Israeli human rights organisation B'Tselem has just issued its latest report, Black Flag: The legal & moral implications of the policy of attacking residential buildings in the Gaza Strip, Summer 2014, occasioned by last year's Israeli massacres the Gaza Strip (Operation Protective Edge - July-August), which resulted in the deaths of over 2,200 Palestinians (including hundreds of children) and the destruction of about 18,000 homes.
It focuses in part on that notorious Zionist talking point, namely that the Palestinian resistance uses civilians as a shield:
"[Israeli] officials eschewed responsibility for the immense harm to civilians, placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of Hamas. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that Israel's 'security forces are doing everything in their power to avoid harming civilians and if innocents are hurt, it is because Hamas deliberately hides behind Palestinian civilians.'
"This argument is unacceptable. True Hamas... do not abide by IHL [international humanitarian law], nor do they purport to do so... Not only did Hamas fire at Israeli civilians and civilian targets, it did so from within the civilian population. Hamas operatives fired from sites located near civilian dwellings, concealed weapons and munitions inside them and dug tunnels under them.
"Given this reality, the issue at hand is what conclusions policymakers may draw from it. The prime minister's statements indicate he believes that Hamas and the [Israeli] military share the responsibility to take precautions. Yet this interpretation is designed to block, a priori, any allegations that Israel breached IHL provisions. Accepting it would mean that there are no restrictions whatsoever on Israeli action and that whatever method it chooses to respond to Hamas operations is legitimate, no matter how horrifying the consequences. This interpretation is unreasonable, unlawful, and renders meaningless the principle that IHL violations committed by one party do not release the other party from its obligations toward the civilian population and civilian objects."
IOW, whatever Hamas does or doesn't do, cannot be used as an excuse by the Israelis for slaughtering Palestinian civilians.
You'll note that the charge leveled at Hamas by B'Tselem, at least with respect to Palestinian civilians and their homes, is simply that its "operatives fired from sites located near civilian dwellings, concealed weapons and munitions inside them and dug tunnels under them."
I've already dealt with the question of whether, in resisting Israel's overwhelming military aggression, they could have done otherwise (and whether the Israeli occupation forces can be similarly accused), in another post: Israeli Militarism (4/9/14).
This post, however, was prompted by the following extraordinary revelation that somehow managed to escape B'Tselem's attention:
"During the conflict, thousands of children were forcibly herded by Hamas as human shields around its rocket launch sites. Like Israeli children taken to shelters, post-traumatic stress levels are high, with estimates that up to 90% of the Palestinian child population suffers from traumatic symptoms." (Hadassah's healing vision, Peter Kohn, The Australian Jewish News, 23/1/15)
Heard that one before? Not only has the basic Israeli 'human shield' talking point been outrageously sexed up, but the AJN has slyly balanced genuine Palestinian suffering with the faux Israeli variety. This smacks of desperation. Could it be that no one's listening to the old plain Jane lie anymore?
But there's more in this instance. This blatant shot at blaming the victim for his suffering, followed by the gratuitous suggestion of an equivalent suffering on the part of the perpetrator, comes bang in the middle of a piece showcasing a rather dubious project:
"Gazan children traumatised in last year's war will benefit from a landmark joint venture between Hadassah Australia and aid agency World Vision to advance Hadassah's Project Rozana,* boosting critical medical services in the Palestinian territories." This will reportedly involve cooperation in "training Palestinian child psychologists to treat children suffering post-traumatic stress after the Gaza war," and forging closer links between World Vision Australia and Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital.
Quite how this joint venture will manage to shrug off the charge that it is exploiting the same traumatised Palestinian kids to burnish Israel's tarnished image abroad is anyone's guess.
World Vision's CEO, Tim Costello, is quoted thus:
"Costello said World Vision Australia has trained around 8,000 Palestinian mothers to recognise symptoms of 'psycho-social trauma' in their children. 'Hadassah is the foremost hospital in Jerusalem and their expertise in dealing with these issues, along with medical issues, is a natural fit for us.' But the high-profile advocate on social issues said another vital aspect of the venture will be to foster better understanding between Israelis and Palestinians. 'We cannot solve the political issues but we do know that starting with children's dreams and their rights on both sides is profoundly important'."
Of course we can't solve the political issues - unless we first speak out about them.
Children's dreams and rights on both sides? Is the man serious? Is he not aware that Zionism's wet dream - a Palestine without Palestinians - is the very stuff of Palestinian nightmares? Rhetorical question, of course.
Just to inject an air of reality here, I'll leave you with two summaries of findings from another recent report on Israeli savagery in Gaza, No Safe Place, by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and Gaza's Al Mezan Center for Human Rights.
This one touches on the unimaginable scale of psychological trauma among Palestinians in Gaza:
"The majority of the 68 patients interviewed suffered insomnia, flashbacks, nightmares, screaming, loss of appetite, weight loss, depression and unstable emotional states. Doctors and nurses said that the trauma they saw was not just from the attacks, displacement, threats of joblessness and poverty, but also the sense of total isolation from the rest of the world. Those interviewed said that Gaza's dire situation affects individuals' life choices, like whether or not to get married and have children." (Investigators: Israel fired on Gaza civilians carrying white flags, Charlotte Silver, electronicintifada.net, 28/1/15)
And here's the other. Maybe Costello and his opposite number in Hadassah Australia, Ron Finkel (described in a November 2007 Zionist Council of Victoria press release as "a longstanding advocate for Israel and Zionism since his student days in the 1970s when he served as President of AUJS") could explain how they envision Hadassah Hospital dealing with the Palestinian survivors (?) of these hellish devices:
"Flechette munitions (which doctors reported surgically removing from the faces of children); 'explosive barrel' bombs... that were made to be used to clear mines, but were dropped on civilians; what are suspected to be DIME weapons, leading to 'unusual burns' and 'unusual amputations,' with 'charred' black skin that did not smell like burning flesh and black 'tattooing' around cauterization-like stumps of amputees; weapons that left 'computer chips' with Sony markings embedded as shrapnel in people's bodies'; and 'a gas of unknown type,' a white-colored substance with a 'sewage-like' smell' that burned skin and caused respiratory problems and could be seen and smelled from 500 meters away"? (Independent investigation details Israel's deliberate targeting of civilians in Gaza, Ben Norton, mondoweiss.net, 29/1/15)
[*On Project Rozana, see my 9/6/13 post Palwashing.]