Israel is not blameless in its relationships with the Palestinian people. Palestinian homes, farms and businesses have been bulldozed to make way for Israeli settlers. Genuine and appalling atrocities have been committed against some Palestinians. People have been right to express concern about these things, and to urge Israel stop further occupation and settlement of Palestinian land, and to make space for an independent Palestinian state.
Over the last ten years, however, Israel has done exactly that. When it handed over the Gaza Strip in 2005, it left substantial infrastructure including schools and hospitals, greenhouses, tourist trade, and some of the best coastal real estate on the Mediterranean. What could have been a thriving and peaceful Palestinian state has been turned into a hell-hole by the genocidal leadership of Hamas.
Hamas’ charter specifically calls for the destruction of Israel. These are direct quotes: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.” “There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.” “After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying.”
The Hamas charter also quotes from one of the books of sayings or Hadith (Sahih Muslim, Book 40, Number 6985) as follows: ‘The Last Hour will not come unless the Muslims fight against the Jews and the Muslims kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: “Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him.”’
This is a publicly stated policy, not just of the destruction of Israel, but the of the slaughter of all Jews, everywhere – a world view were Jews are such a blot on creation that even nature is personified as co-operating in their murder.
These are not just words. Despite promises of peaceful co-existence, rocket and mortar attacks on Israel continued unabated after the handover, and increased dramatically after Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007. In 2008 some 1,750 rockets and 1,528 mortar shells were lobbed from Gaza into Southern Israel – an area the approximate size of Adelaide – landing in schools, shopping centres, homes, and kindergartens. The reason the death toll has not been higher is a combination of the incompetence of Hamas and the Israel’s effective early warning systems – calling people to get from shopping centres or homes into shelters in some cases with less than a minutes warning.
One cannot help but wonder why there has been virtually no media coverage of these constant attacks, and no protests or calls for Hamas to halt them and to keep to the peace agreement.Hamas’ recent use of longer range Iranian and Chinese missiles has put larger Israeli population centres and major infrastructure including nuclear power stations at risk. Musheir al-Masri, a Hamas spokesman in the Palestinian Legislative Council, said (Filastin al-‘An website, December 24) that the rockets which had been launched up till then were only the first message and threatened to extend the attacks beyond what had been carried out so far. He guaranteed that Israel would “be hit in a way it had never been before,” and that he was not afraid of Israeli threats. The population of the villages bordering on the Gaza Strip, as well as Sderot and Ashqelon, would not be secure “as long as Palestinians are not secure”.
Again, I cannot help but wonder what our response would be if a group which had sworn to destroy us utterly had fired a similar number of rockets and mortars into Adelaide, and how long it would have taken us to go from “Please stop” to “Stop now” to “Stop or we will make you stop” to finally doing something about it.
One of the arguments some commentators have made is that Israel has the right to defend itself, but that the response has been disproportionate. I’m not sure what ‘proportionate’ could possibly mean in these circumstances. It surely cannot mean tit for tat is OK. It would be worse if Israel did respond ‘proportionately’ by firing the same number of rockets and mortars at random into Gaza. The only humane response is to take the minimum action necessary to prevent attacks continuing, while doing everything possible to save lives on both sides. This is exactly what Israel has done – giving up any advantage surprise might have given them to ring people in buildings they believe are being used for terrorist purposes to warn them to leave, dropping leaflets in Southern Gaza warning that the hundreds of tunnels used to smuggle weapons will be destroyed.
Like most people I was appalled by reports of deaths of children at a Gaza school which had been bombed. But I certainly do not trust the Adelaide Advertiser or the ABC to give me the full story. According to Israeli sources, the true story is this: There is a history of UN sponsored schools being used to store weapons and to launch attacks on Israel. See this Reuters article and this video.
As usual, the school was warned beforehand that children, staff and non-combatant personnel should be evacuated. The majority of deaths came not from the Israeli attack but from secondary explosions of mortars and other weapons stored at or near the school. The bodies of two Hamas leaders and remaining munitions were found at the site.
For a different, and eye opening, perspective on this, this account by the mother of an Israeli soldier is worth reading.
The loss of life is tragic. The mismanagement of what could have been a viable Palestinian state by a bunch of murderous thugs is tragic.But the “darkest hour of the Palestinian people” may be coming to an end. If Israel can remove Hamas and its Iranian supplied weapons, and continues to supply food, fuel and medical aid to Palestine, and if the Palestinian people themselves reject the vile and violent leadership which has lead them to nothing but deprivation and ruin, there may still be hope for a real and lasting peace in the Middle east. This is not a far-fetched hope – at risk to their own safety, even some Gazans are now placing the blame for the current misery where it belongs.
Far from protesting Israel’s entirely reasonable and overdue defence of her own citizens while endeavouring to reduce loss of life in Gaza, the best thing we can do now if we are serious about peace and justice is to offer moral support to Israel, to assist in any action which will bring real hope and stable government to Palestine, and most of all, to pray for an end to hatred and violence.