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Human Shields

In 1985 the British singer, Sting, released his now famous song, “Russians”. In it he claimed that our only hope back then was to understand that the Russians love their children just as we do. The concept was that if the Russians love their children as we do then they will finally come to their senses and move in a direction so as to avoid the mutually assured destruction of a nuclear World War III.

Sting’s conviction that the Russians must surely be just like us who love our children above all else is not entertained by Christian Zionists with regard to Arabs, with particular reference to Muslims and especially to Hamas. These forces of the anti-Christ do not have the normal emotions towards their children as we do.  They think nothing of forcing their women and children to take a bullet in the head for them, so they can live on to kill more Jews another day.

The issue of the use of human shields as a deterrent for hostile fire in armed conflict has raised its head again with the allegations that Osama Bin Laden’s wife offered herself as a human shield to protect her husband. The vast majority of the writing on the issue of human shields  in our media fails to recognise a large number of important facts.

Firstly, almost all the cases of the use of human shields involve armed combatants forcibly using civilians from the opposing side as a deterrent to enemy fire. The use of people as human shields from the same side is extremely limited and really occurs only in cases of asymmetric conflict where one side is forced to fight a guerrilla war against a much more militarily powerful opponent. The forcible use of civilians from one’s own side as human shields is virtually unheard of and extensive reports on this matter by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have found no evidence of the forcible use of civilians as human shields by militants on the same side as the civilians. This is true in the case of Hamas or any other militant faction of the Palestinian resistance.

Apart from the obvious ethical issues, the reason for this is simply that no guerrilla resistance force, particularly like Hamas which is trapped with the civilian population in Gaza, would risk a revolt from the 1.5 million strong , as is the case in  Gaza, civilian population that would inevitably ensue if Hamas embarked on a program of forcing Palestinian civilians, women and children included, to act as human shields. One must remember that Hamas, along with its independent and Christian candidates, were elected to power by the Gaza population in 2006 in elections that were considered free and fair by such international monitoring organisations as the Carter Center.

Secondly, over the last decade, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and B’Tslelm (an Israeli Human Rights group) have documented the widespread forcible use of Palestinian civilians as human shields in various military conflicts by the I.D.F. The evidence was so overwhelming that even the I.D.F. was forced to prosecute Israeli soldiers who were caught using Palestinian civilians in this manner. This behaviour of Israeli soldiers raises some questions about the use of Gazan citizens as human shields by Hamas. If Hamas militants are so indifferent to the lives of their fellow citizens of Gaza, then why would any Israeli soldier feel that a Gazan citizen would be an effective human shield against the attacks of Hamas extremists? If the Hamas militants are as evil and heartless as our media continually suggest, surely they would see a Gazan citizen being led in front of a group of Israeli soldiers as very little deterrent to them opening fire on the Israelis. If I were an Israeli soldier and I believed that Hamas are as evil as the media say they are, I would not be very confident in the ability of a Gazan to act as a deterrent to attacks by Hamas, yet the use of Palestinians as human shields by the I.D.F. has been documented as being widespread. Perhaps the Israeli soldiers aren’t really that convinced by the stories of Hamas being so indifferent to their fellow citizens.

Thirdly, what has been documented about the use of human shields by Hamas begins with an incident in November 2006,  when Palestinian women volunteered as human shields to protect Hamas gunmen  in Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip. A Hamas spokesman is alleged to have said that  a crowd of women gathered  in response to an appeal on the local radio station for women to protect the Hamas fighters. The tactic succeeded and it has been claimed that this inspired Hamas to use the tactic whenever there have been reports of imminent targeted assassinations of Hamas officials by the Israelis or in other situations where the I.D.F. threatened to attack. This tactic was a desperate last resort. Its success in that case has not deterred Israelis to any large degree since then according to the Israelis themselves. The I.D.F. has obviously decided to go ahead and kill Hamas militants even when they are surrounded by human shields. The Israelis claim that the high mortality count of Palestinian children as a result of I.D.F. attacks is due to the continued use of human shields by Hamas. Two things follow from this: the obvious ineffectiveness of the use of human shields by Hamas militants as a deterrent to Israeli fire has somehow evaded the notice of the Islamic militants in Gaza (its not working!) and the Israelis have decided to attack despite the use of human shields, willfully making the choice to kill civilians in Gaza (they “know” human shields are being used). The ethics of both sides should be challenged, not just Hamas.


Lastly, resistance to Hamas by Gazan’s is more common than represented by our media. The Goldstone report tells of a case where Hamas militants were chased away by Palestinian civilians when they noticed that the militants were planning to set up mortar fire against the Israelis in a position too close to the civilian’s home. Gazan Youth resistance groups have openly challenged Hamas on their websites. Hamas is not powerful enough to stifle dissent and resistance from all other Palestinian groups in Gaza.

Islamic militants were not the cause of the Israel-Palestine conflict; they are a product of it. The siege of Gaza is an ideal breeding ground for extremism and terrorism. The Israelis know this yet continue to provoke the Palestinians to resistance, legitimate or otherwise, in both the West Bank, with the continuation of settlement construction and a raft of illegal activities designed to confiscate land, and in Gaza in order to demonise the Palestinians  before the world and gain the approval of the western media in the Israelis program to deprive the Palestinian people of their basic human rights.

The violence in Israel-Palestine continues because of the age long habit of the west in placating the Zionist state of Israel. Palestinian resistance will continue until this habit is broken and justice is seen to be  done for all the victims of terror; Islamic or Zionist.

Jesus said, “If you, then,though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” Matthew 7:11

Craig Nielsen

ACTION FOR PALESTINE

Terrorism

Questions about terrorism inevitably occur when discussing the Israel-Palestine issue. For Christians who support the cause of the Palestinian people’s search for justice and self determination in the land of their birth, these questions are even more prevalent.

The general narrative concerning Palestinian and Arab terrorism runs along the lines that it is motivated by religious extremism and blatant anti-Semitism. The Palestinian people’s legitimate grievance against the Zionist State of Israel is completely ignored as is the circumstances that they are forced to live under because of the illegal occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of the Gaza strip. The facts of history that testify to the origins of this conflict not being even remotely connected to some imaginary conflict between Islam and Judaism and that anti-Semitism never was part of elite or popular culture in the Arab world, as it was in Europe, are totally ignored. The oppressive policies of the State of Israel are given a pardon by the demand that it is actually the Palestinian leadership that is the cause of the Palestinian people’s plight.

The fact that the vast majority of Palestinians have never been involved in acts of terrorism but in fact resist their oppressors in a “Ghandi” like fashion is also overlooked.

In my opinion, the vast majority of acts of terrorism are driven by the despair, misery and sense of helplessness experienced by victims of oppression as non violent means of protest are seen to be useless as they are met with only increasing levels of oppression and violence by their oppressors. As despair deepens, the voices of extremism begin to seem like the only ones worth listening to. I believe this is the universal experience of humanity. All resistance movements act in ways that have integrity and in ways that do not. The Palestinian people are no different. While the U.N. has declared that the Palestinian people have the right to resist the illegal occupation of their homelands to the point of armed struggle, the use of terrorism has been denounced by Palestinian leaders and intellectuals as being unjust, immoral and counter productive, for many years. Palestinians have long accepted Israel’s right to exist in peace and security while the Zionist state has made no reciprocal statements about the RIGHT of a Palestinian homeland to exist.

The words of David Ben Gurion, the real founder of the Zionist State of Israel, ring true when talking about Jewish terrorism during the British Mandate period in Palestine:

“Two hundred and fifty thousand Jews of Tel Aviv and suburbs, core of country’s social and industrial life, and thirty thousands of Jews in Jerusalem, mostly working class quarters, isolated from all normal contact with outside world, facing complete breakdown of mechanism civilized life apart from food supplies and skeleton medical service. Industry crippled, trade paralysed, unemployment threatening to become catastrophic. Industrial raw materials cannot enter, goods manufactured with available stock cannot be marketed outside. Workers cut off from places of work, children from schools. These restrictions have not affected terrorists nor stopped their outrages but instead have increased resentment of hard-hit population, created fertile soil for terrorist propaganda, frustrating community’s attempt to combat terrorism by itself. Martial Law absolutely futile and senseless unless really meant to punish whole community, ruin its economy and destroy the foundations of the Jewish National Home.” (Cited in Finkelstein, 2003. p. xxxvi)

Here Ben Gurion passionately condemns the use of collective punishment (illegal under the Fourth Geneva convention of which Australia is a signatory) on the Jewish people for the acts of Zionist terrorists, and its ineffectiveness in combating further acts of terrorism in the future. An almost identical statement could be made concerning the citizens of Gaza today.

The Zionist state constantly condemns Palestinian acts of terror while only continuing to increase the measures which even David Ben Gurion clearly admits will only increase the likely hood of further terrorist attacks.

The government of Gaza was initially elected to power in elections that were declared free and fair by all the international organisations that monitored them. The ensuing blockade and demonisation of Hamas and the people of Gaza, which lead to Operation Cast Lead, has only consolidated the hold that Hamas has on Gaza and further opened the ears of young Palestinians in Gaza to the voices of those even more extreme than Hamas. The blockade of Gaza is no more about a true fight to rid the region from terrorism as the Separation Barrier in the West Bank is about security for Jews in Israel and the West Bank.

Ref
Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, Norman G. Finkelstein. Verso, 2003 (second edition)

Craig Nielsen
ACTION FOR PALESTINE

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