Foreign Affairs

Netanyahu: The responsibility for civilian deaths in Gaza belongs with Hamas

Netanyahu: The responsibility for civilian deaths in Gaza belongs with Hamas

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at length about Israel’s Operation Protective Edge and the Gaza conflict today.  He defended the operation while expressing deep regret for the loss of life.  He said the responsibility for those civilian deaths requests squarely with Hamas, which deliberately puts non-combatants in harm’s way by using them as human shields:

“Israel deeply regrets every civilian casualty, every single one,” said Netanyahu.  “The people of Gaza are not our enemy.  Our enemy is Hamas.”

He made an argument Israeli officials must be weary of repeating, inviting his audience to imagine their countries were hit by 3,500 rockets, while death squads came boiling through secret terror tunnels.  “What would you do?” he asked.  “What would you demand your government do, to protect you and your family?  What if the rockets were fired from civilian areas – should you not then take action?”

Netanyahu also rolled a little tape of Hamas firing weapons and digging tunnels in civilian areas, which might have come as a surprise to some viewers, since the global media has been bending over backwards to avoid showing those things.  Everyone knows it’s happening, but Hamas and its allies figure that as long as there aren’t any pictures, it will cost them less.  This illustrates one of the problems with asymmetrical warfare: thug states enjoy a level of media control that open, democratic societies will never have, and the media generally refrains from even discussing the difference, because they don’t want to lose access to the thugs.  The same thing happened in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, where global media eventually admitted they let the Iraqi dictatorship control much of their coverage, without advising viewers of the arrangement, because they knew they would lose access to Iraq if they spoke up.

In Gaza, Hamas has threatened reporters with violence for shooting the “wrong” pictures,  but they don’t really have to be so crude about it; they only need to threaten the loss of access to get recalcitrant media to toe their line.  Clifford D. May has a story about Hamas’ media control in the Washington Times today:

If you’ve been following the conflict in Gaza, you’ve seen dramatic pictures of heavily armed Israeli soldiers, their tanks and helicopters. You’ve seen pictures of neighborhoods reduced to rubble, with Palestinian men, women and children in desperate circumstances. What you almost certainly have not seen are the combatants Israelis have been fighting. It’s as though they were fighting ghosts.

Also scarce in the major media: stories about Hamas deploying civilians as human shields, storing missiles in mosques and United Nations schools, setting up command posts in hospitals, using ambulances to ferry terrorists to battle, and employing children to dig tunnels — with at least 160 killed in the process. How many stories have you seen about humanitarian supplies flowing from Israel to Gaza in the midst of this bloody conflict and the hundreds of Gazans treated in Israeli hospitals?

The explanation: Hamas restricts what journalists in Gaza may film, photograph and even write about. Hamas threatens and intimidates journalists who do not follow what might be called Hamas rules — rules designed to shape media coverage and influence perceptions around the world.

May follows up with numerous incidents of reporters who were threatened with injury or death for taking pictures Hamas didn’t want the world to see, including stories of journalists “unpublishing” stories unfavorable to the terror gang, and one case in which an incident was deliberately misrepresented to the world, followed by a quiet social-media retraction days later:

Italian journalist Gabriele Barbati on July 29 tweeted: “Out of #Gaza far from #Hamas retaliation: misfired rocket killed children [today] in Shati.” In other words, having left Gaza, he can now say what he would not dare report while in the territory: It was a Hamas rocket, not an Israeli rocket, that killed 10 people, eight of them children, at the al Shati refugee camp along the northern Gaza seacoast.

A team of Indian reporters actually filmed the entire life cycle of a Hamas war crime, watching as a rocket launcher was set up in the middle of a dense civilian area – right next to a hotel! – but didn’t dare post the video until they left Gaza.

So yes, it’s important for Prime Minister Netanyahu to bring along a mix tape of Hamas atrocities, and show it to world media every chance he gets.

Netanyahu also made an important point about denying terrorists the legitimacy they crave: “Can we accept a situation where terrorists can be exonerated and their victims accused?”  Perhaps he was thinking about the walking disgrace known as Jimmy Carter, who blasted Israel in an op-ed and demanded they recognize Hamas as a legitimate “political actor.”  Fox News has some low-lights from Carter and his co-author, former Irish president Mary Robinson:

The article called the current conflict a “humanitarian catastrophe,” and while acknowledging Hamas’ “indiscriminate targeting” of Israelis, focused its criticism on Israel.

“There is no humane or legal justification for the way the Israeli Defense Forces are conducting this war,” they wrote. “Israeli bombs, missiles, and artillery have pulverized large parts of Gaza, including thousands of homes, schools, and hospitals.”

They said “deliberate attacks on civilians” constitute “war crimes” on both sides, though noting far fewer Israelis have been killed in the fighting.

The two “elders” (a group of former statesmen and activists) also pushed the West to formally recognize Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip but is considered a terror group by the U.S. They lauded the recently announced unity agreement between Hamas and Fatah, which controls the West Bank — an agreement that Obama’s State Department has voiced serious concerns about.

“The international community’s initial goal should be the full restoration of the free movement of people and goods to and from Gaza through Israel, Egypt and the sea. Concurrently, the United States and EU should recognize that Hamas is not just a military but also a political force,” Carter and Robinson wrote. “Hamas cannot be wished away, nor will it cooperate in its own demise. Only by recognizing its legitimacy as a political actor — one that represents a substantial portion of the Palestinian people — can the West begin to provide the right incentives for Hamas to lay down its weapons.”

Jimmy Carter is evil, not stupid, so he knows perfectly well the Hamas charter calls for genocide against Israel, and he knows every last one of those Hamas terror weapons is a violation of previous accords.  There is no “legitimacy” to anything they have done, and no happy ending for the Palestinians if the likes of Jimmy Carter bully the world into believing Hamas speaks for them.  Rewarding terrorist aggression by giving them what they want – an end to the Gaza blockade – would only raise their profile even higher, assist with their recruiting efforts, put more illegal weapons into their hands, and give them a nice head start on rebuilding their terror tunnel network.  (Hey, Jimmy, how many “legitimate political actors” build tunnels to bracket innocent towns, so they can maximize the carnage during sneak attacks planned for religious holidays?)

Meanwhile, having vanished after his last round of geo-political pratfalls, only to be discovered wobbling around on a pink bicycle in Nantucket…

kerry_pink_bike

… Secretary of State John Kerry returned to the Gaza conflict with a new attitude, captured in a BBC interview where he sounds considerably tougher on Hamas than in the past, and a lot less eager to demand a unilateral end to the blockade:

A 72-hour humanitarian truce is holding in Gaza, halting a four-week conflict that has claimed more than 1,900 lives.

Israel and the Palestinians have sent delegations to Cairo to discuss the possibility of a longer-term truce.

Mr Kerry, in a BBC interview, said the US fully supported Israel’s right to defend itself against militant rocket attacks.

“No country can live with that condition and the United States stands squarely behind Israel’s right to defend itself in those circumstances. Period.”

Mr Kerry said that Hamas, which controls Gaza, had “behaved in an unbelievably shocking manner engaging in this activity and, yes, there has been horrible collateral damage as a result”.

Asked whether he supported Palestinian demands for a lifting of Israel’s blockade of Gaza, Mr Kerry said: “What we want to do is support the Palestinians in their desire to improve their lives and to get food in and to open crossings and to reconstruct and have greater freedom.”

But he said that had to come “with a greater responsibility towards Israel, which means giving up rockets”.

Good luck with that, Pink Rider.  Hamas didn’t care about the last half-dozen pieces of paper requiring them to give up their missiles and mortars.  They see much of the world media dancing to their tune, they hear the likes of Jimmy Carter demanding rewards for them, and if nothing else, they can enjoy a smidgen of legitimacy from the moral equivalence argument that puts some of the blame for human-shield casualties on Israel.  If terrorists are not held 100 percent responsible for the death of their human shields, they have not been completely defeated.

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