[This article also appears on Huffingtonpost.com. You can access it from my author page here.]
After writing two articles in two weeks defending Israel, I thought I was done with the topic for a while. (One piece showed why Hamas is responsible for the current conflict, and the other laid out why Hamas is responsible for the civilian casualties in Gaza.) After all, one glance at my HuffPost author page will reveal that I am interested in a range of issues, not just the Middle East, and, in fact, until last week, I had never written about Israel for the site.
But then a friend sent me a link to this video, and I felt I had no choice but to comment.
The clip shows Hamas urging its citizens, including children, to go to a house to act as "human shields," after Israeli security forces, in an effort to limit civilian casualties, called the owner to inform him that the house was to be bombed.
Anyone who is interested in the Israel-Hamas conflict needs to watch this video. It's sickening.
The whole world is quick to condemn Israel for civilian deaths in Gaza, but there is utter silence over Hamas's blatant disregard for the lives of its own citizens. It is an unfair double standard, which should come as no surprise, since Israel is always held by the world to unfair double standards, asked to endure things (like rocket attacks on its citizens) without reacting that would be asked of no other nation.
But once I got past feeling ill as I watched a terrorist organization herd its population toward the site of a potential bombing, it occurred to me that the video really demonstrated that to support Hamas over Israel, you have to leap through a moral looking glass, where right is wrong and wrong is right.
I say that because the video crystallized something for me: That Israel has a moral center and a sense of right and wrong, while Hamas completely lacks either. Don't agree with me? That's okay, because you know who does? Hamas.
I'll explain. Hamas's recognition that Israel, as a nation, cares about the lives of innocent civilians and has an innate moral code, while Hamas does not, is the center of Hamas's war strategy. Hamas not only directs its population to sites of potential bombings, but it uses traditionally civilian locations, like mosques, schools and hospitals, as sites at which it can store and launch weapons and hide its leaders. For that strategy to work, it involves two basic assumptions by Hamas:
1) The Israelis think it's wrong to bomb traditional civilian areas. If the Israelis were just bloodthirsty war-mongers who didn't care who was harmed in their quests of aggression, it wouldn't matter to them who or what they were bombing. If this was the Israeli mindset, what good would it do to go to the roof of a building to try and prevent an attack? But because Hamas knows that Israel does care about civilian lives, the terrorist group uses the Israeli sense of right and wrong as a weapon, hiding its violent activities behind its civilians.
2) Hamas doesn't have any moral code or respect for civilian lives. After all, to use civilians as human shields, and to conduct military operations from traditionally civilian locations, you have to not care if your citizens are injured or killed. Because if you did care, you would never endanger them by using them as shields or by conducting military operations in their pressence.
If Hamas truly believed that Israel didn't care about harming civilians, or if Hamas actually cared about the safety of its own people, it could not maintain its current war strategy. It would make no sense.
The video also reminded me of some basic differences between Israel and Hamas that show that Israel has a sense of morality that Hamas lacks.
- The goals driving the Israeli action (all Israeli military actions, really) are the safety of its citizens and the preservation of the existence of a sovereign nation. Hamas, on the other hand, has its goal the destruction of Israel, not the safety of its citizens. To paraphrase something New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said during his recent trip to Israel, Hamas should be more concerned with building a Palestinian nation than destroying a neighboring one.
- Hamas's rockets target Israeli civilians (4,500 attacks since 2005), while Israel's intention is to hit Hamas military targets, while going to great lengths to avoid collateral civilian casualties. For crying out loud, what other country makes warning phone calls before an attack? There is no strategic reason to do so. It is only to save lives. Despite Hamas's use of civilians as shields, Israel has managed to carry out its military goals with only a vast minority of the deaths being civilians.
- While Israel was building shelters to protect its civilians, Hamas was building a network of tunnels, many connected to mosques and homes, from which to conduct war, but no shelters for its citizens.
- When Israel detects an incoming Hamas rocket, it urges its citizens to seek cover in shelters. When Israel lets the Palestinians in Gaza know a bomb is coming, Hamas urges its citizens into the line of fire. Hamas is not opposed to using its citizens as propaganda props, getting them killed so that the images can be rushed to the international media in a bid to gain support. When was the last time you saw footage of the Israeli casualties of Hamas's terrorism? You probably haven't, because Israel doesn't rush the images to the media like Hamas does.
Since I don't know if I'll be coming back to the Israel-Hamas issue again in the near future, I wanted to address one tangential issue that demonstrates the moral gap between Israel and Hamas. Hamas represses its own people, especially its women. Human rights groups vigorously fight for the rights of women in places like Afghanistan (and I agree with these protests 100 percent), but nobody seems to care that the same type of subjugation occurs in Gaza. When Hamas leader Nazar Rayyan was killed last week by the Israelis in Gaza, press reports noted that some or all of his four wives were also killed, but there were no comment about this fact. It was treated as if it was not an issue at all. (Of course, Al Jazeera tried to hide that Rayyan had four wives, only saying he died with "14 members of his family.")
If Israel treated women the way Hamas does, and if Ehud Olmert or Ehud Barak had four wives, the international community would be in constant uproar, decrying the violations of the rights of Israeli women (and they would be correct to do so). But Hamas represses Palestinians, especially the women, and what is the international reaction? Dead silence.
I am absolutely amazed that so many people are so quick to defend and support Hamas and rail against Israel, when Hamas shows absolutely no respect for basic moral tenets by which any civilized society should live. How do Hamas supporters sleep at night knowing that the terrorist group has built its entire operation on the premise that Israel respects civilian lives but Hamas does not? I sleep very well as a defender of Israel knowing that a terrorist organization is relying on Israel's sense of basic morals as the underpinning of its violent campaign.
Watch the video again. It may give you nightmares, but it reveals the true nature of Hamas.