Granting that death is never to be taken lightly, we are more than concerned about the "body count" that inevitably appears in newspapers describing the Palestinian war against Israel. The "count" shows many more Palestinians than Israelis killed; hence the assumption that Israel is the aggressor. But just as the "body count" was an unhelpful way to understand the stakes and issues in the Vietnam War, so it is here.
The Palestinians started this war because they were unprepared to negotiate an end to the conflict with Israel. Palestinian Authority (PA) Information Minister Imad Faluji said earlier this month, "It [the uprising] had been planned since Chairman Arafat's return from Camp David, when he turned the tables on the former U.S. president and rejected the American conditions." The first Israeli casualties, who included an Israeli border policeman killed by his PA partner, came BEFORE Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount.
Most of the Palestinians, including children, have been killed during riots and gun battles they initiate, with children up front and men with guns behind. This follows guerrilla training for children as young as 10, years of Palestinian education in the joys of martyrdom, virulent anti-Israel and anti-Jewish indoctrination, and payments to the families of dead children. Palestinian TV broadcasts tributes to "martyrs." One young woman told viewers,"All we ask is that the [Arab] countries stand by our side, give us weapons, and we, on our own, will prevail; we'll kill [the Israelis] on our own, murder them, slaughter them, all of them." Palestinian culture as we see it teaches that there is glory in the blood they spill and the blood of others they shed.
It is hardly unexpected, then, that they go out "for the cause." According to the IDF, in the month of October 2000 there were more than 3,200 attacks, including 600 shootings, 1,397 firebombs, and 26 attacks involving explosives; 184 Israelis were injured and 12 killed.
To date, more than 60 Israelis have died: 31 in cowardly sniper attacks, including a Rabbi at Joseph's Tomb trying to save Torah scrolls, a teacher on her way home from work and a mother and father shot in front of their six children; 14 in bombings, including two adults killed when a bomb exploded beneath a school bus full of children, and several people killed while shopping; 11 murdered directly, including a 16-year-old boy lured to his death, cousins murdered after eating in a West Bank restaurant, two soldiers brutally lynched after making a wrong turn into Ramallah, and the patrolman killed by his "partner." Another 8 people were killed standing at a bus stop. And yesterday, an infant girl was killed in her father's arms by a Palestinian sniper; her father was wounded.
The point is not how many people are killed any are too many (although we suspect the world would be more sympathetic to Israel if more Jews died). The "body count" in this war needs to reflect the difference in how they died and how their deaths are understood by their own people and by the civilized world. It is the difference between the increasing culture of hatred and incitement to war on the Palestinian side, and the responsibility the Government of Israel takes for the protection of its citizens.
[In the 24 hours since this was written, three Israelis were killed and 39 wounded in three separate bombings by Palestinian terrorists. The dead include two teenage students.]