Even If They Were Accurate, Hamas’s Casualty Figures Wouldn’t Condemn Israel

A chief engine of anti-Semitic propaganda are the casualty figures from Gaza, cited constantly by Israel’s critics and by reporters—despite the fact that they are generated by a branch of Hamas. Oved Lobel shows systematically that these statistics don’t support any of the conclusions drawn by those who cite them:

During the Bosnian War (1992–1995), for instance, according to the best data available, of the approximately 100,000 killed or missing, the overwhelming majority, 59 percent, seem to have been combatants. This number would tell us nothing about how that war was fought or the extent of atrocities, including what was judged to be an act of genocide at Srebrenica.

Similarly, while there are no reliable figures for casualties from the Syrian civil war, all available figures show that the majority of deaths since 2011 were combatants. You would never know about the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons and starvation sieges, the massacres of civilians and political prisoners, and a plethora of other horrific war crimes from this topline figure.

Even if one were to trust the casualty estimates coming out of Gaza, one would have to know the usual civilian-combatant casualty ratios in wars, particularly in comparable wars. . . . But for those genuinely interested in how the war against Hamas compares to other, at least superficially similar operations, the figures available strongly suggest that it is neither especially deadly nor especially destructive.

Read more at Fresh Air

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Laws of war

Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy