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2020-2021 University of California – Santa Barbara CAMERA Fellow Harrison Kerdman

On March 2, 2021, the UC Santa Barbara Center for Middle East Studies hosted human rights attorney and professor Noura Erakat as a part of her international book tour.

The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA)’s campus department has thoroughly reviewed the book and refuted its falsehoods.

Regarding the lecture itself, it is undeniable that Erakat is an excellent speaker who presents a digestible, emotionally charged view of the world. It is very appealing, almost like a fairy tale. And just like a fairy tale, it isn’t true.

The most shocking moment of the event came during the Q&A that followed Erakat’s lecture.

During the lecture, Erakat brought up how, “In 2014, in the span of 51 days, Israeli forces killed 2,100 Palestinians, some 534 of them were children. Zero accountability, right?”

This prompted one student to challenge her on the topic. His question, which was read aloud by the moderator of the event, Professor Sherene Seikaly, in part read that, “[while] the deaths of … children is a tragedy … there is irrefutable evidence that they were used as human shields and were purposely put in harm’s way.”

In response, Erakat asserted the following: “There has been zero evidence about the use of human shields. … The only evidence that has been furthered and forwarded that demonstrates that Hamas has used anyone, and definitely not children, but anyone as human shields have been pictures, memes, that the Israeli Defense Force [sic] … has produced.”

It is both shocking and alarming that a legal expert and professor such as Noura Erakat would push such blatant falsehoods during lectures to university students.

Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, is a terrorist organization, and among the reasons for that classification is the organization’s use of human shields.

Contrary to Erakat’s assertion that there is “zero” evidence of this practice, there is video evidence that Hamas fires rockets from densely-populated areas.

Nevertheless, Erakat puts the onus entirely on Israel. At one point in her answer, she interprets Additional Protocol 1 of the 1977 Geneva Convention as stating, “that if the belligerent [Israel] thinks there are civilians in these areas [Gaza], that they should refrain from using force.”

She appears to be referring to Article 57 of Additional Protocol 1. Section 2b reads, “an attack shall be cancelled or suspended if it becomes apparent that the objective is not a military one or is subject to special protection or that the attack may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.”

So, should the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) deem attacking, for example, an area with Hamas rockets necessary to defend its citizens, it has every right to do so — so long as “incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof” are not “excessive.”

Although it goes without saying that any civilian deaths are tragic, casualties are impossible to completely avoid when fighting a terrorist entity that does not shy away from fighting in dense cities and using human shields.

Moreover, section 2c of Article 57 states, “effective advance warning shall be given of attacks which may affect the civilian population, unless circumstances do not permit.”

In fact, British Infantry Colonel Richard Kemp, in his submission to the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict, argued that Israel goes to admirable lengths to do exactly that. He cites a number of measures that Israel uses to save lives, including phone calls, text messages, warnings via the UN, and “roof knocking” — a measure that involves the use of air-dropped munitions that make a loud noise to warn inhabitants of an impending attack. (For more on Israel’s obligations during wartime, see here.)

Kemp noted that Israel does more than any other military in the world to avoid harming civilians, even if it makes its operations less effective or puts it own soldiers in harm’s way.

Moreover, since Erakat repeatedly cited United Nations resolutions and findings in her lecture, it seems fitting to examine a UN report titled “Summary of UN Board of Inquiry on Gaza.” According to the report, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad stored and fired rockets from and in UN schools during the 2014 fighting.

Hamas has proven time and time again that no international norm will prevent them from pursuing their goal of destroying Israel and killing its Jewish inhabitants. They regularly commit war crimes, including, but not limited to, using human shieldsindiscriminately targeting civilian centers, and building “terror tunnels” to launch attacks on Israeli civilians. Any nation in the world facing such a group would seek to defend itself. Despite Noura Erakat’s fairy tales, that’s the truth about what is really happening in Israel today.

Originally published in The Algemeiner.

Contributed by 2020-2021 University of California – Santa Barbara CAMERA Fellow Harrison Kerdman.

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