As I write this, the war of the missiles continues in the skies over Israel and Gaza. IDF troops are massing on the border. Mediation efforts are underway in Cairo. By the time you read this, the fighting may have intensified into a ground war, or it may have fizzled out into another uneasy peace.
But for now, while the fighting continues, the news media engage in the familiar spectacle of twinning. Under the rules of twinning, the conflict is portrayed as a contest between two opposing sides, each inflicting damage on the other and each suffering casualties in a symmetry of belligerence. The titles of two videos now up on CNN.com illustrate the phenomenon: “Comparing Israel’s and Hamas’ Firepower” and “Life Now for an Israeli and a Gazan.” One story for one side, another story for the other.
The rules of twinning, as with any competition, require comparison and scorekeeping. How many rockets have been launched from Gaza? How many Israeli air strikes have hit targets there? How many Gazans are dead? How many Israelis?
One of the main fictions of twinning is that it considers only physical casualties: how many have been killed, how many have been maimed. By that calculus, Hamas has been laughably ineffective over the years. Before the recent escalation in violence, they had fired over 8,000 missiles at Israel since its withdrawal from Gaza. Under the rules of twinning, those thousands of missiles hardly count, because very few led to Israeli deaths or amputations.
But the children of Israel know too well that every single one of those missiles and mortar rounds inflicted casualties. Every single one.