The goal of this series is to combat the sphere of misinformation to which the most pacifistic groups of Americans are uncharacteristically vulnerable: the distortions pertaining to the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One cannot possibly track them all. These are a few.
When I began researching this series, I tried very hard to look beneath what many on the left declaimed as “Israeli propaganda”. I wanted to determine the “real story” behind Israel’s side of things.
What I found made me more sympathetic to Israel and the IDF, more sympathetic to the Palestinian people, more sympathetic to the Iranian people, and more outraged against their oppressors in Hamas, Fatah, and the Iranian regime.
I am not going to tell you that the Israeli government is innocent. Nor am I going to try to vindicate whatever portion of your salary is being spent on Israel (or Palestine, or Iran, or…). I am simply going to try, as best as I can, to give you information that is difficult to come by in most Western news outlets. Over four posts, I’ll cover:
Territorial Sovereignty and Encroachment
Ethnic Cleansing and Postponing Elections
Death Tolls and Holy Sites
The IDF, the Press, and the “Moral High Ground”
Part Three, Questions 7–9: Death Tolls and Holy Sites
Question 7. I keep seeing that the death toll is so much higher on the Palestinian side than the Israeli side. Why is that? Is Israel deliberately, or at least “accidentally-on-purpose,” targeting Palestinian civilians?
No. There are several factors we need to consider when evaluating these death tolls.
First, Hamas uses schools, commercial buildings, and residential communities as staging-zones for Hamas’ military operations and as launchpads for their rockets. Their inferior weaponry frequently fails to maintain trajectory or achieve the desired range, meaning it falls on Palestinian schools, buildings, and residential communities. As discussed in Part Two, Hamas’ interests have nothing to do with the Palestinian people, so collateral damage is not a concern of theirs, so long as they can use it as propaganda against the Israelis.
As of Friday, May 14, an estimated 400 of 1800 live Hamas rockets—nearly 25%—misfired within Palestinian territories. The casualties were likely all Palestinian. There is nothing worth celebrating about this.
Equally important is that there are far more Palestinians living, peaceably, among Jews in Israel than there are Jews living in Palestine. This means that even when Hamas hits a targeted Israeli site, its chances of killing Palestinians along with Jews are exponentially higher than the chances are of Jews being killed along with Palestinians in the event of a misfire.
How much higher? According to recent demographic data, Palestinians comprise approximately 21% of the Israeli population, whereas Israelis or Jews barely amount to 1% the population of Palestine. Crude calculations suggest that a “good” Hamas rocket—one that hits and destroys its target—is 2000% more likely to destroy a Palestinian than a “bad” Hamas rocket is to destroy a Jew.
Ever notice how when the Washington Post—along with an alarming number of other corporate western press outlets—publishes death counts, they’re not publishing totals for “Palestinians killed by Israeli forces” or even “Palestinians killed by Israeli weapons”? Shouldn’t that be fairly easy? No—they’re counting Palestinian deaths versus Israeli deaths only.
That’s because many of the Palestinians being killed are being killed by Hamas. While that might be unintentional, it’s a third-degree murder type of unintentionality that showcases Hamas’ reckless disregard for human life.
On-the-ground reports have also emerged—after being buried under violent threats—that Hamas militants will dress in plainclothes in order to be counted among civilians in the event of their deaths.
Israel’s death count is also much lower because of its superior defensive technology (namely the Iron Dome, a system that destroys rockets mid-air); and because its leadership expends more effort to save Israeli and Palestinian lives than Hamas expends to spare Palestinians.
Every time I see the death counts from major press outlets (who, if they are getting their data from the UN or through its source, the so-called Gaza Health Ministry, are getting their data directly from Hamas)—and every time reporters comment on the Israeli-Palestinian discrepancy—I have to wonder: what do such remarks imply? That we should strive for death toll equity in the Middle East?
If so, they should admit it.
If the “Free Palestine” trope means anything—and it should—then let it mean this: that Palestinian freedom demands the liberation of Palestinian civilians from totalitarian militants, like Fatah and Hamas, who care more about the deaths of their enemies than the prosperity of their people.
Question 8. What happened at the Temple Mount? Or the Al-Aqsa Mosque? Rashida Tlaib tweeted that Al-Aqsa was like the Temple Mount, so I’m a little confused.
What Rep. Tlaib neglected to mention is that Al-Aqsa is like the Temple Mount because Al-Aqsa is on the Temple Mount.
She also neglected to mention that Jews are, and have always been, legally prohibited from praying on the Temple Mount at all.
You may have heard that Muslims are not being permitted to pray in the Al-Aqsa Mosque. If that was true prior to the most recent violence at the site, it was because Palestinian ultra-nationalists use the mosque as a staging site, collecting rocks and throwing them at nearby Israelis. That can make praying difficult; and again, the violence and disruption victimizes both Muslims and Jews.
Islamic authorities are in charge of the Temple Mount in its entirety. Barring violent outbreaks, which police forces often quell quickly, Muslims can pray at Al-Aqsa.
What you may not have heard is that Jews are not permitted to pray at the Temple Mount at all. If you are Jewish, praying at Judaism’s holiest site (not in the mosque, but next to it) is an offense punishable by jail time, and has been forbidden ever since Israel re-ceded administrative authority in a peacekeeping effort following the Six-Day War (discussed in Part One).
Sometimes, members of the Islamic administrative force (called the Waqf) will shout away Jews who try to pray; sometimes, the Israeli soldiers tasked with providing security there will remove Jews themselves, in accordance with the Waqf’s mandate. Imagine being in the IDF and having that job.
This is especially common during Islamic and Jewish holidays, which are prime targets for militant agitation precisely because of the crowds—and because Islamic and Jewish holidays often sync up together.
For instance, last week, Muslims were celebrating Eid—the culmination of Ramadan—as Jews were preparing for Shavuot—the culmination of the Omer and the celebration of the giving of the Torah at Sinai.
On Sunday, the first night of the all-night Shavuot festival, Israelis in Jerusalem were subjected to another round of air sirens and further rocket bombardment.
Question 9. What’s up with the footage of Israelis dancing as the Al-Aqsa Mosque burns?
Much like opportunistic protesters on the far right and far left in the U.S., Palestinian ultra-nationalists have a history of initiating violence at the Temple Mount in order to blame the Jews for it.
A very recent example of this occurred when a group of Jews was dancing at the foot of the mount in celebration of Jerusalem Day. Militants began firing explosives at them; one explosive caught a nearby tree on fire; and militant propaganda outlets managed to convince the entire Western world that the Jews had been dancing at the foot of the Temple Mount because the Al-Aqsa Mosque was burning. This was a lie.