Did Israel Go Too Far in Protecting Civilian Lives in Gaza?

And in fact, it already is stirring up controversy. At the Weekly Standard, in an article on the IDF’s legal unit, Dabla, that advises military commanders in the field, Willy Stern notes that “Increasingly, the IDF, and Dabla specifically, have been taking grief from…academics and lawyers who are otherwise friendly to the IDF….”

Among others, Stern cites the case of German military-law expert Wolff Heintschel von Heinegg, who…

…believes that the IDF is taking “many more precautions than are required” and in doing so, he fears the IDF “is setting an unreasonable precedent for other democratic countries of the world who may also be fighting in asymmetric wars against brutal nonstate actors who abuse these laws.”

The moral issue seems clear enough: protecting the other side’s civilians to the point that one sacrifices some of one’s own people is going too far. It should also be noted that the Gaza population elected Hamas as its leader, largely supports its aggression against Israel, and does not rebel against its human-shields strategy.

The practical side of things, though, is murkier. Israel’s intense concern about civilian casualties stems from two sources. One is the deep-seated Israeli-Jewish ethos of respect for life. The other is that Israel, despite its best efforts, pays high prices for enemy civilian casualties.

During last summer’s war, the Obama administration suspended arms supplies to Israel, in part because of the alleged excessive civilian casualties. In war after war, the international media essentially colludes with the human-shields strategy and portrays Israel as a ruthless killer to tens of millions of mostly not-knowledgeable people. Meanwhile Israel comes under huge pressures to show “restraint” and seek ceasefires, and the UN and other condemnations follow like clockwork.

Those concerned -- rightly -- that Israel is going too far, and setting a precedent that can only encourage terror groups to use people as human shields and deter Western armies, should focus on combating the prevailing blood-libel mentality against Israel in media, governments, and the UN.

If a day should ever come when Israel no longer feels it has to strenuously prove that it is on a higher moral level than a terrorist organization, its war-fighting strategy will focus more normally on self-interest.