I am writing after seeing a series of letters from fellow practicing physicians justifying acts of brutality during the most recent conflict in Gaza. What concerns me more than any particular political position is finding empathy in such short supply among those within the healing professions.
To begin with the numbers of killed and injured on each side are not as Stalin would have put it mere statistics. They DO matter, first and foremost because they represent real people, each of whom has grieving and aggrieved brothers, sisters, mothers, and children, but also because proportionality is an element of international law. According to various sources, during Operation Protective Edge Israel lost sixty-six soldiers and six civilians including one child while just over 2,100 Palestinians died in Gaza with over 75 percent as non combatants, six times as many were injured, 17,000 had housing damaged, and more than a quarter were displaced. The economic cost with damage to civilian infrastructure is estimated at 6 billion dollars, and even with the influx of international aid, it would take decades to repair. This tally appears remarkable when one of the most sophisticated (and reputed “moral”) army in the world faced off against reputedly callous, terrorist groups. Neither side appeared to hesitate prior to launching rockets or indiscriminate attacks in areas with no places for children to hide — in schools, daycares, playgrounds or beaches — spawning nightmares and lifelong fears.