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(JNS) According to the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs of Brown University, between 280,771 and 315,190 Iraqis died as a direct result of the US War in Iraq. The civil war that Syrian President Bashir al-Assad inflicted upon his own people during the “Arab Spring” resulted in the fatalities of approximately 580,000 people by pro-Assad forces, 380,000 of whom were non-combatants. At least 500,000 people, including 100,000 Kurds, were killed during the Iran-Iraq War.

This is not to mention the American bombing campaign over Dresden, Germany, which resulted in a conservative estimate of 25,000 to 35,000 deaths, with some estimates as high as 250,000.  Or the air bombing of Tokyo by US forces on March 9th, 1945, leaving 90, 000 to 100,000 dead and more than a million homeless. And of course, the US bombings over Hiroshima and Nagasaki resulted in the deaths of 129,000 to 226,000 Japanese civilians in a single day.

These are some of the difficult and tragic facts of war. In other words, war is hell.

On October 7th, Hamas executed some of the most barbaric tragedies known to humanity since the days of the Holocaust. Using land, sea, and paragliding through the air, scores of Hamas terrorists broke through to Israel. Babies were butchered, beheaded, and baked in ovens in front of their parents who had been tied to chairs. Entire communities of homes in the south were burnt to the ground. Bodies of scores of young men and women participating in a peace concert were found riveted with bullets. Women were gang raped.  Over 240 people were taken hostage.

If Israel did not respond to such atrocities, there would be more and more October 7ths. As former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on November 8, 2023, “Remember there was a ceasefire on October 6th that Hamas broke; By their barbaric assault on peaceful civilians, and their kidnapping their killing their beheading, their terrible inhuman savagery. There was a ceasefire. It did not hold because Hamas chose to break it.”

The former Secretary of State went on to state that “Hamas is a terrorist organization whose goal is the complete elimination of Israel”, and “a ceasefire done prematurely benefits those who do not abide by any laws, by any rules, by any human character about the value of human life.”

Throughout college campuses today and blocking the streets on the way to Kennedy and LAX Airports yesterday, are people demanding a ceasefire from Israel. What seems to evade these self-righteous enablers of Hamas is that within these past two weeks, two ceasefires have been offered: one by the government of Qatar, the other by Egypt.

And it was Hamas, not Israel, that rejected these offers.

Yes. Every life lost is tragic.  We mourn, particularly for the Palestinian children who were used as human shields. Nobody wants to see this. Yet, why has Hamas hidden its weapons in hospitals, in mosques and schools, and in over 300 miles of underground tunnels, condemning those who lie above them to untimely deaths?

If Hamas is going to use its civilian casualties to wage a public relations campaign, certain questions must be answered: Why do they imbed themselves among their civilian population if they value that population? Why do they hide weapons underneath hospitals, behind M.R.I. machines and in incubators, or within children’s bedrooms, and embedded in teddy bears?

Do they do this to inflate the numbers of civilian casualties for international sympathy?

When there is an asymmetrical war–that between a terrorist organization and a standing army– there are cries for the “proportional use of force”. As US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had said on December 20th, Israel has an “obligation” and “strategic interest” to remove the threat of Hamas and minimize the toll on civilians in Gaza.”

How is proportionality defined by international law?

According to Natasha Hausdorff of UK Lawyers for Israel, “Some people think that the principle of ‘proportionality’ during armed conflict refers to the number of people which each side kills. So if Hamas murdered 20 Israeli civilians, Israel would be acting ‘disproportionately’ if in response it killed more than 20. This is nonsense. No state or combatant may militarily target any innocent civilians to achieve their objective, no matter how worthy and no matter how few or many it killed. This is precisely what Hamas does, not Israel.”

According to Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, the first obligation of any nation-state is to protect its civilian population.

What makes the war in Gaza even more difficult is that Hamas terrorists do not wear uniforms. An essential premise of the Geneva Convention is that armed combatants must wear uniforms to distinguish themselves from civilians and to openly carry their weapons.

The simple fact is that Hamas has amassed international funding for the weapons of a standing army, with the benefit of Iranian training, but behaves like the radical terrorist group that it is.

The fact is that if the IDF had no regard for the human life of the Palestinian population in Gaza, they would simply have conducted an air bombardment campaign, as other armies have done in the past. And many of these armies did not share the threat to their very existence on and within its borders that Israel has today.

We know that Israel takes great pains to follow the rules of warfare in an exceedingly difficult setting. Hamas is ideologically and theologically driven and has no set of rules to govern itself, except the complete eradication of the Jews.

It is more than a bit ironic that many of these cries against Israel have come out of the very worst perpetrators of disproportionate force in history.

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About the Author

Sarah Stern
Sarah Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET).

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