Culture, Israel, Mishegas, Politics

Gaza conflict: Who is a civilian?

The BBC reports on Human Rights Watch and B’tselem accounting of Israel targeting a university, schools, mosques, government buildings, and other civilian cites. The article also outlines some of the thorny issue around the question of who is a civilian:

The bloodied children are clearly civilians; men killed as they launch rockets are undisputedly not. But what about the 40 or so young Hamas police recruits on parade who died in the first wave of Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza?
And weapons caches are clearly military sites – but what about the interior ministry, hit in a strike that killed two medical workers; or the money changer’s office, destroyed last week injuring a boy living on the floor above?
As the death toll mounts in Gaza, the thorny question is arising of who and what can be considered a legitimate military target in a territory effectively governed by a group that many in the international community consider a terrorist organisation.
This is also the group that won the Palestinian legislative elections in January 2006 and a year later consolidated its control by force.
So while it was behind a campaign of suicide attacks in Israel and fires rockets indiscriminately over the border, it is also in charge of schools, hospitals, sewage works and power plants in Gaza.

“Our definition is that anyone who is involved with terrorism within Hamas is a valid target. This ranges from the strictly military institutions and includes the political institutions that provide the logistical funding and human resources for the terrorist arm.”
-Benjamin Rutland, IDF spokesman

“To claim that all of those offices are legitimate targets, just because they are affiliated with Hamas, is legally flawed and extremely problematic.”
-B’Tselem director Jessica Montell

2 thoughts on “Gaza conflict: Who is a civilian?

  1. It is a luxurious position to point out the problems with the difficult choices the Israeli commanders have needed to make in the execution of this war. Do you think this operation occurred in a vacuum? – that after 7,000+ explosive projectiles were sent from Gaza into civilian areas of Israel, some angry huge beast was finally awakened and rampaged?
    This war is the culmination of years of goading by Hamas, sponsored by Iran, to hurt Israelis, even at the expense of their own people. If Hamas, as the governing body of Gaza, were so interested in providing for the livelihood of its citizens, why then did it expend such huge effort arming itself with thousands of missiles AFTER Israel unilaterally disengaged from Gaza?
    You know as well as I do, that had Hamas had the intention of running a functioning peaceful state in Gaza, they would not have lobbed thousands of missiles into Israel, etc., and this war would never have happened.
    But their goal is not to run a state. Their goal is to destroy Israel. Moreover, they make no secret of it! They say flat out and publicly that Tel Aviv is occupied Palestine. “Fighting the occupation” for Hamas is merely a euphemism for “Destroying Israel”.
    So when Gazan schools are used to store munitions, and college buildings are used to train guerrillas, and the police are used to slaughter the families of people who speak out against the thugs in charge, they are legitimate targets.
    Remember that Torah passage about “Justice, Justice you shall pursue!” ? It continues to state that when deciding a case, we must neither favor the rich nor the poor. Just because Hamas, in this particular battle, is the weaker military force, it does not make them right, and it does not even make them deserving of sympathy.
    By and large, Israelis did NOT want to fight this war. They felt compelled to do so because of a belligerent neighbor that refused to live peacefully, was arming itself with missiles, and was using those missiles to wreak havoc on the daily life of the civilian population of Israel.
    One last note. Don’t you think that there are many, many Gazans who hate Hamas and what they have done to the prospects for a peaceful life for their families? How is it that Israel has so much knowledge of where the leaders’ homes are? Which cars they are driving? There are many Gazans who would love to see the end of Hamas’s rule and who risk their lives, and sadly, the lives of their families should they be found out, by fighting against Hamas, providing “intel” to Israel. These are the Palestinians whom I pray for. Those who want a better life for their children, and those who can not help being stuck in the crossfire.
    I can only hope their voices prevail.

  2. Its so simple when you catagorize all Palestinians as ‘terrorist’. Then cluster bombs don’t matter.
    Are Israelis stupid enough to use nukes on the Palestinians–I only ask that given how much some Israelis love GW Bush.

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