Sunday 27 July 2014

Killing Palestinians: The "Combat-Age" Excuse

In modern propaganda, excuses are the weapon of choice. As the Palestinian death toll rises above 1000, apologists for the IDF's brutal war of choice against Gaza have come up with a rather clever excuse indeed: the age and gender of the Palestinian dead.

Disputing the UN's claim that three-quarters of those killed by the IDF are civilians, pro-Israel bloggers point out that the vast majority of Palestinians killed during the Second Intifada were male - mostly boys between the ages of 10 and 19 and young men under 30. The same seems to be the case in the current conflict in Gaza. Thus, say the laptop bombardiers, most of the civilian dead are "combat-age" males and so they must be militants. Essentially, Israel's cheerleaders argue that Palestinian boys and men are legitimate targets.

The irony here is that those who make this argument are following the lead of world's worst war criminals. As researchers from the Gendercide Watch project point out,

"[S]tate-directed gender-selective mass killings have overwhelmingly targeted men through history, and ... this phenomenon is pervasive in the modern world as well."

In many conflicts, so-called combat-age male civilians are systematically targeted by enemy forces. For example, the vast majority of civilians killed by Serbian forces in Bosnia and Kosovo were boys and men, as were the victims of the Rwandan genocide. Indeed, in the initial phase of the Holocaust, the primary victims of the Nazis' mass executions were teenage and adult Jewish males.

Furthermore, there are plenty of reasons why most civilian casualties would be male in any urban war zone. For instance, because societies are still very patriarchal, I imagine it is mostly fathers, sons, brothers and uncles who venture out to obtain food and medicine or to search for missing relatives. When they do, their "combat-age" status is effectively a target sign on their chests.

On 11 July 1942, Colonel Max Montua of the Police Regiment Centre issued the following orders to the Nazi police battalions:
"Confidential! By order of the Higher SS and Police Leader ... all male Jews between the ages of 17 and 45 convicted as plunderers are to be shot according to martial law."
The police battalions duly rounded up and shot thousands of Jewish males. Today's pro-Israel blogger battalions would gladly condemn the boys and men of Gaza to the same fate.


  1. Great piece Alfie. The more they make themselves look like the Nazis the less difference people will see. And the reservoir of empathy for the Israeli raison d'etre will continue to drain. They have used, abused, manipulated and plundered the millions of Jewish people murdered during the Holocaust. And now they behave in similar fashion. We have reproduced your piece on TPQ as it brings so much clarity to the issue. Keep writing Alfie.

  2. It's a planned genocide and this article articulates it well

  3. Thanks for the feedback, Anthony. It is also worth mentioning that all thirteen civilians killed by British Paratroopers on Bloody Sunday in 1972 were "combat-age" males aged between 17 and 41. Ten of the eleven victims of the Ballymurphy Massacre were also men. Indeed, based on statistics from the Sutton Index, I reckon that about 90 percent of the civilians killed by British security forces in the North were male. Overall, boys and men account for 80 percent of all civilian deaths during the Troubles.

  4. John,

    I never argued that the IDF indiscriminately bombing all the women and children in Gaza. I merely pointed out that in most conflicts, the majority of civilians casualties tend to be "combat-age" males. This was the case in Kosovo, Bosnia, Rwanda, Iraq and Afghanistan. Thus, it is rather tenuous to claim that most of the casualties in Gaza cannot be civilians if they are boys and men.

    Norman Finkelstein was a Maoist for a number of years as a younger man in the 1970s, but he came to reject the ideology. He has written with admirable honesty about how his youthful idealism blinded him to Mao's crimes.

    Moreover, Finkelstein is hardly alone in having communist sympathies in his youth. Many of today's pro-Israel commentators -- for example, David Horowitz and Eoghan Harris -- were once staunch communists.

  5. As far as I am aware, Horowitz and Harris have repudiated communism entirely. Finkelstein still identifies as a communist, just not a Maoist. So its a lesson only half-learned. This fundamental mistake is at the root of his world-view.