What Sort of Society Feels Absolutely Nothing After Killing Hundreds of Children?

Israel killed 546 Palestinian children over the course of only 50 days in Gaza in 2014. Of those, 180 were babies and toddlers under the age of five.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Children look through a hole in the wall of a burned bedroom where three children were killed by a fire in Gaza City, May 7, 2016.
Children look through a hole in the wall of a burned bedroom where three children were killed by a fire in Gaza City, May 7, 2016.Credit: Khalil Hamra, AP
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

One hundred and eighty babies and children up to the age of 5. One hundred and eighty helpless babies and toddlers that the Israel Defense Forces killed in Gaza in the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict. In their sleep, in their play, as they fled; in their beds or in their parents’ arms.

Try to imagine – the army killed 546 children in the course of 50 days. More than 10 children a day, a classroom every three days. Try to imagine.

But these updated, verified figures, released by the B’Tselem NGO on the second anniversary of the killing, are hard to imagine. It’s easier to dismiss them with a shrug, a look in the other direction or the lame excuses of Israeli propaganda.

The figures that should have haunted Israeli society and keep it awake at night – that should have sparked a stormy public debate and shaken it– are of no interest at all. Any natural disaster at the end of the world would have evoked more human feelings here than this slaughter, which Israel committed an hour’s drive from Tel Aviv.

By comparison – 84 Israeli children, horrific, were killed in the difficult eight years from the start of the second intifada to Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2008; 546 Palestinian children were killed over 50 days in the summer of 2014.

They weren’t killed by the hand of God. Ideological pilots, conscientious artillerymen, humane tank crews and moral infantrymen killed them at the order of their no-less virtuous commanders.

They didn’t kill them in a real war, facing a significant military force, nor in a war of no choice. They killed most of them with bombs from the air or by shells from a distance, without even seeing them. In most cases all they saw was their tiny figures playing on the beach, huddling in their shabby homes, sleeping or running for their lives on the sophisticated computer screens and joy sticks of the no less sophisticated soldiers and pilots. They didn’t mean to kill them, but they pressed the button and killed them. Hundreds of soldiers who killed hundreds of children.

Two years later, the huge headline “The parents’ outcry” (in Yediot Ahronoth yesterday) doesn’t, of course, refer in any way to the outcry of the bereaved parents over there. Israel has never paid any heed to its actions there. If a commission of inquiry is set up to look into the Gaza conflict, it will be over the tunnels.

Israel hasn’t even looked straight at the facts and confessed. It was all for security’s sake, inevitable, Israel is the victim, they are Satan, that’s how it is in war, that’s how it always is – a 100 times more Palestinian fatalities than Israeli ones in Cast Lead, 30 times more in the 2014 conflict. (“So, did you want more Israelis to be killed?”)

This ghastly lack of proportion doesn’t raise any question or doubt, not to mention criticism. Nor does what’s left – 90,000 residents still homeless, living for the past two years among the debris or in wretched tin huts. A Swedish journalist who visited Gaza for a few days last week returned with the pictures – tin boxes housing people whose homes were destroyed in Huza’a, near Khan Yunis.

There’s no point in continuing to describe the magnitude of the disaster in Gaza. It’s of no concern to anyone in Israel. Human compassion over Gaza? Funny. Even the fact that, due to the bombardments and the siege, 90 million liters of raw sewage flow from Gaza into the Mediterranean Sea, the same sea our children bathe in, doesn’t bother anyone here.

But it’s inconceivable how Israelis can go on being so pleased with themselves and their army in view of the facts of the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict. How come, even as time goes by, their stomachs don’t turn, if only for a minute? What can we make of people who say seriously about an army that killed hundreds of children only two years ago, that it’s the most moral army in the world? And what should we make of the society and state that has this as its discourse?

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