The Hamas “dead baby” strategy - to cause as many civilian casualties as possible by firing its deadly rockets from schools and densely populated areas - is producing understandable outrage around the world. What is not understandable is why the outrage is directed against Israel, which is a victim of this strategy, rather than against Hamas, which is its perpetrator. Hamas knew exactly what it was doing when it fired more than 6,000 rockets at Israeli kindergartens, elementary schools and playgrounds from behind its own children. It was playing Russian roulette with the lives of Israeli children in order to provoke a defensive response from Israel.
Hamas knew that Israel, like any democracy, would have to take whatever military action was necessary to stop the rockets. As Barack Obama put it when he visited Sderot, a town that had been victimized by more than 1,000 rockets and several deaths: “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.” Hamas also knew that Israel could not stop the rockets aimed at its children without accidentally killing some Palestinian children because Hamas was using Palestinian children as human shields for its rockets. Despite its best efforts to avoid killing civilians - Israel gains nothing from such “collateral damage” and loses much-Israeli missiles have killed dozens of innocent children who were deliberately placed in harm’s way by Hamas terrorists.
Hamas also knew that the media would show the dead Palestinian children around the world and cause outrage to be directed against Israel for causing their deaths. Indeed, it had its camera crews out and ready to film and transmit every gruesome image of every dead Palestinian child. Well not quite every Palestinian child! When a Hamas rocket aimed at Israeli children misfired and killed two Palestinian children, Hamas censored all images of these dead Palestinian children, because they were killed directly by Hamas rockets rather than indirectly by Hamas using them as human shields. That is the way Hamas manipulates the media coverage of its gruesome “dead baby” strategy.
The media, of course, serves as Hamas’ facilitator. I am not suggesting that the media not show these horrible images, but rather that they should present them with a critical perspective, indicating the actual cause and the real culprit - namely Hamas and its cynical double war crime strategy of targeting Israeli children and hiding behind Palestinian children. A cartoon that is making its way around the internet does a better job of explaining the Hamas strategy than any photograph or video. It shows an Israeli soldier and a Hamas terrorist shooting at each other. The Israeli soldier is standing in front of a baby carriage, protecting the baby. The Hamas terrorist is firing from behind a baby carriage, using the baby as a shield. That is the reality.
The international community - most especially the United Nations, which has done nothing about genocides committed by Muslims - is accusing Israel of “war crimes” for defending its civilians against Hamas war crimes. This too is part of the Hamas strategy which the United Nations facilitates.
If the media and the international community continue to play into the dirty hands of Hamas terrorists, its terrorism will continue and spread. Why not? It’s a win-win strategy for terrorists and a lose-lose strategy for democracies. Hamas knows that by attacking Israeli civilians, they can secure one of two results: Israel will do nothing and Hamas will succeed in killing Israeli children; or Israel will respond and inevitably kill some Palestinian children, thereby provoking the ire of the media, the international community and ultimately decent people all around the world who are revolted by the cynically manipulated images of dead children.
The Hamas strategy may now be spreading to Lebanon where twice in several days, rockets have targeted Israeli civilian areas. Hezbollah, which denies responsibility for these rockets, actually originated this strategy in the summer of 2006, when it provoked Israel into trying to defend its citizens and its kidnapped soldiers. Other nations in the world are susceptible to similar strategies, as the United States learned, when it went after the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and discovered that they too use civilians as human shields.
Unless this “dead baby” strategy is exposed and rejected in the marketplace of morality, it’s coming to a theater (or school or hospital) near you.
Alan M. Dershowitz is a professor of law at Harvard.