Written by Trevor Norwitz
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon is right to say that, "children killed in their sleep ... is an affront to all of us, a source of universal shame." No-one can be unmoved by the pictures out of Gaza: the loss of life, the carnage, the anguish and fear in the faces of women and children.
It is heart breaking. But he is wrong to blame Israel, especially in such injudicious terms. He, and many others in positions of power and influence, do a terrible disservice to humanity, to the cause of international peace and security, and to the Palestinian people (not to mention the Israeli people), by not stating unequivocally what they know to be the truth: that overwhelming responsibility for the mayhem in Gaza rests with Hamas (a part of the Palestinian national unity government).
Yes, alongside their broadsides at Israel, these leaders also sometimes note that Hamas commits war crimes and angrily "denounce" that behavior. But angrily denouncing Hamas is as useless as angrily denouncing cancer, if you are not also willing to apply the treatment that is necessary, and to address the environmental factors that feed it and encourage its growth.
Hamas' role in Gaza's suffering is manifest. They started this war, and prolonged it by refusing to agree to and then cynically violating cease-fires. This is a war Hamas wanted, planned and prepared for meticulously for years, diverting much of the productive capacity of Gaza towards building their sophisticated network of tunnels to kidnap and kill Israelis, and stockpiling tens of thousands of rockets to terrorize Israeli population centers.
All but the willfully blind know they use human shields, hide rockets in, and launch them near, schools, mosques, UN facilities and other civilian buildings, turn hospitals into command centers, and booby-trap homes and refugee centers.
Their lawlessness is simply a given. World leaders like Ban Ki Moon, Laurent Fabius and John Kerry rebuke them but expect nothing of them, placing all responsibility for avoiding civilian casualties – the very casualties Hamas aims to maximize – on Israel, as it battles to defend its citizens from aerial and subterranean terror attacks.
There is no point in just denouncing Hamas. It is a terrorist organization which exists for an evil purpose – to eliminate a nation and exterminate a people – and openly embraces cruel and illegal tactics.
Its members are not swayed by criticism. They do not respect life, human rights or the concept of truth. Just as one cannot reason or negotiate with cancer, one has to treat a terrorist threat directly and aggressively and eliminate or reduce the conditions that stimulate its growth.
So what are the conditions that feed and encourage Hamas and its ilk? Having an ally like Iran to provide a steady flow of rockets and other weapons is necessary but not sufficient.
Their greatest strategic asset is the knowledge that, however outrageous their behavior, large segments of the press and political class (especially in Europe), and the "human rights" and international communities led by the United Nations will effectively side with them, directing their wrath primarily at Israel, and protecting them from total defeat, so that they can proclaim victory from the ruin and devastation they authored.
Hamas knows that, despite the consistent evidence of their mendacity, their fabrications will be widely disseminated as facts by news and human rights groups. These lies inflict enormous damage on Israel even when the truth later emerges. Any honest observer appreciates that the Israel Defense Forces exert greater efforts to minimize civilian casualties than any army in history, and actually have a civilian-to-fighter casualty ratio that is relatively low for modern warfare (despite the fact that Hamas designs its chosen battlefield specifically to maximize civilian damage).
But Hamas knows that the press will gleefully play the body-count game, as though its infographics speak to causation or moral culpability. They also know that every conflagration they provoke causes the world's oldest hatred to bubble up again, more virulently each time.
These are the carcinogens that feed this cancer and fan the flames of violence in the region. When Kenneth Roth, head of Human Rights Watch [HRW], arguably the world's most powerful human rights organization, tweets that, "Tunnels used to attack or capture soldiers isn't [a human rights violation]," Hamas is encouraged to dig more tunnels.
When British MP David Ward says that he would fire a rocket if he lived in Gaza, Hamas is urged to fire more rockets. When British Secretary of State for Business Vince Cable decides to suspend UK arms export licences to Israel after Hamas violates cease-fires and Israel retaliates, Hamas is incentivized to violate cease-fires.
When Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW's Middle East and North Africa director, declares it, "abhorrent that Israeli forces are ... blatantly violating the laws of war" (based solely on interviews with Gaza residents); when the UN Human Rights Commission [UNHRC] orders yet another lopsided anti-Israel "fact-finding" mission, and its High Commissioner Navi Pillay offers platitudes of moral equivalence accusing "both sides" of "indiscriminate killing of civilians;" when empty-headed celebrities blabber incoherently about Israeli "massacres" and "genocide," then Hamas knows that its diabolical tactics are working.
The blood of those Palestinian children (and Israeli children) is on the hands of those who irresponsibly, even if unwittingly, give Hamas such support, hope and inspiration.
Israel must, and surely will, investigate those tragic incidents where civilians were killed, and take appropriate action to ensure that its rules of engagement are legal, moral, and complied with.
Hamas will do nothing in respect of its myriad flagrant war crimes, except plan to repeat them. If only the international community held Hamas and its brethren accountable for their heinous crimes, this ongoing nightmare for Gaza could be stopped, but sadly it will not.
This war in Gaza was inevitable, just like the coming one in Lebanon, which will take place when the terrorists of Hezbollah – or their Iranian puppet-masters – find it opportune to unleash their rocket stockpile at Israeli cities again. Since Israel is not able to limit the flow of weapons to them – the only reason for the much maligned blockade of Gaza – Hezbollah's arsenal is presumably far more potent than that of Hamas.
In both cases that inevitability is the result of the abject failure of the international community – principally the United Nations and its affiliated organs – to live up to their obligations.
Not only did they prevent Israel from completing the jobs they all knew had to be done, not only did they fail to disarm Hezbollah, not only did they refuse to hold Hamas and Hezbollah accountable for the carnage they caused their respective civilian populations last time, but they and the press and "human rights" community have affirmatively encouraged those terrorist organizations by their consistent excoriation of Israel.
They are repeating their past mistakes, making the next Gaza nightmare inevitable as well.
Secretary General Moon was quite right to say "the world stands disgraced." But by not accurately pointing to the source of that disgrace, he is only adding to it.
Trevor Norwitz is a lawyer in New York, teaches at Columbia Law School, and is a board member of Advancing Human Rights.
by Trevor Norwitz August 20, 2014 at 4:00 am