No Margin For Tragedy

The simple answer, that it’s war and sometimes mistakes happen in war, isn’t good enough. Sure, mistakes happen. Sure, war is confusing and chaotic. But Israel knew only too well that it was under extreme scrutiny. Israel knew whose trucks they were, what they were doing there, where they were going and that they were not Hamas, but humanitarian aid workers. It seems impossible that such a mistake could be made.

Israel’s top military commander formally acknowledged on Wednesday that its military had made a “grave mistake” and apologized for the attack on an aid convoy that killed seven workers from the charity group World Central Kitchen, a rare admission of fault by Israel in the six-month-old war in the Gaza Strip.

“It was a mistake that followed a misidentification, at night, during the war, in a very complex condition,” the Israeli military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, said in a video. “It shouldn’t have happened.”

No, it shouldn’t have happened. Of course it shouldn’t have happened. While it is good that Israel admitted that it was responsible for the strikes that killed the World Central Kitchen workers, conceding fault is not sufficient when there can be no good explanation for it happening.

“Every bombing operation by the Israeli Air Force goes through a very lengthy approval process. Things can go wrong in intense combat, but it is anything but indiscriminate. Quite the opposite. It is intensely supervised, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t mistakes; we’re dealing with human beings.

“In a war mistakes happen,” continues [former Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael] Oren. To illustrate the point, he notes a friendly fire incident he witnessed 40 years ago. “In 1982 I watched a squadron of Israeli phantom jets, in broad daylight, bomb a column of Israeli paratroopers, killing twenty-five. In broad daylight. And all the vehicles were marked. And I think about not only the families of the twenty-five but I think about the pilots who did that. Because they have to live with that.”

This was not merely an inexcusable tragedy, but a tragedy that happened at a time when there was no margin for error, no tolerance for mistakes. No, it does not change the fact of what Hamas did on October 7th. No, it does not change the fact that Hamas continues to hold Israeli hostages for, now, almost six months. No, it does not change the fact that Hamas remains hidden within and under Gazan civilians, prepared and preparing to strike again to kill more Israelis and destroy Israel.

But this has become a war of public opinion, and Israel is losing the war to the terrorists and their supporters, witting and unwitting.

Oren said there is “nothing in terms of Israel’s interests, in terms of our essential security interests, that is in any way remotely enhanced by this incident. On the contrary, it is greatly impaired by this. It increases the pressure on us to agree to a cease-fire. It increases pressure on the Biden administration to come down harder on Israel.”

He added: “We need to take responsibility for our mistakes, but we can’t take responsibility for the war. This is Hamas’s war.”

For those who have chosen to believe they can support Palestinians without a grasp of the dynamics of terrorism, this tragedy will be seen, and proclaimed, proof that Israel is a genocidal nation bent on killing all Gazans. The strikes against the World Central Kitchen humanitarian aid workers will be spun as a weapon to prevent food from getting to starving Gazans, to ensure widespread famine, to kill more women and children, innocent civilians who are doing nothing more than trying to survive.

For Israel’s enemies and wannbe enemies, meaning those who supported Israel but need an off-ramp to appease loud and angry constituents, Israel has just handed them a gift. This is the ready excuse to abandon Israel for having been responsible for this tragedy. Even though this changes nothing about the underlying situation in Gaza, where the hostages remain in custody and Hamas remains in control, this is all the excuse needed to end support for Israel. One tragic accident.

Other countries have accidents during war, but other countries engage in war with no one watching. Israel is under the world’s scrutiny in a way that has never before occurred. While Syria can kill millions without anyone blinking an eye, Israel’s mistaken killing of seven will be held up as proof that Israel is the most evil nation on the planet. There is no tolerance for mistakes. There is no margin for error. Israel cannot afford any accidents. It may not be fair, but that’s the way it is.

13 thoughts on “No Margin For Tragedy

  1. Richard

    Suddenly it’s an accident? One mistake?You think Israel’s murderous leaders give a damn? They’re not trying to kill all the gazans?
    For a brilliant lawyer with a powerful bulllshit detector whom I’ve long admired, you’ve got a blind spot as big as a canyon on this subject
    From one Jewish lawyer to another, please consider what I’m saying

    Reply
    1. Chaswjd

      Peace could easily be achieved. The government of Gaza could free all the hostages and turn over all those who participated in the October 7 attacks to be tried in Israel for their crimes the committed or conspired to commit on Israeli soil.

      Reply
      1. Mike V.

        You beat me to it. Israel has, so far gone to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties. No one is forcing Hamas to hide in hospitals and among the general population.

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    2. Miles

      If this wasn’t accidental, then it was intentional. If intentional, there was either a rational purpose to this strike or Israelis (or Jews?) are evil. Despite my best efforts, I can’t see any benefit to Israel from doing this. A former senior UN official twitted: that:

      Knowing how Israel operates, my assessment is that Israeli forces intentionally killed #WCK workers so that donors would pull out & civilians in Gaza could continue to be starved quietly. Israel knows Western countries & most Arab countries won’t move a finger for the Palestinians.

      This is not only irrational, but facially false. If anything, this will cause other countries and NGOs to ramp up their humanitarian aid. Her “assessment” relies on her claim that other countries “won’t move a finger for the Palestinians,” which is palpably false as other countries, including the US, is doing exactly that. So there is nothing to be gained by Israel from this tragedy.

      And there is much to lose, as this tragedy has generated widespread condemnation where Israel was already becoming increasingly isolated as people have chosen to prefer the plight of Palestinians to that of Israelis.

      As for the final alternative, that Israel and or Jews are just evil, fuck you.

      Reply
  2. Hal

    JMO, but I’ve read a lot on the subject of warfare and years working w/ the military, I’d wager this incident was an example of Clausevitz’ “fog of war”. The most likely explanation is that while WCK had notified IDF and rec’d permission for convoy, there was a breakdown in communications between whoever approved their passage and the pilot crew or chopper or plane who fired missiles. This explanation satisfies both “Occam’s Razor” and “Hanlon’s Razor”.

    It’s worth remembering that HAMAS has often used ambulances and vehicles w/ UN markings to transport arms and fighters. WCK markings might have been dismissed as ruse,

    This incident has more in common with the IDF infantry killing the three hostages who’d escaped from HAMAS and were trying to reach safety w/ Israeli forces than with the IDF restricting aid into Gaza which is cruel, callous, and counterproductive.

    HTH

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  3. Hunting Guy

    It’s a war zone. Bad shit happens to both sides.

    The idiots complaining have never been shot at or in a fight for their lives.

    All you can do is move on towards your objectives and sweep up the pieces after the fighting ends.

    For all the idiots complaining about the way Israel is conducting the war, fuck you and the horse you rode in on. They aren’t fire bombing the city or mass murdering civilians like the Nazis or Hamas did.

    Reply
    1. j a higginbotham

      Hamburg, Dresden, and Tokyo were firebombed by the Allies. I am unaware of any firebombing of cities by the Nazis.
      Some numbers:
      Wartime total of British killed in German raids was 60,595
      554 in Coventry
      1,436 in the heaviest London raid
      20,083 total London civilian deaths during 9 month blitz
      45,000 at Hamburg
      35,000-135,000 at Dresden

      Reply
  4. BlueThing

    The way this is being covered in the media is revealing.

    Friendly fire incidents happen, all the time. Sometimes those on the receiving end are lucky, and other times they are maimed or killed.

    Since this is the first incident of its type in 6 months of war, it certainly seems more like accidental friendly fire rather than an intentional act. Unfortunately that perspective is just not represented in media coverage.

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  5. B. McLeod

    Feeding into the media coverage being what it is, we have the voracious news cycle on one hand, and the customary, near-total embargo of targeting intelligence on the other. The news cycle demands information, and the IDF isn’t going to provide any information that compromises intelligence sources.

    There were some early stories suggesting the IDF struck the convoy in the belief some unidentified Hamas figure was using it to escape Gaza. Was this speculation? Fabrication? Chances are we are not going to know, at least in the near term. We do know the convoy was struck on the way back to the WCK barges, after unloading the food it had delivered. Some reports suggest that a specific vehicle was struck by shelling, and two additional vehicle were hit by airstrikes after they attempted to assist the first vehicle. This does not look like an “accident,” but rather like a deliberate strike (although potentially based on erroneous intelligence).

    There are likely to be some occasions in war where a participating force has to make a judgment call on the validity of a tip, recognizing that the source may have an agenda of its own, potentially even a hostile agenda. A decision has to be made based on the perceived reliability of the source and on balancing what could be gained or lost by acting upon or failing to act upon the information. If a decision turns out badly, but the information source is potentially still useful, the media is not going to learn the truth about what happened for a long time, and perhaps not ever.

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  6. Hal

    If our host will forgive the digression, I’d like to point out that the IDF has withdrawn from their “raid” on al-Shifa hospital. The reports of this engagement cast an interesting light on the issues of casualties and whether the IDF use of force is, as often characterized, “indiscriminate”. The old adage that “Truth is the first casualty of war” notwithstanding here’s what’s been reported.

    The IDF claims to have killed ~ 200 fighters and captured over 900 more, without inflicting a single civilian casualty. I’ve not heard anything on the number of casualties suffered by the IDF. Palestinians who were sheltering w/in the hospital claim that there were 21 people killed. I didn’t hear anything about how many may have been wounded.

    If all the 21 killed were noncombatants, and none were killed by HAMAS or other Palestinians, the 200 the IDF claims to have killed were all combatants, and the IDF casualties were light, this would put the ratio of combatants to noncombatants killed at roughly 10:1. The UN estimates that in urban combat the ratio of noncombatants to combatants killed is usually 9:1. Reread the last two sentences. The total noncombatant deaths were almost two orders of magnitude lower than might be expected.

    The word “if”, in the first sentence of the previous paragraph is doing a lot of heavy lifting. The IDF may be including all the 21 that those in the hospital see as noncombatants among the 200 enemy fighters they claim to have killed. Many, or all, may have been innocents. One of those killed was a physician, which the Palestinian I heard interviewed took as evidence that he was not a combatant. It’s worth bearing in mind that Che Guevara, George Habash, and Ayman al-Zawahari were all physicians and all had the blood of innocents on their hands. Many, maybe most, of those the IDF captured and claims were combatants may be guilty only of being “fighting age males”.

    To anyone who studies such things it should be clear that if the IDF were killing indiscriminately the number of innocents/ noncombatants would be much higher. It should also be abundantly clear that HAMAS was using the hospital as a base.

    It’s impossible to wage a humane war, and members of the IDF have doubtless committed war crimes, but from where I sit it doesn’t appear they are acting indiscriminately or committing genocide.

    HTH

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  7. KeyserSoze

    If the IDF is indiscriminately killing civilians in Gaza, they could do it a hell of a lot easier than with their current methods. A small nuke would have done the job. Much less stress on the IDF.

    If you are in a war zone you are always at risk of catching some ordnance.

    HAMAS delinda est.

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  8. bill bell

    Referring to this incident as, “one tragic accident” is a mis-leading way of framing what
    happened. I beleive that there have been many similar incidents in which innocents
    have been killed by attacks that should never have taken place. Attacks which were
    poorly planned and/or where communications broke down within Israel’s military.

    I firmly believe that Israel has conducted this was in a very reckless manner that makes
    preventable tragedies like this one (and others that have flown under the radar) predictable.

    Definitely not a one off incident.

    Reply

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