HRW concluded that "eyewitness accounts, tank tracks, an ammunition box and bullet casings found at the scene, and an examination of the grandmother by forensic experts indicate that an Israeli soldier fired upon identifiable and unarmed women and children."Let's assume (for the moment) that the entire report is true and that IDF soldiers did fire on a group of civilians waving white flags, just another example of Palestinians suffering for the sin of living in an active and violent war zone. The question remains: Who is to blame? Whose fault is it really?
An even better (and related) question is: What does a white flag mean in Gaza? What would you have done if you were one of those soldiers? This story only carries moral weight if a white flag carries significance. But sadly, in Gaza, white flags could very well mean absolutely nothing.
Hamas' willingness to enmesh itself within the civilian population of Gaza has already been well documented. Hamas terrorists have operated in homes, schools and hospitals, giving absolutely no consideration to the safety and well-being of the civilians living in the area. Hamas has repeatedly used ambulances and other supposedly "neutral" vehicles to transport arms, bombs and terrorists. Firing rockets and mortars from backyards and school playgrounds is a favorite Hamas tactic, generating a response, and if all goes "well", causes civilian injury and death that's picked up and condemned by the international press.
Given this total disregard for it's own people, how can an Israeli soldier possibly know whether the civilian waving the white flag does in fact represent no real threat, or if that person - man, woman or child - is waving the flag in the hope of luring an unsuspecting soldier just close enough to shoot, blow up or capture?
The shooting of anyone represents a tragedy, much less someone carrying a white flag. But if IDF soldiers shot civilians waving white flags, the blame falls squarely on the Hamas tactics that made every civilian a potential threat.
In fact, this very investigation represents a victory for Hamas. They care less that three Palestinian children were killed than the fact that Human Rights Watch issued a critical report on Israel. To them, that's a sacrifice they're willing to make.
But I'm not. I'd rather our soldiers - our sons, brothers and fathers - remain careful and cautious, and not jeopardize their own lives. If Hamas wants to play with the lives of its own civilians, that's a tragedy. But Israel cannot allow their hideous tactics to force us to take the same risks with our children as well.