Ben-Dror Yemini.
Ben-Dror Yemini

Inventing an 'evil state'

Op-ed: B'Tselem's recent report about Operation Protective Edge not only charges Israel incorrectly with disregarding civilian life, it almost completely ignores Hamas' culpability in the deaths of those who were killed in the 2014 Gaza conflict.

Just when it appears that all records have been broken, it turns out that this is not the case. The newspaper that hovers somewhere between anti-Zionism and something far more serious came out last week with the question "Is Israel an Evil State?" Two days later, one of the paper's senior journalists provided the answer: "Yes, it is an Evil State."



Two days before writing that Israel was an "evil state," that same senior journalist published an article entitled "180 babies," who were killed in the Gaza Strip. Behold, the shocking proof of this "evil state."


This "proof" appeared in a report by the B'Tselem organization about the fatalities of Operation Protective Edge, released to mark two years to the war. The report uses the same recycled claims of a mass killing of innocents, while adding interpretation, in the report itself, according to which, "one party breaching the law does not permit its opponent to do the same." That is the most B'Tselem could write against Hamas, that comes out of his report almost entirely blameless. Meanwhile, the decisions made by Israel's leadership make them "fully responsible — both morally and legally — for the extreme harm to civilians."


According to B'Tselem, 2,202 people were killed in the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge. Of them 1,394, 63 percent, were civilians not involved in the fighting. B'Tselem's numbers are controversial, but we'll leave that aside for a moment.


Instead of rebuilding Gaza, Hamas prefers to dig attack tunnels and make rockets. (Photo: Reuters)
Instead of rebuilding Gaza, Hamas prefers to dig attack tunnels and make rockets. (Photo: Reuters)


To see just how farfetched the NGO's claims are, one need only look at the very data it provides, including the gender and age of each fatality. Let's leave for a moment the group of 808 fatalities that even B'Tselem graciously admits were terrorists. We're left with 1,394. If they were indeed all innocents, killed as a result of indiscriminate or random fire, the age distribution would be identical, or at the very least close, to the age distribution in the Gaza Strip.


But lo and behold, it turns out that the real statistics are quite different. Among those defined as innocents between the ages of 18-32, 275 are men and 127 are women. Among all fatalities aged 18-59, 1,296 are men and 247 are women. Five times(!) more men than women. Such high numbers of fighting-aged men, compared to such small numbers of women from the same age group do not point toward randomness. Such a discrepancy could not have occurred if indisriminate fire towards population centers had actually taken place. It indicates that the vast majority of those killed are fighters.


It doesn't end here. Teenagers, 14 and over, were involved in the fighting as well. Sometimes they were used as human shields, sometimes they were brainwashed into joining the fight by the anti-Semitic propaganda to which they are subjected from birth. The question of involvement can be checked by examining gender distribution. Among 14-17 year olds, there were 123 boys killed, compared to 32 girls. That's nearly four times(!) as many.


IDF forces near Gaza border during Protective Edge. (Photo: Ido Erez)
IDF forces near Gaza border during Protective Edge. (Photo: Ido Erez)


A further step is required: Comparing those killed during Protective Edge to the fatalities in similar conflicts. There's no need to make comparisons with third-world militaries as those of western nations suffice. Various sources have published statistics about the number of people killed in the first year of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. According to British medical journal The Lancet, the number stands at about 100,000 killed, among them about 46,000 children under the age of 14. The 0-14 age group in Iraq consitutes about 42 percent of the general population, which idicates a much stronger tendency of "indiscriminant fire" than Israel's critics seem to find.


In comparison, 391 children of that age group were killed. They constituted 17 percent of deaths, but are about 43 percent of the general population of Gaza. Further indication that Israel took care to avoid civilian casualties is that even Iraq Body Count, whose estimates are much lower, indicates that the percentage of civilians killed in Iraq is much higher than that in Gaza.


The problem isn't that B'Tselem is publishing figures. On the contrary, that's well and proper. The problem is that the NGO is erasing the background of the bigger picture. It doesn't write about Hamas' repeated refusal to accept Netanyahu's ceasefire offers. It doesn't report Hamas' refusal of the Quartet's conditions. It doesn't document Hamas' official encouragement of its people to locate themselves in civilian homes and fire at the IDF from within, knowing that an IDF retaliation would be a PR victory for Hamas that way. The B'Tselem report doesn't speak about these key issues. It places responsibility almost exclusively at Israel's door.


These are people, including many children. Every person killed is a tragedy, and everyone should regret the harm caused to innocents. But this does not give people a license to engage in such flagrant manipulations. A close look at B'Tselem's report, as well as comparisons with other conflicts, show the deception, which turns into anti-Israel propaganda. There's no bigger lie than this.


The figures show Israel's valiant efforts to protect human life. US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs at the time, General Martin Dempsey, said that he has sent US military officers to Israel in order to learn how to protect innocents. The plain statistics show that the US military still has a lot to learn.


Hamas is almost entirely absolved of blame for Protective Edge in the B'Tselem report. (Photo: Reuters) (Photo: Reuters)
Hamas is almost entirely absolved of blame for Protective Edge in the B'Tselem report. (Photo: Reuters)


Nazi propaganda said Europe must be cleansed of the evil presence of Jews. Hamas propaganda says that the Middle East must be cleansed of the evil presence of the Jewish state. The new anti-Semitic propaganda points to Israel as the focal point of the axis of evil. And an Israeli newspaper has determined that Israel is an "evil state," explaining that this evil," cannot happen anywhere, and it has political and social roots that are deeply embedded in Israeli society." The anti-Semites couldn't put it better themselves.


The B'Tselem report didn't aim for this kind of result. Intentions can be good. Self-criticism is part of democracy. Manipulations however, are another matter. The problem, according to B'Tselem, is not Hamas – which calls for the murder of Jews, educates Gazan children to kill Jews, and dedicates its resources to digging attack tunnels and manufacturing rockets instead of rebuilding the Gaza Strip – but Israel.


Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic said recently that Haaretz's articles were being used by neo-Nazi propagandists. What more do I have to say?  


פרסום ראשון: 08.08.16, 23:53
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