The empty spaces in Gaza
Translations of this item:
How many times have you heard on television or read in the media that the Gaza Strip is "the most densely populated area in the world"? Repeating this statement, however, does not make it true. There are dense parts of Gaza, especially Gaza City, Beit Hanoun and Khan Younis, but there are far less dense areas in Gaza between these cities. Just look at Google Earth, or this population density map.
(Image source: Peace Now)
The fact that these sparsely populated areas exist in the Gaza Strip raises several important moral questions: First, why don't the media show the relatively open areas of the Gaza Strip? Why do they only show the densely populated cities? There are several possible reasons. There is no fighting going on in the sparsely populated areas, so showing them would be boring. But that's precisely the point—to show areas from which Hamas could be firing rockets and building tunnels but has chosen not to. Or perhaps the reason the media doesn't show these areas is that Hamas won't let them. That too would be a story worth reporting.
Second, why doesn't Hamas use sparsely populated areas from which to launch its rockets and build its tunnels? Were it to do so, Palestinian civilian casualties would decrease dramatically, but the casualty rate among Hamas terrorists would increase dramatically.
That is precisely why Hamas selects the most densely populated areas from which to fire and dig. The difference between Israel and Hamas is that Israel uses its soldiers to protect its civilians, whereas Hamas uses its civilians to protect its terrorists. That is why most of Israeli casualties have been soldiers and most of Hamas' casualties have been civilians. The other reason is that Israel builds shelters for its civilians, whereas Hamas builds shelters only for its terrorists, intending that most of the casualties be among its civilian shields.
The law is clear: using civilians as human shields—which the Hamas battle manual mandates—is an absolute war crime. There are no exceptions or matters of degree, especially when there are alternatives. On the other hand, shooting at legitimate military targets, such as rockets and terror tunnels is permitted, unless the number of anticipated civilian casualties is disproportionate to the military importance of the target. This is a matter of degree and judgment, often difficult to calculate in the fog of war. The law is also clear that when a criminal takes a hostage and uses that hostage as a shield from behind whom to fire at civilians or police, and if the police fire back and kill the hostage, it is the criminal and not the policeman who is guilty of murder. So too with Hamas: when it uses human shields and the Israeli military fires back and kills some of the shields, it is Hamas who is responsible for their deaths.
The third moral question is why does the United Nations try to shelter Palestinian civilians right in the middle of the areas from which Hamas is firing? Hamas has decided not to use the less densely populated areas for rocket firing and tunnel digging. For that reason, the United Nations should use these sparsely populated areas as places of refuge. Since the Gaza Strip is relatively small, it would not be difficult to move civilians to these safer areas. They should declare these areas battle free and build temporary shelters—tents if necessary—as places of asylum for the residents of the crowded cities. It should prevent any Hamas fighters, any rockets and any tunnel builders from entering into these sanctuaries. In that way, Hamas would be denied the use of human shields and Israel would have no reason to fire its weapons anywhere near these United Nations sanctuaries. The net result would be a considerable saving of lives.
But instead the UN is playing right into the hands of Hamas, by sheltering civilians right next to Hamas fighters, Hamas weapons and Hamas tunnels. Then the United Nations and the international community accuses Israel of doing precisely what Hamas intended Israel to do: namely fire at its terrorists and kill United Nations protected civilians in the process. It's a cynical game being played by Hamas, but it wouldn't succeed without the complicity of UN agencies.
The only way to assure that Hamas' strategy of using human shields to maximize civilian casualties is not repeated over and over again is for the international community, and especially the United Nations, not to encourage and facilitate it, as it currently does. International law must be enforced against Hamas for its double war crime: using civilian human shields to fire at civilian Israeli targets. If this tactic were to be brought to a halt, then Israel would have no need to respond in self-defense. Applying the laws of war to Israel alone will do no good, because any country faced with rockets and tunnels targeting its civilians will fight back. When the fighters and tunnel builders hide behind human shields, there will inevitably be civilian casualties—unintended by Israel, intended by Hamas—regardless of how careful the defenders are. Israel has tried its hardest to minimize civilian casualties. Hamas has tried its hardest to maximize civilian casualties. Now the United Nations and the international community must try their hardest to become part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
Alan Dershowitz's latest book is "Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law".
Reader comments on this item
|The Guardian [64 words]||Samuel Barsam||Aug 19, 2014 16:09|
|After looking on google earth [19 words]||Gabriele Frank||Aug 11, 2014 18:20|
|crucial information [108 words]||Rochelle Megerman||Aug 11, 2014 15:26|
|answer to comment "land" by Ann Stacy [127 words]||Angela Wine||Aug 11, 2014 12:27|
|Gazas lack of resources for production other than hungry mouths spells disaster. [150 words]||Alaister Kelly||Aug 11, 2014 08:53|
|Similar to Hong Kong [56 words]||Susan Schmidt||Aug 11, 2014 08:02|
|↔ Gaza is not Hong Kong [154 words]||richardB||Aug 23, 2014 08:20|
|UNWRA is Hamas; the UN agency knows what it is doing [17 words]||Ronald Hargreave||Aug 8, 2014 05:49|
|UN--The Colloborator with Terrorist Organisations [88 words]||Dr Lawrence Prabhakar Williams||Aug 8, 2014 04:31|
|PR Win For Israel [153 words]||Steve Kritzler||Aug 7, 2014 23:00|
|The Myth of Gaza Density [575 words]||Stanley Ocken||Aug 7, 2014 21:20|
|Population density of Gaza strip [97 words]||Eero||Aug 7, 2014 18:11|
|The UN support the terrorism [29 words]||Peter Handel||Aug 7, 2014 02:40|
|The U.N. - worthless money pit [69 words]||Lorraine Fox||Aug 7, 2014 02:25|
|Brilliant observation! [19 words]||William Smith||Aug 6, 2014 19:08|
|exactly right [24 words]||Helena Levin||Aug 6, 2014 15:58|
|nowhere to go [56 words]||Moshe Akiva||Aug 6, 2014 15:36|
|Unassailable Logic [161 words]||El Cid||Aug 6, 2014 14:10|
|Hamas succesfully get Palestinians killed! [88 words]||B. Klein||Aug 6, 2014 11:49|
|Clarification of domestic law [69 words]||Dr Dave||Aug 6, 2014 11:47|
|A Way to House the Gazans. [30 words]||Lily Lindsay||Aug 6, 2014 11:27|
|An Easy Settlement [35 words]||Lily Lindsay||Aug 6, 2014 11:17|
|Alan Does it again [49 words]||Herb Burack||Aug 6, 2014 11:09|
|Well said [45 words]||Abraham Walfish||Aug 6, 2014 09:40|
|The dirty game Hamas plays [59 words]||Angela Wine||Aug 6, 2014 07:56|
|Taking a moral stance against a two faced world [117 words]||Rabbi Danny Bergson||Aug 6, 2014 06:36|
|plain, simple and brilliant! [53 words]||Robert Fried||Aug 6, 2014 05:43|
|Civilian Casualties [129 words]||Allshar||Aug 6, 2014 04:42|
|Why ? [29 words]||Sven F. Rehulka||Aug 6, 2014 03:16|
|CC to Ban Ki Moon? [24 words]||BRYAN||Aug 6, 2014 02:46|
|very good article [138 words]||Luis||Aug 6, 2014 02:28|
|"civilian" casualties [52 words]||william||Aug 6, 2014 02:12|
|Brooklyn wins. [38 words]||Amy||Aug 6, 2014 01:49|
|Diabolical media planning. [189 words]||Russell||Aug 6, 2014 01:45|
|misrepresentations of Hamas [30 words]||Mike||Aug 6, 2014 01:15|
|I wished that the papers would have seen this [40 words]||wilhelmus noordanus||Aug 6, 2014 00:53|
|a question [30 words]||catherine||Aug 6, 2014 00:43|
|We all talk about where Hamas keeps their rockets and where they fire them from [115 words]||Abe Schreiber||Aug 6, 2014 00:38|
|↔ totally on target [60 words]||Rich||Aug 6, 2014 17:40|
|An Idea [75 words]||Andrew||Aug 5, 2014 22:32|
|Refugee camps... [28 words]||Gnarlodious||Aug 5, 2014 22:07|
|The empty spaces in Israel [20 words]||Roger Schmidgall||Aug 5, 2014 21:45|
|Dense [93 words]||Fred||Aug 5, 2014 21:42|
|Hamas Missile Launch Locations [20 words]||Charles||Aug 5, 2014 21:14|
|The world has turned its back on Israel. [40 words]||Irene Tunkel||Aug 5, 2014 20:57|
|The poor, innocent UN [55 words]||amy lambert||Aug 5, 2014 20:53|
|Interesting! [38 words]||Mid||Aug 5, 2014 20:36|
|This is a ridiculous argument with no credibility [86 words]||RAY HANANIA||Aug 5, 2014 19:55|
|Consistently Thoughtful Analysis and Commentary [10 words]||Neal Maslan||Aug 5, 2014 19:49|
|War crimes and proportionality [57 words]||Dr David Zuck||Aug 5, 2014 18:59|
|Hamas is intimidates western reporters [28 words]||Ilana Goldstein||Aug 5, 2014 18:31|
|Exactly Right! [165 words]||Pete Casasanto||Aug 5, 2014 17:39|
|"Atrocious, Appalling, Outrageous!" [49 words]||Victor Salkowitz||Aug 5, 2014 16:56|
|challenging UN- Hamas relationship in the world court [29 words]||rodney allsworth||Aug 5, 2014 16:55|
|Yisra'el has a responsibility to defend itself [47 words]||Aca Mika'el||Aug 5, 2014 16:54|
|unpersuasive [105 words]||Roger Higginson||Aug 5, 2014 16:22|
|land [25 words]||Clem Alford||Aug 5, 2014 16:21|
|There are no adults left on the world stage [367 words]||Dean||Aug 5, 2014 16:09|
|UNRWA is to blame [222 words]||ANN STACY||Aug 5, 2014 16:08|
|No intention of solving the problem [113 words]||David Polovin||Aug 5, 2014 15:48|
|Terrorists did not sign the "Articles of War" [59 words]||Russell Thomas||Aug 5, 2014 15:40|
Comment on this item
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