DAVID M. LITMAN
CNN host Christiane Amanpour. (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
On January 5, 2023, Christiane Amanpour once again demonstrated her deep-seated prejudice against Israel by implying there is a comparison between the actions of the Jewish state and those of the Syrian regime. The comments came during an interview with Dror Moreh, the Israeli director of “The Corridors of Power,” during which the topics of Ukraine, the Holocaust, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Syria were raised. Toward the end, Amanpour asked Moreh:
You are an Israeli. I don’t know whether you were in Israel at the time, but you said that this red line in the neighboring country of Syria, where all these atrocities were being committed really, really made you angry and upset. Many will want to know, you know, do you feel equally angry about the horrible situation that’s going on in your own country, and the human rights attacks, killings of Palestinians. Obviously, we know Israelis are also attacked, but what is your perspective, as an Israeli given the whole “never again” paradigm in which you place this investigation?
Before delving into the appropriateness of comparing the justifications for the Syrian regime’s attacks on its own citizens versus Israel’s measures to defend against terrorism, let us first put in perspective the scale of the violence.
The United Nations estimates that in ten years of conflict in Syria, over 306,000 civilians (not including combatants) have been killed, or about 30,000 a year.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has claimed in total from December 1987 (the start of the First Intifada) to May 2021 approximately 14,000 Israeli and Palestinian lives, including both civilians and combatants. That’s about 400 per year, which includes particularly deadly periods like the Second Intifada and the various wars and operations against Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza.
Put another way, the Syrian civil war cost more than twice as many lives in a single year – without even counting combatants – as have been killed in 34 years of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
There simply is no comparison.
But even beyond just the numbers, Amanpour’s comparison is morally obscene and dripping with partisan framing. Syrian regime atrocities are not just atrocities because of the sheer scale of civilian casualties. They are atrocities because the Syrian regime targeted civilians, barrel bombing hospitals and dropping chemical weapons on civilian areas.
While Amanpour frames the conflict in terms of “killings of Palestinians” – only mentioning that Israelis are “also attacked” as an afterthought – she conveniently ignores the context that the overwhelming majority of Palestinian deaths in 2022 (totaling 167 as of December 13, according to the Palestinian Authority) occurred while they were attacking Israelis. Others were killed in crossfire, or in the context of clashes. It would be like framing the coalition strikes against the Islamic State as the “killings of Muslims” without mentioning the affiliation and activities of those particular Muslims.
Members of the terrorist organization Lion’s Den during a march in Nablus in December 2022.
By contrast, of the 31 Israelis killed by Palestinian terrorists last year, 27 of them (87%) were civilians who were deliberately targeted. These deaths came amidst a significant growth of terrorist activity in the West Bank. According to a tracker maintained by the think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies, there were 796 Palestinian terror attacks between March and December 2022.
Thus, even putting aside the vast gulf between casualty figures of the two conflicts, Amanpour’s framing inverts reality. Contrary to her propagandistic framing and implication, the data shows Israel has targeted combatants in the context of fighting a wave of deadly terrorist attacks by the Palestinian side which targeted civilians.
While one may legitimately debate the appropriateness of specific Israeli policies and practices, there is simply no comparison, both statistically and morally, between Israel and Bashar al-Assad’s regime. By glibly attempting to make the comparison, Amanpour once again demonstrates that she places her contempt for the Jewish state over her commitment to honesty.