Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that Israel did, in fact, make the same mistake twice in Qana — or, to take another recent example, in Gaza, where a family of eight spending an afternoon on the beach was killed by an errant Israeli shell in June. If Israeli assertions are true that these killings of scores of civilians were unintentional, does that mean that Israel can claim the high ground in its battle with Hezbollah and Hamas? Is Israel's "accidental" violence against civilians somehow better, or more morally acceptable, than that of a Hamas suicide bomber who steps into a pizzeria seeking to kill civilians? Or a Hezbollah guerrilla firing a Katyusha in the direction of a Haifa residential neighborhood? In short, do Israel's declared intentions make a difference?
To the victims in Qana and Gaza, the answer to these questions is obviously no. Nor will Olmert's "condolences" be greeted with anything gentler than sarcasm in the Arab and Muslim world, particularly because Israel barely paused after Qana before resuming airstrikes against Lebanon....
When Israel targets densely populated areas in hopes of killing one or a handful of militants, knowing that it may end up killing dozens of civilians, it can hardly claim to be showing concern for humanitarian law or civilian life. And by asking that we judge it by its professed intentions, rather than by its actions, Israel is asking too much of us and far too little of itself.
Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.