, which is usually a good way to really go off the deep end.

23. Ed Darrell - January 20, 2009

You’re brave for tackling this issue.

I’m discouraged that there remains a lot of “but, consider that the other fellow was mean, earlier” in the arguments, and far too little serious proposals for peace.

But, then, what possibilities for serious proposals for justice and peace can there be?

I have two observations:

First, warfare has moved from the battlefield to the neighborhoods, to the homes of people who are often innocent civilians. There may be a lot of reasons that has happened, but it has happened. Our battle tactics, weapons, and coverage of war have not caught up to the fact of that move. When they do catch up, it won’t relieve the horror.

Second, such actions are lose-lose propositions. As the computer famously intones at the end of the movie “War Games,” “Stupid game: The only way to win is not to play.”

It’s a thought. The path to peace must involve some radical thought to making it nearly impossible to play such a game, by either side, or by a third party.

And that takes us back to the basic conundrum: I don’t care who is at fault at the moment — where is the exit? How do we get out of this cycle of horror?

24. Ed Darrell - January 20, 2009

I say let us _arm_ the Palestinians with a regular army, the F16s, Apaches, Tanks and all, the way we do Israel. I guarantee you that there will be NO MORE suicide bombers. Because then, the Palestinians can have a fair fight.

We tried that once. We armed Egypt and Syria. In a war in 1967 they were defeated and largely disarmed. Egypt was convinced to sign a peace treaty; Syria not so much.

After the defeat, Palestinians turned more to terrorism.

How about a solution that would involve building the institutions people need to avoid war? Water projects, sewage treatment plants, farms, universities, schools, power grids, etc.

25. cormac - January 20, 2009

Here is an Irish perspective:
During the Northern troubles, the IRA deliberately hid among the civilian population, both in NI and in London, while deliberating targetin civilians with guns and bombs. It was extremely difficult for the Brits to deal with this, but they stopped short of bombing known nationalist areas in NI of the republic. Luckily for both sides, a cessation of violence was reached in two ways
(i) by negotiating with political representatives of the terrorists – public support for the extremists was hugely weakened by giving many concessions on civil rights to nationalists (the opposite of Thatcher’s view)
(ii) intelligence services managed some penetration of the IRA, an extremely difficult task.

I think if the israeli government were in London, the Northern peace process would never have been achieved – intsaed, the hatred would have got worse with every civilian death on each side.

Finally, it is my understanding is that there is Hamas and Hamas. In the relative peace before the recent war, there was a genuine attempt on the ‘moderates’ to rein in the extremists, with a consequent reduction in rocket attacks. It was far from satisfactory, but an improvement on what went before. Now, many combatantants are dead, but the hardcore have the upper hand due to public anguish at civilian casualties – leaving a hatred that will possibly never fade…

26. Tony Smith - January 20, 2009

Hatim said “… I say let us _arm_ the Palestinians with a regular army, the F16s, Apaches, Tanks and all, the way we do Israel. I guarantee you that there will be NO MORE suicide bombers. Because then, the Palestinians can have a fair fight. …”,
and
Tommaso replied “… you are not doing much good to the cause of peace by uncorking the suggestion of arming the palestinians … There is no such thing as a fair fight in modern warfare …”.

However, military parity can decrease the level of conflict.
For examples:
during the Cold War the nuclear weapon parity of the USA and the USSR prevented a direct war between them for many decades;
and
a few years back, India and Pakistan did not go to war primarily because both sides had nuclear weapons and the will to use them.

There are two ways to introduce parity into the Israeli/Palestinian situation:

1 – to raise the level of Palestinian armament, a process that has to some small degree begun by increased Russian arms shipments (something the USA has inadvertently caused by taking anti-Russian actions in Georgia, the Ukraine, etc) and might be significantly increased by Iran as part of its competition with Saudi Arabia to be the dominant regional power in the gulf oil-fields;

2 – by substantially reducing the level of USA support for Israel’s military, which might happen as a consequence of a collapse of the USA-dollar-based financial system –
a pdf cartoon story (3.8 MB) about the USA financial mess is on the web at
tony5m17h.net/SubprimeShanghai.pdf

Tony Smith

27. Amos - January 20, 2009

Dorigo:

“Amos, your denying of evidence unfortunately qualifies the rest of your contributions here. Unless you claim that UN officials are all anti-sionist bastards, you have to accept their reports of the attacks to their buildings in Gaza.”

I am, shall we say, skeptical. That the building was blown up says nothing about who fired the shot. And the UNWRA is not the UN, its an organization of pro-Palestinian political activists that receives UN funding for some of its activities.

“You think Palestinians should remain completely defenseless against the people who are sitting on the land they used to live in, which people never once showed any serious intent in creating peace in the middle east – with their expansion of settlements rather than dismantling them, strangling the Palestinian economy with blockade, launching attacks at will without having to fear serious retaliation from the Palestinians.”

Sigh… 1. It was never their land, and it was a hell-hole before Israel developed it. 2. There was no such thing as a Palestinian until 1967, when Egypt created the PLO as a proxy group. 3. The “Palestinian economy” has never, in history, been anything more than accepting handouts from the U.N. and performing manual labor for Israelis. Whenever factories or farms have been constructed for the Palestinians, the Palestinians have burned and destroyed them.

You want to give these people guns? You live next to them then.

28. Hatim - January 20, 2009

TD.

As all sane human being, I hate fighting and killing. For me, one human life worth as many as all human lives -no matter to which race, country, religion, color, and sex. Yet, the atrocity with which people got killed in Palestine, and the regular exercise of targeting civilians (Lebanon 2006, and Gaza 2008-2009) would make some people question, why?

Let me tell you that after these massacrs and after killing more than 1320 instantly, let alone those whole will be digged out of the rubbles in Gaza the IDF and the Israeli government achieved nothing! I will just mention some facts here, They could not root up the “resistance”, they could not destroy the “home made” rocktes, and can’t guarantee they wnot be launched again, they have weakened “their” Abbas and reinforced the popularity of Hamas – not only in Palestine, but world wide, they also lost some allies. Above all, they could not declare a vectory over a group of 10-15 thousands of resistance forces (lightly armed) which is somthing I believe people who understand military can stress more than me.

True is what you said about the govenment of Israel. They have had this war for elections reasons (90%) more than anything else and they should be run after for war crimes. They should give us one reason for using white phospherous against inocent people, let alone what has been said by an expert about the use of micro-biological weapons.

I wounder, and I hope you will wonder with me, how would the world would have reacted if Israel was the side that has been attacked and endured such losses? the answer to that is what we all want for the victims of Gaza now.

29. sciencetourist - January 20, 2009

On an unpleasant note, Hamas is now slaughtering and torturing suspected Fatah supporters in Gaza. At least according to the Western press, take that as you will.

Above poster wrote about Northern Ireland. It’s interesting to note that power is now shared by the two groups who were the most ‘extremest’. And the gun is out of Irish politics.

30. fefino - January 23, 2009

Comment No. 8 (from Tony) has quite an amuzing analogy. Let me explain.

What Tony uses as an analogy actually happened, well, sort of. At the beginning of the 19th century, the region called Texas (as well as California, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona) belonged to the recently created country of Mexico. The americans of those times started settling west (south-west) and started growing in numbers and influence.

So it happened that after a while, supported by the US, people organized and claimed their independence from Mexico. There was a war. The US helped and invaded Mexico. As a result it took Texas and the rest of the territory (half of what Mexico used to be!).

I think the main difference is that both sides sort of believed in the same god, or some close variation of the same crazy ideas. Thus, religion was not involved in the conflict at all. Also, there was no internet and Europe at the time did not care for human rights and/or the so-called “uncivilized” manners (they were doing worse thing in Africa and Asia!).

Today in Mexico people generally do not even think much about it anymore. It has been long dead for most people. In any case, there are more mexicans living in those states (legally and illegally) than ever before, and they do not seem to be going anywhere else!😉

The war you are discussing in this blog may not necessarily be about religion, but it has been religion what has kept it fo so gaddam too loong. It is people’s beliefs, crazy and incomprehensible as they can be, that makes us behave in the most stupid and unreasonable ways. A solution to this? I honestly do not know, and feel at the moment quite pesimistic as to its existence…..

dorigo - January 23, 2009

Fefino, I think there is no analogy with the situation in palestine capable of holding much water. The situation is special there for so many reasons… Religion being one of them. Yes, a solution might be impossible to find -I mean a just solution. Solutions which have various degrees of injustice, or which have various drawbacks, do exist. I think we will have to try and pick one and push for it, regardless of the defects.
Cheers,
T.

31. changcho - January 23, 2009

For what is worth:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/7843307.stm

Ah, I forgot that the BBC is biased against Israel (sarcasm follows).

32. changcho - January 23, 2009

“So it happened that after a while, supported by the US, people organized and claimed their independence from Mexico. There was a war. The US helped and invaded Mexico. As a result it took Texas and the rest of the territory (half of what Mexico used to be!).”

Right – it started with Texas around 1836 (I think it was A. Jackson as US president then). Over the next 10 years or so the US took the rest.

33. fefino - January 24, 2009

Dorigo, completely agree. I just found amuzing that Tony made such a comment. As to the uniqueness of the situation in Palestine, I would make the obvious (stupid) remark that every situation is unique. Think for instance of the situations in all over Africa not only today but from the previous two centuries, or the situation in America 400 to 500 years ago (where complete cultures where close to exterminated), or the situation between India, Pakistan and the UK, or the China-Japan wars, etc. I do believe that each one of them is unique and that if analyzed (or simply commented) during the actual time of concern, they all seem quite unrelated. On the other hand, seen in perspective, they ALL have common ground. They speak of some aspects of humanity, regardless of their insisted origin and/or differences. In the end, regardless of the BS that we were taught at home as kids (religion, nationalism, etc), we are pretty much the same. Unfortunately, it seems, some people do not like this.

34. Cliff - January 25, 2009

It is at best difficult to estimate the percentage of Palestinians killed that could be legitimately considered “combatants”. I certainly wouldn’t rely on the IDF for the statistic. That said, if you want to morally analyze the situation, there a couple important factors that have not had a proper airing in the press:

Hamas fully honored the ceasefire that was initiated last June, however the ceasefire was supposed to include an end (or at least an easing) of the blockade which had already taken a tremendous toll on Gazan society, which never happened. In addition, Israel unilaterally terminated the ceasefire on 4 November in a raid that killed 6 hamas members. The event was widely reported in the international press, but it never seemed to penetrate American awareness. Hamas responded with an immediate resumption of rocket attacks. In mid-december Hamas attempted to renegotiate a cease-fire, based on the easing of restrictions on goods entering the strip. The offer was not accepted by Israel. Only then did Hamas declare the original ceasefire over on 19 December, which was Israel’s official justification for the attack:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/01/09/israel-rejected-hamas-cea_n_156639.html?page=2&show_comment_id=19558888#comment_19558888

The Israeli press has also reported that the attack on Gaza was in planning for six months or more prior to its initiation, meaning since the beginning of the ceasefire, seriously undercutting Israel’s purported role of “peace”-seeker:

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1050426.html

And of course, there is that the inconvenient fact that the operation which was sold as being for the “protection” of Israeli civilians actually resulted in the first Israeli casualties since before the ceasefire started in June. These casualties could have been trivially avoided by accepting Hamas’s offer to renew it.

The Israeli government, like its counterpart here in the States, understands that waging a successful war depends on establishing the proper political framing. In other words, lying is standard operating procedure, as has always been true throughout history. But the facts are all there, for anyone who cares to dig them up. Of course when the facts are laid bare, the war is transparently criminal, as is the case for most aggressive wars.

The path to a lasting peace is the same as it has always been for Israel, and that is to withdraw to their internationally recognized borders and accept a Palestinian state, a settlement Hamas has repeatedly indicated its willingness accept:

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1035414.html

35. Tony Smith - January 25, 2009

fefino said “… Comment No. 8 (from Tony) has quite an amazing analogy …”.
To be strictly correct, the analogy was made by Miles Copeland III,
in his blog “The Copeland Chronicles,
and I just quoted directly from that blog.
Also, it should be noted that the quotation contained not one,
but two hypothetical Mexico-Texas analogies:

1 – What if Mexico were lobbing missiles into Texas?
(This one is used to justify Israeli attacks on Gaza.)

2 – What if Mexicans in Texas set up a state recognized and supported militarily and financially by Russia and China?
(This one is used to justify Hamas attacks on Israel.)

I think that it is likely that Miles Copeland III did not propose that either 1 or 2 should be an exact parallel with Israel/Palestine,
but that both are useful to show important aspects of that situation.

As to where the sympathies of Miles Copeland III lie in the Israel/Palestine situation, here is a quote from his post of 21 January 2009 on his blog:
“… Upon hearing Barak Obama’s speech I could not help but think of … What must the Israelis think as they see the idea of all men are equal, and welcome participants in a democracy for all regardless of religion and race?
How small does their idea of a state for Jews only seem, amid the turmoil of those left out and resentfulness festering ever more?
Will Palestinians see the truth that their future is not against Jews but with them if both sides can see the worth of the other and offer equal participation?
Will this inspire a Palestinian Martin Luther King to arise to advance this ideal we have seen attained in the US after 45 years of step by step peaceful struggle? …”.

Tony Smith


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