Moral Clarity About the War in Gaza

Moral Clarity About the War in Gaza
Israeli young men look at photos of Israelis who are missing and held captive in Gaza, displayed on a wall in Tel Aviv, on Oct. 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
Roger Kimball

It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words.

Complex as the situation in the Middle East is, a good preliminary understanding of the conflict between Israel and Hamas can be summed up in an image that’s been making its way around the internet.

On the left of the image is an Israeli flag. Underneath is a baby carriage and, in front of the baby carriage, a soldier on one knee protecting the carriage and aiming a rifle to the right of the frame.

On the right side is a Hamas flag. Underneath is a baby carriage, behind which is a soldier, protected by that carriage, on one knee pointing a gun toward the left side of the frame.

See the difference?

The Israeli soldier is protecting the baby.

The Hamas operative is exploiting the baby for his own protection.

That dynamic explains a large slice of what’s happening in the Gaza Strip now.

Did you know that Gaza commanders reportedly offered their foot soldiers $10,000 and an apartment for bringing back a hostage?
With incentives like that, it isn’t surprising that Hamas hoovered up more than 200 hostages when it embarked on its unspeakably savage, murderous rampage on Oct. 7.

Those hostages are deployed partly as insurance.

Knowing that the Israelis put a high premium on civilian lives, especially the lives of Israeli civilians, Hamas is using the hostages as bargaining chips on the one hand and apotropaic totems on the other.

Do what we say, or at least do not do what we forbid, and we will periodically release a hostage or two for “humanitarian” reasons—i.e., for public relations.

Think twice about trying to revenge yourselves on us for the 1,400 people we slaughtered in our surprise attack on Oct. 7, because any assault will endanger the hostages we’ve taken.

It will also endanger our own civilians.

That’s by design.

Israel has pleaded with civilians in Gaza to move south, away from Gaza City, which is the headquarters of Hamas and the location of most of its infrastructure and military matériel.

Apparently, about 800,000 civilians (out of a total population of some 2 million) have moved south, away from the likely theater of operations.

However, Hamas is actively discouraging the exodus, allegedly confiscating the car keys and gasoline of civilians.

The bottom line is that Hamas wants civilians in harm’s way.

So far as Hamas is concerned, every civilian death is a publicity coup.

Not only does it play well in the court of public opinion, bolstering the anti-Israel rhetoric that’s a constant Hamas refrain, but it also establishes an atmosphere of brutality that’s simultaneously anesthetizing and intimidating—just the sort of atmosphere that terrorists like to cultivate.

Last week, a rocket landed near a hospital. Hamas reported that Israel had targeted the hospital and that 500 civilians were dead.

The New York Times, the BBC, and other Western outlets ran with the story—Big bully Israel is bombing hospitals: Hundreds of innocent civilians are dead!

Except that the rocket in question was likely fired by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, not Israel.

It malfunctioned and plummeted to the ground, exploding in a parking lot adjacent to a hospital.

Drone footage showed many incinerated cars but no bodies.

Eventually, the NY Times issued a hand-wringing  “explanation” and pseudo-apology, walking back its original headline “Israeli Strike Kills Hundreds in Hospital.”

Yes, “war is hell,” as Gen. William Sherman put it.

There always have been and always will be civilian casualties.

Charlie Kirk recently noted that the 12th-century Greek Orthodox church of St. Porphyrius in Gaza was damaged when an Israeli air strike targeted an adjacent building.
An Israeli spokesman acknowledged the mishap but explained that the strike “did not target that or any other church.”

“We struck a Hamas military operative who coordinated rocket fire towards Israel from that vicinity. He was a legitimate target,” the spokesman said.

“We will continue to be careful of any sensitive facility.”

But the critical moral distinction is this: Do the belligerents deliberately target civilians?

Hamas does.

But remember: There’s another dimension to the perfidy of Hamas.

By siting rocket launchers and other military tools near schools, mosques, hospitals, and other civilian facilities, the terrorist group essentially declares open season on civilians.

Hamas’s procedure not only guarantees civilian casualties, which it then trumpets as evidence of Israel’s callousness, but also underscores—and is another dimension of—the savage barbarism of the way it operates.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Roger Kimball is the editor and publisher of The New Criterion and publisher of Encounter Books. His most recent book is “Where Next? Western Civilization at the Crossroads.”