At the end of the Second World War, many Germans who actively supported Adolf Hitler and the Nazis acted as if they actually had nothing to do with genocide inflicted on the Jews.

They pretended that Hitler and a few handfuls of Nazis had suddenly come down from Mars and had taken over the bodies and souls of ordinary, innocent and decent German people.

In his masterful book, “Hitler’s Willing Executioners,” Daniel Goldhagen destroyed that myth and proved conclusively that Hitler and the Nazis had widespread support among ordinary Germans, and that many, if not most, of them were aware of Hitler’s final solution.

This historical reality did not necessarily justify the deliberate killing of German civilians by Great Britain and the United States in Dresden and other German cities, but it made the civilian adult “victims” of these bombings somewhat less sympathetic, and it made it easier to blame their deaths on the Nazis who started the war with widespread civilian support, if not enthusiasm.

A similar mythology is already emerging around the atrocities committed by Hamas against Israeli civilians. Government officials, the media, academics, and others pretend as if there is a sharp distinction between Hamas and the ordinary decent civilians of Gaza.

How many times have you heard the claim that the adult citizens of Gaza are not in any way responsible for the horrendous crimes of Hamas? Or that Israel is imposing “collective punishment” on the innocent civilians of Gaza?

The reality is far more nuanced and complex.

As in Nazi Germany, Hamas was elected by the citizens of Gaza in the last election, in 2006. Today, they would likely still be reelected by an overwhelming majority.

Indeed, support for Hamas has increased dramatically since the massacres of Oct. 7, which were wildly cheered by many civilians.

Recall the recording of the young terrorist who bragged to his father that he had just murdered 10 Jews “with my own hands,” and the proud father congratulating his mass murdering son on his holy “accomplishment.”

Is the father an innocent civilian who deserves our sympathy?

Hamas, itself, refuses to distinguish between combatants and civilians.

First, Hamas boasts that it has the widespread support of the vast majority of Gazans.

Second, it uses alleged civilians as human shields and declares them to be martyrs if they are then killed. At least some of these martyrs willingly served as shields for Hamas combatants.

Third, when the Hamas controlled health authorities release their phony statistics on deaths, they refuse to distinguish between combatants and civilians.

When they say that 11,000 Gazans have been killed, they hide the fact that many of them are either combatants or are complicit in Hamas crimes by willingly allowing their homes to be used for the storage and firing of rockets.

Hamas fully understands that the line between combatants and Gazan civilians is often an artificial one, and they use it as both a sword and a shield in the public relations war.

When Hamas deliberately attacked Israeli civilians, they knew full well that Israel would have to respond, that Hamas would use civilians as human shields, and that despite Israeli efforts to avoid civilian casualties, some Palestinians would become “collateral” damage — that is, be killed or wounded when Israel took military action necessary to prevent a recurrence of the massacres of Oct. 7.

Hamas is thus responsible — morally, legally, and politically — for the civilian deaths that were the predictable and indeed intended result of the Oct. 7 attack.

These civilian deaths were intended to shift the focus away from the Hamas barbarities and toward the collateral damage resulting from Israeli self-defense measures.

The adult civilians of Gaza who encouraged, supported, rewarded and cheered on the massacres of Israelis also bear some moral and political, if not strictly legal, responsibility.

This leaves the children.

It must first be determined what constitutes a “child” in the enumeration of Hamas?

That depends of course on the way children are used.

When it comes to recruiting child soldiers, Hamas considers 13, 14- and 15-year-olds as sufficiently mature to become terrorists.

But when it comes to publishing inflated figures about the dead, suddenly every 17-and-a-half-year-old mass murdering terrorist is counted among the poor “children” mercilessly killed by the bloodthirsty Israelis.

Also, every mass murdering woman, regardless of age, is separately listed, as if that suggest that their sex automatically makes them innocent civilians.

And the media and others willingly fall for these cynical bait-and-switches.

Let the Hamas authorities at least separate the terrorist combatants — including women and children — from the total numbers allegedly killed.

They should also separate out the Gazans who were killed by errant terrorist rockets, as well as civilians who were killed by Hamas trying to go south pursuant to Israeli safety instructions.

It is highly likely that a list of purely innocent civilians who deserve our sympathy —babies, very young children, non-supporters of Hamas — would be a fraction of the inflated numbers uncritically and often provocatively regurgitated by the media.

Alan M. Dershowitz on November 24, 2023

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