Fred Maroun
A believer in peace and human dignity

What is the price of a Palestinian civilian’s life?

It depends on whom you ask.

For Hamas, Palestinian civilian lives are cheap. Hamas frequently uses Palestinian civilians as human shields as even the United Nations has recognized and as Hamas itself has admitted.

For Israel, human lives in general are highly valued, as indicated by the diligence with which it protects its civilians and soldiers, both Arabs and Jews. Israel places a particularly high value on Palestinian civilian lives because it is consistently blamed when such lives are lost in a conflict with Israel, regardless of who put those lives at risk and regardless of how hard Israel tried to spare them.

For the international community, the price of a Palestinian civilian life varies immensely depending on who can be blamed.

If Palestinians are the victims of Arabs, their lives are of negligible importance. According to Middle East Monitor, “3,613 Palestinians have been killed in Syria since the outbreak of the country’s civil war in 2011”. Palestinian civilians are also systematically abused and killed by the Palestinian groups who claim to protect them, including Hamas and Fatah. Little attention is paid by the international community to these crimes.

But if there is even a shred of likelihood that Israel could be blamed, Palestinian lives suddenly shoot up in value, resulting in urgent meetings of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and self-important declarations by world leaders condemning Israel.

The Hamas media show at the Gaza borders with Israel is a direct result of these huge discrepancies in the way Palestinian civilian lives are valued. The strategy is simple and effective: Place Palestinian civilians in mortal danger in a situation where Israel is forced to defend itself, make sure that the international media has front seats, then sit back and enjoy the rewards.

Unlike the strategy of directly attacking Israel, also used extensively by Hamas, this strategy requires no supplies of heavy weapons. A few Molotov cocktails and a few guns in the hands of terrorists placed among the civilians is enough to make the mobs a threat to Israel so that it will be forced to defend itself. And it places no risk on the lives of terrorist leaders whose offices are sometimes targeted by Israel in response to rocket fire from Gaza.

The strategy has no monetary cost to Hamas since any financial rewards to the families of the victims are expected to be more than matched by new international donations.

Best of all, the strategy’s success is guaranteed: World leaders, human rights organizations, and world bodies will blame Israel and will ignore the terrorists.

In the border incidents of March 30, the vast majority of the Palestinians dead were terrorists, which shows that the IDF took extreme care to avoid civilian casualties, especially if we believe the claims that the vast majority of marchers were civilians. This is typical of any IDF operation and should not be a surprise to anyone. When Palestinian civilians die, it is in spite of Israel’s best efforts, not because of them.

The international community claims to be concerned about Palestinian deaths and injuries, but their actions do not support that claim. If they cared, they would perform the action that is likely to reduce the number of Palestinian deaths and injuries, and that is to assign blame where it belongs. Instead, they do the exact opposite.

As long as the international community continues to value Palestinian lives only when it can find a way, no matter how far-fetched, to blame Israel, Hamas and other terrorists will continue to use Hamas’ Gaza border strategy, and to refine it and expand it, resulting in increasing numbers of Palestinian civilian deaths and injuries.

For terrorists who do not value civilian lives on either side, there is simply no downside to this strategy.

About the Author
Fred Maroun is a Canadian of Arab origin who lived in Lebanon until 1984, including during 10 years of civil war. Fred supports Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state and to defend itself. Fred supports a liberal and democratic Middle East where all religions and nationalities co-exist in peace with each other, and where human rights are respected. Fred is an atheist, a social liberal, and an advocate of equal rights for LGBT people everywhere.
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