We’ve got to stop believing Hamas’ lies about civilian deaths in Gaza

The global news media and many others would have you believe that the Israeli Defence Forces fighting in Gaza have gone far beyond anything that could be justified in response to the barbaric Hamas assaults on Israel last October, in which more than 1,000 men, women and children were murdered in the most horrifying ways.

Candles are lit in memory of young people killed by Hamas terrorists at the Supermova music festival on October 7, 2023. Many young women were raped and mutilated before being killed
Candles are lit in memory of young people killed by Hamas terrorists at the Supermova music festival on October 7, 2023. Many young women were raped and mutilated before being killed - Jack Guez/AFP

The rhetoric around the cost of war in Gaza is predictably and tendentiously charged. Brazil’s President Lula, particularly offensively, has compared Israel’s actions to the Holocaust. Human Rights Watch deems Israel’s operations “relentless and unlawful,” placing the entirety of the blame for the “gruesome toll” of deaths squarely on the shoulders of the IDF: ignoring the known facts that Hamas and other jihadi rockets routinely fall short in Gaza, and civilians are routinely used as human shields by Hamas fighters.

The adjective-happy writers responsible for these overwrought headlines are right about one thing: War is hell, and the one between the Middle East’s only democracy and Hamas is no exception. Indeed, from its very inception on October 7, 2023, the stories coming out of southern Israel and Gaza have been difficult to bear, even from halfway around the world.

It is human, and even righteous, to be revolted by the horrors of urban combat. But it is equally vital not to allow virtuous instincts to be taken advantage of by malevolent forces.

The first thing to always remember is that it is completely unreasonable to believe the terrorists of Hamas on the matter of how many people Israel has killed. Yet that is precisely what the media and everyone else does. Occasionally, when giving a figure for deaths in Gaza, the media will admit that the figure comes from the “Hamas run health ministry” there. Often, the Hamas figure is simply quoted as if it were an established fact – even in these pages.

But the figure is not a fact: it is terrorist propaganda.

As the renowned military historian Lord Andrew Roberts noted in the House of Lords earlier this month, we would not believe Vladimir Putin or ISIS on casualties inflicted by their enemies: there is no reason to treat the rapists, torturers and murderers of Hamas any differently.

Roberts went on to point out that it’s estimated that more than 9,000 of the dead were not innocent civilians but active Hamas fighters – and even Hamas admits that its dead fighters are included in the total. If one then accepts the Hamas-concocted death toll for the sake of argument and makes allowance for the fact that Hamas and its allies are also killing Gazans, the IDF are killing less than two civilians for every Hamas fighter they take out.

“War is hell,” said Roberts. “Every individual civilian death is a tragedy, but – I speak as a military historian – less than 2:1 is an astonishingly low ratio for modern urban warfare where the terrorists routinely use civilians as human shields. It is a testament to the professionalism, ethics and values of the Israel Defense Forces.”

The UN, indeed, despite its constant criticism of Israel, has assessed that a more normal ratio in urban combat would be 9:1. There is probably no other army in the world which could operate in Gaza as surgically as the IDF is doing.

The Fourth Estate has proven plenty capable of expressing its revulsion, but also far too prone to being taken advantage of; there is a moral blindness and lack of perspective embedded in a preponderance of its coverage over the last four months.

Casualty counts from Gaza are presented beside the number killed during the ghastly October 7 terror attack as if they’re comparing like-to-like. To reduce war morality to an exercise in bean-counting under which the side that loses the most is the more commendable party is a natural, yet woefully simplistic and fallacious instinct.

It is perfectly understandable that the press wishes to convey that it mourns innocent lives snuffed out on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides equally. But what so many fail to comprehend is that it can at once be true that every innocent life lost is equally tragic and that not every life lost on one side of a conflict can be counted as a moral indictment of the other.

No conflict that began with barbarians charging over a border to murder, rape, torture and burn alive men, women, and children for the crime of being born Jews could ever have been expected to end without significantly more bloodshed. That is a regrettable, but unavoidable truth.

It is not the responsibility of the defensive party – the one dragged into battle by the screams of its loved ones – to subordinate its goal of survival to the whims of Hamas’ useful idiots. To ask this is to reward evil actors for their reprehensible tactics.

Hamas, its supporters in Gaza, and its patrons around the Muslim world do not distinguish between Jewish civilians and soldiers, after all. Their infliction of pain on the former is not incidental to the latter, or even a means to an end – it is the end toward which they are working. This renders the havoc they wreak qualitatively different from the unintended consequences of the Israeli campaign to destroy Hamas, and this is doubly so considering the terrorists’ cowardly use of human Palestinian shields.

Students of history and statecraft understand that evil on the scale of Hamas must be wholly destroyed, rather than tolerated. They are able to distinguish between the bombs that fell on Dresden and those that fell on London.

It is lamentable that the press is populated with so few such students.

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