When Life Is Cheap

From the New York Times to many well-meaning friends on the twitters, the cry is for Israel to “show restraint” and obey the rules of law. And who could disagree with such thoughtful and humanitarian advice? But what does it mean?

Reasonable people can also oppose other measures that Israelis have taken in response to the deadliest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. It seems neither right nor smart for Israel to cut off water and electricity to Gaza until Hamas’s hostages are returned — not because Israel shouldn’t do whatever it takes to obtain their release but because the people who suffer most from the action are the ones who have the least say over the fate of the hostages. Hamas’s leaders, I’m sure, have amply supplied themselves and their forces with fuel, generators, potable water and other essentials.

But what reasonable people cannot debate is the cynicism with which Hamas is conducting its side of the war. It’s a cynicism the wider world should not reward with our credulity, lest we once again turn ourselves into Hamas’s useful idiots.

It’s hardly sophisticated strategy or hard to understand, even though so few care to put in the minimum effort to do so. Hamas wins whether Israeli’s die or Palestinians die. Death is its weapon, and who dies means nothing.

Hamas also achieves practical and propagandistic goals by putting Palestinians in harm’s way. More civilians in combat zones mean more human shields for its forces. More dead and wounded Palestinians mean more sympathy for its side and more condemnation of Israel.

Use a hospital as their headquarters? Store bombs in schools, guns in mosques? Fire rockets from densely populated Gaza City and hold hostages in tunnels beneath apartment buildings? Palestinians will die. That’s the plan and they know it. No matter how barbaric they were in raping and murdering Israelis, the world will demand that Israel conduct itself better, will somehow find a way to save its hostages, root out Hamas and eradicate it without doing “unnecessary harm.” But how, exactly, does that happen?

Directing civilians to move out of targeted areas is a valuable way to minimize casualties, but it works only if those who are ordered to evacuate have somewhere to go, a safe route and means to get there and sufficient time to make the journey. The Israeli military widened that 24-hour window and clarified that Gazans would have time on Saturday to move south “without any harm.” Mr. Blinken said Friday that the United States is working with the International Committee of the Red Cross to create safe zones, which could help to limit civilian casualties.

Israel mass soldiers along the Gaza border for a week following the Hamas invasion. Did Gazans use that week to get out of harm’s way, or did they wait for Israel to specifically inform them to leave because Gaza was about to become a battlefield? And Hamas told Palestinians to stay, calling it “psychological warfare.” Hamas didn’t do this because it cares about Palestinian lives.

Hamas has a long history of exploiting the rules of war for its own purposes, and it is likely to take advantage of any arrangements such as these intended to protect civilians. But that does not absolve Israel of the responsibility to try.

Try how? Of course they will “try,” but is there some magic way to end Hamas’ terrorism without harming Palestinians? We’d all love to hear the plan.

The United States has offered firm support for Israel in its hour of agony. But friendship also requires speaking hard truths. Mr. Blinken and President Biden have spoken in general terms about the importance of minimizing civilian casualties; they should make clear to Israel that the relationship between the two nations is rooted in a commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Mouthing empty words about respecting human rights and the rule of law when fighting an enemy who has absolutely no concern for human life, very much including their own people, makes the words ring hollow. Are there magic bombs that will only destroy caches of Humas bombs but leave the building within which they’re stored standing? Are there magic bullets that can distinguish between a Hamas soldier and a Palestinian shopkeeper, both of whom look the same as they’re fighting terrorists, not uniformed soldiers who abide by the rules of law.

No one is arguing that Israel should destroy everything, kill everyone. Israel wouldn’t do that anyway, and hardly needs the brain trust at the New York Times to virtue signal that Israel should “show restraint.” Israel is painfully aware there is nothing they can do going forward that won’t be scrutinized and criticized, flipping the script on rapists and baby murderers to Israel defending itself from terrorists.

There is nothing Israel can do to appease the world wide woke, who have long since decided that Israel is the oppressor and Palestinians the oppressed, who can therefore do no wrong, even when it’s rape and baby murder. Who would have thought that someday rape would be divided into good rape and bad rape, but here we are. If there’s nothing Israel can do to survive, if not win, the public relations game, then Hamas’ strategy will prevail and there is little Israel can do about it.

And yet, Hamas still holds more than 100 Israeli hostages (assuming they’re still alive) and the world doesn’t really seem to care very much. Maybe if one of the hostages was a certain WNBA player, we could muster some concern. But sadly, they’re just women, children and elderly Israelis, and to Hamas and the world, their lives are cheap.

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