Sound bites are usually meant to obfuscate as much as clarify. Rarely is one so incisive as the line uttered by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu the other day about the difference between Israel and Hamas: “We’re using missile defense to protect our civilians, and they’re using their civilians to protect their missiles.”
This is the ground truth of the latest Gaza War that gets obscured by the relentlessly repeated stark disparity in casualties between the Gazans, hundreds of whom have died in the conflict, and the Israelis.
Each civilian death in Gaza is a tragedy, but who is ultimately responsible? The moral calculus here is simple. Hamas precipitated the war and persisted in waging it even when Israel was willing to accept an Egyptian offer of a cease-fire. Hamas hides its rockets in schools and places its command bunkers under hospitals. It wants war, and it wants civilian casualties.
Joseph Stalin infamously said that one death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic. Hamas is happy with either a tragedy (the four kids killed on the beach by Israeli shells last week) or a statistic (the climbing civilian toll), so long as it is death and so long as it can be used in the propaganda war against Israel.
This isn’t hard to understand. Yet even supporters of Israel give in to the twisted logic that the Gaza conflict is somehow an indictment of the Jewish state. Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright said on CNN “that this is hurting Israel’s moral authority.” Which is exactly the conclusion Hamas wants “the international community” to draw from its depraved indifference to the safety of Gazans.