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ALAN DERSHOWITZ: Corporate Media Is Eagerly Gobbling Up Hamas’ Casualty Narrative

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Alan M. Dershowitz Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus at Harvard Law School, and the author most recently of The Price of Principle: Why Integrity Is Worth The Consequences. He is the Jack Roth Charitable Foundation Fellow at Gatestone Institute, and is also the host of "The Dershow" podcast.
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When a hostage is accidentally killed by a soldier or policeman who is trying to kill the hostage-taker, who is guilty of the murder? That’s the question to understand as the press gets it wrong in Gaza.

The New York Times has published a distorted and internally inconsistent “analysis “ of casualties allegedly inflicted by Israel on civilians in Gaza. (RELATED: ALAN DERSHOWITZ: The Hamas PR Machine Is Ignoring Some Inconvenient Truths)

Under a headline about “civilians” killed by Israel, they cite the total number of deaths reported by the Hamas-controlled Gaza health authorities as gospel, and then hide a one sentence disclaimer that these Hamas generated figures do not even purport to “separate the deaths of civilians and combatants.”

Nor do they identify how many of those who they count as “civilians” are actually Hamas collaborators who allow their homes to be used to hide rockets, tunnels or terrorists.

They seek to justify these glaring omissions by uncritically repeating the undocumented and absurd Hamas claims that more than  10,000 of the 12,000 total of Gaza’s allegedly killed are women and children — again failing to distinguish between these two very different categories or to indicate how many of the “children” are 14-, 15-, 16- or 17-year-old Hamas child soldiers and terrorists.

Nor does the Times separate out the many Gazans who have been killed by misfired terrorist rockets launched from Gaza at Israeli targets — as many as 15% to 20% of terrorist rockets land in Gaza.

Most significantly, the figures cited by the Times do not identify the number of Hamas human shields who were deliberately placed in harm’s way by Hamas commanders and terrorists. Every one of these human shields killed are the legal, moral and political responsibility of Hamas, not Israel.

The law is clear that when a hostage is accidentally killed by a soldier or policeman who is trying to kill the hostage-taker, it is the hostage-taker and not the soldier or policeman who is guilty of the murder, even though the bullet that killed the hostage was fired by the innocent soldier or policeman.

The same is true of the use of human shields: those who placed the shield in harm’s way are guilty, not those who were trying to kill the combatants.

In order to claim that the civilian casualties in Gaza are greater than in other recent wars, the Times focused on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. But there is no valid comparison — it’s oranges and bicycles.

The Russians have been deliberately targeting Ukrainian civilians. Ukrainian soldiers are not hiding among civilians. Ukrainian leaders are not using their own civilians as human shields. Every Ukrainian civilian killed by Russian weapons is the fault of Russia alone.

The same is true of civilian casualties in other wars cited by the Times: no group in the history of modern warfare has used human shields as extensively and deliberately as Hamas.

It is highly misleading, therefore, to compare the number of civilian deaths among human shields in Gaza with the numbers of civilian deaths in other wars in which human shields were not used at all or were used only sparingly.

The fact that the Times would offer such absurd and irrelevant “comparisons” reflects its extreme bias against Israel and —along with its other examples of journalistic malpractice — discredits its entire deeply flawed analysis.

The sad reality, not reported by the Times, is that Hamas actually wants Israel to kill people who appear to be civilians, precisely to encourage the press to do what the Times is doing: blame Israel for every death, especially among children and women.

This is part of what Hamas itself calls its “CNN strategy”— a strategy it has been successfully pursuing for years. It is as simple as it is cynical: begin by murdering as many Israeli civilians as possible — firing rockets, using terror tunnels and crossing the fence, as was done on October 7.

Then, Hamas hides the rockets, tunnels, and terrorists among civilians, knowing that Israel will have to try to prevent recurrence by attacking the military targets that are hiding behind human shields; parade the dead human shields, especially children, in front of the press and expect the world to blame these deaths on Israel; repeat this strategy again and again, as long as the media cooperates by uncritically playing its assigned role.

In light of the false and prejudicial reporting by the Times, this deadly strategy can be given a new name: the “New York Times Strategy.”

By distorting and misreporting the number of actually innocent civilians whose deaths are the fault of Israel, the Times and other press play into the hands of Hamas and encourage it and other terrorist groups to expand the use of human shields and to increase the number of civilians — both Palestinian and Israeli —  who are killed as part of this deadly but successful strategy.

Alan Dershowitz is professor emeritus at Harvard Law School and the author of “Get Trump,” “Guilt by Accusation” and “The Price of Principle.” Andrew Stein, a Democrat, served as New York City Council president, 1986-94. This piece is republished from the Alan Dershowitz Newsletter.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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