Hamas' Tactic: Require Israel to Cause Civilian Casualties

Gatestone Institute 20 November 2012
By Alan M. Dershowitz

As the rockets continue to fall in Israel and Gaza, it is important to understand Hamas's tactic and how the international community and the media are encouraging it. Hamas's tactic is as simple as it is criminal and brutal. Its leaders know that by repeatedly firing rockets at Israeli civilian areas, they will give Israel no choice but to respond. Israel's response will target the rockets and those sending them. In order to maximize their own civilian casualties, and thereby earn the sympathy of the international community and media, Hamas leaders deliberately fire their rockets from densely populated civilian areas. The Hamas fighters hide in underground bunkers but Hamas refuses to provide any shelter for its own civilians, whom they use as "human shields." This unlawful tactic puts Israel to a tragic choice: simply allow Hamas rockets to continue to target Israeli cities and towns; or respond to the rockets, with inevitable civilian casualties among the Palestinian "human shields."

Every democracy would choose the latter option if presented with a similar choice. Although Israel goes to great efforts to reduce civilian casualties, the Hamas tactic is designed to maximize them. The international community and the media must understand this and begin to blame Hamas, rather than Israel, for the Palestinian civilians who are killed by Israeli rockets but whose deaths are clearly part of the Hamas tactic.

Every reasonable commentator has agreed with President Obama that Hamas started this battle by firing thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians. Every reasonable commentator also agrees with President Obama that Israel has the right to defend its citizens. But many commentators fault Israel for causing Palestinian civilian casualties. But what is Israel's option, other than to simply allow rockets to be aimed at its own women and children. As President Obama observed when he went to Sderot as a candidate:

The first job of any nation state is to protect its citizens. And so I can assure you that if…somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.

Israel should continue to make every effort to reduce civilian casualties, both because that is the humane thing to do and because it serves their interests. But so long as Hamas continues to fire rockets from densely populated civilian areas, rather than from the many open areas outside of Gaza City, this cynical tactic—which constitutes a double war (continue reading...)