Is Israel killing more Palestinian civilians than necessary, particularly when those civilians are under the protection of the United Nations or some other neutral body that is thought to offer them safe haven? This brief will focus on a stark example of this problem: whether four recent attacks on and near U.N. sites sheltering displaced Palestinians (mostly women and children) are morally justified in light of the fact that Hamas rockets have been found stored at other sites belonging to the same entity, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the Near East (UNWRA). It will assess arguments that the UNWRA acted in ways that make it morally responsible for the deaths of civilians under its care, and will argue that critics of UNRWA are asking it to do things that it has no reasonable way of doing, and for which critics are not offering reasonable solutions. This brief concludes that claiming that UNRWA supports terrorism is a convenient way for critics to downplay Israeli responsibility for attacks that harm civilians, by undermining the sense that UNRWA schools, shelters, and hospitals are really neutral humanitarian sites and so deserving of the deference those sites are granted under the laws and morality of war.
Author(s): Daniel Levine