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An American living in Israel: Numbers don't tell the true story about Israel in Gaza

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Opinion,Op-Eds,Israel,Terrorism,Middle East,Media,Social Media,Gaza,Hamas

As an American in Israel, I am surrounded by the effects of Operation Protective Edge. I live constantly under high alert – prepared to run into a bomb shelter at any moment.

Everyone you live and work with has loved ones in the Israeli Defense Forces. You feel their pride and pain. Israel is a big family that mourns the loss of every soldier who makes the ultimate sacrifice.

We shed tears for the civilians, children Hamas cowardly hides behind. I am often reminded of the words of Golda Meir, “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children.”

Hamas rocket fire and tunnel infiltration are not my biggest fear. I fear a different kind of attack. One that is not committed by a terrorist organization, but justifies their attacks against Israel.

Friends and strangers alike, most of whom are thousands of miles away from the conflict zone are guilty of these assaults against the Jewish State. I speak of the war against Israel taking place in social media and the mainstream press.

Even in my highly educated circle, I witness friends defending Hamas because of their assumption that numbers tell it all. On the surface, this situation could seem black and white to the person who glances at the numbers.

Palestinian casualties are beyond compare to the number of Israeli deaths. However, anyone who understands the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the level of hate Israel faces from its neighbors knows the Jewish state does not exist with the luxury of options.

Numbers do not tell the whole story, especially in a conflict of morality. In World War II, the number of German casualties far exceeded the number of U.S. and British casualties.

But clearly Germany was neither the moral party nor the victim of World War II. Morality is not reflected in numbers, but rather, it is reflected in intentions and actions.

The IDF’s mission is to protect its citizens from danger, while Hamas’ mission is to annihilate Israel and the Jewish people.

Israel aims only to destroy terrorist infrastructure and eliminate terrorists, while Hamas aims to indiscriminately kill Israeli civilians.

Israel invests in the Iron Dome, a defense system to intercept rockets hurled at Israel. Hamas invests in the rockets that are shot at Israeli civilians and tunnels to infiltrate the Jewish state in order to kidnap and murder Jews.

Israel uses weapons to protect its people from rocket fire, and Hamas uses its people — women and children — as human shields to prevent Israel from attacking their weaponry.

Finally, Israel warns Palestinian citizens to evacuate their homes before targeting weapons and tunnels hidden in civilian neighborhoods. Hamas commands its citizens to stay in their homes when Israel issues these warnings — allowing their brethren to perish to score public relations points.

Even through all of this, Israel still supplies Gaza with thousands of tons of gas, flour, and food, as well as more than six million liters of fuel and countless trucks of medical supplies. They have set up IDF-operated field hospitals to treat wounded Palestinians.

Unintended casualties are inevitable in war. In the Palestinian territories, many homes are so poorly built that Israel’s bombing of one home causes the surrounding homes to collapse, raising the number of victims even further. Each one of these unintended casualties is heartbreaking and lamentable.

But these numbers cannot serve to measure morality if one is to be intellectually honest. Hamas is incentivized to encourage more of their citizens to be killed because they know that the media is more likely to prioritize numbers over more complicated explanations.

When I asked a friend who was questioning the imbalance in the number of casualties on each side, I asked her if it would make it easier for her if more Israelis had been killed. She replied, “Honestly, yes!” Later she admitted she was using her heart more than her head, trying to make sense of the violence.

It is difficult and painful to grasp the complex reality of these numbers. That is why rational and honest people must understand the intentions of each actor rather than cast a cursory glance at the raw data of an unanalyzed body count.

If the world elects to paint Israel as the bad guy, it will ultimately empower Hamas and send a message that terrorism works. At that point, the terrorists have won.

Eliana Rudee is a contributor to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity and a Core18 fellow.
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