OpinionIsrael at War

How media use proportionality to hide Hamas’s war crimes

Any reporter who focuses on Palestinian civilian deaths caused by Israel’s defensive war is not just ignoring, but hiding the real story. 

Israeli forces conducting ground operations in the Gaza Strip, Nov. 7, 2023. Credit: IDF.
Israeli forces conducting ground operations in the Gaza Strip, Nov. 7, 2023. Credit: IDF.
James Sinkinson
James Sinkinson
James Sinkinson is president of Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which publishes educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship to the United States.

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer recently attacked an Israel Defense Forces officer on the air for the bombing of Jabaliya, a Hamas stronghold town, in which it killed 50 terrorists, including a battalion commander, and destroyed hidden Hamas tunnels. Blitzer asked the lieutenant colonel incredulously if the IDF had bombed Jabaliya knowing “that a lot of innocent civilians … would probably be killed?”

Every time Israel defends itself, the media and others accuse it of using disproportionate force to do so, including in the current war. Such accusations are both factually false and shift blame from belligerent forces of evil over to the righteous defenders. 

It’s noteworthy that the accusation of disproportionality is never made against Israel’s enemies, who actually seek to maximize casualties. An equally disturbing feature of this false accusation is that it is made with no reference whatsoever to the legal definition of proportionate force.

Contrary to popular belief, proportionate force does not imply an eye for an eye. It does not mean that since Hamas ruthlessly and methodically murdered 1,400 Israelis—a war crime—Israel has the right to execute 1,400 Palestinians. 

Rather, it means Israel has the right to use force in proportion to its military goals—whatever is necessary to address the defined threat, focusing primarily on military targets. This is precisely what Israel is doing and has always done. It is also a reality in every war that innocent civilians will inadvertently be killed.

In Israel’s case, the threat is Hamas, a designated terrorist group that openly calls for genocide against the Jewish people and the destruction of their state. Hamas is an existential threat to Israel and the Jewish people. It must, therefore, be destroyed. Since Oct. 7, Israel has been using force directly proportionate to achieving its military goal of destroying Hamas. 

However, Hamas purposefully increases the danger to Gaza’s civilian population by hiding among them—a war crime. Thus, “excessive” or “disproportionate” civilian deaths are directly attributable to Hamas. This topic apparently does not interest Wolf Blitzer.

Those who accuse the Jewish state of using disproportionate force simultaneously call for a ceasefire that would prevent Israel from achieving its goal of eliminating Hamas. They are hypocrites, essentially supporting Hamas. 

Above all, let us not forget that if Hamas were to return the 245 hostages it kidnapped and surrender unconditionally, all Palestinian civilian deaths would immediately stop. Activist media reporters like Blitzer should focus on the real story: bringing the war criminals of Hamas to justice.

Those who accuse Israel of using disproportionate force to achieve its objective—the destruction of Hamas—are ignorant of the term’s meaning according to international law. In international law, an attack is only considered disproportionate if the incidental civilian casualties are excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage.

In the case of the Israeli strike on Jabaliya, the anticipated military advantage gained by attacking the Hamas stronghold outweighed the potential civilian casualties—especially since so many Hamas military assets were destroyed. Residents had also been warned to leave the area. Thus, the death of civilians as a result of this attack, though tragic and regrettable, does not constitute a war crime. 

In contrast, Hamas’s attacks on Israel are completely disproportionate, to say the least, as there is no military advantage to be gained by purposely slaughtering civilians and only civilians. 

Yet, Israel was condemned by “human rights” group Amnesty International, which issued a statement saying, “We call on Israel to put an immediate end to indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks which have already killed and harmed so many civilians, including over 3,000 children.” As usual, Amnesty has its facts wrong and is directing its criticism at the wrong party.

Unlike its enemy, Israel does not indiscriminately target civilians. In fact, Israel takes extra care to keep civilians out of harm’s way. One glowing example of this is the IDF’s warning to civilians in the northern Gaza Strip to evacuate for their safety. 

Arsen Ostrovsky, a human rights attorney and CEO of the International Legal Forum, notes that the United States did not give a similar warning before taking out Islamic State, nor did the United Kingdom during the war in Afghanistan. Under international law, Israel actually has no obligation to provide a warning to civilians—yet it does so anyway to minimize civilian casualties.

Hamas, on the other hand, has ordered Palestinians in northern Gaza to stay and is even blocking evacuation routes. The group bases its terrorist infrastructure in and around civilian buildings. Recently the IDF revealed that Hamas’s main base of operations is located under Shifa Hospital, the largest hospital in the Gaza Strip. 

Hamas also hoards fuel and other essential supplies from Gaza’s civilian population. Thus, it is responsible for the dire humanitarian situation, not Israel. Hamas does all these things in order to maximize civilian casualties, knowing that Israel will be unjustly blamed for their deaths.  

There are now growing calls for Israel to accept a ceasefire—one that would prevent the destruction of Hamas, as has happened in the past. Indeed, Israel has already agreed to several ceasefires over the years—pausing its attacks on Hamas and letting the terrorist group continue to control Gaza. The result? The Oct. 7 massacre—the worst atrocity committed against the Jewish people since the Holocaust. 

If the Jewish people truly believe in “Never Again,” this is the time to enforce it.

Any reporter who focuses on Palestinian civilian deaths caused by Israel’s defensive war—especially those using fake death counts from the notoriously disreputable Hamas Ministry of Health—is not just ignoring, but hiding the real story. 

The real story is not about unavoidable civilian deaths, but rather about the evil and depravity of Hamas war criminals and their determination to destroy the world’s only Jewish state. It’s also about the most moral army in the world setting out courageously to eliminate those very war criminals one by one, now on the ground, sparing as many Palestinian civilians as humanly possible.

Originally published by Facts and Logic About the Middle East.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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