Israel Uses Palestinians as Human Shields but US Lawmakers Condemn Hamas

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The Electronic Intifada

Israel Uses Palestinians as Human Shields but US Lawmakers Condemn Hamas

A market in the Shujaiya district of Gaza City was attacked by Israel yesterday; at least 17 people were killed. (Ashraf Amra / APA images)

Both houses of the US Congress are considering passing a resolution that condemns Hamas for using human shields despite not having any evidence to prove Hamas is employing this tactic. 

Over the last 22 days, the Israeli army has deliberately bombed family homes, UN shelters, schools, places of worship, hospitals, water infrastructure and more, killing over 1,300 Palestinians, 80 percent of whom have been civilians, including nearly 300 children. 

In propaganda echoed by the US State Department, the Israeli government has repeatedly claimed that Hamas is using women and children as human shields to protect its weapons and rocket launchers, forcing Israel to massacre innocent Palestinians. 

The only evidence Israel has provided for this unsubstantiated accusation is cartoon sketches.

But even The New York Times has conceded that “There is no evidence that Hamas and other militants force civilians to stay in areas that are under attack.” 

The BBC’s Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, similarly declared, “I saw no evidence during my week in Gaza of Israel’s accusation that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields.” 

But Israel’s pathetic drawings are all the evidence US elected officials need to absolve Israel of responsibility for war crimes. 

Double standards

In the House of Representatives, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, introduced Resolution 107 on 16 July, “Denouncing the use of civilians as human shields by Hamas and other terrorist organizations in violation of international humanitarian law.” With 76 co-sponsors — 47 Republicans and 29 Democrats — the bill is awaiting consideration in the House’s foreign affairs committee. 

On 24 July, an identical resolution was introduced in the Senate by Ted Cruz, a Republican,  and co-sponsored by Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat. 

Like the House bill, the Senate version slams Hamas for “placing its underground tunnel network and missile batteries in densely populated areas, and in and around schools, hospitals, and mosques” and “calls on the international community to recognize the grave breaches of international law committed by Hamas in using human shields.” 

Besides ignoring the fact that all of Gaza is densely populated, this accusation fails to address that Israel also places its military command centers among civilian populations, most notoriously HaKirya, the Israeli army headquarters, which is located in the heart of densely populated Tel Aviv, surrounded by malls, museums, hospitals, schools and so on. 

Perhaps one day Israel will be held to the same standards as Hamas by US elected officials, but for now it appears the “most moral army in the world” can do as it pleases.

The bill goes on to condemn some 2,000 rockets fired by Hamas at Israel but makes no mention of the more than 3,000 tons of precision-guided explosives that Israel deliberately dropped on Gaza’s civilian population and infrastructure in the first 15 days of this onslaught.

Praising Israeli “warnings”

Next, the bill praises Israel for warning Palestinians in advance with leaflets and text messages before obliterating their neighborhoods, though it neglects to note that the people of Gaza have nowhere safe to evacuate to, given that they are prevented from leaving the tiny coastal enclave, where nothing, not even hospitals, is off limits for Israeli bombs. 

Still, the bill declares that Israel “goes to extraordinary lengths to target only terrorist actors,” which suggests that the bill’s authors believe hospitals, playgrounds, family homes and UN schools sheltering the displaced (at least six have been shelled by Israel) qualify as “terrorist” targets.

Most outrageously, the bill equates Hamas with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). 

Hamas is the Palestinian political party that was democratically elected in 2006 to govern the occupied West Bank and Gaza. It also happens to have a military wing engaged in armed resistance against the State of Israel, a state that has been ethnically cleansing Palestinians from their indigenous lands for nearly seventy years, in what amounts to “incremental genocide,” according to the Israeli historian Ilan Pappe.

Likening Hamas’ armed resistance to a rogue sectarian militia that is slaughtering civilians in Syria and Iraq is utterly absurd and irresponsible propaganda that only the most extreme of Israel’s supporters are spreading

Israel should be condemned

Ironically, it is Israel that has a well-documented history of using Palestinian civilians, including children, as human shields. In what is referred to as “the neighbor procedure”, Israeli soldiers force Palestinian civilians to approach armed suspects and homes potentially rigged with explosives to protect the lives of soldiers. 

Israel was condemned by the United Nations as recently as last year for its “continuous use of Palestinian children as human shields and informants.” 

More recently, Palestinian civilians have accused Israeli forces of using them as human shields in the Khuzaa neighborhood in Gaza, which has been the site of heavy shelling. 

If anyone should be condemned for using human shields, it is clearly Israel. 

Nevertheless, the US Senate has already unanimously passed two resolutions reaffirming America’s unconditional support for Israel’s right to carry out massacres in Gaza. 

Meanwhile, the US was the only nation to vote against a United Nations inquiry into possible Israeli war crimes in Gaza. 

In other words, don’t be suprised if the Senate resolution, currently making its way through the Senate’s foreign relations committee, passes without a word of dissent.

Rania Khalek

Rania Khalek is an independent journalist reporting on the underclass and marginalized. Her work has appeared at Common Dreams, Salon, The Nation, In These Times, Citizen Radio and more. To see more of Rania’s work visit her blog Dispatches from the Underclass and follow her on twitter @RaniaKhalek.


 

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