- The Washington Times - Monday, July 29, 2002

The picture of a tiny, 2-month-old baby wrapped in a Palestinian flag needed no words. She was being carried to her funeral in Gaza. The image was enough to rend the heart not the Jewish heart or the Arab heart, the human heart. The baby had a name, Dina Mattar, although some would like to call her Collateral Damage.
Dina Mattar was only one of the innocent victims of an Israeli attack in Gaza that took out Salah Shehadeh, founder of the paramilitary wing of Hamas, a man who has been responsible for one savage act of carnage after another in Israel. The Israeli press office has been filling press releases, e-mails and dossiers about his murderous deeds, complete with the usual pictures of blown-apart buses and shattered shopping malls.
Salah Shehadeh died with the blood of hundreds on his hands. There's even an interview with the mad bomber available in which he proudly explains his pseudo-religious, pseudo-scientific method of recruiting his human bombs.
So, no, Dina Mattar was not the first child killed in this merciless war that, lest we forget, Yasser Arafat began when he chose to walk away from the peace talks at Camp David and unleash his killers even while claiming not to be a terrorist.
It should be noted that Salah Shehadeh had once been safely sealed away in an Israeli prison. Then, in compliance with the Oslo Accords, he was turned over to the Palestinian Authority, which released him soon enough. Those accords, it turns out, have been little but a naive covenant with death.
There's little doubt Salah Shehadeh needed killing, but the American-made F-16 that dropped a one-ton, laser-guided bomb on his hideout in a crowded Gaza neighborhood also killed 14 others, including nine children. The huge blast toppled not only the building he was using, but adjacent ones filled with sleeping families.
This was no pinpoint missile attack from a helicopter like the kind the Israelis have made on one terrorist leader after another on the West Bank. This was the kind of bomb ordinarily used to demolish large, empty structures like arms factories.
It's hard to see why, except through a brutal indifference or criminal ignorance, such a weapon should have been chosen for such a mission. And then to drop it on a poor, crowded neighborhood in Gaza, where construction codes have been inadequate since Samson's day . What were the Israelis thinking? That is, if they were thinking instead of just bombing away. Talk about being eyeless in Gaza.
Yes, terrorists use innocent civilians the way infantrymen use foliage: for cover. But if the Israelis choose to just blow that cover away, they will have obliterated not only the innocent but any difference between themselves and their enemies. Innocent casualties may be unavoidable in war, as Americans well know. That's all the more reason to be careful, not callous.
Like the American attack on that wedding party in Afghanistan, this was worse than a crime; it was a blunder. At least a crime may make some kind of sense. But even the assassination of a Hitler could not be worth the life of a single innocent child.
Israel is supposed to be a Jewish state which doesn't mean it's a theocracy, but that it upholds certain values. And the pre-eminent Jewish Book warns against destroying even fruit trees in time of war, let alone women and children. (Deuteronomy 20:19) Voices of conscience are already being raised in Israel, and they need to be heeded.
Nothing can restore Dina Mattar's life, or that of other innocents slaughtered in this merciless war, but Israel's honor can still be upheld by those who have been aroused by an infant's unjustifiable death.
Another censure of Israel by the lynch mob that is the U.N.'s Security Council will carry no moral weight, though one is of course in the works. Somehow the U.N. never got around to denouncing Selah Shehadah, Hamas, Hezbollah. Yasser Arafat's Fatah Brigades or any real terrorists by name and crime. Its denunciations are exercises in political cynicism. But a censure of its own commanders by Israel's parliament would be welcome. Not for the victims' sake. It is too late for them. But for Israel's.


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