By Matthew Wolf
On Nov. 14, 2012, Israel decided to begin retaliation against the hundreds of rockets that Hamas had been firing into cities in Southern Israel, mainly Sderot, and frequent attacks on Israeli soldiers patrolling the Israeli border. The retaliation began with the assassination of the head of Hamas’ military wing, Ahmed Jabari, in Gaza City as part of a campaign against Hamas terrorists. Starting with this isolated attack, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) intelligence proved its ability to enable the air force to conduct pinpointed surgical strikes targeting key terrorists, missile sites, and weapon caches. This method allowed for the minimizing of collateral damage done to civilians.
Like many headline news topics, this “war” prompted the beginning of a discussion on Student-Talk, the student e-mail forum at Pitzer, where we can openly post whatever we would like. While Student-Talk is mostly flooded with club meetings and other events on campus, every few weeks a new heated discussion begins. There was much discussion between students on the facts surrounding what happened this past November, and I would like to shed some light on it.
Isi Liebler, a columnist for the Jerusalem Post, brought into perspective the ratio for this “war” in his article entitled “The Gaza Outcome: Victory, Stalemate, or Defeat.”
“The ratio of NATO civilian to combat deaths in Yugoslavia was 10:1, in Afghanistan 3:1, in Iraq 4:1, and in U.S. drone attacks against the Taliban 10:1. Yet the IDF ratio in Gaza now was less than one civilian to two combatants – an unprecedented achievement particularly so as Hamas had cynically located missile launching pads and weapons amongst civilians whom they exploited as human shields.”
This ratio makes the truth about Israel’s retaliating strikes clear; the publicized deaths were merely numbers that did not separate between the Palestinian victims and aggressors. Many people have also made claims that Israel’s far lower casualty numbers mean that Israel is the aggressor in this conflict, while in reality the low number of Israeli deaths is greatly due to the revolutionary Iron Dome. Iron Dome was able to intercept 421 rockets, which is almost a 90 percent success rate. The missile-intercepting system was placed in major Israeli cities and used extremely advanced technology to judge where the missiles would land, in order to decide which to shoot down before they could harm any civilians.
As stated earlier, the Student-Talk forum provides an outlet for Pitzer students to discuss issues. Since the discussion became “heated” in regards to the conflict last semester, an in-person discussion was organized on Nov. 18 to allow anybody interested in the topic to come meet the names behind the Student-Talk debates. Athough many people felt comfortable participating in the online forum to express their opinions on the subject, only nine people ended up showing up to the meeting, and only one not identifying with a pro-Israel perspective.
Similarly, only a few weeks before this “war” broke out, a group of students came to a Claremont Students for Israel meeting and voiced concerns about some of our events. They based their concerns on no substantive information, but solely on the titles of the events. Although they also brought up accusations against Israel without any supportive evidence, we still invited them back the next week to lead a discussion and bring articles for evidence of their claims. The next week, without any notice, none of them showed up, and instead later wrote a message talking about their negative feelings towards our events, without having any experience of actually coming to our events or meetings.
It is this kind of occurrence that shows what type of discourse spaces like Student-Talk encourage; instead of bringing students together to talk openly and civilly, people hide behind the online world and disseminate their inaccurate, preconceived notions while refusing to open their minds and hear another viewpoint.
Matthew Wolf is the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) Campus Fellow for the Claremont Colleges during the 2012-2013 school year.