The Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent Peter Beaumont was interviewed by Anshel Pfeffer of Ha’aretz about the tragic killing of four Palestinian children on the Gaza Beach yesterday.
(Though the IDF is still investigating the incident, it appears as if one of the missiles which hit the beach was fired on a Hamas target, while the second one was mistakenly fired on what was believed to be a group of Hamas members fleeing the scene, but were actually Palestinian children.)
The beach harbor is a civilian area with a hotel nearby (The Al-Deira) where many foreign journalists (including Beaumont) have been staying during the war. Washington Post reporter William Booth’s report about the incident noted that “it is not unusual for militants to launch rockets from sites” near the hotel.
More recently, in a Guardian article published today, July 17th, Beaumont himself even noted that the shipping container on the beach which was hit by the IDF in the attack which caused the boys’ deaths had been used by Hamas:
A witness who identified himself only as Abu Ahmed said the boys had been scavenging for scrap metal when the first shell hit a nearby shipping container used in the past by Hamas security forces.
This passage is actually quite unique, as it represents the first time Beaumont has acknowledged (though only implicitly) this widely reported tactic (acknowledged by Hams leaders themselves) of using civilians as human shields. This tactic involves Hamas purposely placing combatants and military facilities used to stage attacks on Israel in areas populated by civilians (such as mosques, schools, hospitals, etc.) and telling Palestinians to “remain in their houses if they are about to be bombed” when warned by the IDF in advance of an attack.
In 20 reports (and over 18,886 words) filed by Beaumont since the start of hostilities on July 8th (see links at the end of this post), most of which highlighted (often in heartbreaking detail) civilian casualties in Gaza, he has never contextualized his accounts of Palestinian deaths by informing readers about Hamas’s cynical use of this illegal tactic.
He not only hasn’t filed a report on the use of human shields (a war crime under international law), but there are actually only four references to the term (in any context) in his 20 reports, two passages which simply quote Israeli officials who “claim” that Hamas uses this tactic, and two additional references which blandly characterize the independent actions of Palestinian activists.
Israel has said it is acting in self-defence against rockets that have disrupted life across much of the country. It also accuses Hamas of using Gaza’s civilians as human shields.
In two other articles, Beaumont used the term to dryly describe the actions of Palestinians, without even suggesting that this tactic is used and actively encouraged by Hamas.
Early on Wednesday morning, Israel dropped leaflets and delivered warnings by phone and text that tens of thousands of residents of two Gaza City neighbourhoods, Zeitoun in the south and Shujai’iya in the east, should evacuate their homes before planned strikes and head to the city centre. Among those ordered to leave were the patients of a rehabilitation hospital. But the hospital’s director, Basman Ashi, said everyone would remain and that foreign volunteers had arrived to serve as human shields.
In the most serious single incident, seven Palestinians including two children were killed and about 25 wounded in an attack on a house in the Khan Younis area in south Gaza. Residents said the house belonged to the family of a Hamas member and the casualties occurred when the property came under attack for the second time. After the first strike people had gathered on the roof of the house as “human shields“, hoping their presence would deter a second strike, the residents said. The Israeli military made no immediate comment about the incident.
In one article, Beaumont actually seems to dismiss the Israeli ‘claim’ that Hamas uses human shields:
For its part Israel has long alleged that the militants “hide” among the civilian population, but what is clear is that targets have included homes and public streets as well as missile sites and buildings associated with Hamas.
As Jeffrey Goldberg argued early in the war:
Dead Palestinians represent a crucial propaganda victory for the nihilists of Hamas. It is perverse, but true. It is also the best possible explanation for Hamas’s behavior, because Hamas has no other plausible strategic goal here.
This propaganda strategy, however, is dependent on Western media groups playing along, not only by highlighting every tragic Palestinian civilian death, but by also pretending that such casualties are not in fact the result of Hamas’s cynical strategy of using human shields and other tactics meant to maximize the number of casualties.
Among the most active participants in Hamas’s scheme to fool the West is Peter Beaumont.
Links to all of Beaumont’s articles referenced in this post:
- Palestinian Envoy more honest than the Guardian on Hamas ‘war crimes’ (cifwatch.com)
- Is the media really pro-Israel? (Tom Gross)