WASHINGTON -- It was another one of those pictures that goes instantly around the world. A young Palestinian, wailing in wretched sorrow, grieving over her dead father, stepmother and five siblings, killed by an explosion on a Gaza beach. Then came the blame. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (he's the moderate) immediately called the killings an act of Israeli "genocide'' and, to dramatize the crime, legally adopted the bereaved girl.
The sensational coverage and sensational charges raise the obvious question: Why would Israel deliberately shell a peaceful family on a beach?
The Israeli government, clumsy as ever, seemed to semi-apologize by expressing regret about the deaths, implying that perhaps they had been caused by an errant Israeli shell targeting a Palestinian rocket base. But then a few days later, an army investigation concluded that it was not Israel's doing at all.
First, because the shrapnel taken from the victims (treated at Israeli hospitals -- some "genocide'') were not the ordnance used in Israeli artillery. Second, because aerial photography revealed no crater that could have been caused by Israeli artillery. And third, because Israel could account for five of the six shells it launched at the rocket base nearby, and the missing one had been launched at least five minutes before the one that killed the family.
An expert at a local chapter of a human rights group disputes the Israeli claims. OK. Let's concede for the sake of argument that the question of whether it was an errant Israeli shell remains unresolved. But the obvious question not being asked is this: Who is to blame if Palestinians are setting up rocket launchers to attack Israel -- and placing them 400 yards from a beach crowded with Palestinian families on the Muslim Sabbath?
Answer: This is just another example of the Palestinians' classic and cowardly human-shield tactic -- attacking innocent Israeli civilians while hiding behind innocent Palestinian civilians. For Palestinian terrorists -- and the Palestinian governments (both Fatah and Hamas) that allow them to operate unmolested -- it's win-win: If their rockets aimed into nearby Israeli towns kill innocent Jews, no one abroad notices and it's another success in the terror war against Israel. And if Israel's preventative and deterrent attacks on those rocket bases inadvertently kill Palestinian civilians, the iconic "Israeli massacre'' picture makes the front page of The New York Times, and the Palestinians win the propaganda war.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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