Civilian deaths — tragedy for Israel —
victory for Hamas
Israel was established 66 years ago as the reborn democratic nation-state of the Jewish People in its ancestral homeland. Our modern state was built upon the ancient Jewish values of social justice, civil rights, the rule of law, and respect for human life. Today, however, those very values are being distorted into a weapon to be used against us. This poisonous brew is cooked-up by ruthless terrorists, served-up by sensationalist media and swallowed-up by unwitting audiences throughout the world.
How is this happening? The answer is as simple as it is horrifying. If you understand civilized values, but are not bound by them, it's easy to exploit them to your advantage in the war of perceptions.
has been living next to Israel for two decades. It has learned what Israel holds dear, especially the high value we place on each and every human life, whether Jewish or Arab. It has learned to use this knowledge as leverage to pressure Israel — for example — to release hundreds of terrorists from prison by kidnapping just a few Israelis.
Today, this vile exploitation of morality as a strategic weapon against Israel has reached new and uncharted depths.
It's called the "Dead Baby" tactic. This repugnant Hamas formula is frightfully simple: Manufacture civilian deaths, and blame it on Israel. Thus, Hamas hopes that Israel can be humiliated in the eyes of an impressionable but none too discerning world, weakened in the international arena, and intimidated in its attempts to defend itself.
Understanding that such an abhorrent strategy even exists is so beyond the pale of humanity, and so difficult to grasp in civilized societies, that the Hamas plan indeed works, and Israel is forced to defend itself from the preposterous, and demeaningly repeat what should be obvious. We do not target civilians.
Ask yourself, why are there so many civilian casualties in Gaza? Because Hamas is working hard to make sure that there are as many as possible.
Instead of avoiding conflict and seeking peace with its neighbors as Israel has, Hamas has ceaselessly attacked Israel's civilians, making confrontation inescapable.
Instead of providing its own civilians with shelters as Israel has, Hamas has used all its concrete to build terrorist tunnels — leaving its civilians exposed.
Instead of using its fighters as a shield to protect its population, as Israel has, Hamas has embedded itself in civilian areas, fired from mosques, stored arms in schools and built bunkers in homes — using its civilians as human shields
Instead of warning Gazans of impending danger, as Israel has, with leaflets, phone calls, and text messages, Hamas has prevented its civilians from evacuating and even forced them onto the roofs of military targets to protect them with their lives.
In short, Israel employs its arsenal to protect civilians, while Hamas employs civilians to protect its arsenal. Yes, during the heat of battle, try as we might, unfortunate accidents occur, especially when Hamas terrorists open fire behind human shields. But NEVER has Israel intentionally targeted civilians.
In fact, Israel has done more than any other nation in the history of warfare to reduce civilian casualties, in the most difficult conditions ever facing any army. Remember, Israel did not choose this war. Its cities were attacked by Hamas missiles and its civilians threatened by Hamas cross-border tunnels. Israel's right to defend itself is unquestionable, just as Hamas' use of human shields is undeniable.
I, just like every one of you, feels anguish and anger at the tragic sight of Palestinian civilian casualties. Don't worry; it's OK to feel this humane empathy for Gazan civilians. It is not a betrayal of your support of Israel. The people of Gaza are not our enemy. On the contrary, if we would not feel pain in the face of human suffering we would be no better than our terrorist aggressors. For Israel, every civilian death is a tragedy, yet for Hamas, it is a victory.
So, when feeling the pain of the death of civilians, we must not allow this pain to numb our senses. No one should fall into the open trap laid by Hamas of blaming Israel. These needless deaths are as much the responsibility of Hamas as if they murdered these poor civilians with their own hands.
It is Israel's fervent hope that the fighting will end quickly. Israel has accepted six cease fire proposals already, while Hamas has violated every one of them. Israel desires peace, and for peace to be achieved Gaza must be demilitarized and Hamas must be distanced from Palestinian leadership. The late Prime Minister Golda Meir
put it best when she said: "We will only have peace when they love their own children more than they hate ours."
Chaim Shacham is Consul General of Israel to Florida and Puerto Rico.