Human shields to useful corpses?

Andrew L. Urban

“I read the news today…oh boy” John Lennon’s lyrics begin (A Day in the Life). The news said: “The Ministry of Health in Ramallah says more than 10,000 Palestinians have died in the military campaign launched in response by Israel.” The Ministry of Health, probably better described as the Ministry of Death, is run by Hamas.

Considering that Hamas uses civilians in Gaza as human shields with callous disregard for their lives, how can we trust their reports of civilian deaths? How can we be sure that human shields do not become useful corpses in the propaganda war against Israel? How can we know civilian corpses are not ‘made’ – or made up – by Hamas? It would be dead easy, as it were, and useful. If you think that is too vile to contemplate, you haven’t caught all the news about Hamas and their slaughter spree in Israel on October 7.

And how many dead Hamas fighters are included in that 10,000?

The propaganda war is as important to Hamas as the rocket war. Reducing international opinion and moral support for Israel can weaken Israel’s resolve, which in turn helps Hamas. That’s hardly a novel concept.

The process of demonising Israel began on October 8; marches of ill-informed or ill-intentioned protestors (a respectable word mis-used) are now daily drums of distaste, anger turned against Israel and the governments that support the only democracy in the Middle East. For example, ‘Genocide Joe has got to go’ in the US and ‘Blood on your hands Albo’ in Australia … But nothing about the 240-or so hostages held by Hamas. Or about the despicable tearing down of posters remembering those hostages. Talk about selective morality.

I am aghast at the number of Nazi supporters that have crawled out of the sewer, inflating the number of Palestinian agitators jumping on the antisemitic bandwagon that goes unimpeded in our democracy. They wave Palestinian flags to hide the swastika in their back pockets. Real hate speech fouls the airwaves.

The greater the number of Gazan civilians killed (as claimed by Hamas), goes the Hamas thinking, the more intense the pressure will grow. The aim is to delegitimise Israel’s self defensive response, to weaken the morale of the country and its defence force, and to prompt sympathy for all Palestinians around the world.

All this is obvious to anyone observing the conflict. Perhaps no political leader feels free to suggest this scenario, partly because it cannot be independently verified, partly because it is inflammatory. But it’s hard to argue it isn’t a distinct possibility; an organisation that readily sacrifices its own people, as its spokesmen have repeatedly stated, is fully capable of just such acts.

It is, I argue, foolish to use claims of civilian deaths in Gaza as any yardstick. Body bags are an unreliable measure. Focusing on civilian deaths also raises the question of definitions: given that there is no uniformed, sovereign Gazan army, what is the definition of ‘civilian’? Some Palestinians like to call Hamas freedom fighters; they mingle with the population and use guerrilla tactics. They behave like ‘civilians’.

Yes, or course, the loss of human lives in Gaza is shocking and tragic; but as I’ve argued here (‘It’s the mens rea, stupid!’), the crucial moral question is what is intended? Hamas declared its intent, to annihilate all Jews. Israel declared its intent, to annihilate Hamas – and alerted civilians (or non-combatants, if you like) to evacuate to safe places. Hamas did nothing to help the Gazan population, saying “It’s not our job to keep them safe…”








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