Commentary Magazine


Hamas’s Human Shield War

Hamas terrorists continued shooting rockets at Israel today as air raid sirens sounded all over the country including in Jerusalem. But the international media’s focus on the conflict continues to be the rising toll of Palestinian civilian casualties. Yet, as with previous conflicts, not much attention is being paid to the way Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields.

As I noted yesterday, even the New York Times found it necessary to report that the Israel Defense Forces are issuing warnings to Palestinians living in and around Hamas missile launchers and operations center in Gaza. But having decided to escalate another round of violence by launching hundreds of rockets into Israel, the Islamist group is still hoping to use the presence of Palestinian civilians around legitimate military targets as a weapon against the Jewish state.

In the past, this merely meant putting missile launchers next to schools, hospitals, and mosques as well among civilian homes in the densely populated strip. But as Israel has stepped up its efforts to try and spare civilians even as it seeks to silence the terrorist fire, Hamas has also increased its efforts to ensure that as many inhabitants of Gaza as possible are hurt in the fighting.

As reports, speaking on Tuesday on Hamas’s Al Asqua-TV in Gaza, the group’s spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri urged the population of the strip to refuse to heed warnings and to use their bodies to shield Hamas facilities:

This attests to the character of our noble, Jihad-fighting people, who defend their rights and their homes with their bare chests and their blood. The policy of people confronting the Israeli warplanes with their bare chests in order to protect their homes has proven effective against the occupation. Also, this policy reflects the character of our brave, courageous people. We in Hamas call upon our people to adopt this policy, in order to protect the Palestinian homes.

The talk of defending “Palestinian homes” with “bare chests” is an allusion to the fact that instead of evacuating buildings after IDF warnings, Palestinians have instead surged into them in an effort to either deter the attack or to incur the maximum casualties from the attack.

The cynicism of this tactic is transparent but even though Hamas is making no secret of its intentions, the news reports about the conflict remain centered on the “disproportionate” force used by Israel and the contrast between Palestinian and Israeli casualty figures.

It is true that Hamas’s weaponry is no match for the sophisticated Israeli missile defense system that has, with U.S. help, been created to shield civilians from rocket fire from Gaza. Since, as the media continue to remind us, Palestinians have no “Iron Dome” system to protect them against Israeli counter-attacks, it is assumed that the war between Israel and Hamas is not a fair fight. In this manner, Hamas, cheered on by the so-called “moderate” Palestinians like Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas who accused Israel of “genocide” in its attacks on Gaza, reinforces the idea that it is a “David” fighting the Jewish “Goliath.”

That Israel faces challenges in what is a classic case of asymmetrical warfare is a given in this conflict. The Palestinians have perpetuated this war by continually refusing to make peace and recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn. They are also attempting to manipulate Western opinion into believing their version of the conflict in which they falsely portray Israel as a “colonial” power occupying another people’s land rather than admitting that the dispute is part of an existential struggle aimed at wiping out the one Jewish state on the planet. The lopsided casualty figures bolster these specious talking points.

But it cannot be emphasized too much that Palestinian intent plays a much greater role in the casualties than technology. Hamas situates its weapons and fighters next to or among civilians not just because Gaza is crowded but because it is hoping that Israel will kill as many of their own people as possible. It indiscriminately fires rockets at Israeli population centers in part to kill as many Jews as possible though it has, to date, failed in that effort. But it is just as important to them to generate the Israeli counter-attacks that inevitably lead to Palestinian civilian deaths even if those numbers are inflated because many of those killed are actually Hamas terrorists.

In a war of perceptions, Hamas’s human shield tactics have given its leaders a winning strategy even if the result is tragedy for their own people. But the problem with those who draw superficial conclusions from the casualty figures is not just that they don’t understand what Hamas is doing to inflict as much pain on their own people as they can. It’s that these numbers obscure the basic point of the conflict. Hamas is not seeking to end the occupation of Gaza or the West Bank or to force Israel to draw its borders differently. Hamas’ purpose is to destroy Israel and kill its people. When they speak of “resistance” it is not an effort to push back against particular Israeli policies but a refusal to accept the permanence of the return of the Jews to their land. The misleading blood feud narrative adopted by the media in response to the carnage may seem even-handed. But there should be no mistake about the fact that the human shields of Gaza are merely a ploy aimed at diverting the world from the truth about Palestinian intentions.

Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »

2 Responses to “Hamas’s Human Shield War”



    Bomb Gaza, Win the War
    By Ted Belman
    The Assault on Israel’s Right to Self-Defense was described by Abraham Bell in his article on International Law and Gaza. Dr. Avi Bell is a member of the Faculty of Law at Bar-Ilan University, Visiting Professor at Fordham University Law School, and Director of the International Law Forum at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He clearly advised that Israel has the right of self defense and described the law as it pertains.

But I was left with some nagging questions. What do the principles and rules he set out mean in practice. I wanted to know if Israel had no choice but to invade or whether it could just use artillery and bombs even unintelligent inexpensive bombs. I fully understood that the siege was legal and so were targeted killings though our “international friends” disagree.

I asked Bruce Tucker Smith, JD, LL.M. (International Law), Lt Col USAFR (ret), the Co-author “Seventh Psalm”.

Here is his considered opinion.

    1. Criticism leveled at Israel for her response to terrorist attacks by Hamas in the Gaza says more about those who criticize Israel than it does about the legality of the reprisals.
    3. Can Israel response to Hamas’ attacks? In what strength? By what means? These questions are traditionally answered in the salons of international legal debate, by an examination of the status of the combatants.
    5. We therefore ask: What is Gaza? What is Hamas? Answer these questions honestly, and there is little room for discussion or debate about the legality or legitimacy of Israel’s military responses to date…or her options in the future. Answer these questions honestly and you will have taken a long step toward resolving the endless criticism of Israel’s military response to the endless stream of rockets cascading into Israel from the west. (In fact, more than 5000 since Israel ceased her occupation of the Gaza.)
    7. Gaza is not a formally-defined, internationally-recognized state. It is, at best, a protectorate or a territory…but certainly it does NOT enjoy the status of international “statehood” that would entitle such an entity to claim sovereignty over her national borders and the land within.
    9. Hamas, of course, is the Islamic Resistance Movement, which became active in the early stages of the intafada. It operates primarily in the Gaza (and also in Judea and Samaria). Its stated goal: the eradication of the Israeli people and the establishment of an Islamic Palestinian state in place of Israel. Hamas, of course, has the outright backing of Iran in its genocidal efforts to murder Israelis.
    11. What Hamas is NOT, is a recognized armed force operating under the aegis of a duly-elected state; it is not a signatory to any of the Geneva Conventions; it is not a member of either the United Nations or the Security Council; it does campaign openly under a national flag and it’s operatives don’t wear recognized badges of nationality or military rank. In the legal parlance of the “Law of War,” Hamas, as an entity, is not a recognized “combatant” and, hence, not entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions. The latter cannot be strongly enough emphasized: Hamas, and the people who support or conceal its efforts, are entitled to NO special protections under any aspect of the Law Of War, of which the Geneva Conventions are but a part.
    13. By contrast, those nations, armies or entities who DO ascribe to and respect the Geneva Conventions; who DO campaign under a national flag and chain-of-command ARE entitled to the special protections of the Conventions!
    15. As the Olmert government has repeatedly said, Israel will not negotiate with entities that do not recognize the legitimate demands of the international community, as voiced through the United States, European Union, the United Nations and Russia! Hence, Israel’s use of force against Hamas.
    17. The United Nations Charter, Article 51, clearly and plainly provides Israel with the necessary legal armor to pursue and rout Hamas. “Nothing in the present Charter,” Article 51 reads, “ Shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.”
    19. Other than a few weak-worded Resolutions, the Security Council has failed to take action to protect Israel’s safety and sovereignty—hence, she is free to act as she will militarily! And, in my opinion, she is free of many of the traditional limitations on the use of military force – at least where Hamas is concerned.
    21. The oft-misunderstood “rule of proportionality” is usually cited, wrongly, by the left in critique of Israel’s operations against Hamas in Gaza.
    23. One must recognize that the “rule” is, in fact, no rule at all. It is not clearly defined in any statute or treaty. Rather, it can best be described as the resulting synthesis of “customary international law” which is derived from a reading of the ancient Hague Conventions (written in an era when warfare was defined as set-piece battles, conducted by brightly-clad armies amassed on the sunlit fields of Europe) and the 1949 Geneva Conventions which, in part, proscribe armed reprisals against civilians. Sadly, the “rule” is frequently bent or twisted to meet the ends of the particular sophistry at hand.
    25. In its simplest application, the “rule” generally means that an army cannot inflict collateral damage upon an enemy combatant (or the surrounding civilian populace) in excess of the legitimate military advantage conferred upon the attacking army. In other words, a nation’s military response must be necessary and proportional to the injury suffered.
    27. “Legal scholars” frequently say, “If someone punched you in the nose, you don’t burn their house down.” To be sure, those are seductive words, rationally attractive, and intellectually inviting…but utter hokum in the face of reality. Taken to its logical absurdity, such a definition of the “rule” would prevent an army from EVER amassing superior firepower against an enemy, lest that army be accused of a disproportionate use of force! The fact is, wars are won when one side utilizes a disproportionate amount of force to defeat an enemy…otherwise, the Third Reich would still sit in power with the Allied armies resting somewhere near the Seine River.
    29. The “rule” is often manipulated in the court of public opinion, particularly in the era of “asymmetrical warfare,” the current buzz-term which describes the conflict between western nations who possess large standing armies and billion-dollar gadgetry and terrorist groups who employ simple, terroristic, and patently illegal means of waging armed conflict.
    31. The world’s (leftist) academic “elite” and media sympathetic to Islamic fundamentalism almost always focus on Israels’ response to terrorism! No doubt, leftist apologists are motivated by some misplaced, misguided sense of “unfairness” that a well-organized, well-trained and well-equipped IDF would pursue and kill Hamas terrorists who intentionally clad themselves in civilian attire and hide their operations in schools, hospitals and Mosques.
    33. The simple fact is that the “rule” of proportionality shrinks to near inapplicability when Hamas uses civilians as shields or when it purposely attacks the innocent—the central most effective tools in the terrorist’s arsenal.
    35. Another common misstatement in the public discourse surrounds the killing of civilians. Of course, NO one would countenance murder and nothing in this essay should be construed as a brusque dismissal of civilian deaths …but a distinction in the Law of War regarding civilian deaths is frequently and intentionally ignored. The Law of War proscribes the INTENTIONAL targeting of civilians, not the inadvertent and unfortunate loss of civilian life in an armed conflict. Yet, whenever inadvertent civilian deaths DO occur in the Gaza or in the West Bank or in Baghdad, the left immediately and uniformly decries those deaths as “war crimes” – which they most certainly are not!
    37. Such is the nature of public debate, particularly in the wake of 9/11.
    39. In short…Israel’s defense forces are entitled to use whatever means is at her disposal to search out and destroy terrorist operatives. Nothing in international law precludes a vigorous, intense and effective military campaign to destroy terrorist operations. That means, Israel may use air and ground-artillery resources –as she will–against those Hamas operatives (I hesitate to us the word “military” – since Hamas is NOT a recognized military force.) which are used to inflict casualties upon Israel.
    41. That means Israel may use her army in large or small measure to attack any place or person that attacks Israel. That means Israel can bombard Hamas targets as militarily necessary to render it impotent against a subsequent wave of Israeli soldiers. Although politically preferable, nothing in international law absolutely requires Israel to use “smart” munitions in its operations against Hamas.
    43. If Hamas attempts to shield its operations with truly innocent civilians or children—it is Hamas and not Israel, who has committed an atrocity –an actionable war crime–of the most heinous proportion!”.
    45. In sum: Israel is free to employ ALL munitions, tactics, equipment and personnel in her arsenal to defend herself against the outlaw Hamas terrorist organization. Short of the intentional targeting and murder of truly uninvolved and innocent civilians, Israel can (and should) operate as freely as she desires to protect her territorial sovereignty and the lives of her citizens.

    So, it is not international law that Israel is concerned about. The Government of Israel is more concerned about the cries of the international community than the cries of its children and mothers. It is more concerned with the lives of Arabs than the lives of its own citizens including its soldiers.

    Israel has the right to bomb Gaza and use artillery. Its about time they did.

    If Israel invades instead with the loss of many of its own soldiers, I submit it would be guilty f a war crime against its own people. At a minimum Israel would be guilty of criminal negligence if it sent the IDF soldiers to their death rather than to bomb.

    It is morally repugnant to sacrifice your own soldiers to save the lives of your enemies. Forget about world opinion.

    Ted Belman also writes for


    The NY Times Editorial Board ought to go on holiday in Beersheba or Ashkelon and enjoy the enchanting symphony of air raid sirens and exploding rockets. Maybe then they’ll start singing a different tune. Then again, most definitely not. Regardless of how the IDF handles the terrorist colony of Gaza, the Times and all of the other reprehensible usual suspects will be calling for war criminal proceedings in The Hague. Consequently, Israel should execute militarily with the goal of winning by exterminating Hamas. If the RoP fanatics employ human shields, that should be their problem, not Israel’s. With the incineration of Hamss and many collateral civilian casulaties, perhaps the Palestinian leadership will finally abandon their delusional thinking about Palestine extending from the Jordan to the Mediterranean

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share This

Share this post with your friends!

Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
for full access to
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
Don't have a log in?
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.