Opinion: Saying that Gaza suffered more than Israel is stating a fact, not taking a side

Launch streams from rockets are seen beyond Gaza's towers.
Rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip toward Israel on May 20.
(Hatem Moussa / Associated Press)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, May 21, 2021. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

What follow here are plain facts and an obvious conclusion, made controversial only because of the subject: In the latest round of violence between Israeli and Palestinian forces, more than 240 people died. The vast majority of deaths were in the Gaza Strip; many of them were Hamas militants, according to the Israeli government, but also among the Palestinian dead were children and other civilians. In Israel, 12 people died, including two children. Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, has in the last several days fired thousands of rockets at Israeli towns and cities, inflicting more terror than death.

Judging by these numbers alone, and considering the fact that the people living in Gaza endure material shortages in the best of times, the last several days of violence have seen exponentially more needless death and suffering among the Palestinians than Israelis.


John Oliver, the comedian and HBO host, made observations to that effect recently when he said: “Multiple children have been killed this week — eight in a single strike just yesterday — and the U.S. is heavily implicated here. Lots is complicated here. But some things are pretty simple. One side is suffering much more.”

Statements like Oliver’s and the facts I laid out above should strike any fair-minded observer as utterly uncontroversial. It’s the blinkered tribalism of the debate over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that causes otherwise sensible thinkers to say that Oliver “slammed Israel” by pointing out the disproportionate level of suffering endured by Gazans. In a Times op-ed article, journalist Rob Eshman accused Oliver of exactly that, and implored Americans not to take sides reflexively in the conflict. Eshman did hold up examples of inconvenient truth-tellers on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide — for examples, Palestinian leaders who wish Hamas would stop firing rockets, and Israeli leaders who empathize with Palestinian militants. But his impatience for such expressions made outside the borders of Israel and the occupied territories would have almost everyone but a relative handful of people suspend their moral judgment on facts that seem plainly obvious.

That strikes me as problematic, but since the thing that attaches me to a conflict thousands of miles away is an abiding concern for my fellow human, who am I to say that?

More on the violence between Israelis and Palestinians: The world must recognize that Hamas is a threat to the existence of any future Palestinian state and must prevent it from rebuilding its arsenal, writes Dennis Ross. However, Hamas is a legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and if Israel wants to end this crisis, it must talk to it, says Daoud Kuttab. The two-state solution was nearly given up for dead, but it’s still the best option, says The Times Editorial Board. On our letters page, readers expressed a range of opinions; one accused Israel of engaging in ethnic cleansing, and a few said it was impossible for Israel to negotiate with Hamas.

Next time someone says progressive reforms will endure because people like them, ask them this: Why doesn’t anyone seem to have a pension anymore? Workers a generation ago loved having a guaranteed lifetime income, but good luck finding a job today that offers anything better than a 401(k). “As for the lesson, it’s that, yes, actually they can take stuff away from us, and there won’t necessarily be a backlash,” writes columnist Nicholas Goldberg. He concludes: “If there are benefits we trust and rely on, we’d be wise to keep a close and protective watch over them so no one takes them away.” L.A. Times

Hey, L.A. City Councilman Kevin de León, can’t you see we’re wanting to walk here? Residents of Eagle Rock and advocates for more livable, less car-focused streets put together a plan for reducing the number of vehicle traffic lanes on Colorado Boulevard while preserving a bus-only lane, parking and bike lanes, but the area’s new council member asked Metro to come up with another solution that preserved two lanes of vehicle traffic. On paper, says The Times Editorial Board, big cities like Los Angeles have committed themselves to climate sustainability, but when it comes time for implementation, so often they come up short. L.A. Times

Enjoying this newsletter? Consider subscribing to the Los Angeles Times

Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Become a subscriber.

Independents, you’re not helping. First, says columnist Jonah Goldberg, most of you are not truly independent, because you vote just as reliably for one party as any Democrat or Republican. Second, you’re radicalizing politics by acting as insurgent forces in the parties that you tend to support: “The insurgent boom puts the parties in a bind. Whether or not they are nominally independents, the insurgents chase moderates out of the party. Some will defect to the other party — as happened in 2020 — but many of them still opt to vote for the perceived lesser of two evils come election day. This means the party in question never pays much of a price for catering to the crazies.” L.A. Times

This is really saying something: Kevin McCarthy has hit a new low. The House Republican leader previously said that former President Trump bore responsibility for the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, and he even gave his blessing to GOP lawmakers who negotiated a bill that would create a bipartisan commission to investigate the insurrection. But he voted against the bill, and he urged his fellow House Republicans to do the same. His reasons for doing so amount to cynical whataboutism and, of course, smack of Trump toadyism, says The Times Editorial Board. L.A. Times

Stay in touch.

If you’ve made it this far, you’re the kind of reader who’d benefit from subscribing to our other newsletters and to the Times.

As always, you can share your feedback by emailing me at