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David Matas

David Matas: Helping the Palestinians

by David Matas, posted Sept 3, 2014




How can we put an end to the deaths and injuries of innocent Palestinian civilians in Gaza?  Outsiders may think that there is not much to be done, that those on the battlefield will determine the result. Yet, that view is mistaken. It ignores the arena in which the battle is being fought, the arena of global public opinion.


Anti-Zionists have now held Palestinians civilians captive for generations, using Palestinians as human pawns in the anti-Zionist deadly game of ending the existence of the Jewish state. Of all the anti-Zionist factions, Hamas with its rabid, violent, antisemitic agenda, has been one of the worst.  Hamas acolytes would rather die than see Jews in Israel live.  Anyone who thinks that this description of Hamas is an exaggeration should read their charter, which can be found easily on the internet.


Hamas was legitimately elected in 2006 by the people of the West Bank. One has to cringe at the choice the electorate in 2006 were offered, between the corrupt and the crazy.  The temptation to which the electorate in Gaza succumbed in 2006 was to throw out the bums, the corrupt then in power, Fatah, and hope the alternative was not as crazy as it sounded.


However, that turned out to be far from the case.  Hamas in power had as its primary objective ending the existence the Jewish state. It used the power base it had acquired through elections to pursue that goal.  Endless money and human effort, instead of improving the lot of the Palestinian people, was poured into the acquisition of missiles and the building of tunnels. 


We are now seeing the second Gaza war since Hamas came to power.  The first dated from late 2008 and early 2009.   Both then and now, once the military build up Hamas engineered was great enough, Hamas attacked, using Palestinian civilians as shields. 


Schools, mosques, residences and hospitals became missile storage silos and launching pads of choice.  Hamas studiously avoided any insignia which would distinguish combatants from non-combatants.  When Israel, to minimize casualties, warned civilians of an attack on a military objective, Hamas did everything within their power so that civilians would remain and suffer. 


Though the extensive array of Hamas tunnels can be used as bomb shelters, civilians can not access them.  The tunnels are reserved for Hamas to infiltrate Israel and commit terror and to smuggle.  Concrete is in short supply for the building of housing in Gaza because the concrete is diverted to the building of tunnels.


What is the advantage Hamas anticipates from using civilians as shields, from blending into the civilian population?  The answer is propaganda to demonize Israel, justifying its destruction.  The aim of Hamas is not to kill and injure the civilians under its control for its own sake, but rather engineer their deaths and injuries in such a way that Hamas can generate propaganda that Israel is to blame.  Hamas attacks Israel and then, when Israel responds, puts innocent Palestinian civilians in harm’s way in order to blame Israel for their deaths and injuries.


That tactic worked for Hamas marvellously in the first Gaza war. The United Nations Human Rights Council appointed a commission of inquiry into Israel behaviour in the first Gaza war headed by the South African judge Richard Goldstone. That Commission report was a cut and paste job of one sided NGO criticisms of Israel, including that of Al Mezan, which operates in Gaza under the thumb of Hamas.


Goldstone belatedly rejected his own report, once he had the time himself to sift through the data.  But, by then, it was too late.  The damage was done, not just by framing the conventional narrative about who was to blame for what happened then, but also by giving Hamas the incentive, once it replenished its missiles and rebuilt its tunnels, to do it again.


How do we counter that Hamas effort and do something to help the Palestinians? The answer is, do not fall for the Hamas propaganda game.  See and call the situation for what it really is.  We should learn from the experience of Richard Goldstone and not be fooled twice. 


Those who fall for the Hamas ploy and blame Israel for the Palestinian deaths and injuries join Hamas in victimizing the Palestinians.  If and when Hamas sees that its attempt to blame Israel for the Palestinian civilian deaths and injuries wins no converts and instead brings blame only to Hamas, then the incentive Hamas has for victimizing the civilians under its control will disappear. That is the best hope we have, as outsiders, to stop the Hamas manufacturing of martyrs and to protect innocent Palestinians.


David Matas is an international human rights lawyer based in Winnipeg, senior honorary counsel to B'nai Brith Canada and the author of Aftershock: Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism, published by Dundurn Press.

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