71 years ago this week, America dropped the world’s first nuclear weapon in war. On August 6, 1945, the US Air Force dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. It killed 1/3 of Hiroshima’s population.
You should remember that bomb. Human Rights warriors use it to smear Israel.
In 2014, Israel was accused of dropping the equivalent of an atomic bomb on Gaza during that year’s 50-day Gaza-Israel war (Ali Abunimah, “How many bombs has Israel dropped on Gaza?”, August 19, 2014). Since that article came out, at least five others have appeared with the same theme, including, “U.N. Palestinian Diplomat Compares Israel’s Actions In Gaza To Atomic Bombing Of Hiroshima…”, weaselzippers, September 24, 2014).
Did this comparison accurately capture what Israel did to Gaza—or did it misrepresent what Israel did?
Consider Gaza. It’s one of the world’s most densely populated places. It is easy to conclude that bombs dropped into such a packed environment would inflict ‘indiscriminate’, ‘disproportionate’ and ‘massive’ damage. But is that what happened?
In 2015, the UN issued a Report of the 2014 Gaza-Israel war (Report of the independent commission of inquiry established pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution S-21/1, June 24, 2015). Its language was clear: “the scale of the devastation [in Gaza] was unprecedented. The death toll alone speaks volumes” (p 6); “there are strong indications that these attacks could be disproportionate…and a war crime” (p 10); “…raise questions with regard to the respect by the Israel Defense Forces of the rules of distinction, precaution and proportionality… highly likely to constitute a violation of the prohibition of indiscriminate attacks” (p 12); “an unprecedented number of casualties” (p. 19); “the massive degree of death and destruction in Gaza” (p 20) [emphasis mine].
To highlight the extent to which the damage and death in Gaza was indeed ‘massive’, ‘disproportionate’, etc., the anti-Israel website electronic intifada estimated that Israel dropped between 18,000-20,000 tons of explosives on the densely populated Gaza (Abunimah, above, Ibid). This essayist declared that the Hiroshima bomb was the equivalent of 13,000 tons of high explosives (ibid). Israel, he stated, had dropped 18,000-20,000 tons on Gaza.
To the average reader, the implied comparison left nothing to the imagination: Israel dropped the equivalent of an atom bomb on Gaza.
An atom bomb—or its equivalent—would of course create results that were ‘excessive’, ‘massive’, ‘disproportionate’ and ‘indiscriminate’. The essayist himself described “the vast scale of killing” [emphasis mine] Israel had inflicted on Gaza (ibid).
Did Israel really kill Gazans on a ‘vast scale’?
Consider Gaza casualties in light of the bombing of Hiroshima. There are 1.8 million people living in Gaza. If they had been hit with the equivalent of an atomic bomb, how many Gaza fatalities should we be talking about?
At Hiroshima, the atom bomb killed 100,000 people (Jeremy Bender, “The US nuked Hiroshima 71 years ago this week — this rare colorized photo shows the horrific devastation”, businessinsider, August 7, 2016). This means that more than a 1/3rd of Hiroshima’s population at the time was killed (Lydia Smith, “Hiroshima Anniversary: What Actually Happened When the Atomic Bomb was Dropped?”, International Business Times, August 5, 2014). Is this what Israel did to Gaza with its 18,000-20,000 tons of explosives? Did that massive tonnage kill 1/3 of Gaza’s population (600,000 people)?
Put another way, if Israel’s bombing of Gaza was truly equal to Hiroshima, as claimed, shouldn’t Israel have killed at least 300,000-500,000 Gazans (if not 600,000)?
Look at the actual 2014 Gaza war fatalities. In 2014, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that a total of 2,104 people died in Gaza during the 50-day 2014 war (“Occupied Palestinian territory: Gaza Emergency”, Situation Report as of August 28, 2014, OCHA). Later UN numbers claimed a total Gaza death toll of 2,251 (2015 Report, above, p. 6).
Both the 2014 and 2015 UN Reports claimed 1,462 civilians died. In 2016, the anti-Israel Jewish NGO, B’Tselem, claimed that 2,202 Gazans died, 63 per cent of whom (1,394) were civilians (“50 Days: More than 500 Children: Facts and figures on fatalities in Gaza, Summer 2014”, btselem, July 20, 2016).
Where’s that “vast scale” of killing that Human Rights Warriors have been crying about? Where’s that atomic bomb ‘killing equivalent’?
There wasn’t any. The total number of Gaza deaths, while tragic, represents less than two tenths of one per cent of the densely-packed Gaza population; and the civilian death number is less than one tenth of one per cent of that population. Because Gaza is so densely packed with people, such a death total isn’t massive, vast, indiscriminate or disproportionate; it’s extraordinarily low.
If Israel was bombing with ‘callous indifference to human life’—as Human Rights warriors had claimed--how could it drop 18,000-20,000 tons of bombs onto so densely packed a population and kill only 1,394-1,462 civilians?
Throughout that war, Israel declared it had taken extreme care to avoid civilian deaths. Both Human Rights warriors and the 2015 UN Report—above—questioned the truthfulness of that assertion. But it seems they’re wrong. Israel really did, somehow, miraculously, take such care to protect civilians that it killed only 900-1,462 civilians (Israel says its analysis of Gaza dead numbers showed a lower civilian death number than was reported by others).
Israel did not inflict indiscriminate, massive, unprecedented and disproportionate death on Gaza. It didn’t kill with an A-bomb intensity. It bombed with extraordinary care for civilian life. The numbers prove it.
Human Rights’ accusations against Israel are hysterical and false. They’re baseless. They don’t pass the simplest fact-check.
Human Rights Warriors lie.
Beware: when ‘Human Rights Warriors’ accuse Israel of ‘disproportionality’ and ‘indiscriminate attacks’, they could be lying to you. Indeed, if past performance is any indication of future performance, they will be lying to you.