The struggle between the Israeli military and the armed wings of Hamas and other Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip is a classic asymmetrical conflict. The two sides are far from evenly matched but each can nonetheless bring considerable pressure to bear upon the other. [What weapons are being used in the Israel-Gaza conflict, BBC, July 10, 2014]
Zionists and many pro-Israelis like to say there’s “no equivalency” when commentators and others talk about Israel and Palestine in the same breath. I heard that phrase ad nauseam from the Israeli spokespersons last summer on the Nightly News and social media. I saw it in newspapers and magazines. “No equivalency” was so pervasive, I began to wonder when and how the phrase entered Israel’s Hasbara manual because everyone seemed to be using the same playbook.
“There’s no equivalency” is code for “we’re better than our Arab neighbors and especially the Palestinians, so don’t draw comparisons and try to put us on an equal footing with them, we’re not even in the same universe!”
Well, now I have to agree.
The asymmetric nature of Israel’s assault on Gaza was so disproportional, drawing any comparison between the arsenals and weapons available to each side is ludicrous. Drawing a comparison between the number of civilian deaths on each side as a result of those weapons just can’t be done. There is no comparison. There is no equivalency in the numbers of people who lost their lives in Gaza and in Israel.
For the record, Palestinian armed groups killed 6 civilians in Israel, as a result of 4,881 rockets and 1,753 mortars fired from Gaza towards Israel. (para. 66)
Also for the record, the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) —- perhaps more aptly called Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) —- launched more than 6,000 airstrikes on Gaza (para. 111), used more than 5,000 tons of munitions, a 533% increase over Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009 (para. 408), brought in heavy tanks and soldiers with boots on the ground in Gaza, and killed 2,251 Palestinians, including 551 children, injured 11,231 Palestinians, (para 574) and left more than 1,500 children orphaned and almost 800 women widowed. (para 594). Professionals estimate there are at least 7,000 explosives still waiting to be recovered in Gaza. (para. 575).
There is no moral equivalency — or any other kind of equivalency — in these statistics.
The BBC News itemized the weapons that Hamas and militant groups in Gaza used last summer against Israel —- with no surprises except that for the first time, the Khaibar-1 rocket, with a potential range of 160 km, was capable of reaching northern Israel, all the way to Haifa. But the accuracy of the unguided Khaibar-1 rocket is poor. With Israel’s Iron Dome intercepting rockets from Gaza, the odds of Hamas winning the $1 million lottery in the U.S. are probably better than they are hitting any target of value in Israel with the Khaibar-1 rocket. Here are some pictures of the weapons and munitions the IDF found in Gaza.
On the other side, the U.N. Independent Commission of Inquiry made the following findings about Israel’s weapons:
“In the first three weeks of the conquest of Iraq, in 2003, the U.S. armed forces captured cities and destroyed 1,600 armored vehicles of the Iraqi army, half of them tanks. In Gaza, the IDF fought against an enemy that had no armored vehicles, and Israeli soldiers probably saw no more than a few hundred armed Hamas militants. On average, an Israeli tank fired seven times as many shells a day as an American tank in Iraq. We fired more antitank missiles from the ground than the Americans, and twice as many Hellfire rockets from helicopters.” Ofer Shelah, Member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee (para. 406)
“The whole area gets blown up – gets hit with heavy barrage.” IDF soldier testimony collected by Breaking the Silence (para. 407)
The IDF’s ground operation was marked by significant use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in densely populated areas, including the use of artillery and tank shells, mortars and air dropped high explosive munitions. The IDF reported that during the operation, 5,000 tons of munitions were supplied. During Operation “Protective Edge,” 14,500 tank shells and approximately 35,000 artillery shells were fired. Haaretz quoted IDF information indicating that, before the end of July, after three weeks of fighting, 30,000 shells had been discharged, “four times as much as in Cast Lead in 2008”. The NGO “Action on Armed violence” (AOAV) observes that, while in Operation Cast Lead in 2008, 3000 high-explosive artillery shells were fired, in 2014 there were 19 000, a 533% increase. (para. 408)
The large impact area of some of the explosive weapons used by the IDF during the ground operations, including the large air dropped bombs and 155 mm shells; the sheer volume of ordnance fired towards areas of Gaza; and the imprecise nature of artillery, including mortars; make it difficult for an attacking party using those methods and means in a densely populated and built up area to distinguish between civilians and civilian objects and the military objective of the attack, and thus to limit the attack’s effects as required by international humanitarian law. Therefore, the use of weapons with wide-area effects by the IDF in the densely populated, built up areas of Gaza, and the significant likelihood of lethal indiscriminate effects resulting from such weapons, are highly likely to constitute a violation of the prohibition of indiscriminate attacks. Depending on the circumstances, such use may qualify as a direct attack against civilians, and may therefore amount to a war crime. (para. 415)
A year ago, Netanyahu was gloating on August 27, 2014.
From the first moment we set a clear goal: The goal was to strike hard at Hamas and the terrorist organizations and in so doing bring prolonged quiet to all Israeli citizens. I can say that Hamas was indeed hit very hard. First of all, we destroyed the network of attack tunnels that it built over the years. I would like to make it clear that we introduced the ground force for this goal. When the mission was completed, when the IDF reported to us that this mission had been completed, we pulled the force back in order to deny Hamas the possibility of killing our soldiers or abducting them, goals that it very much aspired to.
At that time, little did he know that his military hadn’t even seen the half of it. There would be another 30 days of fighting.