Israel Should Make Amends to Civilians


It’s hard not to be inspired by the story of Izzeldin Aboul Aish.
A doctor who received his Master’s of Public Health from Harvard, Aboul Aish returned to Gaza to raise his daughters and help his people. He is widely known from his television appearances and practice in Israel.
Aboul Aish had always preached peace and bridge building. So it was a special outrage and injustice that Israeli tanks fired on his home as part of an operation to demolish buildings suspected of housing Hamas fighters. Three of his five daughters and his niece were killed.
A summary of his heartbreaking story:
During last winter’s siege of Gaza, tanks approached Aboul Aish’s house. He quickly drew up a list of high-level contacts in the IDF and called a few. The tanks shortly withdrew from his home.
The following day, though, Aboul Aish wasn’t so lucky. Israeli tanks shelled his home and killed three of his daughters and his niece before he had a chance to call his friends in the IDF.
He placed this call to his friend, a TV news host, immediately after the attack.
(warning: this is deeply emotional and jarring).

Aboul Aish’s story of suffering is sadly not uncommon in Gaza. What is uncommon is Israel’s response to his tale of woe.
First, then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he wept for Aboul Aish, a public show of sympathy we’re unaccustomed to seeing from policymakers in war. This week, Aboul Aish revealed that Israel has offered him compensation for his loss.
To my knowledge, and the knowledge of my colleagues at CIVIC, Israel has never before made such amends to a civilian victim of its military operations. Aboul Aish says he will use the funds to start a foundation to help Gazan women and girls. Amazingly, he refuses to lay blame or impugn the motives of either Israel or Hamas. Instead, he soldiers on, preaching peace and reconciliation to Jews, Christians, Muslims, and anyone else who will listen.
It’s clear that the decision to compensate Aboul Aish was driven partly by emotion and partly to satisfy public outrage and guilt in Israel. It shouldn’t end there. There’s a powerful case for Israel to make amends to all civilians they admit to harming by mistake. First, it’s clearly the right thing to do. Combat operations in war, even if conducted with the greatest possible degree of care, harm civilians. While no amount of compensation can ever make up for the loss of life, the Israelis should not leave civilians to pick up the pieces without help. They should internalize the human cost of their military operations.
Second, making amends to civilians is the smart thing to do. To this point, Palestinians have little reason to believe that Israelis aren’t simply indifferent to their suffering (Aboul Aish, whose faith compels him to assume everyone’s best intentions, is an exception). Indeed, Israelis have given them little reason to believe otherwise, prohibiting even the most basic supplies, such as building materials, from being brought into Gaza. Helping civilians sends the opposite message. It quells resentment, increases the potential for cooperation, and decreases the risk of retaliation. The United States, which maintains both compensation and humanitarian aid programs for war victims in Afghanistan and Iraq, is recognizing the benefits of this policy of compassion. Israel should follow suit.
At the moment, when states engage in operations that have disproportionate impacts on civilians or deliberately target them, these civilians may receive reparations for the state’s breach of International Humanitarian Law. But if warring parties engage in lawful military acts that result in “collateral damage,” the international community says, “tough luck.” I’m currently working on a new campaign to change that, to create a global expectation that all warring parties must help where they have harmed, whether or not they’ve broken the laws of war (to get in touch on this, my contact these days is my first name at Israel, which claims that the vast majority of its civilian victims are regrettable but legal casualties, should take the lead here.
Let’s be clear: making amends to unintentional victims would only solve a small part of the problem. Israel claims many of the injured civilians are actually shielding Hamas fighters; as such, these civilians would not be eligible for compensation. Nor would amends be offered by Hamas to the Israeli civilians it intentionally targets. Making amends would, however, bridge a small part of the gap between the parties and ease some of the suffering that everyone wants to avoid. In other words, it’s a start.
It took the compelling story of Aboul Aish for Israel to compensate a civilian victim. Making amends to all civilians would be one way to honor his courage, not to mention an act of intelligence, decency and compassion.
— Scott Paul


13 comments on “Israel Should Make Amends to Civilians

  1. Sam B says:

    Yes this incident is extremely unfortunate and having lived in Israel for a few years I know that both sides truly do suffer. However instead of immediately point blame on Israel, we should ask these terrorist political organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah, who are responsible for many Israeli deaths, to pay for compensation as well. Instead of spending money on weapons and not aiding their own people.


  2. Ben Rosengart says:

    Thank you for bringing this story to our attention, Scott. Difficult
    as it was, I am glad I watched it. No matter what, like the TV host,
    we must refuse to “hang up the phone” on suffering.


  3. ... says:

    they haven’t done so for the parents of rachel corrie… this story is a positive development.. i hope the israel people( and those israeli firsters in the usa) learn how to cultivate it..


  4. JohnH says:

    I wouldn’t be opposed to having Iraq and Yemen compensate Jews it expelled. However, my point is that Israel has already been amply compensated for any dislocations suffered. Maybe it didn’t go to the victims but went instead to corrupt politicians and their pet projects. But nonetheless there was plenty in the $100 Billion to take care of a lot of refugees (as well as the vast majority of the 435 Congressmen and Senators who probably get “rebates” from Israeli aid).
    Maybe Iraq and Yemen could simply issue an apology, as Clinton did for slavery…


  5. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Not one effin’ word about Tristan Anderson. Well done Scott. You’ve managed to put Israel on the dock for its abuses, while smoothly avoiding insulting our President and our SOS for their complete and utter dereliction of duty as it applies to American citizens abroad.
    And hey, heres a novel idea, why don’t WE compensate the Palestinians, and deduct it from the billions we piss away down the Israeli crapper every year? After all, its OUR money and arms they’re using to fry Palestinians in white phosphorous.
    “Pantsonfire”, it is ISRAEL that broke the ceasefire that was their excuse for this latest bloodbath they inflicted on the Palestinian people. Why don’t you get your facts straight instead of giving us the bullshit script by rote?


  6. pantsonfire says:

    John H-I didn’t say the US should give additional compensation (I agree the US gives way to much to Israel and Egypt)- I stated that the Arab states that exxpelled resident jews in 1948 should.
    It is clear that you agree that at least some jews were expelled in 1948 from Arab lands forcibly and lost everything (I won’t quibble with the numbers, you may be right that 800,00 is too many)-so to be fair, shouldn’t some compensation be forthcoming as well for those refugees as well as for the Palestinians, whatever the number?
    If not, why the extreme concern for the Palestinian refugees, and none for the Jewish refugees….??


  7. JohnH says:

    pantsonfire–US aid to Israel has already been $100 Billion. How much more “compensation” do Israelis really deserve? (None in my estimation.)
    Also, your figure of 800,000 Sephardis forced to leave is way too high. It includes people, like Moroccan Jews, who were not compelled to leave, but chose to emigrate because their colonial perks were ending and because opportunities in Israel seemed attractive.
    Only 180,000 Jews emigrated from Iraq and Yemen. Less than 40,000 emigrated from Syria, Jordan, Libya and Lebanon each. The total of those compelled to leave is much less than half of the number you cite.
    The 800,000 number is phonied up to justify expulsion of that number of Palestinians from their homes in 1948.


  8. pantsonfire says:

    Good idea, John H, and while the Israelis are paying reparations to the “Palestinians” Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Lybia and Lebanon should pay Israel reparations for the 800,000 Sephardis that were expelled from their ancestral homelands in 1948 after the arab states rejected the UN partition plan (which would have created the Palestinian state alongside a jewish state)


  9. pantsonfire says:

    Maybe Hamas should “make amends” for starting this whole mess by deliberately targeting Israeli civilians (Muslims and Jews and foreign agricultural workers) with their rockets.
    Maybe during the next Gaza election (if there ever is one) the inhabitants will thing twice before voting in Hamas (


  10. JohnH says:

    No doubt that Israel should pay 60 years worth of war reparations to Palestinian survivors. And they should be forced to pay Palestinian descendants fair market value for property seized, or at least agree to a settlement equivalent to that which descendants of European Jews got for property seized by Hitler.
    Maybe Palestinians can’t return to their ancestral homes, but at least they should be compensated for their loss along with a substantial amount for pain and suffering.


  11. Cookies_and_milk says:

    My God that was awful. And all The Messiah could do is ask a freeze on settlements? Maybe he should send his Jewish chief of staff next time, son of an Israeli terrorist, to deliver that tough message!
    All countries maintaining ties with Israel are responsible for this. Cut off Israel from everywhere and assemble a coalition and bomb the fuck out of it – preferably with napalm. Unfortunately tyranny is only uprooted these days when oil is beneath it.


  12. JamesL says:

    Steve is correct; Israel must make amends as one of the necessary acts to end the cycle of violence which will plague them forever if they do not shift persepctives. Israel cannot escape its own actions. I am glad Israel made this move, but they have a lot of catching up to do. I would be interested in what sort of compensation Israel thought would be adequate for the loss of a father and mother’s three daughters, a niece under their care and protection, and their home.


  13. Don Bacon says:

    “Helping civilians harmed in conflict is not only smart, it’s also the right thing to do. We call it ‘making amends,’ and we are now working to create a new international standard that expects warring parties to help where they have harmed. “–CIVIC, the campaign for innocent victims in conflict
    How do you help victims when they’re dead? Multiply Gaza by a hundred or more to get near the cost of ‘victory’ in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    And many of the live victims aren’t much better off after they’ve been maimed, imprisoned, tortured, left w/o family and/or forced to emigrate. Compensation from the killers is an insult.
    “We at CIVIC know we alone cannot entirely change the way war is fought for innocent civilians”
    We should never accept the inevitability of war. Never never never never. It’s not enough to pretty it up by compensating its survivors, in fact it detracts from the anti-war effort, in effect authorizing the original crime with “compensation for his loss.” He’s been compensated, all’s well, let’s move on. No.
    This is particularly important as the nature of war has changed. The new US paradigm is ‘regime change’ followed by an ‘insurgency’ of the natives against their new US-supported rulers, with all the natives being fair game. “High-value” targets in Iraq could be attacked from the air w/o permission from topside if no more than thirty innocents would be killed. In Afghanistan with drone attacks the ratio is even worse, we have learned. Compensation is not the answer, ending elective wars is.
    March 2002
    When U.S. warplanes strafed [with AC-130 gunships] the farming village of Chowkar-Karez, 25 miles north of Kandahar on October 22-23rd, 2001, killing at least 93 civilians, a Pentagon official said, “the people there are dead because we wanted them dead.” The reason? They sympathized with the Taliban. When asked about the Chowkar incident, Rumsfeld replied, “I cannot deal with that particular village.”


Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *