I promised another two posts before the week was out but I might only get one more out. Here is my take on the newest flaring of hostilities in Gaza. To get something straight. I think both sides are wrong in what they’re doing: Hamas for using civilians as shields and Israel for trying to justify their bullying of the Palestinian people as a whole. Now on to the particulars.
This current crisis began with the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli boys from their yeshiva, and continued with a Palestinian boy being burned alive by Israeli settlers; observe how morally reprehensible the actions of both sides were. In the course of searching for those three children, the IDF essentially shut down the West Bank (resulting in the deaths of 12 civilians, the arrest of hundreds and the seizing of property) – Hamas denied involvement despite Netanyahu blaming them and all of Palestine’s government. In the end, ISIS claimed responsibility for the murders of the Jewish boys but Netanyahu had already proved what we know to be true of Israeli policy in relation to Palestinians: fuck the Geneva Convention.
What no one is saying is that Israel began bombing first, a limited campaign in Gaza (34 sites) following the murders, and in response to what they said were Hamas rockets – it turns out these were militant groups Hamas was attempting to suppress to avoid escalation. In the end, on the 4th July, Hamas did indeed fire rockets into Israel. And so the cycle began again, escalating quickly as Israel’s Operation Protective Edge began on July 8th, with Israel shelling Gaza every hour of the day since and 40,000 reservists called up, as Hamas persists in firing hundreds of rockets into Israel. Extending to see a 3km “no go zone” around the Gaza Strip as they shelled the area to hell: this 3km zone blocks border crossings. You cannot kill people, tell them to move and then stop them being able to effectively avoid your gun – it’s not cricket. On July 13th, Israeli ground troops went in: the mission to cripple Hamas’ military capabilities.
We find ourselves now in Day 19 of Operation Protective Edge with a 12 hour truce for humanitarian reasons and can tot up the dead Palestinians to 985 (around 100 militants) and dead Israelis to somewhere around 40 (two civilians). The business of comparing the dead is morbid and uncouth so instead I will give this little anecdote from July 16th in Gaza: “four Palestinian children playing on a beach in Gaza are killed before the eyes of several foreign journalists…The Israeli military takes responsibility for the attack, saying they mistook the children for members of Hamas.” Hamas has rocket launchers hidden in hospitals and schools, it does not mean every civilian death can be blamed upon Hamas as Israel seems so eager to do, Netanyahu saying it is “the responsibility of Hamas” and calling international condemnation of Israeli actions a “travesty of justice, fairness and common sense”. No Mr Netanyahu, breaching the Geneva Convention, the continued illegal occupation of the West Bank, the colonialist attitude of your state, the petty humiliations of the Palestinian people, and the economic stifling effect of the border control are the travesties here. The UN rights council has recognised that the narrative being put forward by Israel and its supporters in the argument might be shielding something quite awful.
Hamas and Fatah in the West Bank had reached a unity agreement before all this started again, now that may be in tatters and any chance at a two-state solution (if this is really what Israel wants) pushed further away. An errant Palestinian rocket hit an Israeli conference on ending the conflict, no one was hurt but the irony is painful. Both sides do nothing in the end but defeat themselves. The question we must ask is this, will “mowing the grass” as defence policy makers in Israel crassly term massacres like this, ever solve the Palestinian problem?
There are those will call me an anti-Zionist or anti-Semite for my total lack of sympathy for Israel in the current round of hostilities but I am not ashamed. A history of persecution does not justify trying out a bit of persecution for yourselves. It rather degrades you and all that support you. Let us forget the tribalism surrounding the debate and instead talk about the dignity of both sides as human beings. The moment we can all do this, I think we can break this endless cycle.
Some useful links