The immoral Hamas movement in Gaza

Alan Dershowitz:

ISRAEL's actions in Gaza are justified under international law, and Israel should be commended for its self-defence against terrorism. Article 51 of the United Nations Charter reserves to every nation the right to engage in self-defence against armed attacks. The only limitation international law places on a democracy is that its actions must satisfy the principle of proportionality.

Since Israel ended its occupation of Gaza, Hamas has fired thousands of rockets designed to kill civilians into southern Israel. The residents of Sderot - who have borne the brunt of the attacks - have approximately 15 seconds from launch time to run into a shelter. Although deliberately targeting civilians is a war crime, terrorists firing at Sderot are so proud of their actions that they sign theirweapons.

When Barack Obama visited Sderot last year and saw the remnants of these rockets, he reacted by saying that if his two daughters were exposed to rocket attacks in their home, he would do everything in his power to stop such attacks. He understands how the terrorists exploit the morality ofdemocracies.

In a recent incident related to me by the former head of the Israeli air force, Israeli intelligence learned that a family's house in Gaza was being used to manufacture rockets. The Israeli military gave the residents 30 minutes to leave. Instead, the owner called Hamas, which sent mothers carrying babies to the house.

Hamas knew Israel would never fire at a home with civilians in it. They also knew that if Israeli authorities did not learn there were civilians in the house and fired on it, Hamas would win a public relations victory by displaying the dead. Israel held its fire. The Hamas rockets that were protected by the human shields were then used against Israeli civilians.

These despicable tactics - targeting Israeli civilians while hiding behind Palestinian civilians - can only work against moral democracies that care deeply about minimising civilian casualties. They never work against amoral nations such as Russia, whose military has few inhibitions against killing civilians among whom enemy combatants are hiding.

The claim that Israel has violated the principle of proportionality - by killing more Hamas terrorists than the number of Israeli civilians killed by Hamas rockets - is absurd. First, there is no legal equivalence between the deliberate killing of innocent civilians and the deliberate killings of Hamas combatants. Under the laws of war, any number of combatants can be killed to prevent the killing of even one innocent civilian.

Second, proportionality is not measured by the number of civilians actually killed, but rather by the risk posed. This is illustrated by what happened on Tuesday, when a Hamas rocket hit a kindergarten in Beersheba, though no students were there at the time. Under international law, Israel is not required to allow Hamas to play Russian roulette with its children's lives.


The immorality of the Hamas movement is again on display for those who care to see it. They are most interested in civilian casualties on both sides. Their backers wave off Hamas's immorality and call the casualties imposed on Hams a "massacre." This perverse moral inversion is getting harder to hide, but those who hear only what they want to hear still have sway among Muslim religious bigots and some liberals. This intellectual dishonesty is getting harder to carry.

Hamas commits two war crimes. It deliberately targets noncombatants, and it uses its own non combatants as human shields. The world should condemn this activity and call them the war crimes they are.

Update: I don't accept the premise in the comment below, but even if accepted it would not overcome the immorality of Hamas's conduct in this war. Melanie Phillips has more on the moral failings of Hamas.


  1. So you're saying that it's OK for Israel to illegally occupy the West Bank and East Jerusalem, even though International edicts have told them to leave?

    It's OK for Israel to not acknowledge the democratically elected Palestinian government of Hamas, which was chosen by a 2:1 vote over Fatah, a corrupt and inefficient organization that is political instead of cultural?

    Hamas spends 90% of its money on aid and charity. This was said by a famous Jewish scholar, Reuvan Paz. 90%! This is why they were elected. Hamas wants Israel out of Palestine as defined by INTERNATIONAL edict.

    Sorry, Hamas looks to be doing what they need to do: get the elect involved in defense. If Israel wants to drop bombs on women and children, they will.

    If Cuba occupied Florida, and decided to drop bombs on Florida, I would have no problem with Florida civilians defending their homes with their lives, if needed.


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