I have just been listening to Peter Lerner, spokesman for the IDF being interviewed on BBC. It is little wonder the public is misled when the presenters, interviewing on our behalf, fail to place the discussion in context.
So, what did we hear? The IDF has withdrawn from Gaza, well and good. And, of course, Hamas is to blame for breaking all the ceasefires. Hamas is to blame for hiding rockets in UN facilities, Hamas is to blame for digging offensive tunnels, and Hamas is to blame for starting it off. Israel, as we have heard so many times from Obama, Cameron, Netanyahu has the right to defend itself. What nation would stand by and do nothing while its people are being attacked?
Sadly, most of the interviewers appear to have forgotten where this started, with the kidnap and murder of three Yeshiva students in the area around Hebron. We know now what Netanyahu and his ministers knew then, that those three young men had died almost immediately. Yet their bodies were not ‘discovered’, perfectly preserved from the summer heat, two weeks later. What happened in the meantime?
Despite the absence of evidence Netanyahu initiated attacks on known Hamas members, rearresting many of those recently released in a deal. Offices of NGP’s were attacked as far away as Ramallah and Nablus. For those unfamiliar with the setup, in order to get to Ramallah from Hebron you have to go through three checkpoints, at least. In addition to the attacks on Palestinians, not just Hamas members, in the West Bank, Israel attacked Gaza with missiles and incursions. These attacks were ‘normal business’, that is to say little more than the usual, almost daily, attacks Israel makes into Gaza.
So, when Hamas began firing rockets into Israel were they attacking the attackers, were they defending their people, or is that only a right allowed to Israel? The record is clear, there are people who count these things. Until the beginning of this offensive Hamas had not fired any rockets into Israel and had made considerable progress in limiting rockets from the jihadi groups, rockets which mostly didn’t get out of Gaza and rarely hit anything.
Israel claims to have been defending its civilians, it has done well. Only two Israeli civilians have died in ‘Operation Protective Shield’ and, until the ground invasion, only one soldier. Since the ground invasion over sixty soldiers have died, for what benefit? To destroy the tunnels. Remember those tunnels, when did we first hear about them. I’ve know about tunnels into Gaza for years, the ones into Egypt that are principally used for food and provisions to supplement the meagre rations allowed in from Israel. Until recently I had never heard of the offensive and defensive tunnels dug by Hamas.
Why do we hear about them now? Let’s associate that with another question. Why, until this offensive started, did we hear nothing about Hamas rockets reaching Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Have no doubt, had rockets been getting within ten miles of Jerusalem we would have heard about it and Israel would have justifiably been defending its people. Hamas was not using its rockets and it was not using its tunnels. The longer range rockets supposedly supplied by Iran were only reported once Israel had begun its air attack on Gaza. And we have no evidence the tunnels were used on more than two occasions, the first probably being the capture of Gilad Shalit some years ago. Why do we hear about them now? Israel needs an excuse.
Let’s do a bit on analysis. Hamas claimed not to be implicated in the murder of the three students and that claim has been vindicated by no less than Mickey Rosenfeld, spokesman for the police. Israel claimed that Hamas started firing rockets from Gaza but had been attacking ‘targets’ there for days. Israel claims that Hamas has broken ceasefire agreements, but, on the first occasion Hamas hadn’t been consulted and on subsequent occasions the ceasefires were not complete. Israel continued operations in target areas making it difficult if not impossible for those responsible for coordination amongst the population to give appropriate advice. On at least two occasions civilians died by Israeli shelling in areas believed to be under truce. In fact it seems that both sides broke ceasefire agreements.
Israel claims that Hamas targets civilians whereas they do not. Well, let’s examine the evidence. Hamas’ rockets are the ‘fire and hope’ kind. They are pointed in the general direction and press the button, that is to say, they are not guided. It is surely a war crime or a crime against humanity to fire rockets like that towards civilian areas. That is not negated by the fact that they have caused so few casualties.
Israel, by contrast has up to date technology including guided missiles, laser guided air-to-ground missiles and drone fired missiles.Their field and tank artillery have the latest technology. They have the capacity to avoid civilian casualties but have so far killed more than 1800 including many children. That, by any standards, is a crime of immense magnitude. Nothing illustrates the imbalance between the Palestinians and the Israelis better than the numbers killed and injured on each side.
How did this latest assault, it can hardly be called war, happen? Not with the murder of three Israeli students. They were killed, so it seems, by a couple of renegade Hamas supporters without reference to the Hamas leadership or to the possible consequences. So, if not then, when? Has it got anything to do with Hamas?
Hamas’ origins are in 1946 when it was set up as an Islamic welfare organisation. Only in 1987 was Hamas formed as a militant arm of the parent organisation. What happened in 1987 to prompt this development? The non-violent 1st Intifada, the uprising by Palestinians against their ongoing oppression by Israel, against their economic impoverishment, their lack of human rights, was violently punished by Israel. Over 200 young men died, all Palestinian. So, blame Hamas if you will, for the things they should not have done. But fail to understand the context in which those things were done and you become complicit in the ongoing persecution and oppression of the Palestinians people.
There is, of course, blame on both (all?) sides, but the larger share is with that side, (those sides) that have the larger power. Not just Israel then, but US, UK, Europe – whose persecution of Jews made their desire for a homeland necessary – and Christians who blindly support Israel because they think that by so doing they are honouring God’s will. As if Israel had anything to do with the Israel of God.