No Margin For Tragedy

The simple answer, that it’s war and sometimes mistakes happen in war, isn’t good enough. Sure, mistakes happen. Sure, war is confusing and chaotic. But Israel knew only too well that it was under extreme scrutiny. Israel knew whose trucks they were, what they were doing there, where they were going and that they were not Hamas, but humanitarian aid workers. It seems impossible that such a mistake could be made.

Israel’s top military commander formally acknowledged on Wednesday that its military had made a “grave mistake” and apologized for the attack on an aid convoy that killed seven workers from the charity group World Central Kitchen, a rare admission of fault by Israel in the six-month-old war in the Gaza Strip.

“It was a mistake that followed a misidentification, at night, during the war, in a very complex condition,” the Israeli military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, said in a video. “It shouldn’t have happened.”

No, it shouldn’t have happened. Of course it shouldn’t have happened. While it is good that Israel admitted that it was responsible for the strikes that killed the World Central Kitchen workers, conceding fault is not sufficient when there can be no good explanation for it happening.

“Every bombing operation by the Israeli Air Force goes through a very lengthy approval process. Things can go wrong in intense combat, but it is anything but indiscriminate. Quite the opposite. It is intensely supervised, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t mistakes; we’re dealing with human beings.

“In a war mistakes happen,” continues [former Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael] Oren. To illustrate the point, he notes a friendly fire incident he witnessed 40 years ago. “In 1982 I watched a squadron of Israeli phantom jets, in broad daylight, bomb a column of Israeli paratroopers, killing twenty-five. In broad daylight. And all the vehicles were marked. And I think about not only the families of the twenty-five but I think about the pilots who did that. Because they have to live with that.”

This was not merely an inexcusable tragedy, but a tragedy that happened at a time when there was no margin for error, no tolerance for mistakes. No, it does not change the fact of what Hamas did on October 7th. No, it does not change the fact that Hamas continues to hold Israeli hostages for, now, almost six months. No, it does not change the fact that Hamas remains hidden within and under Gazan civilians, prepared and preparing to strike again to kill more Israelis and destroy Israel.

But this is has become a war of public opinion, and Israel is losing the war to the terrorists and their supporters, witting and unwitting.

Oren said there is “nothing in terms of Israel’s interests, in terms of our essential security interests, that is in any way remotely enhanced by this incident. On the contrary, it is greatly impaired by this. It increases the pressure on us to agree to a cease-fire. It increases pressure on the Biden administration to come down harder on Israel.”

He added: “We need to take responsibility for our mistakes, but we can’t take responsibility for the war. This is Hamas’s war.”

For those who have chosen to believe they can support Palestinians without a grasp of the dynamics of terrorism, this tragedy will be seen, and proclaimed, proof that Israel is a genocidal nation bent on killing all Gazans. The strikes against the World Central Kitchen humanitarian aid workers will be spun as a weapon to prevent food from getting to starving Gazans, to ensure widespread famine, to kill more women and children, innocent civilians who are doing nothing more than trying to survive.

For Israel’s enemies and wannbe enemies, meaning those who supported Israel but need an off-ramp to appease loud and angry constituents, Israel has just handed them a gift. This is the ready excuse to abandon Israel for having been responsible for this tragedy. Even though this changes nothing about the underlying situation in Gaza, where the hostages remain in custody and Hamas remains in control, this is all the excuse needed to end support for Israel. One tragic accident.

Other countries have accidents during war, but other countries engage in war with no one watching. Israel is under the world’s scrutiny in a way that has never before occurred. While Syria can kill millions without anyone blinking an eye, Israel’s mistaken killing of seven will be held up as proof that Israel is the most evil nation on the planet. There is no tolerance for mistakes. There is no margin for error. Israel cannot afford any accidents. It may not be fair, but that’s the way it is.

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