According to many critics, Israel is slaughtering civilians in Gaza. It’s “purposefully wiping out entire families,” says an Arab member of Israel’s parliament. It’s committing “genocide—the murder of entire families,” says Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority. Iran says Israel has committed “massacres against the defenseless Palestinians.”
The charges are false. By the standards of war, Israel’s efforts to spare civilians have been exemplary.
Israel didn’t choose this fight. Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the terrorist organizations that dominate Gaza, claim that Israel provoked the conflict by arresting Hamas members in the
West Bank. But arrests in one territory don’t justify aerial bombardment from another. Israel didn’t hit Gaza until terrorists had fired more than 150 rockets into Israel and had rejected a cease-fire.
Some of the pictures that purport to show devastation from the Israeli strikes arefakes borrowed from other wars. As of Wednesday afternoon, the death count ranged from 30 to 50 or more, depending on where you mark the onset of the conflict. Every death is tragic, and the longer the assault goes on, the higher the toll will go. Still, given that Israel has launched more than 500 airstrikes, you’d have to conclude that either Israel is failing miserably to kill people or, more plausibly, it’s largely trying not to kill them.
Israel’s defense minister admits his forces have targeted “terrorists’ houses” as well as “arms, terror infrastructures, command systems, Hamas institutions, [and] regime buildings.” The houses belong to Hamas military leaders. An Israeli official boasts that “there's not a single Hamas brigade commander that has a home to go back to.” Israel’s legal rationale for targeting these homes is that they were “terror command centers” involved in rocket fire or other “terror activity.” But while Israel has tried to kill commanders in their cars (and has succeeded), it has avoided unannounced strikes on their homes.
The last time Israel targeted buildings in Gaza, a year and a half ago, it used leaflets and phone calls to warn residents to get out beforehand. It also fired flares or low-impact mortars (known as a “knock on the roof”) to signal impending strikes. Human rights groups didn’t accept these measures as protection from legal responsibility, but they did hail them as progress. Israel claims to be applying the same measures today. Hamas and other Palestinian sources confirm that the Israeli military has issued phone warnings to families in the targeted homes.
Saletan goes on to conclude "that Israel has gone to great lengths to minimize civilian deaths."
Read the whole piece, it's worthy of your time and it's particularly worth the time of those who are quick to criticize Israeli policy. You could consider having them read it as well.
Good luck with that.