A few weeks ago, Tom Hurndall, a self-styled British “peace activist” was critically wounded in the southern Gaza strip while trying to impede Israeli army actions. Before arriving in Israel, he had been volunteering as a “human shield” in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, “intending to protect Iraqis against U.S. attack,” as one report put it. Earlier, another “human shield,” Rachel Corrie, was accidentally killed in the Gaza strip — an area where Israeli soldiers (no older than Mr. Hurndall and Corrie) are daily risking their lives fighting terrorism. Corrie had also been photographed burning an American flag in front of a group of Palestinians.
As already mentioned, Mr. Hurndall, before coming to Israel, had been a “human shield” in Iraq — one of many who went there — only to scuttle off as soon as the shooting started (one of them, it may be remembered, was a German beauty queen who had been ensnared by the masculine charms of Saddam’s murderous son Udai). Not to be outdone, other “human shields,” mostly from France, but also from other countries, not long ago positioned themselves around Yasser Arafat’s bunker in Ramallah.
Mr. Hurndall and Corrie belonged to a terrorist front organization calling itself ISM, short for International Solidarity Movement, which last March was suspected of giving shelter in Jenin to a senior commander of Islamic Jihad, an organization on the U.S. terrorist list. More recently, the two suicide-bombers involved in the attack on a Tel-Aviv pub near the American Embassy on April 30 had spent time meeting with ISM functionaries in the Gaza strip, though the organization denies any connection to the two terrorists, saying that they had “merely shared tea” with some of ISM’s members. However, according to some reports, the possibility that the terrorists had received more than just tea cannot entirely be ruled out.
One may assume that not a few of the volunteers who have joined ISM, wandering around eyeless and mindless in Gaza and other places, honestly believe that they are doing something for peace and humanity — just as in the more distant past, not all of those joining the various communist front organizations, e.g. the World Student Movement, Professors for Peace, etc. — realized that they were being used by one of history’s most vicious and murderous regimes. The same probably applies to the present-day activists who do not realize (or refuse to accept) that they are being used by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other brutal terror groups whose hands are stained by the blood of countless innocent victims.
What makes an apparently normal human being want to become a human shield? The phenomenon itself, though they weren’t called human shields at the time, isn’t new; with the approach of World War II, Unity Valkyrie, one of the famous English Mitford sisters, proposed to give her life, if need be, to protect Adolf Hitler; her proposed sacrifice wasn’t sufficiently appreciated and she tried to commit suicide. But perhaps only professional psychologists will be able to explain why all through history there have been people with an almost pathological urge to identify especially with the bad guys — the dictators, the terrorists, the human fiends? In the present situation there is also another side to it.
Less than 60 years after the Holocaust, the world is again faced with a rising wave of anti-Semitism, disguised as anti-Israelism or anti-Zionism, joining neo-Nazis with parts of the old and the new left, Holocaust deniers and other assorted ill weeds — all bound together by their common admiration for Palestinian terrorists (“freedom fighters”) on the one hand — and hatred of Israel, and often its very right to exist, on the other hand.
There may have been some genuine, though misguided, peace activists in Baghdad (and among the “peace demonstrators” in the various capitals of the world) — though their foremost motivation seems to be hatred of America — just as there are some real peace-activists among those who try to obstruct the activities of the young soldiers who daily risk their lives in trying to defend the state of Israel and its citizens — and quite possibly Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall belonged to them. Any decent human being must grieve over the futile death of innocent youngsters — be they American, European, Palestinian or Israeli. Their families surely deserve everybody’s sympathy, but it is those who goaded their children on, who callously used them for their political purposes, who must bear the blame for Rachel’s and Tom’s tragic fate.
Zalman Shoval, former Israeli ambassador to the United States, is a senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.