Hamas & "Human Shields"

U.S. national security adviser, to the savage Israel-U.S. military operation at the Nuseirat refugee camp on Saturday that massacred more than 270 Palestinians.

Western politicians and journalists have hurried to dismiss the murder and maiming of hundreds of Palestinian civilians in the Nuseirat refugee camp on Saturday in a savage joint Israeli-U.S. military operation to free four Israeli captives.

Not just that, they have suggested that the bloodshed was inevitable and justified given that the hostages were being held in a residential neighbourhood of Gaza.

For example, Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security advisor, observed of the massacre that was actively assisted by the U.S.: “The Palestinian people are going through sheer hell in this conflict because Hamas is operating in a way that puts them in the crossfire, that holds hostages right in the heart of crowded civilian areas.”

Apparently, Israel’s decades of belligerent military occupation of the Palestinian territories, its 17-year blockade of Gaza denying its population the essentials of life, its intermittent destruction of the enclave by “mowing the lawn” and now its carrying out of what the International Court of Justice has called a “plausible genocide” have nothing to do with the “sheer hell” the people of Gaza are suffering.

Those trying to win our consent to mass murder and the planned starvation of the people of Gaza by arguing that Hamas is using Palestinians in Gaza as human shields are engaged in the worst kind of bad-faith argument.

Let’s put back the context they are so keen to obscure:

1. Israel has been besieging the enclave of Gaza for decades. The tiny strip of land’s population comprises mostly Palestinian refugees who were long ago ethnically cleansed from their homes in what is now Israel and confined to Gaza. Their numbers have grown hugely since, to more than 2.3 million, within tightly-delimited “borders” policed — and blockaded — by Israel. Gaza is, in a true sense of the term, a giant concentration camp.

2. Gaza doesn’t have woods, mountains, caves in which Hamas fighters can hide or in which they can conceal their captives. It is not Afghanistan or Russia.

Nuseirat refugee camp in Gaza, 2010. Photo: Mujaddara / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0.

3. Gaza is almost entirely built-up — or it was until Israel destroyed most of its buildings over the past eight months. Small areas are open agricultural land or scrubland Israel will not allow Palestinians to develop — much of that has now been destroyed too. Watching over this tiny space 24/7 are armed Israeli drones. Move outside a building and you are being surveilled. You become a potential target for an assassination by Israel.

4. Hamas has two non-suicidal options for hiding the captives it seized in Israel on Oct. 7. Either in a building, or underground in its tunnels, which were built precisely so parts of Gaza would be out of view of a hostile Israeli military. They are the nearest Hamas has to military bases. (Let us note here another hypocrisy: Israel’s military bases are often embedded in civilian communities inside Israel. Its Defence Ministry’s headquarters, the, is in the middle of built-up Tel Aviv.)

Aerial view showing the Kirya quarter of Tel Aviv including an urban military base and a civilian neighborhood; Matcal Tower, headquarters of the Defense Ministry, circled. Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC0.

5. Hiding the captives above ground is the obviously more humanitarian option, as is clear from the images of those freed at the weekend. Given many months of captivity, they are reported to be in reasonable health.

6. After Israel’s massacre of more than 270 Palestinians at the weekend in Nuseirat camp, Hamas will now take all the hostages underground. That will be far worse for them, and it will make no difference to Israel’s wanton destruction of the buildings above. The overwhelming majority of the 70 percent of Gaza’s housing stock destroyed by Israel did not contain Israeli captives or Hamas fighters. It was targeted nonetheless because Israel’s military rampage has never been about getting the hostages back, or even about defeating Hamas, an impossible goal. It is about eradicating Gaza.

Damaged buildings in Gaza, Dec. 6, 2023. Photo: Tasnim News Agency / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0.

7. If Israel was really serious about bringing the captives home, it would be negotiating their release, not inducing a famine through an aid blockade that is starving everyone in Gaza: Hamas, Palestinian civilians and Israeli hostages alike. The real human shields are the Israeli captives, pawns being sacrificed by Israel as it pursues its bigger war aims.

8. The truth is that Israel is waging a genocidal war on the Palestinian population to drive them out of Gaza. It needs to manufacture pretexts to avoid reaching a ceasefire deal that would bring the hostages home and bring the bloodshed to an end. The “rescue” of the Israeli captives by killing huge numbers of Palestinians provides ideal conditions for making negotiations impossible. That was the real success.

9. The jubilation — of Israelis, and Western politicians and media, — at the carnage of Palestinians in place of a ceasefire to end the bloodshed is the real problem. By continuing to treat Palestinians as sub-human, all are enabling the genocide to continue.

Main photo: U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in 2022 © White House / Erin Scott.

Source: Consortium News.

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