Commentary Magazine


Victim or Victimizer?

There  is no shortage of misdirected and uninformed talk about “war crimes” in Gaza. Indeed there are war crimes, but not committed by Israel, as the usual crowd of anti-Israel critics would have us believe. Alan Dershowitz writes:

A temporary cease-fire in Gaza that simply allows Hamas to obtain more lethal weapons will assure a repetition of Hamas’ win-win tactic of firing rockets at Israeli civilians while using Palestinian civilians as human shields.

The best example of Hamas’ double war crime tactic was Tuesday, when it succeeded in sending a rocket to a town less than 20 miles south of Tel Aviv and injuring a child. At the same time, it provoked Israel to attack a United Nations school from which Hamas was launching its rockets. Residents of the neighborhood said two Hamas fighters were in the area at the time, and the Israeli military said they had been killed, according to the New York Times.

The Hamas tactic of firing rockets from schools, hospitals and mosques dates back to 2005, when Israel ended its occupation of Gaza. Several months ago, the head of the Israeli air force showed me a videotape (now available on YouTube) of a Hamas terrorist deliberately moving his rocket launcher to the front of a U.N. school, firing a rocket and then running away, no doubt hoping that Israel would then respond by attacking the rocket launcher and thus killing Palestinian children in the school.

This is the Hamas dual strategy: to kill and injure as many Israeli civilians as possible by firing rockets indiscriminately at Israeli civilian targets, and to provoke Israel to kill as many Palestinian civilians as possible to garner world sympathy.

The hypocrisy of the perpetually and selectively outraged international human rights lobby is revealed by its unwillingness to recognize, let alone condemn, the war crimes of Hamas. Where are the condemnations from the UN? Where is Amnesty International? Ah, they have little interest in disturbing the myth that the Palestinians’ plight is attributable to the Israelis, rather than theie own warped leadership which uses civilian deaths to score points. Dershowitz explains:

The best proof of Hamas’ media strategy of manipulating sympathy is the way it dealt with a rocket it fired the day before Israel’s airstrikes began. The rocket fell short of its target in Israel and landed in Gaza, killing two young Palestinian girls. Hamas, which exercises total control of Gaza, censored any video coverage of those deaths. Although there were print reports, no one saw pictures of these two dead Palestinian children because they were killed by Palestinian rockets rather than by Israeli rockets. Hamas knows that pictures are more powerful than words. That is probably why Israel has — mistakenly in my view — kept foreign journalists from entering the war zone.

Israel must continue to try to stop the Hamas rockets that endanger more than a million Israeli civilians. It also must continue to do everything in its power to avoid Palestinian civilian casualties, not only because that is the right thing to do but because every Palestinian death plays into the hands of Hamas’ leaders.

A bad day for Hamas is a day in which its rockets fail to kill or injure any Israeli civilians and Israel kills no Palestinian civilians. That is what Israel and the world must strive for. Hamas knows that the moment it ends its policy of firing rockets at Israeli civilians from behind the shield of Palestinian civilians, Israel will end its military activities in Gaza. That is precisely the result Hamas does not want to achieve.

It will be interesting to see whether the new administration is any more successful in turning the international community’s attention to the root cause of the suffering and death in Gaza. It is noteworthy that the Obama team made an exception to its general “no comment” policy to bat down a story in the Guardian which claimed the Obama administration was heading toward recognition of Hamas. The Jerusalem Post reports:

The incoming Obama administration will not abandon President George Bush’s doctrine of isolating Hamas, the Obama transition team’s chief national security spokeswoman has told The Jerusalem Post. President-elect Barack Obama “has repeatedly stated that he believes that Hamas is a terrorist organization dedicated to Israel’s destruction, and that we should not deal with them until they recognize Israel, renounce violence, and abide by past agreements,” said Brooke Anderson in a statement to the Post. . . “The president-elect’s repeated statements [about not dealing with Hamas] are accurate,” Anderson said. “This unsourced story is not.”

If the Obama team maintains this level of intellectual clarity perhaps they can assist the UN and the “international community” (however one defines those whom President Bush apparently ignored and alienated) in recognizing who is victim and victimizer. And yes, the Left in America, might perk up if it is President Obama rather than the hated George Bush who patiently explains that those who kill their own children for political gain are deserving of our condemnation, not our sympathy. Time will tell if the new President is willing or able to perform this much needed role.

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