Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Hamas and Babies: Let’s Compare and Contrast

Two brief stories about the ongoing conflict in Gaza serve, I believe, to underscore the real difference between Hamas and Israel when it comes to respect for civilians and to demonstrate that it is Hamas, not Israel, that is the true perpetrator of war crimes and terrorism. First, on January 6, Hamas launched another rocket attack against Israel and this rocket attack penetrated further into Israel than any other previous rocket attack. The rocket exploded in the town of Gedera (about 28 miles from Gaza). A three-month-old baby was wounded in the attack. Yet, back in Gaza, Hamas leaders were taking refuge from Israeli military strikes. Where? According to Haaretz:

The sources also said that senior Hamas officials have been spotted more than once wandering around the maternity ward of Gaza City's Shifa Hospital and even using the hospital to hold press conferences, on the theory that it offers a safe haven from Israeli fire. For the same reason, Hamas forces have taken refuge near buildings that serve as headquarters for various international organizations, such as the Red Cross and the United Nations.

In other words, while Hamas lobs rocket after rocket into Israel with the express intent to hit civilian targets, wounding babies in the process, Hamas’ leaders take refuge in a maternity ward precisely because they know that Israel, out of respect for civilians and efforts to minimize civilian casualties, would not be likely to attack a maternity ward. At the same time that Hamas ignores the sanctity of human life and the moral obligation not to intentionally target civilians, it relies upon and takes advantage of the fact that Israel does recognize the sanctity of human life and the moral obligation not to intentionally target civilians. What kind of barbaric society would use its own babies as human shields? The same kind of barbaric society that would use its youth as suicide bombers.

When one side to a conflict intentionally targets civilians and intentionally uses human shields, there shouldn’t even be the need for a discussion about which side is committing war crimes or whether efforts to stop such actions are unjust.

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