Why are the human rights abuses of Israel excusable, but those of Hamas condemnable?

Just days after Amnesty International released a report condemning the latest round of gross human rights abuses committed by Hamas militants, the IDF closed an investigation into the killing of four Palestinian children during last summer’s Operation Protective Edge, the latest onslaught against the Gaza Strip in what is grotesquely known as “mowing the lawn” in Israeli parlance.

In the report, AI alleges that Hamas used Operation Protective Edge to settle political scores and promote a new round of fear in the Gaza Strip, publicly executing political prisoners in front of Mosques and torturing those accused of “collaborating” with Israeli forces. This is by no means the first time Hamas has been accused of violating international law, with long-standing allegations of torture and various other chilling abuses.

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

The report has rightly been welcomed by human rights groups and humanitarian organizations, and are further proof that Hamas is not interested in the protection of Palestinians in general. Like the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and the Israeli government, Hamas repeatedly dismisses questions of morality in order to consolidate power, leaving foreign activists quite desolate in their search for some group to back.

But this report should not go beyond criticism of Hamas. While human rights groups have received the report with open arms, Zionist organizations have leapt at the chance to promote their apartheidist cause, again using Hamas to deflect criticism of Israel and its endless list of gross violations of international law. To its shame, the media has lent tacit support to an exceedingly narrow interpretation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which essentially sees the whole mess as Hamas vs. Israel, with no wiggle room nor any concern for Palestinian civilians.

Even in supposedly progressive or left-wing outlets such as the UK’s The Guardian, tacit support of Israel is frankly ubiquitous, as revealed in the language used when dealing with the two “sides”. In stories concerning Hamas, the media frequently uses words such as ‘terrorism’, while in stories about Israel the words like ‘self-defense’ crop up far too often.

In terms of their respect for human rights, Hamas and Israel are largely on par, no matter how uncomfortable that may make advocates for the Palestinian cause (I count myself among them). We anti-Zionists ought not to shy away from labelling Hamas militants as terrorists even if we support their armed struggle in theory. In practice, Hamas has zero tolerance for ethical concerns and is even willing to brutalize the people it is charged with liberating. That is too high a cost.

And yet, nor should we ignore the heinous double-standard inherent in media reporting of the conflict. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, Israel recently closed an investigation into the massacre of four Palestinian children during last year’s onslaught, with very little media coverage in the UK and the U.S. Terrorism, of course, did not enter any of the scant media reports, even though it is hard for one to imagine a crime more terroristic than the murder of children.

Ahed Atef Bakr, Islamil Mahmoud Bakr, Mohammed Ramiz Bakr, and Zakariya Atef Bakr, all aged between nine and eleven years old, were playing hide-and-seek near a fisherman’s hut on a beach in Gaza when an IDF missile killed them all, injuring a further three people with shrapnel. Israel opened an investigation after international pressure, miraculously finding itself not guilty on the basis of “secret evidence” that cannot be made public, complete with the usual finger-point at Hamas for “storing missiles” in the area. Hamas has now mastered the ability to store missiles in sand, in fields, underwater, and in fishing rods apparently. Of course, journalists and independent investigators found absolutely zero traces of weaponry in the area, meaning the only logical conclusion is that the IDF deliberately killed four innocent children in cold blood, again.

The Guardian, in a piece almost entirely composed of IDF quotes, called the missile strike a “controversial” event from last summer’s war. Controversial is one word. Unconscionable is another. Or how about utterly reprehensible. Anything but “controversial”. Controversial implies that there are two sides, that perhaps one can formulate a defense for the act. Can one formulate a defense for the deliberate killing of four children? I for one cannot. The Guardian, apparently, can.

We need not shy away from labelling Hamas militants as terrorists, no matter how frightened we are that this may damage our cause, may damage the BDS movement, or damage solidarity with Palestine. Zionists and their apologists in the media have already made up their mind: Reluctantly conceding that Hamas is flavoured with terrorism does not disrupt their ethos, but it does keep us in moral consistency. We cannot brand Israel a terrorist state while using a different set of rules for Hamas.

Our moral universality leads us to condemn the abhorrent and inexcusable actions of a rogue state like Israel, therefore we must not turn a blind eye when Hamas commits similar abuses. Unlike the media, our vested interest is with Palestinian civilians, not with unreliable self-proclaimed leaders of the cause on the ground.

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