“Tell me yourself, I challenge you—answer. Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature….and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears: would you consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me, and tell the truth.” — Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov. [For a recent American answer to this challenge, see The Karamazov Question.]

AP tells the harrowing story of the hundreds of children who have been slaughtered — and the hundreds of thousands more who have been terrorized and traumatized — by Israel’s “war of choice” on Palestinians in Gaza. From AP:

Tiny bodies lying side by side wrapped in white burial shrouds. The cherubic face of a dead preschooler sticking up from the rubble of her home. A man cradling a wounded boy in a chaotic emergency room after Israel shelled a U.N. school.

Children, who make up more than half of crowded Gaza’s 1.4 million people, are the most defenseless victims of the war between Israel and Hamas. The Israeli army has unleashed unprecedented force in its campaign against Hamas militants, who have been taking cover among civilians.

“Taking cover among civilians.” This is a curious locution. When you launch missiles to kill the democratically elected officials of a government — especially when you target their private homes — where else do you expect to find them? Gaza is a giant, open-air prison which no one can leave and where, as the story notes, 1.4 million people live in densely-packed urban areas and refugee camps. Where else are the “Hamas militants” supposed to exist in this seething sardine tin except “among civilians”? Naturally, it would be far more convenient if every member of Hamas — including, again, the democratically elected officials of the government — painted themselves bright red and gathered in, say, a soccer stadium, where Israel could then drop bombs on them with no muss, no fuss. But we are dealing with the real world, where human beings of every description, profession, ideology and belief must of necessity live and work in close proximity to one another — especially in the reconstruction of the Warsaw Ghetto that is Gaza today.

But of course, in order to smuggle the smallest nugget of truth about Gaza into the American media, it must first be larded with huge dollops of mitigating “context” to mask the horrific brutality and naked aggression of the Israeli campaign. And the “human shield” gambit is the probably the most frequently employed fig leaf by the apologists of oppression.

Curiously enough, I did see a shocking example of the use of human shields in Gaza just the other day, on BBC News. One of their reporters was “embedded” with a squadron of plucky Israeli soldiers as they made their way through a Gaza neighborhood. The report showed our heroes taking over the home of a Palestinian family, shunting the house’s large number of refugees — including several children and infants, crying from hunger — to a cramped space on the bottom floor, while the Israeli soldiers took up residence on the top floor, where they could rain sniper fire on any nearby “militants” and help coordinate air strikes and missile fire on “militant” hotbeds like schools, ambulances, UN relief trucks — and other houses packed with refugees who had been directed there by the Israelis themselves.

Naturally, if anyone fired back at the Israelis in the house commandeered in the BBC report, they would hit the civilians who were being held prisoner in their own home. This use of human shields seems like a highly criminal and deeply immoral act to me; but then, I’m not a “serious” person, not like the wise and savvy statesmen and stateswomen of the U.S. Senate, who this week declared their unflagging, uncritical, unquestioning support for Israel’s attack in tones so slavish they would have made Stalin’s Politburo blush.

In any case, after its ritual dip in the cleansing context pool, the AP story marshals fact after fact to hammer home the relentless torture of children in the “shock and awe” operation:

A photo of 4-year-old Kaukab Al Dayah, just her bloodied head sticking out from the rubble of her home, covered many front pages in the Arab world Wednesday. “This is Israel,” read the headline in the Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm. The preschooler was killed early Tuesday when an F-16 attacked her family’s four-story home in Gaza City. Four adults also died.

As many as 257 children have been killed and 1,080 wounded — about a third of the total casualties since Dec. 27, according to U.N. figures released Thursday.

Hardest on the children is the sense that nowhere is safe and adults can’t protect them, said Iyad Sarraj, a psychologist hunkering down in his Gaza City apartment with his four stepchildren, ages 3-17. His 10-year-old, Adam, is terrified during bombing raids and has developed asthma attacks, Sarraj said….

Children have been killed in strikes on their houses, while riding in cars with their parents, while playing in the streets, walking to a grocery and even at U.N. shelters.

Sayed, Mohammed and Raida Abu Aisheh — ages 12, 8 and 7 — were at home with their parents when they were all killed in an Israeli airstrike before dawn Monday. The family had remained in the ground floor apartment of their three-story building, while the rest of the extended clan sought refuge in the basement from heavy bombardment of nearby Hamas installations.

Those in the basement survived. The children’s uncle, Saber Abu Aisheh, 49, searched Thursday through the rubble, a heap of cement blocks, mattresses, scorched furniture and smashed TVs.

He said Israel gave no warning, unlike two years earlier when he received repeated calls from the Israeli military, including on his cell phone, that a nearby house was going to get hit and that he should evacuate.

“What’s going on is not a war, it’s a mass killing,” said Abu Aisheh, still wearing the blood-splattered olive-colored sweater he wore the night of the airstrike.

Then there is the now-infamous case of the Zeitoun house where four young children were found beside their dead mothers. They had been there for days while Israeli forces prevented Red Cross workers from reaching them. As Haaretz reports:

The International Committee of the Red Cross on Thursday accused Israel of delaying ambulance access to the Gaza Strip and demanded it grant safe access for Palestinian Red Crescent ambulances to return to evacuate more wounded.

Relief workers said they found four starving children sitting next to their dead mothers and other corpses in a house in a part of Gaza City bombed by Israeli forces, the Red Cross said on Thursday.

“This is a shocking incident,” said Pierre Wettach, ICRC chief for Israel and the Palestinian territories. “The Israeli military must have been aware of the situation but did not assist the wounded. Neither did they make it possible for us or the Palestinian Red Crescent to assist the wounded.” The agency said it believed Israel had breached international humanitarian law in the incident…

Palestinian Red Crescent ambulances and ICRC officials managed to reach several houses in the Zeitoun area of Gaza City on Wednesday after seeking access from Israeli military forces since last weekend, the ICRC statement said.

The rescue team “found four small children next to their dead mothers in one of the houses,” the ICRC said. “They were too weak to stand up on their own. One man was also found alive, too weak to stand up. In all there were at least 12 corpses lying on mattresses,” it said.

In another house, the team found 15 survivors of Israeli shelling including several wounded, it said. Three corpses were found in another home. Israeli soldiers posted some 80 meters (yards) away ordered the rescue team to leave the area which they refused to do, it said.

Back to AP:

Medic Mohammed Azayzeh said he retrieved the bodies of a man and his two young sons from central Gaza on Wednesday. One of the boys, a 1-year-old, was cradled in his father’s arms.

In the Jebaliya refugee camp, five sisters from the Balousha family, ages 4, 8, 11, 14 and 17, were buried together in white shrouds on Dec. 29. An Israeli airstrike on a mosque, presumably a Hamas target, had destroyed their adjacent house. Only their parents and a baby girl survived….

In the ongoing chaos of Gaza, it’s difficult to get exact casualty figures. Since Dec. 27, at least 750 Palestinians have been killed, according to Gaza Health Ministry official Dr. Moawiya Hassanain.

Of those, 257 were children, according to the U.N.’s top humanitarian official, John Holmes, citing Health Ministry figures that he called credible and deeply disturbing.

“We are talking about urban war,” said Abdel-Rahman Ghandour, the Jordan-based spokesman for UNICEF in the Middle East and North Africa. “The density of the population is so high, it’s bound to hurt children … This is a unique conflict, where there is nowhere to go.”

…Sarraj, the psychologist, said he fears for this generation: Having experienced trauma and their parents’ helplessness, they may be more vulnerable to recruitment by militants.

Of course the survivors of the current bloodbath will be more vulnerable to recruitment by militants. Like all of the acts of state terror falsely called “counterterrorism,” the Israeli attacks will breed much more of the very thing they are purporting to combat. But as we noted the other day, the Israelis know this very well — and they don’t care. As with all the other practitioners of state terror — in Washington, London, Moscow, and elsewhere — their goal is not “fighting terrorism” but imposing domination, and perpetuating their militarist power structures.

The international Terror Warriors, and their multitude of sycophants, worship war: it thrills them, it arouses them, it imbues them with a sense of power and purpose and righteousness and superiority. Whatever their professed faith — and almost all of them make a great show of their devotion to a great benevolent deity in the sky — their true god is Moloch: earthbound, blood-steeped, ravenous for sacrifice. And his devotees — our elites, our “leading citizens,” our “great and good” — are happy to obey, eagerly offering up their god’s favorite dish — innocent flesh — on his blazing altars.

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