Anew dance of death has started in Gaza after Israel began >ceaseless rounds of air strikes , following rocket attacks by the Palestinian Hamas. The complete disproportionality of force in response to Hamas’ strikes can be measured in numbers. Over 500 missile strikes by Hamas have not resulted in a single Israeli death. But in sharp contrast, an estimated 165 Palestinians have perished in Israeli air raids. Strikingly, civilian casualties have surged. While the Israelis term the death of non-combatants as “collateral damage”, the unintentional consequence of the focussed targeting of Palestinian “terrorist nests”, many Israeli commentators are energetically countering the official Israeli narrative. Writing in the Israeli daily Haaretz , Gideon Levy illuminatingly observed that the targeting of civilians may be deliberate — the culmination of a perverse military logic of bringing about calm by causing maximum societal pain. The Israeli establishment may well point to the tactic pursued by Hamas of embedding its rockets within civilian population clusters, which can then come under attack. However deplorable some of Hamas’ warfare techniques may be, there is a counter-view that in the overcrowded, narrow environs of the Gaza strip the Palestinian militant group has no operational option but to enmesh with the people.
The response of the United Nations to the unfolding >tragedy in Gaza has been heartening. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, turned the spotlight on “deeply disturbing reports” about civilian casualties, which included children. She added: “Such reports raise serious doubt about whether the Israeli strikes have been in accordance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law.” In sharp contrast, the Indian position on the Gaza crisis has been muted, consistent with its ambivalent approach in recent years of maintaining passive equidistance between the Israelis and Palestinians. The studied avoidance of taking clear moral positions on the Palestinian issue hardly augurs well for a country with global aspirations, as evidenced by New Delhi’s advocacy for membership in the United Nations Security Council. Pragmatism also demands that India weighs in strongly on the unresolved Israel-Palestinian issue, which is the core of >instability in West Asia — a region that is vital for India’s economy and energy security. Fears of a blowback from Israel, which would undermine national security, in case India takes a more forthright position on the Israel-Palestinian track, may be exaggerated, given the relationship of deep interdependence that New Delhi and Tel Aviv have developed over the years.