What does it mean to use human shields? Employed by the Germans and Japanese in the Second World War, the tactic is premised on an underlying trust in your enemy’s humanity. It appeals to the compassion and mercy of the combatant that they not slaughter the innocent in order to avenge their target. The ‘shield’ is not the human bodies surrounding the ‘guilty’ party, the shield is the clemency that mankind instinctively affords the innocent. The shield evaporates only when confronted by an enemy who is not merely a fellow solder locked in a power battle, but a psychopath unconcerned with the pain of others. Such is the case with the Hamas. They are faced with an enemy who is willing to obliterate pregnant women, babies, kids, handicapped people, schools and crowded hospitals in order to smash their target. The Israelis repeatedly demonstrate a pathological disregard for any life that is not a Jewish life, and it is for this reason alone, that the Hamas are utterly incapable of ever using ‘human shields.’
However, Netanyahu, pro Israeli media and Zionist supporters can’t resist endlessly recycling their trope that the Hamas use civilians to guard their rockets. They are clearly flummoxed as to why this assertion does nothing to quell the snowballing international outrage at the massacres they are committing. Their argument attempts to plant in our minds the notion that the Hamas actively invite the Israeli military to slaughter and maim innocents and, in doing so, prove that their savagery deserves to be annihilated. Paradoxically therefore, according to the twisted logic of Zionists, the more innocent Palestinians that die, the worse the Palestinians are. As a collective they are guilty of being innocent.
But this propaganda ploy doesn’t work. Not only does it not work, it boomerangs completely. Every time a Zionist apologist repeats their ‘human shield’ accusations they merely advertise their own deficit of basic humanity. They tell us ‘the Hamas think we have empathy for our fellow human beings, but if you look at the casualty figures, you’ll see how mistaken they are.’
The other issues at play here are the rights of the Palestinians to defend themselves and the pragmatics of warfare in a refugee camp. Israel is extremely fond of telling the world that they have the right to defend themselves. They enjoy a nuclear arsenal, cutting edge American weaponry and the formidable Iron Dome technology. Yet, although Israel constantly brags about its own egalitarian credentials, for some reason Israel refuses to grant the Palestinian people this same intrinsic right to defense that it demands for itself. Palestinians are not allowed to protect themselves. They are not allowed to fight. Instead we are invited to imagine that it is somehow acceptable for the Palestinians to have no weaponry whatsoever, no army, no solders, no rights. We are lead to believe that the only way for Palestinians to prove their integrity, is to lie down like lambs and quietly live out the unspeakably miserable lives of squalor, poverty and despair that Israel has designed for them. In short, Israel wishes the Palestinians were suicidal but, inconveniently, they keep proving to us that they are not.
Obviously asking a people to passively embrace their own ethnic cleansing is implausible. One would hope that the Jews, more than anyone, might be capable of grasping such a fundamental truth – but sadly not. Given then, that the people of Gaza, like any other human beings, have right to defense, where exactly should they store their weapons? In the rolling valleys and tumbling hills of Haraat al-Daraj? Amid the fauna-filled acres of Shuja’iyya? Gaza is home to approximately 1.8 million people, it is 25 miles long by 5 to 7 miles wide and sealed by both an Egyptian and Israeli blockade. It is the most crowded open air prison on earth. The only place to feasibly store weapons is inevitably in the proximity of the people forced to live there cheek by jowl. Israel has now ordered some 43% of the territory to be evacuated. But where to? The Kafka-esque request to insist people go, knowing there is nowhere to go to, is clearly there to benefit Israeli PR, not save lives. And it doesn’t fool anyone. There are currently hundreds of thousands of displaced. The schools that have opened to receive those fleeing are already overflowing and Palestinians that endured the bombings of schools during Operation Cast Lead, know that even a so-called ‘refuge’ can not guarantee safety. Let’s be clear: the only people putting the Palestinians in danger are the Israelis. The only people killing innocent people are the Israelis. Hamas may not be the party that the chattering classes of the West would want to govern them, but they are democratically elected and they have as much right as Israel, Britain, France and America to fight against an oppressor that quite literally wants to ‘wipe them off the map.’ They face a tough job, but one thing they can’t do is use human shields against an enemy that doesn’t recognise them as human.
Sarah Gillespie is a writer and musician living in London. She can be reached through her website: www.sarahgillespie.com