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 andKosovo 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.