It’s the mens rea, Stupid!

The young female journalist-cum-activist from the ABC (suffering early onset bias) was asking Amir Malmon, the Israeli Ambassador to Australia at his National Press Club address the other day, “ …we’ve heard it being said for the past two weeks, the notion that Israel has a right to defend itself. But what does that actually look like? Where is the line crossed? What number of Palestinian people killed is a satisfactory number for the Israeli government … considering there are more than 5000 including children that have been killed, where is that line drawn?”

Implicit in that Hamas-inspired question is the assumption that Israel has set out to kill Palestinian civilians in Gaza. Clearly, she is of the same mindset as the protestors who equate Palestinian deaths with Israeli deaths as a measure in their misguided belief in moral equivalence based on body count.

The moral fog surrounding this conflict, coupled with widespread anti-Israeli bias, has blinded many to even the most obvious elements of it. That moral fog breeds propaganda.

The first and most obvious element that differentiates Israel’s actions from those of Hamas, is known in the law as mens rea: intent, in short. It’s the sort of difference that separates murder from manslaughter. From intentional killing to unintentional killing. That’s simple enough to understand – unless you don’t want to.

The evidence for Israel’s mens rea is demonstrated by its various efforts to alert Palestinians in north Gaza to evacuate the area. They are not the targets. Israel has done everything in their power to advise Gaza residents, including by phone calls, texts and a massive leaflet drop. These actions back up their rhetoric that asserts their genuine intent to avoid civilian casualties. That is the mantra by which the Israel Defence Force always operates.

This is in direct contrast to the Hamas mens rea – where the objective – the intent – is to kill civilians. Jews, preferably, but Palestinians are readily sacrificed in pursuit of the objective to vilify and weaken Israel’s image, thus to dissuade international support. But preventing Gaza residents to seek safety is perhaps the most telling of the Hamas moral bankruptcy – not to mention the fatal betrayal of their fellow Palestinians.

Callous, you might think. Or worse? Complicity in mass murder? No wonder Israel accuses Hamas of war crimes.

The other obvious element that accuses Hamas of indifference to civilian deaths, in parallel with mens rea, is the visible physical difference between the the Israeli army – in uniform, easily identifiable as military and Hamas – Hamas has no uniforms, it is not an army, its members indistinguishable from other civilians in Gaza.

The footage of the atrocities committed by a proud, body-cam wearing platoon of Hamas goons, as shown to international media, is direct, bloody red handed evidence of the mens rea propelling Hamas. It’s not manslaughter, it’s murder. The scale of it makes it mass murder. The objective is genocide. It is intentional.

So it was with aggressive but transparent hypocrisy, in direct contradiction of mens rea, that Iran’s foreign minister threatened the US at the UN this week (Oct 26), warning “the American statesmen who are now managing the genocide in Palestine … if the genocide in Gaza continues, they will not be spared from this fire.”

But perhaps Henry Ergas has a point when he says (The Australian, 27 Oct) it is unfair to call this sort of talk hypocrisy: hypocrisy requires a capacity to distinguish right from wrong. He adds, “…few countries, if any, have rules of military engagement as focused on protecting civilian lives.”

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