Should Israel Have Allowed the Rockets Through?

Yesterday, CBS News published an article. “Israel-Gaza cease-fire holds, but it’s a fragile peace as both sides dubiously claim success.” The author or authors (the article is anonymous, opened this way:A cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas was holding on Friday morning after taking effect overnight. The truce brought a much-needed reprieve after 11 days of devastating airstrikes on the Gaza Strip by Israel’s military, and the reciprocal, ceaseless barrage of rocket fire unleashed by Hamas and its allies.”

Whatever one thinks about the Israeli-Palestinian situation (one might sense CBS News implying something), there’s an argument I am hearing that doesn’t work. It’s an argument that presumes death counts in war should determine or at least shape one’s choice of comrades. In Gaza, more than 230 people have been killed in airstrikes. In Israel, twelve people have been killed in rocket attacks. We see that number and hear something about “proportionality.”

However, relative death counts don’t tell us who’s good and bad, right or wrong. It is possible that the aggressors in war all lose their lives, while those exercising their right to self defense lose no lives at all. But you can’t pile bodies on a scale, weigh the carnage, and claim that the party losing fewer people is in the wrong. It does not follow from this that Israel is the bad actor.

Why is Israel losing so few people? Remember when Democrats and the corporate media mocked Ronald Reagan for “Star Wars”? Turns out that the technology President Reagan imagined for his Strategic Defense Initiative works. Really well. From May 10-18, Hamas and other terrorist organizations fired more than 3,440 rockets at Ashdod, Ashkelon, Jerusalem, Sderot, and other population centers in Israel. More than 90 percent of those rockets that made it out of Gaza were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome.

Those rockets that got through Israels middle defense system killed ten Jews. Imagine if Israel’s missile defense system didn’t work. Imagine those rockets hitting their intended targets. Amid dismal failure, Hamas still managed to kill a lot of people in that window. Maybe the rockets Palestinians meant to kill Jews don’t hit densely-populated areas. But suppose some did.

The death count is lopsided because Israel is technologically superior to Gaza, not because Israel is a bad actor. The morality of Israel’s actions is a separate question. (See my 2007 blog “The Six Day War.” See also, from that same year, “Ignorance and Sympathy in the Israel-Palestine debate.”)

For those who don’t agree, should Israel relax the Iron Dome and let the missiles through? Would this have generated more sympathy for the Jews living there?

Published by

Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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