In mid-May, as the violent protests at the Gaza security fence were reaching the height of their intensity, a story circulated in the global press that eight-month-old Layla Ghandour had been killed by the IDF. But soon the story started falling apart: a doctor told reporters that she died of a congenital heart defect rather than from inhaling tear gas, as was previously claimed; the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry removed her name from its own list of those killed by Israel; and it became clear that she had died after being left in the care of her twelve-year-old uncle. Evelyn Gordon explains how Israel mishandled the fallout from the incident:
The doctor’s explanation was immediately seized on and disseminated worldwide by both official Israeli spokesmen and Israel supporters overseas as if it somehow mattered whether Ghandour was killed by tear gas or a congenital heart defect. In other words, Israel and its supporters implicitly accepted the view of the anti-Israel mob. Had the baby truly been killed by Israeli tear gas, presumably Israel could legitimately have been considered culpable.
What they should have pointed out instead is that Ghandour’s story proves just how dishonest are all the critics accusing Israel of disproportionate force. After all, ever since the weekly demonstrations along the Gaza border began in March, these critics have claimed that they don’t deny Israel’s right to protect its border. They merely demand that it restrict itself to nonlethal crowd-control measures rather than resorting to lethal force. . . . [But] tear gas is exactly the type of nonlethal crowd-control measure commonly used by law-enforcement agencies. . . .
[Furthermore], Ghandour wasn’t in a peaceful demonstration when she died. She had been deliberately taken from a peaceful one into a violent one. On [that day], as in all the preceding weeks, there were actually two demonstrations taking place. One, which was largely peaceful, was hundreds of meters from the border fence. The other, which was right up against the fence, was anything but peaceful. Members of terrorist organizations threw bombs, Molotov cocktails, and slingshot-propelled rocks at soldiers. They flew incendiary kites across the border to set Israeli fields afire. . . . They vandalized the fence and tried to break through it. . . .
Baby Layla was taken to the nonviolent protest by her twelve-year-old uncle, who mistakenly thought her mother was there. Upon discovering his mistake, he responsibly kept her in the nonviolent section until late afternoon, when she began crying. Then, wanting to hand her off to an older relative, . . . he deliberately brought her into the most violent part of the protest, where Israel was exercising its legitimate right of self-defense and where no baby should ever have been. And she died. . . . Israel cannot be held culpable for her death unless you start from the premise that it had no right whatsoever to defend its border against violent attacks of the type launched during this protest.