Gaza: Hamas' horrific game

John Kane-Berman says killings were engineered to erode Israel's legitimacy

Giving the game away, along with children's lives

Writing last month in The Star, a Johannesburg daily, "a child rights activist in Palestine" by the name of Nasser Alayasa said that the Israeli army and its snipers had indiscriminately killed eight children at the fence separating Israel from the Gaza Strip since the middle of May. Tragic deaths, of course. The youngest child, Laila al-Ghandour, supposedly died from "heavy teargas"– at the age of eight months.  

But the question is: were these children deployed in order for somebody to be able to claim that Israel had committed a crime by killing them?

According to Alayasa, "thousands" of male and female children participated in the "peaceful protest" launched when the US marked the shifting of its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. "Tens of thousands of Palestinians tried to cross the fence and threw stones and molotov cocktails at Israeli forces and torched hundreds of tyres."

The protesters "reached the separation fence carrying water, food, baby milk, and toys, and set up a camp waiting for their mass return. Some of the children were convinced that the day of May 14 could have been the real and actual day of return. We heard their cries as they said they crossed, when some young people managed to get past the fence."

Alayasa then has this to say: "I don't think we need to look into the details: how the children participated and who sent them or instigated them and how they got there. Should they be excluded and prevented from participating in activities that could pose a threat to them? Discussing that is just a waste of time and away from the main focus, which is the need for the international community to take urgent measures to hold the perpetrators of crimes against children accountable and arrest them."

Alayasa continues: "What we saw on the media and on social media was shocking: soldiers having fun aiming and killing unarmed people. They chose to kill children and to aim at them while not being exposed to any danger at all."

If true, shocking indeed. But another question arises: was that the media outcome for which some of those who instigated the protest had been hoping? Did the headline over the photograph of the dead eight-month-old in a British newspaper – "Mother's agony as baby dies in Gaza gas horror" – horrify, or did it delight, some of the organisers of the protest activity near the fence?

The South African government condemned "violent aggression" by Israel against the "peaceful protest". Peaceful it was not. Organisers called on participants to bring concealed weapons and to breach the fence. Firebombs and rocks were thrown. Stones were hurled from slingshots. Flaming kites were sent across the fence to ignite fires on farms. Burning tyres were rolled into the fence. Attempts were made to breach the fence in various places, some of them by gunmen. The Palestinian organisation Hamas claimed that 50 of the people killed were its operatives.

Those familiar with the strategy of bringing about a "people's war" in South Africa will recognise similarities between that period in our history and some of what is taking place between Israel and Hamas. The African National Congress and its allies in the South African Communist Party and Umkhonto we Sizwe knew that they had no chance of overcoming the National Party government's security forces. But they could provoke violence in the expectation that it would provoke excessive counter violence, which would then be portrayed in the media as the slaughter of innocent protesters. Hamas is using a similar strategy.

The name of the game is armed propaganda. The purpose is to destroy the legitimacy of the state of Israel, with the help of allies in the media, the usual suspects at the United Nations, and various governments ranging from the gullible through the cynical to the malevolent. If a few kids get killed along the way, well, best not to "waste time" asking questions about how they got involved.

John Kane-Berman is a policy fellow at the IRR, a think tank that promotes political and economic freedom. If you support what we stand for and would like to see more of our writing in the media, join us here.