Israel’s War Against Palestine: Documenting the Military Occupation of Palestinian and Arab Lands

Gideon Levy: Gaza accounting

25 November 2012

By Gideon Levy, Haaretz – 25 Nov 2012

Gaza’s death toll is enormous and its battle is against a continued occupation – a partial occupation since the disengagement, but an occupation nonetheless

Gideon Levy

Gideon Levy

Sometimes numbers do reflect reality, and this reality can no longer be ignored: Since the first Qassam rocket fell on Israel in April 2001, 59 Israelis have been killed – and 4,717 Palestinians. The numbers don’t lie, as they say in less lethal fields, and this proportion is horrifying.1 It ought to disturb every Israeli.

Haaretz’s Hebrew edition published these figures in a front-page graphic and table on Friday but, so far, the data seems mainly to be bothering people overseas: The Economist, a restrained, conservative, British magazine that is assuredly not anti-Israel, published a similar table last week on its website, under the title “The Gaza conflict in numbers.” The weekly informed its readers that, between the start of the year and the outbreak of Operation Pillar of Defense, only one Israeli was killed by rocket and mortar-shell fire from Gaza (the figure should have been three, according to Haaretz’s data ). During that same period, Israel killed no fewer than 78 Palestinians in Gaza. That was during a period of calm that, according to Israel, was broken only by the Palestinians.

To these figures must be added the data from Pillar of Defense: 156 Palestinians killed, and six Israelis. The Economist reminds us that 19 of those killed were children.

In this tally of death, the proportion over the years has generally been that of Cast Lead, the operation Israel conducted in Gaza four years ago: 1:100. During Operation Cast Lead, one Israeli was killed for every 100 Palestinians. In Pillar of Defense, it was one Israeli for every 26 Palestinians, while the multiyear average since 2001 has also been almost one per 100.

During this period, Palestinians fired 7,361 rockets at Israel. It’s hard to find data on how many missiles, shells and bombs Israel launched, but the numbers would be immeasurably higher.

The permanent question of who started it remains open, but the answer is far from being permanent.2 In 2001, the year the Qassam was born, four rockets were fired from Gaza, killing one Israeli. And how many Palestinians were killed that year? One-hundred and seventy-nine. In 2002, 34 rockets were fired, from which not a single Israeli died, yet 373 Palestinians were killed. In the two years after that, the picture is even more stark: In 2003, there were 155 rockets; 370 Palestinians were killed, and not a single Israeli. In 2004, there were 281 rockets; 625 Palestinians were killed, and seven Israelis.

The Qassam launches didn’t begin with the disengagement from Gaza, as the right falsely claims, and the wholesale slaughter of Palestinians by Israel hasn’t stopped for a moment. Operation Cast Lead, with its harsh statistics on Palestinian fatalities, actually followed a period that was largely quiet, thanks to a cease-fire that was supposed to have lasted six months (but was immediately violated by Israel): From July 2008 until that operation began in December 2008, not a single Israeli was killed, and 16 Palestinians. And aside from November, almost no Qassams were fired.

The answer to the no less important question of who is the victim and who is the aggressor is also complex,3 and far from the unequivocal answer provided in Israel’s public diplomacy efforts. Israel has always killed more people. It’s true that fatality statistics don’t reveal the whole picture. It’s true that every person slain is a world unto himself, and that the Qassam fire on the south, which causes residents to live in perpetual fear, is intolerable. But it’s impossible to ignore the lethal results on the other side. They are devoid of any rational or human proportion.

Yet what does Israeli propaganda try to do? To paint the south as the sole and only victim. In the manner of all cheap propaganda, this distorts reality a trifle. Every foreign correspondent who describes the dimensions of the death and destruction in Gaza is immediately marked as an anti-Semite and an Israel-hater: Israel wants only pictures from Ashkelon.

But the primary victim, the one who is bleeding most, is Gaza; Israel is only in second place. It’s impossible to ignore this. In Gaza, the death toll is enormous. And there, the battle is against a continued occupation – a partial occupation since the disengagement, but an occupation nonetheless. Gaza’s economy is dependent on Israel; the shekel is the only currency; the naval blockade is complete and harsh, and even the land blockade is still in place partially.

And just two days ago, the very day after a cease-fire was achieved, Israel had already killed another Palestinian demonstrator near the border fence with Gaza. But what the heck; who’s counting? The Palestinians are the aggressors and the Israelis are the victims.

IOA Editor Notes:

  1. The question of proportionality, which comes up on those occasions the world notices the extent of Israeli killing of Palestinians, is important. But it is even more important to recognize that the occupier bears the ultimate responsibility of defending the occupied population, not killing it within some set limits of ‘proportionality.’ First and foremost, Israel should be held responsible for violating international laws in connection with its responsibilities as an occupying power, even if it were not using ‘disproportional force.’
  2. A description of the sequence of events prior to this most recent attack on Gaza can be found in the introductory note to Assaf Kfoury’s Why Gaza?
  3. Gideon Levy is writing to an Israeli audience, including those subjected to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. Nonetheless, ‘who is the victim and who is the aggressor’ shouldn’t even come up as a question here. While weapons used by either side could victimize individuals seemingly equally, there is one party that exercises far greater control over the situation, that holds the keys to Gaza’s borders, economy, and the survival of its residents: Israel, the occupier. However, the question comes up, and will continue to come up, as long as an occupied people resorts to resisting the very violent occupation it lives under via the use of lethal weapons.
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