Why Bomb Civilians?

The problem with strategic bombing, in which civilians are regarded as legitimate targets, is that it seems never to have worked. The Palestinians, whether they are ruled by Hamas or not, will not stop fighting Israel, if only because the destruction of Gaza has left them with nothing much more to lose.

NEW YORK – The time before last that Israel was fighting a war in Gaza, in 2009, Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister at the time, compared the conflict to America’s war with Japan. There was no need for a costly ground invasion; the enemy could be bombed into submission from the air.

The comparison, seemingly outrageous, was not entirely wrong. Nor is it today. Inflicting maximum damage from the air was and remains Israel’s strategy toward Hamas-ruled Gaza. Even if we accept that Israel has a legitimate reason to shut down tunnels that are used to infiltrate Palestinian commandos into Israel, this does not explain why it is necessary to bomb schools, power plants, hospitals, mosques, and densely packed civilian areas.

The official explanation is that Palestinian missiles are hidden in civilian areas. This may well be true. But Israeli leaders also appear to believe that by smashing Gaza and its people with bombs, Palestinians’ morale can be destroyed. At some point, they will have had enough and give up – and perhaps even turn against their rulers.

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