Who is killing the Israeli soldiers?

By Andy David, Special to the Jewish Sound

In newspapers, it is highly unlikely that you will see pictures of Hamas terrorists storing rockets in multiple UNRWA schools, shooting from hospitals, operating from mosques and other civilian structures, as opposed to images of civilian casualties. Since we don’t suspect civilians of engaging in the killing of 53 Israeli soldiers (at the time of this writing), the question remains: “Who is killing the Israeli soldiers?”

Behind the optics of the conflict is a story reflecting the limits of press freedom in the Middle East. While Freedom House rated Israel as “the freest press in the region,” with “robust” protections for freedom of the press ensuring a “lively, pluralistic media environment,” the same cannot be said of Hamas.

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms has reported multiple occurrences of journalists in Gaza “being beaten, threatened, and detained during Hamas crackdowns,” and that this violence and intimidation has led “many journalists to practice self-censorship.”

On July 22, an article in the French newspaper Liberation described how Hamas intimidates journalists representing foreign media, and even how Hamas agents use hospitals for their interrogations of journalists. The Palestinian journalist Radjaa Abou Dagga, correspondent for Ouest France, has been working in Gaza, where his parents live. Attempting to cross the border to Egypt last month, Dagga was detained by Hamas, which confiscated his passport before interrogating him at the Al-Shifa Hospital. Dagga was told to leave Gaza as soon as possible and to not return.

When journalists are not free to report on Hamas, the reports we see are mainly of civilian casualties. So who is killing the Israeli soldiers?

The word “proportionality” keeps appearing in discussions of Israel’s multiple wars against Hamas’s reign of terror, and the accuracy of its application can only be ensured by honest and free reporting. There are clear guidelines for the meaning of “proportionality” in international law, which are lost in most of the compromised reporting on the conflict. Article 28 of the Fourth Geneva Convention clearly regards the deliberate placing of military targets in the heart of civilian areas as a serious violation of humanitarian law, and those who choose to locate such targets in these areas must bear responsibility for the injury to civilians that this decision engenders.

The proportionality of a response to an attack is to be measured not in regard to the specific attack suffered by a state, but in regard to what is necessary to remove the overall threat. In Israel’s case this means its response has to be measured not only in respect of the thousands of missiles Hamas has already launched, as well as their commando raids through tunnels and via the sea, but also against the clear threat of the thousands of missiles Hamas still possesses.

I have never seen a military installation in a democratic country without a fence around it to keep civilians safely away. I’ve also never seen a military installation in Gaza that is not located in the midst of civilian areas.

Despite Hamas’s perverse intent to endanger Gazan civilians, Israel’s operation matches the highest standards in comparison with other campaigns that have targeted terrorist networks. For example, according to a scholarly initiative based at Brown University, civilian casualties in Afghanistan include at least 21,000 civilians who have been killed as a result of military operations, bombings and crossfire. When asked, President Barack Obama said exactly what Israel has stated: “Before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured — the highest standard we can set. But as commander-in-chief, I must weigh these heartbreaking tragedies against the alternatives. To do nothing in the face of terrorist networks would invite far more civilian casualties.”

Given this reality, the next picture you see coming from Israel or Gaza, ask yourself: “Who is killing the Israeli soldiers?”


Andy David is Israel’s Consul General to the Pacific Northwest.