Canadian Mennonite
Volume 10, No. 16
August 21, 2006


Not even an eye for an eye

Since the start of the war between Hezbollah and Israel in the middle of July, I’ve been keeping track of death statistics on both sides of the border. As I write this, a cease-fire has just begun and I’m praying it will hold.

During the first week of the conflict, our attention was largely on our government’s efforts to get its citizens out of harm’s way as fighting escalated (see p. 20 for our interview with evacuee Bechara Azar). However, by July 20, 306 people had already been killed in Lebanon and 31 in Israel. Two days later, there were 350 Lebanese dead and 34 Israeli dead.

On July 30, an Israeli missile strike on a house in Qana in southern Lebanon killed 28 people (including 16 children) and left 13 missing as of when recovery efforts stopped. The Israeli military later showed a video dated two days before their attack showing how the village had been used as a launching point for missile attacks by Hezbollah against Israel. This village is likely the place where Jesus performed his first miracle, turning water into wine at the wedding feast. There is no feasting in Qana now.

On August 1, three weeks into the war, Lebanon had 750 dead and Israel had 54 dead. By August 8, the totals after a month of attacks were 998 Lebanese and 102 Israelis killed with 3,493 Lebanese and 690 Israelis injured. (All figures are from BBC reports based on data from the Lebanese government, Israeli military and police and the non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch.)

What struck me throughout was that while the totals kept rising, the ratio between deaths was quite constant. Every week, about 10 Lebanese were killed for every Israeli killed.

This also does not include Israel’s increased military strikes in Gaza, which have killed about 140 Palestinian people and one Israeli soldier as of July 26. These have been largely ignored in the larger conflict, as has the fate of the kidnapped Israeli solider, Gilad Shalit, presumably still being held somewhere in Gaza.

I don’t want to imply there is some kind of horrible target quid-pro-quo going on between Hezbollah and Israel over how many dead each side can deliver. While Israel has made much more of an effort than Hezbollah to warn civilians to leave, the facts show that both sides have repeatedly been using mass collective civilian punishment as a military strategy.

Hezbollah launched 3,050 unguided rockets, some packed with 14 kilograms of ball bearings, that make no distinction between military and civilian targets. In addition to human harm, more than 300 buildings were destroyed according to Israeli police.

Israel’s air force and army responded with large-scale destruction of Lebanese civilian infrastructure, including 6,900 residences, 145 bridges and overpasses, and 29 major airports, ports, sewage treatment plants, dams and electrical plants according to the Lebanese government. At least some Israeli attacks fired artillery shells with cluster munitions into civilian areas; these wide-area weapons largely harm civilians.

Old Testament law limited response to violence to be no more than the harm first done, at least between two Jews. Jesus went much further in his command to love our enemies, and did so in a time when Israel’s enemies were Roman troops occupying their land. What’s been happening these past weeks is very far from either response.

—Tim Miller Dyck

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