Hamas's human shields

Democracies the world over need to condemn Hamas for its heartlessness toward its own people.

hamas kids 88 (photo credit: )
hamas kids 88
(photo credit: )
As the latest IDF operation in Gaza ended, Defense Minister Ehud Barak began consulting Israel's topmost legal authorities about how to respond to rocket assaults launched on Israeli civilians from areas with large numbers of civilians in Gaza. Not every state under attack would evince such extraordinary care regarding the lives of populations in enemy entities, especially when the enemy has made noncombatants its primary target. This, more than all else, underscores the injustice inherent in the widespread condemnation overseas of Israel's self-defense. Israeli policy-makers are extremely sensitive to the moral bind in which Gazan terrorists unconscionably place Israel. Hamas tacticians cynically exploit Israel's humanitarian predisposition, trusting it to be too decent to discard its concern for the lives of Gazans - a concern that is the direct reverse of the willful intent of Gazan terrorists to cause as much death and destruction to as many Israeli civilians as they can. This underlying moral disparity between the sides - all too often completely ignored by Israel's critics abroad - takes on particularly sinister attributes when terrorist rockets are purposely launched from crowded civilian sites to deter Israel from striking back at the rocket cells. This makes it a lose-lose situation for Israel. If it responds vigorously, it will be censured for the likely loss of life. If it doesn't respond, it abandons increasingly larger numbers of its own civilians to "the Palestinian roulette." On Monday, for instance, a Grad missile exploded outside a day care center in Ashkelon. Only by a miracle did scores of babies and toddlers escape grievous harm. Simultaneously, Israel's predicament constitutes a win-win situation for Gaza's Hamas overlords. If they cause casualties to their own civilians, Israel will be pilloried by world opinion. If Israel is daunted from defending its own population, Hamas can continue its rocket barrages with impunity. Hamas's brazen use of human shields is directly facilitated by the international community's reluctance to address the issue and denounce the premeditated endangerment of ordinary people. According to all rules of warfare, including the Geneva Convention, this is nothing short of a war crime. When the crimes of Gaza's terrorists against their own people are consistently overlooked around the world, it can only encourage the Islamists' immorality. By staying silent on this fundamental moral issue, the international community becomes an accomplice to bloodshed both among the directly targeted Israelis and the unintentionally harmed Gazans. This is hardly a new phenomenon. Arab terrorists have a long and dishonorable history of hiding behind women and children and of using even schools and houses of worship to protect themselves. Back in November 2006, Gazan women were used as human shields to allow besieged Hamas gunmen to flee from Israeli forces in Beit Hanun. Armed terrorists barricaded themselves in a mosque that was surrounded by IDF troops and tanks. Women gathered outside in response to an appeal on the local radio station for females to protect Hamas fighters. The terrorists managed to escape in women's garb by blending in among those they knew Israeli soldiers wouldn't attack. That same month, the IAF warned Muhammad Weil Baroud, responsible for firing Kassam rockets at Israel, to evacuate his home in Beit Lahiya in advance of an air strike. Instead, hundreds of locals, mostly women and children, were recruited to Baroud's house. Israel suspended the air strike, lest these human shields be harmed. In response to the incident, Hamas crowed: "We won. From now on we will form human chains around every house threatened with demolition." The above episode illustrates the potential problems with Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i's proposal to bulldoze houses from which rockets are fired. The same goes for suggestions such as warning systems giving Gazan civilians time to get out. Even smoke bombs directed at precise coordinates to further warn civilians to depart - in advance of live fire and the destruction of launch sites - could be thwarted by human shields. Principled despite its vilified reputation, Israel wrestles with a wrenching quandary callously imposed upon it. But Israel shouldn't be the only one to grapple with the ruthlessness of terrorists toward their human shields. Democracies the world over need to internalize what is taking place here, to pin blame where it is due, and to condemn Hamas for its heartlessness toward its own people.