BEIRUT

Editorial

Threshhold for murder

Smoke rises after an Israeli missile strike hit an area in Gaza City on Sunday, July 20, 2014. Escalating their ground offensive, Israeli troops backed by tanks and warplanes battled Hamas militants in a crowded neighborhood of Gaza City early Sunday. The fighting, including heavy Israeli tank fire, killed scores of Palestinians, forced thousands to flee and damaged or destroyed dozens of homes. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

The Shejaiya massacre in Gaza Sunday coincided with a striking level of popular anger at Israel around the world, as efforts to broker a cease-fire pick up pace. On several past occasions, Israeli campaigns of this type have ground to a halt when a grim milestone of fatalities has been reached.

In some cases, a single, horrific incident pushes things past a “tipping point.” In Lebanon in 1996, the Qana massacre – just over 100 people butchered when they took refuge at a U.N. facility – increased the pressure on Tel Aviv. At other times, the 1,000 figure as a total amount of casualties appears to have triggered the same kind of pressure, as in the Israeli offensive against Gaza in late 2008.

Palestinians and their supporters deserve to know what level of death will eventually see the international community’s political and diplomatic pressure kick in. Is it a massacre of 50 people in a single attack? Or is it 100, or 200?

Alternatively, if single-incident atrocities don’t produce huge numbers of casualties, can there be a guaranteed total figure that does the trick? Can the world’s political leaders specify such a bloody threshold – 1,000, 5,000 or 10,000 people, for example – so that Palestinians aren’t left wondering, day after day, whether what they endure will be sufficient to give the final push to cease-fire efforts?

It has become clear that until such ghoulish standards are agreed on, not even clear-cut cases of Israeli murder of civilians – like the four youngsters on the Gaza beach last week – will force leaders to act.

The other significant conclusion to be drawn is that Israel’s policy of slaughtering innocent Palestinians is generating higher and higher levels of anger and outrage around the world, in a welcome development that unfortunately comes too late for the victims.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 21, 2014, on page 7.

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