The recent report by NDTV on the functioning of Hamas has broached a worldwide debate that is slowly shifting the blame for civilian deaths caused by the Israeli offensive on to Hamas.
The ongoing conflict, currently in its brief period of peace, if one can call it that, has witnessed the death of over 1800 Palestinians, mostly children, and over 60 Israelis. On their part, Israel has maintained that the onus of the death of innocent Palestinians lies with Hamas, that the Islamist group uses civilians as human shields, provoking war crimes.
The NDTV report substantiates this claim as the video shows alleged Hamas militants setting up a rocket launch just outside the reporter's hotel. The preparation of an attack in an area that is obviously residential, showed Hamas' disregard for collateral damage. Another footage shot later by the crew, shows smoke from an apparent rocket launch.
Changing debates: Who is responsible for the civilian death?
The discourse has shifted in defence of Israel’s actions, highlighting that the unethical nature of means employed by Hamas could be reason enough to bomb civilian locations in Gaza. The video has become a new piece of evidence in the ongoing debate over the innocent lives that the violence has claimed in the last month.
It has revealed Hamas’s conspicuous disregard for the safety of the very Palestinians they claim to be fighting for. Although Hamas has never been identified to be just, criticism of the latest spate of violence in the conflict that has been going on for decades, has mostly been directed towards Israel.
Israel’s bombing of UN schools that were doubling as shelters has earned them ire of the international body. And while there are no particular sympathies with the Hamas, the blame has largely been placed on Israel of the disregard of innocent lives.
In an opinion piece published in the New York Times, Thomas L Friedman made note of Hamas’ three-pillar strategy towards Israel. One, specifically among others, pointed to how the group nests Hamas fighters and rocket launchers among the densely packed Gazan population, forcing “Israel into a war where it can only defeat or deter Hamas if it risks war-crimes charges”. And as it was intended, Palestinians and its sympathisers have accused the Israel of war crimes. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, earlier this week, had said there was "clear evidence" of war crimes by Israel during its offensive in Gaza and he even met the International Criminal Court prosecutors on Tuesday to push for an investigation.
Similarly, many of those who formerly took a highly critical stand on Israel’s offensive are rethinking their stand, basing their arguments on what the video reveals.
Needless to say, Israel's IDF and its sympathisers have taken this opportunity to justify their much criticised actions, including the repeated bombing of UN schools that were providing shelter to innocent Palestinians.
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) August 5, 2014
Ironically though, the crew behind the video report do not echo the same sentiment. The reporter Sreenivasan Jain states, “Just as we reported the devastating consequences of Israel's offensive on Gaza's civilians, it is equally important to report on how Hamas places those very civilians at risk by firing rockets deep from the heart of civilian zones.”
Jain extends the same unbaised approach on Twitter, saying, “In Gaza, we reported what we saw - Hamas assembling rocket or terrible toll on Gaza's children. No spin, no agendas. Lets keep it that way.”
In Gaza, we reported what we saw - Hamas assembling rocket or terrible toll on Gaza's children. No spin, no agendas. Lets keep it that way.
— Sreenivasan Jain (@SreenivasanJain) August 5, 2014
While Niha Masih, another NDTV team member pointed out, “For those gtng gleeful by Hamas rocket video pls rmbr Israel has killed more than 1800 civilians in #Gaza - any othr place it wd be genocide.”
For those gtng gleeful by Hamas rocket video pls rmbr Israel has killed more than 1800 civilians in #Gaza - any othr place it wd be genocide
— Niha Masih (@NihaMasih) August 5, 2014
Burden of guilt?
While the NDTV video seems to reveal Hamas’ hypocrisy for what it is, it may perhaps be too soon to wash the blame of the death of many innocent off Israel’s hands. If anything, the report only goes to show that there needs to be a shared responsibility between both the warring sides. However, the turn of the debates that followed also hint at perhaps how neither of the sides carry the burden of guilt over the many lives lost.
Friedman concluded his NYT opinion piece with a wise word to Israel, “This is crunchtime,” he says. “Either Arab and Israeli moderates collaborate and fight together, or the zealots really are going to take over this neighborhood.”