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Protecting Civilians in Gaza

My (unpublished) letter to The New York Times regarding the criticism of Israel’s announcement that civilians should evacuate northern Gaza.  I have also sent variants of it to every columnist and guest editorialist for whom I could find a valid e-mail address and who had opined on the issue of the coming “tragedy” or “travesty” (depending on their perspective) in Gaza.

Note:  The Times asks that you give them up to a week to consider publication of a letter.  On many slow-moving topics, I would wait before posting here.  In this case, events have moved on: I don’t expect any letters on this particular aspect of events to make their way into the paper now.

14 October 2023

Israel has been roundly condemned for their warning to the civilians of Northern Gaza that they should evacuate. As reported:

Israel’s demand that more than one million people leave their homes in northern Gaza, when they have nowhere to go, could constitute the war crime of forced removal, according to Jan Egeland, the much respected secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council. There are fears that Israel will treat all those who are unable to flee as combatants to be wiped out.

Yes, the timeline is unrealistically short.  Yes, the logistics to support a mass refugee migration to the south don’t exist.

But, given that the densely populated metropolis in Northern Gaza is where Hamas chooses to make its military stand, it’s not clear what the realistic (as opposed to fantastical) alternatives are.  Israel will attack Northern Gaza because that’s where Hamas’ soldiers and their bases are.


What if Israel’s warning had come with another option?  What if they had said:

We recommend civilians in Northern Gaza evacuate.

OR, as an alternative…

We request that the military units of Hamas do the honorable and civilized thing  — evacuate Northern Gaza, and clear it of all military facilities and supplies, so that they are no longer using their civilians as human shields.

It is doubtful it would have made any difference in the end — Hamas’ use of civilians as shields appears to be an inherent part of their strategy; it seems wholly unlikely that they would give that up.

But, it is important to remind people of something fundamental: the reason the civilians of Gaza are in danger is specifically because their own government’s military uses them in that way.

That should be obvious.  Alas, to far too many people in the Arab world and on the self-described Western “Progressive” far left, it appears that it is not.

Hamas could spare their own civilians all the upcoming misery by doing the honorable and civilized thing.

That they won’t do so should make the distinction between them and the Israelis clear.


© Copyright 2023, Augustus P. Lowell


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