As the heroic Israeli massacre of Gaza enters its 12th day, prospects for both Gazans in the short term and peace in the long term look bleak. It is impossible to know how many Palestinians have been killed, but the number right now stands somewhere around 600. The International Committee of the Red Cross has been calling the situation a humanitarian crisis, and the UN is estimating that 25% of the dead are women and children.
In an attempt to illustrate how appalling that figure is, we present the following thought experiment.
City X has invaded City Y, and rounded up all of the "terrorists" (or whatever term City X chooses to use, eg, Nazis, Communists, kitties [if City X is populated by dogs], etc) in a giant compound inside the borders of City Y. The terrorists are sitting ducks, with no way out and limited sources of ammunition with which to fight back. The only problem is that City X inadvertantly rounded up women and children in the compound as well.
City X has the option of simply blowing the whole thing up, but that will look bad to the rest of the world. They choose instead to storm the building, going corridor to corridor, killing their enemies one by one. City X's soldiers are told to avoid shooting women and children, but they are also told that they must kill every single terrorist, and that if even one gets away, then City X will be in mortal danger.
The soldiers go through the compound, killing their enemies face to face, avoiding women and children if possible. But the scene is complete chaos, and every fourth kill turns out to be a child or a woman. The soldiers and their commanders realize what is happening, and realize that it is extremely likely that the ratio will continue to be this high, yet they continue their conquest, knowing full well that every fourth person they shoot will be an innocent civilian.
This is a horrifying situation, and is not meant as a direct analogy to the Israeli/Palestinian situation. It's just a smaller-scale way of imagining what 25% means, and that even given the assumed intentions of minimalizing civilian casualties, the results from this action are disproportionate and unjustifiable.