Friday, October 30, 2009

Hamas Not Using Hostages

A key defense of powerful nations that terrorize with their military is that civilian casualties are unavoidable because the real terrorists fight dirty using hostages. When Israel besieged Gaza last year they alleged that Hamas was using mosques and hospitals and schools as weapon storage lockers and stuffing them full of civilians in order to incite international outrage when Israel bombed those sites. According to the UN this was a lie. When Israel bombed these locations, the civilians were there, yes, but not the armaments.

Ken Silverstein interviews "Desmond Travers was one of the four members of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, which produced the controversial Goldstone Report":

We found no evidence that Hamas used civilians as hostages. I had expected to find such evidence but did not. We also found no evidence that mosques were used to store munitions. Those charges reflect Western perceptions in some quarters that Islam is a violent religion. Gaza is densely populated and has a labyrinth of makeshift shanties and a system of tunnels and bunkers. If I were a Hamas operative the last place I’d store munitions would be in a mosque. It’s not secure, is very visible, and would probably be pre-targeted by Israeli surveillance. There are a many better places to store munitions. We investigated two destroyed mosques—one where worshippers were killed—and we found no evidence that either was used as anything but a place of worship.

So Israel's justifications for targeting these locations proves to be baseless. Will people stop screaming "anti-semitism" now every time the subject of war crimes comes up in relation to Israel? Probably not.

Here's the thing about the hostage argument: if a madman is holding hostages in a building the solution to the problem is never going to be to bomb the building. Negotiate. Wait them out. Prepare to pounce when they make a mistake. Do not, under any circumstances, start lobbing grenades into the room with the hostages! Hamas was not holding hostages, but even if they had been it would be unconscionable that Israel launch an assault under those circumstances.

Yes the terrorists fight unfairly. Sure their tactics are designed to inflict maximum international pressure on Israel. So why give them more ammunition by bombing mosques and hospitals? It just proves there are two madmen in this situation and they are holding everyone else hostage between them.


Doug Hagler said...

I don't buy the argument that conventional armies "fight fairly", or even somehow fight differently from unconventional forces (i.e. "terrorists"). "Shock and Awe", for example, led to massive civilian casualties and was calculated to terrorize. What more could be said of terrorism? The only differences are 1. scale and 2. wearing uniforms in my opinion, and I say this in unison with a number of war theorists and historians. Asymmetrical warfare is *every* war when you are the sole remaining military superpower. I hardly think this gives us a right to complain when our enemies do all they can to win - which is just what we do. If we could get away with more atrocity without losing political support and alliances, we would.

Jodie said...

I am more concerned with so called Christians in the US who go out of their way to support this kind of warfare. Pastors who published cartoons of Hammas hiding behind baby carriages taking pot shots at Israeli soldiers, laughing, and applauding the killing of said children. Elders jumping on the bandwagon that using (American made) white phosphorous in heavily populated areas was perfectly justified because, well, it was only being used as a smokescreen to protect their army.

It's one thing to turn a calloused blind eye to the suffering of innocent civilians.

It's another to actively promote it, and to scoff, in the name of Jesus, at the critics of violence.

I just don't know how to share my religious affiliation with such people.

"Great God, I'd rather be a Pagan, suckled in a creed outworn"

Aric Clark said...


I agree with you, of course, but my point is even if we cede the point, and just take at face value the idea that we are the civilized ones and the terrorists are barbarians - doesn't that very fact circumscribe our behavior? Doesn't it mean we can't bomb civilian areas and attack when they are holding hostages? Because that would be uncivilized...


I don't even know where to begin with people like you describe. It seems to me they've fallen so far outside the pale of Christianity that there really is no way to meaningfully engage.