One of the main complaints against Israel's conduct during Operation Protective Edge last year was the “lack of proportionality.” While 66 Israeli soldiers and six Israeli civilians were killed during the war, for example, estimates of the dead in Gaza ranged between 2,100 and 2,300 – 70% of them civilians.
“Proportionality,” then, would have required many more Israeli deaths, according to this theory. But according to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA), that definition of proportionality is incorrect, inaccurate, and not in line with international standards. In a video released just days before the upcoming release of the United Nations Human Rights Council report on the 2014 Gaza War, JCPA has released a 3-minute video that confronts the accusation of disproportionality.
Quoting a long list of top international experts, the video establishes clearly that the term does not apply to the number of those killed in a war, but under what circumstances they were killed – and based on the evidence, it is clear, JCPA says, that the relatively low numbers of Israeli deaths were due to the efforts of the IDF to keep Israelis safe, while the fact that more Gaza Arabs were not killed – considering the fact that Hamas attacked Israeli army and civilian targets from within Gaza civilian population centers – was due to Israeli efforts to prevent civilian deaths, often at great cost to Israel.
'The more hurt, the better'
Hamas itself admits this; the video displays and translates Hamas combat manuals, which recommend launching missile attacks from civilian population centers, because “the soldiers and commanders [of the IDF] must limit their use of weapons and tactics that lead to the harm and unnecessary loss of people and destruction of civilian facilities.” Striking at Israel from civilian areas “is a strategy that is proving itself, and we, Hamas, call on our people to adopt this practice,” the video quotes Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zahri in a television broadcast in Gaza during the war. The more civilians are hurt, the Hamas manuals say, the more Gazans will hate Israel.
If there was anything “disproportionate” about the war, said top experts quoted in the video, it was Israel's going overboard to protect civilians under very difficult conditions. According to Col. Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan,“No army in the world has ever done more than Israel is doing now to save the lives of innocent civilians in a combat zone.” General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said “when comparing civilian casualty-ratios to other democratic forces fighting an asymmetrical war, Israel stands out in its success to minimize the damage to civilians.”
And according to Luis Moreno-Ocampo, former Chief Prosecutor, International Criminal Court, “a crime occurs if there is an intentional attack directed against civilians or an attack is launched on a military objective in the knowledge that the incidental civilian injuries would be clearly excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage” – conditions hat were far more in line with what Hamas did than what Israel did.
According to the video, Hamas could have avoided ninety percent of Palestinian fatalities by accepting the July 15th ceasefire offer prior to Israel’s ground operation, but rejected that offer along with 10 ceasefire offers that Israel accepted.
Beyond the call of duty
According to a report on the war which Israel submitted to the UN over the weekend, the IDF went far beyond the call of duty in protecting Palestinian Arab civilians during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza. "Israel sought to avoid the conflict and exercised great restraint over a period of months before the war when its citizens were targeted by sporadic rocket attacks from Gaza,” the report said. “Hamas launched attacks against Israel from the heart of its own civilian communities in Gaza and positioned its munitions and military forces there also, including in schools, hospitals and mosque.
“As well as carefully documented IDF evidence of this, we have viewed international media footage confirming several cases and are aware of senior Hamas officials' own claims to have used human shields. Each of our own armies is of course committed to protecting civilian life during combat," the report continued. "But none of us is aware of any army that takes such extensive measures as did the IDF last summer to protect the lives of the civilian population in such circumstances.”
“The lesson the viewer learns is that the real disproportionality in the Gaza War was between the intentions of both parties,” said JCPA. “It was between Israel’s active efforts to minimize civilian casualties, and Hamas’ war crimes against civilians.”