War Crimes, Human Shields, and the Real Bad Guys in Gaza

Don't blame Israel for doing what anyone put in its position by Hamas would do, writes Marty Nemko.

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Marty Nemko is producer & host of Work with Marty Nemko on KALW-FM, a National Public Radio affiliate in San Francisco.

Imagine that the head of the neighborhood adjacent to your own hated your neighborhood so much that its charter said that its goal is to destroy your neighborhood.

To that end, over the last year, the mayor of that neighborhood had his police force fire ever more bombs into your neighborhood.

One bomb has already destroyed your neighbor's house, injuring one of your child's friends. From her bedroom, your terrified daughter can hear the bombs exploding.

To help prevent your neighborhood from retaliating, the head of the adjacent neighborhood placed bomb launchers and gunmen near your neighborhood's schools and in densely populated residential areas so that those civilians could serve as human shields for its bombers.

That neighborhood's police force has now fired over 8,000 rocket bombs at your neighborhood and warns that even stronger bombs will soon be fired.

Let's say you were the head of your neighborhood. What would YOU do?

Wouldn't you try to dismantle those terrorist cells even if innocent civilians were killed? Even if some innocent civilians were hurt, wouldn't you use white phosphorus smokescreens, which is NOT deemed a chemical weapon by the Geneva Conventions, to try to penetrate into their terrorist installations so your policemen would be less likely to be killed and more likely to disarm the bombers?

Now let's add this: To minimize civilian injury, you decided to incur the liability of tipping off the enemy to your impending attack so you could try to save their neighborhood's civilians' lives: You made hundreds of cellphone calls and E-mails to the civilians and put large speakers out in the area begging the civilians to leave.

Let's add one more thing: After dismantling the terrorist encampment, you paid for and sent over 300 trucksful of humanitarian aid to the people of the enemy's neighborhood, so much so that an independent agency said all needed food had been supplied.

Now let's say that the attacking neighborhood's director of PR and a representative of a damaged school building accused YOU(!) of war crimes because in your attempts to quash their bombing, innocent civilians were killed or injured. Remember that the adjacent neighborhood deliberately placed its attack encampments near schools and densely populated residential neighborhoods so it could use civilians, including children, as human shields, which is a clear war crime according to the Geneva Conventions. If you were a judge, which neighborhood would you judge to be the war criminal?

Of course, this is what is occurring in the Middle East, with Israel responding to the Hamas attacks launched from within residential neighborhoods, yet amazingly, some people are accusing Israel of war crimes for the response described above. I am still trying to figure out why. Is it really, ultimately, at its root anti-Semitism? I really don't know.

What I do know is that a double standard is being applied: one standard for the rest of the world, one standard for Israel. For example, America bombs Afghanistan from 30,000 feet, having done far less to protect innocent Afghanis than Israel has done to protect Gazans.

I ask you again: If your neighborhood was so attacked, would you be as measured even as Israel has been? And how would you feel if YOU and not the adjacent neighborhood were accused of war crimes?