Stories from Afar & Up Close

On 'human shields' and inhumanity in Gaza

It's the third time in six years that Israel launches a war on Gaza. Can you imagine that? If you were a Palestinian child born in Gaza 6 years ago, you would now have lived through three wars (provided you survived all of them). It's also the third time in six years that the Israelis pull out their tried-and-trusted-'Hamas-hides-behind-the-people-and-uses-them-as-human-shields-therefor we are allowed to bomb anyone and anything,'-rhetoric,  and I'm getting really, really tired of it. I previously posted the below text on facebook, but decided to share it here, too.

So let's talk about those so-called 'human shields', shall we?

[First, to get this out of the way: if you lock up people on a small strip of land, it's kind of naive to expect them to separate into different zones - one for fighters and one for civilians. Obviously they are sharing the same, small, physical space, so stop pretending you can hit one without hitting the other or even that it's their own fault if one gets hit while you were supposedly aiming for the other. Thanks.]

Second, and much more importantly: there is no such thing as a Palestinian human shield. Why not? Because the very rhetoric about human shields dehumanizes ALL Palestinians, whether they are fighting with Hamas or not. Here's how that works:

1) Saying Hamas uses 'human shields' (rather than, for example, 'civilian shields') implies that once you are Hamas, you are no longer human. Therefore, any Palestinian who picks up arms to fight the occupation is no longer seen as human.

2) If, as a Palestinian, you resist the occupation in other, possibly non-violent ways (and it seems that 'being physically present in Gaza' already counts as such), the very rhetoric of being used as a human shield strips you of the very thing that makes you human: agency. It means your presence is not the result of your own convictions, no, you are merely a puppet in the hands of the terrorists. And puppets, as we all know, are not human.

Simple, right? Two birds, one stone; they're either violent terrorists or passive weaklings used by terrorists. Neither is human, neither deserve that we care about their life.

Oh, and let's not forget that the first ones are usually men and the second usually women, meaning that as an added bonus this rhetoric reduces the resistance of Palestinian women in its many shapes and forms to zero. Ugh.