Today, you’re a high school principal.
Sitting before you in your office is a pair of students who were caught fighting.
One has a history of instigating fights he can’t win. His goal is to garner sympathy by getting beaten badly.
The other has a long history of being easy to bait into fights, always responding strongly, to the point where many people believe they always use more force than is necessary.
Unfortunately, no one saw exactly what instigated the fight. There were no security cameras and teachers are kind of like the proverbial T-rex; they respond most strongly to noise and movement, meaning they only respond to the fight after it happened.
The school’s policy is to suspend all students involved in a fight. There are real questions about whether this is fair. Sometimes one of the students, perhaps rightly, feels like they had to defend themselves.
But, as the old saying goes, it takes two to tango. And, without any other kind of evidence, it devolves into a “he said/she said” situation. So, you’re going to suspend both of them.
Imagine for a second that you had perfect information. You knew exactly what was said and done and by whom. You could better assign blame and hand out better punishments. That would be a better outcome, right?
There’s a recent topic that has taken the media by storm. Surprisingly, I think we can get pretty close to perfect information. We can establish pretty much what happens.
Unsurprisingly, I haven’t come across an article that attempts to get all the facts and put them in order. The end result is that almost all coverage of this event is dangerously misleading.
So, first, hopefully without comment I’m going to try and present the events of May 14, 2018, at the border of Israel and the Gaza Strip in the order that they happened. I will link a source for each piece of information.
- CBS reports that 40,000 Palestinian protesters gather at the border to protest the opening of the American Embassy in Jerusalem. Protesters include men, women, and teenagers, as well as children and infants brought by their parents.
- Israel drops leaflets warning the protesters to stay back from the fence separating the two territories.1
- Some protesters are peaceful.
- Other protesters throw rocks and start fires. Israel responds by dropping tear gas.
- While this is going on, Hamas attempts to breach the border fence with explosives. The Israeli military uses tanks, armored personnel carriers, aircraft strikes to stop this attack. During this time the protesters use “10 explosive devices and firebombs against soldiers positioned along the border.” At some point, Israeli troops are fired at.
- According to the Israeli military “ . . . there was no breach of the border fence” but “many protesters tried to enter Israel” by scaling the fence, which was met with gunfire. This is where the majority of injuries occurred. According to the Washington Post, “some young men brought knives and fence cutters. At a gathering point east of Gaza City, organizers urged protesters over loudspeakers to burst through the fence, telling them Israeli soldiers were fleeing their positions, even as they were reinforcing them.”
- 2,700 Palestinians are injured. 1,360 or so are shot, while the remainder are likely injuries related to the use of tear gas. 60 Palestinians die, while an additional 130 are in critical condition.
- The protests end for the day. Perhaps it was nightfall, or perhaps it was due to the aforementioned loudspeakers telling the protesters to leave the border.
That’s a lot to take in.
One of the narratives that has emerged from this day is that Israel was unjustified in what it did. The facts suggest otherwise.
Israel warned that approaching the fence would be met with force, and the Palestinians did it anyways in both paramilitary and civilian fashions. Like any country, Israel has both a right and an obligation to defend its border.
There’s a case to be made that Israel used too much force.
Let’s ponder the numbers for a minute.
Of 40,000 protesters, 2,700 were injured, or 6.75%. 1,360 of the 40,000 protesters were shot, or 3.4%
Of the 1,360 that were shot, around 60 died, or 4.4%. Those 60 were .15% of the 40,000 protesting. The additional 130 in critical or serious condition make up another .325%. Totaled together, that means that less than half a percent of those who were protesting were injured by Israel in a way that killed them or might yet kill them.
Let me say that again: less than half a percent.
If we total up the 190 that were killed or might yet die, that’s only about 14% of those who were shot, which suggests that Israel isn’t shooting to kill—instead, shooting to injure, actions corroborated by recent reports.
Is that excessive?
It’s a judgment call, but keep in mind that Israel could be using more than small arms fire to respond here, and its army is certainly trained well enough to have a higher kill ratio.
There’s one more thing that has started to come out that really changes the way we should understand the events that took place. I’m not sure how to show them without comment, so I’m going to just give the quotes in the same manner I found them.
“’We don’t have any other method that we could use,’ Hakam Abushanab, a financial analyst who joined the protests, told CBS News. ‘Dying here is the only way.’” Source
“At a news conference as evening fell, senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayaa said the protests would continue.
‘This blood will keep boiling until the occupation leaves forever,’ he said.” Source
“’We are excited to storm and get inside,’ said 23-year-old Mohammed Mansoura. When asked what he would do inside Israel, he said, ‘Whatever is possible, to kill, throw stones.’
Two other young men carried large knives and said they wanted to kill Jews on the other side of the fence.” Source
This is intent.
Intent to stir up trouble.
Intent to become martyrs.
Intent to cross into Israel.
Intent to kill Israeli civilians.
It’s not a stretch to say that if it were not for the actions of the Israeli military, these people would have succeeded with their goals. Could Israel have done less or acted less forcefully? Certainly.
But there would have been a cost to that.
It’s really easy right now to conflate two groups: the peaceful protesters and those who wanted to attack Israel.
But calling both groups “protesters” clouds the situation. It’s unethical and it plays right into the hands of those stirring up trouble.
One final question.
Is a group a military group because it has the weapons, actions, or goals of a military, or because it clearly distinguishes itself by wearing a standard uniform?
Fight, or don’t.
But don’t fight and then pretend to be a civilian.