7. John Cook, Gawker


While Israel takes extraordinary efforts to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza – as evidenced by the low number of Palestinians killed in more than a thousand Israeli airstrikes – no effort will be good enough for some of Israel’s critics.

Internet magazine Gawker, which is usually more concerned with salacious details about the lives of celebrities, waded into deeper waters by claiming the term “human shields” was no longer appropriate in the conflict because Israel did not hold back from killing them.

The concept of a human shield is simple: In lieu of an actual shield, or other defensive resource, a combatant protects his positions by relying on his enemy’s reluctance to kill noncombatants. “You can kill me if you like, but you will also kill this child, which your moral and legal precepts prevent.” The attacking party, faced with a choice between killing civilians and tolerating the persistence of a legitimate military target, chooses not to strike. The target is thereby shielded from attack. (Hamas’ utter lack of moral and legal precepts with respect to civilian casualties renders such a choice moot for them.)

This arrangement breaks down when the attacking party decides to go ahead and kill noncombatants anyway. The “shield” element fails. Which is why Netanyahu’s use of the term “human shield” is imprecise. You don’t get to call them shields after you’ve decided to kill them.

Despite all evidence, Cook promotes the ridiculous idea that Israel “decided” to kill civilians rather than working hard to minimize it at every turn. In addition, his snappy scenario ignores the fact that using civilians as human shields is forbidden under the laws of war.

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