Justifying Genocide: Israel May Be Raising The Moral Standards Of Warfare

Israel’s air war in Gaza has now killed more than 100 people. Around the world, there’s concern and anger. These concerns are appropriate—war is horrible, and any number of deaths should trouble us. But given that this war is happening, let’s focus on the narrower question of how to minimize civilian deaths, now and in future conflicts. How bad is this war compared to others? Are Israel’s attacks indiscriminate?
First, it’s important not to get consumed by whether you love or hate Israel. There will be other wars in other places. We need to build rules that apply everywhere. Second, we don’t need to debate the conduct of Hamas. Hamas rejects the whole idea that it’s wrong to target civilians. So behaving better than Hamas isn’t a standard worth talking about. Let’s focus instead on what Israel is doing.
1. The casualty rate. Total deaths in Gaza now exceed 100. Every account except Israel’s says most are civilians. That’s a bad ratio, but it’s skewed by the low number of Hamas military deaths, which can be traced to two factors: Most Hamas officers are lying low (literally—many are underground), and Israel has mostly targeted assets such as rocket launchers, not people. The better measure of Israel’s moral performance, then, is the number of civilian deaths. T