The math of war

Caption and picture courtesy of “According to the IDF Rocket Counter widget, some time between Nov. 15, 2012 (left) and Nov. 16, 2012 (right), Gaza militant groups fired 24 rockets out of the year 2011.”

At, Phan Nguyen compiled a meticulous piece cataloging all Palestinian rocket and mortar attacks emanating from Gaza since 2004 and found that — in all that time — only 26 people have been killed as a result:

If we borrow the IDF’s claim that more than 12,000 rockets have been fired into Israel in the last twelve years (which I dispute later), we get a kill rate of less than 0.217%. Thus in order to secure a single kill, we should expect to fire about 500 rockets. However, if the goal is to specifically kill Jews rather than foreign workers and Palestinian laborers, then it gets harder. Only 21 Jews have been killed by this method, bringing the kill rate down to 0.175%.

If this sounds disturbing or even anti-Semitic, note that I am just testing the argument of the current Israeli ambassador Michael Oren, who, during Operation Cast Lead, co-wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal claiming that the Gaza rockets and mortars were “more than a crude attempt to kill and terrorize civilians—they were expressions of a genocidal intent.”

Yet the statistics demonstrate that it is much less than a “crude attempt to kill.” One can imagine easier ways to kill a random person than to manufacture and fire 500+ homemade rockets.

As for genocide, at the going kill rate, it would require 4,477,714,286 rockets and mortars, and 4,477,714 years to kill all the Jews in Israel. This is assuming that Israel’s Jewish population does not increase. And of course we would need to factor in the limited range of the projectiles, which would require Israel’s non-growing Jewish population to all congregate in the western Negev by the year 4479726 CE, give or take a few years.

But by then, all of Israel’s Jewish population will have already been exterminated by the country’s other violent killer, automotive accidents.

It makes more sense, then, to suppose that there are political rationales for the firing of rockets and mortars.


3 thoughts on “The math of war

  1. You are pointing out that the Hamas rockets are ineffective as a means of achieving the genocidal goals of Hamas. Or perhaps you mean that Hamas does not have genocidal goals and actually wants to live at peace with Jews? The truth is that those firing the rockets have the hope that Israel will kill many Palestinians in response, and that this will lead to a regional war that they hope will achieve their genocidal goals. It’s a reasonable strategy for someone who puts no value on human life.

    • What about Hamas’ behavior suggests it is genocidal? As of just minutes ago, it established a truce with Israel. Doesn’t seem to me like the action of an organization hell-bent on genocide. Sounds more like a political/military entity trying to flex some muscle in the face of an occupying power (and no, the fact that Gaza is no longer technically occupied does not mean that Israel does not control the factors governing everyday life in the Strip).

      I’m no defender of Hamas generally, but try to use facts when you argue.

  2. Pingback: dissecting israeli propaganda about the rocket threat « dimitri seneca snowden

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