Non-Combatants and Gaza
Thane Rosenbaum unintentionally endorses the logic of every terrorist group in history:
On some basic level, you forfeit your right to be called civilians when you freely elect members of a terrorist organization as statesmen, invite them to dinner with blood on their hands and allow them to set up shop in your living room as their base of operations. At that point you begin to look a lot more like conscripted soldiers than innocent civilians. And you have wittingly made yourself targets.
This is perverse and absolutely wrong, but it’s the sort of argument that one will end up making in order to defend a military operation that has already killed hundreds of non-combatants. Civilian deaths reportedly make up the overwhelming majority of Palestinian casualties in Gaza over the last few weeks, and these have resulted from the indiscriminate use of force in a densely populated area. More to the point, Rosenbaum’s argument is extremely similar to the justifications that terrorist groups use when they target civilians in their own attacks. It is based on the completely false assumption that there are no real innocents or bystanders in a given country because of their previous political support for a government and its policies, which supposedly makes it permissible to strike non-military targets. It is very important to reject this logic no matter where it comes from or whose cause in a conflict it is being used to advance, because this is the logic that has been used to justify countless atrocities down through the years.
Rosenbaum muddies the waters a bit by talking about civilians when he is really talking about non-combatants. Non-combatant status can be forfeited only by becoming a combatant, and that doesn’t happen by having voted for the current rulers or simply by living under their rule. Forfeiting non-combatant status requires taking up arms or directly lending aid to those that are fighting, and that doesn’t appear to apply to the civilian victims killed during the current operation at all. It may please Hamas to make use of these victims’ deaths for their own purposes, but that doesn’t absolve the Israeli government of its responsibility for causing those deaths. If Hamas benefits politically from these civilian deaths, and it seems likely that they do, it would seem obvious that Israel should not want to cause any more, and yet at each step over the last few weeks Israel’s government has responded with tactics that are guaranteed to continue killing many more non-combatants for as long as this operation continues.