Protesting the Victor, not the Victims

Brett Stephens of the Wall Street Journal wrote an editorial on August 5, 2014 about the seeming hypocrisy of parts of the world protesting against Israel in the current Israel-Hamas war but barely making a peep about wars in Pakistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Libya, etc. He doubted the sincerity of people’s stated concern about Arab victims, and considered the protestors motivation of racism, since they only show up when the counter-party is Israel.

As posted in FirstOneThrough on July 21, wars involving Israel account for a very small portion of all Muslim deaths in wars. Muslim-Muslim wars account for 90% of fatalities.

That should not come as a surprise. Most wars are between neighboring countries or are civil wars. (The United States is the exception which seems to only go to war with countries that are not neighbors). As most Muslim countries neighbor other Muslim countries, it would stand to reason that most Muslim wars and fatalities would be at the hands of other Muslim countries.

However, the expected number of fatalities in wars involving Israel is out-of-proportion. Israel’s neighbors account for 7% of the world’s Muslim population (117 million people), but the fatalities account for only 1% of the deaths in wars.

The reason that so few deaths happen in wars with Israel has a lot to do with the length of the wars.

Israel’s wars tend to be much shorter than wars between Muslim countries. The Iran-Iraq war went on for 8 years. The civil war in Angola- 27 years; Somalia- 15 years; and the wars of Sudan (which included Christians) went on for 17 and 22 years. Those Muslim wars killed millions of people. Compare that to the 6-Day War of 1967, and the Israeli wars in 2006, 2008 and 2012 which were 34, 22 and 7 days long, respectively. Those four wars plus the current 2014 war killed 20,000 people combined.

The Israeli wars were short – when they were winning/won. The longest Israeli wars had heavy casualties. The 1948 Israeli War of Independence against five invading armies lasted 300 days, when Israel fought for its very existence. The First Lebanon War lasted three years and did not have a clear victor. Each of those wars had as many fatalities as the five short wars combined. Those battles where Israel was the decisive victor were typically under one month and consequently, the death tolls much smaller.

These facts lead to some interesting questions about the protests:

  • Were the wars short because Israel achieved its near-term security objectives and did not factor in global protests?
  • Did the protests help shorten the war?

More specifically to the question raised by Brett Stephens about the motivation of the protestors during these short battles with Israel:

  • Were the protestors actually concerned that Israel would wipe the opponents off the map, as their Muslim adversaries would certainly have done if they were the winner?
  • Would they protest a quick end to the wars if Israel were losing?

The answers to those questions would demonstrate that the motivation has little to do with victims, and everything to do with the victor. As the Arabs lost the wars, the protests masked their hatred for Israel as a call for the victims. If the Arabs had been winning, the protests would have been chants of support for the Muslim armies, and the “victims” would have been hailed as “martyrs” for the cause.

These anti-Israel protests occur in places with significant Muslim immigrants. If they protest a Muslim-Muslim war in their new host countries, it could lead to local street battles between Sunnis and Shiites, essentially importing their religious war to Europe. However, protesting against a common adversary in Israel is not only easier, but serves as a way of uniting Muslims that are in the middle of a large global war with themselves.


Brett Stephens, Palestine and Double Standards:

FirstOneThrough, Israel and Wars:


3 thoughts on “Protesting the Victor, not the Victims

  1. Pingback: No Disappearing in the Land of the Blind | FirstOneThrough

  2. Pingback: The Selective Protests Reveal Anti-Semitism | FirstOneThrough

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