June 9, 2024

How Many Palestinians Is an Israeli Worth?

The big news from the Gaza war is that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have freed four hostages presumed to be held by Hamas. That operation is said to have wounded 700 Palestinians and killed nearly 200, many of them women and children. (The number of casualties has been variously reported, but it has clearly been substantial.) Israelis are jubilant. Presidents Biden and Macron praised the operation at a Saturday press conference in Paris.

Does no one see anything wrong with this picture? Are scores of deaths of innocents a moral price to pay for each Israeli rescued? Israeli leaders and citizens seem to think so. Israelis are dancing in the streets over the latest war news.

Israel, of course, was traumatized by the October 7 Hamas attack, which captured scores of hostages, of whom 120 or so are still unaccounted for. The passionate desire to repatriate those victims is understandable. But comparing IDF tactics to those of United States forces is instructive. When attempting to free hostages or to kill or capture high-value terrorist targets, the U.S. tries to avoid collateral damage, even aborting an operation likely to kill civilians. In light of this humane policy, it is distressing that President Biden seemed to give the IDF operation his unequivocal approval.

One may quibble as to whether Israel has established apartheid in the Middle East or whether the conduct of the current war amounts to genocide. Historically, however, Israelis have shown little respect or concern for their Palestinian neighbors either in war or in peacetime. Significantly, whenever there has been a prisoner exchange, dozens of Palestinians are exchanged for each Israeli released. This is possible because Israel collects Palestinian prisoners like tokens to be used as necessary and because Zionists view Palestinians more as vermins than as people deserving simple human dignity and respect.

I don’t know how many Palestinians constitute the moral equivalent of one Israeli in the Israeli mind. Whatever that number is, it is large, and that ethical calculus is a moral outrage. NPR quoted Israel’s defense minister Yoav Gallant as saying, “This morning not only did we have a successful operation but also an opportunity to fulfill the goals of this war.” A goal of the war appears to be to kill as many Palestinians as possible.

Concern for the hostages has become a justification for no-holds-barred aggression in Gaza. It is embarrassing that U.S. policy insists that hostages need to be returned but not that the killing of innocent women and children needs to stop immediately.

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