NO. HAMAS FATHERS DON’T FIGHT WITH THEIR CHILDREN IN THEIR LAPS, AND PROLIFERATING AIR STRIKES IN PROLONGED CONFLICTS ARE RARELY “TARGETED.”
Writing for Tablet Magazine, Lee Smith makes some valid points. Indeed, photographers operating in Gaza do not seem to have enough freedom of movement to allow them to present a more accurate picture of what is happening on the ground during these tragic times. In fact, international photographers and journalists working in Gaza have as much freedom to move as their colleagues working in those parts of Syria still under Assad control. The see what their appointed “guides” and “fixers” want them to see. And they cannot report everything they see, if they still want to retain “access.” This is a perennial dilemma that confronts all journalists and photographers working in war zones.
But the situation has its remedies. In the case of Syria, areas that were wrested from the regime by rebels were immediately opened to foreign journalists willing to share the risk that the civilian inhabitants of these areas were facing. The results were images, videos and reports that corroborated to a large extant those produced by on-the-ground prodemocracy and human rights activists.
Israel, too, has certain tools that could bolster her claims to the effect that Hamas is using civilians as human shields. Indeed, Israel has been claiming all along that its strikes on Gaza are carefully “targeted.” One would imagine, therefore, that, at least in some cases, they must have satellite imagery showing the positions of Hamas units taking shelter in civilian areas. Why not share them? If they are counting on human intelligence as sources of information, this intelligence, one would imagine, must include some photos and videos, after all, this is the age of smartphones. If Israeli officials fear compromising their on-the-ground assets by revealing their input, they don’t have to provide timely information; images released days after a “targeted” attack would still have the desired impact.
Right now, Israel’s supporters are relying on tasteless and absurd arguments and cartoons to make their point. But this works only among diehard supporters, even when the person making such argument is known for being critical of the Israeli government. I am referring here to the well-known peacenik Amos Oz who, in his recent interview with Deutsche Welle, asked this inflammatory question, his pacifist proclivities notwithstanding: “What would you do if your neighbor across the street sits down on the balcony, puts his little boy on his lap and starts shooting machine gun fire into your nursery?”
Frankly, if one wants to make such a dangerously dehumanizing argument one should be able to back it up with pictures and videos showing clearly how the said father is using his son in such a manner. Hamas fathers might be willing to send their teenage sons to battle, they might show callous disregard for civilian casualties, they might not care about the fate of their next-door neighbors and the dangers they cause these neighbors as a result of their activities, but to claim that they are using their own sons in this monstrous manner reflects far more negatively on the people making the claim than on Hamas. Not unless one can provide evidence. Since Israelis are claiming this to be a pattern and not simply an isolated incident, then, they need to present ample evidence of that, and not one or two images.
But if such claims by Israelis and Israel sympathizers are being made rhetorically, then, let’s be clear in our condemnation of this unethical and downright racist trend. Arabs are not monsters. Yes, Hamas is hiding among civilians, and yes, like any and all ideologues, her leaders do not seem to care as much about the suffering of their people as they do about exploiting it to further their aims, but that does not justify recourse to such dehumanizing lies.
The reality is, targeted strikes by their very nature require massive amount of intelligence and that’s why they could only be conducted occasionally and/or over a short period of time: days at best. Even then, “collateral damage” is unavoidable. Once conflicts drag out, intelligence becomes increasingly sketchy and unreliable, as facts on the ground enter a state of flux, and so-called targeted strikes become more based on educated guesswork than real intelligence; eventually, as time goes by, they become “random,” as the people conducting them become too desensitized to civilian casualties to care. We have clearly entered into that “random” phase in Gaza.
Update: A Finnish TV reporter just confirmed the use by Hamas of Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza as staging ground for launching rockets into Israel. This is how one can prove Hamas’ culpability in human rights violations not only in regard to their own people but also the civilian population in Israel that is being randomly targeted by these rockets. The proof offered here may not be visually exciting or sensational, but it avoids the moral pitfalls of racist cartoons and dehumanizing rhetorical arguments. Naturally, this recourse by Hamas does not offer a moral justification for bombing Al-Shifa.