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"The conquest of the earth, which mostly means taking it
away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than
ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look at it too much""-- Joseph Conrad "Heart of Darkness" [h/t William
The Israeli-American (Let's never forget this is a team effort
slaughter in Gaza is so horrifying that I've been at a loss to find the words
to comment on it without letting anger get the better of me. The media coverage
of what's happening, dominated by the ridiculous notion that Israel is
"defending" itself, is so grotesquely mendacious, hypocritical, and racist
(imbued with colonialist ethno-supremacism) that it is hard to know where to
begin critiquing it--without, again, becoming enraged.
For the moment, I'll focus on one particular, insistent meme,
constantly being promoted by Israel and its apologists, namely that Hamas is
using civilians as "human shields." The idea is that for Hamas to place any
kind of military personnel anywhere in or near a civilian neighborhood
constitutes using all the civilians in that neighborhood as "human shields."
Furthermore, it makes of that neighborhood a legitimate "military" target for
devastating Israeli attack, absolves Israel from any culpability for the scores
of resulting dead, blown-apart civilians including children, and places all
moral and legal responsibility for those victims on the Palestinian resistance
fighters who dared appear anywhere near civilians.
So, for example, the personal homes of Palestinian political
and military leaders, construed as "command and control centers," are
legitimate military targets. If a Hamas functionary lives with his family of
five children in an apartment building of 8 stories with 4 apartments per floor,
it is perfectly legitimate to bomb that building and kill all 32
families--"human shields," after all--in order to destroy that "command and control
This "human shields" argument is what allows Israeli
officials, as Noura
points out, to "openly admit that they are deliberately and
systematically bombing the family homes of suspected militants," killing whole
. It suggests an ethic that supposedly justifies an Israeli
offensive which produces 75-80% civilian
causalities , 33% of which are children
among the Palestinian population (and somehow renders insignificant the contrasting
fact that almost 100% of Israeli casualties from Palestinian resistance
operations are military). To hear it in the American media, poor, anguished
Israel actually becomes the victim of all these "telegenically
," deliberately sacrificed, Palestinian "human shields."
American political "leaders" and media pundits universally
endorse this pretense of an ethic, or at the least, let it pass unchallenged.
Of course, anyone with an ounce of intellectual or moral
honesty would have to accept that such an ethic was universally applicable: Kill
by that ethic, die by that ethic.
points out, "the [Israeli] Defense
Ministry is in the heart of Tel Aviv, as is the army's main "war room." [These
are real "command and control centers"] And"the military training base at
Glilot [is] near the big mall" And the Shin Bet headquarters [is] in Jerusalem,
on the edge of a residential neighborhood." If Israel's claimed ethic were
anything other than the flimsiest excuse for its presumed ethno-supremacist
license to kill, Israel and its supporters would have to accept that Hamas has
at least as much right to fire its crude rockets in the general direction of
the Israeli Ministry of Defense as Israel does to blow up homes, schools, and
hospitals with its precision weapons--civilian casualties be damned. By Israeli
logic and ethic, are not the Israeli civilians near these military facilities
"human shields"? When they get killed, should we not sympathize with the
anguished Hamas rocketeers who were forced to kill the civilians that Israel
cleverly placed in dangerous neighborhoods?
one is comfortable with colonialism, it's arguable that Hamas has every
to its attacks, and it's
inarguable that Israel has no
We all know, of course, that there is no intellectual or
moral consistency here, only the ethic of ethno-supremacist, colonialist "exceptionalism." Can you imagine the
moral outrage and gnashing of teeth on the part of the oh-so-tough-minded American
political and media personalities who accept the Israeli "human shields"
argument if anyone tried to apply it to hundreds of dead Jewish children? If this
were the scene, day after day, for Israeli Jews:
But we need to take a step back to see how Israel is
deliberately and dishonestly confusing a specific definition of "human shields"
with a more general notion of something like "collateral damage" in a way that
tries to justify the viciousness of its current massacre in Gaza.
As Brad Parker, of Defence for Children International Palestine, points
the use of civilians as human shields is prohibited under international law and involves forcing civilians to directly assist in military operations or using them to shield a military object or troops from attack. The rhetoric continually voiced by Israeli officials regarding "human shields" amounts to nothing more than generalisations that fall short of the precise calculation required by international humanitarian law when determining whether something is actually a military object.
Israel is using the "human shield" argument in a way that
dilutes is specific meaning in international law, and turns it into another catchall
bugaboo, used to hinder careful thought and justify the unjustifiable. Israel
finds "human shields" everywhere there are civilians in the way the U.S.
government now finds "weapons of mass destruction" anywhere
"an explosive or incendiary charge of more than one-quarter ounce."
It's particularly brazen for Israel to be raising and
confusing the "human shields" issue because
it is Israel itself
repeatedly used the specific, prohibited tactic of using children as "human shields"
to protect its military forces. According
the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, along with the torture,
solitary confinement, and threats of sexual assault toward detained children,
Israel is guilty of the "continuous
of Palestinian children as human shields and informants." The
report, issued last year, cites14 cases in 3 years.
We're not talking here about some vague notion of
endangering children by allowing them to live in a dangerous town. Nor are the
accusations limited to namby-pamby UN Committee that no red-blooded
American/Zionist would pay any attention to.
We're talking about specific
practices, identified and denounced by the High Court of Justice in Israel
, "like the 'neighbor
,' whereby neighbors of wanted Palestinians are forced to go into
the wanted man's house ahead of troops, in case it is booby-trapped." Here's a
picture, from The
in 2007, of Sameh Amira, 24, who--along with his15-year-old cousin Amid,
and an 11-year-old girl, Jihan Dadush--was forced to act as a human shield to
search homes in Nablus during a search for bomb-making labs. They were forced
them to enter apartments ahead of the soldiers, and to search the houses,
emptying cabinets and cupboards, in order to protect the most-moral IDF boys
from getting hurt.
And here's a picture of a 13-year-old Palestinian boy lashed to the front of an Israeli armored vehicle to prevent stone throwers from" What? Damaging the clearcoat?
These are human
shields, in the strong and specific sense, and it is Israel that has a history
of using them.
And, according to a report in Mondoweiss
there is evidence that Israel is
using these explicit human shield tactics in the present conflict. One resident of Khuza, Ayman Abu Toaimah,
reports that: "As Israeli invading troops advanced to the village they besieged
it and used residents as human shields." Another, Abu Saleem, 56, says: "Israelis
claim that Hamas is using us as human shields-- how? This is a lie, we do not
see fighters in the streets. It's them, the Israelis who used us as human
shields in Khuza'a and Shuja'iyeh. They
turned our houses into military posts
, terrified residents in the houses."
And a third, Abu Ali Qudail, said: "When the ICRC told us that ambulances are
waiting us at the entrance of the village from the western side, about
1,000 people rushed to leave their homes, some
of which were used as a hideout for Israeli forces
Here's a good rule of thumb: Every nasty tactic that Israel
accuses the Palestinians of using is one that they are actually the masters of.
It's called projection, and you'll be
understanding the world a lot better if you consider that most of the
accusations Israel (as well the United States) makes against its enemies are
projections of its own faults and crimes. Do you think for a second that, if
there were one piece of evidence as clearly dispositive of Hamas's use of human
shields as the pictures above, you would not have seen it all over the news
Corollary question: With all the constant chatter about
"human shields," why does none of this factual evidence about Israel's use of
the human shield tactic ever enter into the media discourse?
Because American politics and media are in complete collaboration with the colonial savagery that is Zionism, and they do
not want to disturb the American public's acquiescence to that. This is a
stance that must be refused, with contempt. As Congress approves unanimously and
, no American can think s/he stands in a neutral space, shielded
from the nasty effects of the decision s/he is
making--whether by resting silently complicit or by speaking up in protest.
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Former college professor, native and denizen of New York City. Blogging at www.thepolemicist.net, from a left-socialist perspective. Also publishing on Counterpunch, The Greanville Post, Medium, Dandelion Salad, and other sites around the net. (more...)