THE HAMAS-ISRAEL WAR, JULY-AUGUST 2014


Gabriel A. Goldberg, M.A.

Thoughts on Operation Protective Edge and the war on Hamas terror.

As the rocket fire from Gaza intensified and Israel’s counter-offensive took shape, issues similar to those in previous conflicts arose. One fact, however, surprised all: The scope of Hamas’ terror infrastructure, specifically the tunnel network that crossed into Israel. Many finally understood the real threat that Hamas poses, realizing a return to “things as usual” was unacceptable.

What follows is a compilation of considerations on various issues related to the war and responses to some of the charges leveled at Israel for its determination to end Hamas’ anti-civilian terror campaign.

  1. Israel did not choose this war…
  2. Hamas’ rockets (3,500 at this point) are launched purposefully at civilian centers in Israel…
  3. Hamas’ rockets are launched from civilian sites…
  4. Is there light at the end of the tunnel?…
  5. Does Israel target innocent civilians and civilian sites in Gaza?…
  6. Israel’s army has done more than any other modern army involved in conflict to reduce civilian casualties on the opposing side…
  7. Don’t the respective casualty rates prove that Israel is responding disproportionately to Hamas’ attacks?…
  8. Isn’t a truce the most desired solution?…
  9. Some pundits say if Israel wants quiet on its border with Gaza, sooner or later it will have to negotiate with Hamas and find a modus vivendi to allow a ceasefire, even peace-like co-existence…
  10. What about worldwide condemnation of Israel? Even the Obama administration has criticized Israel…

1. Israel did not choose this war.

IDF

While some news sources and others have purposefully portrayed this operation in Gaza as an act of revenge for the brutal killing of three Israeli boys in June by Hamas members, the terror organization and its Gazan ally Islamic Jihad rocketed Israeli towns and kibbutzim days before Israel’s air missions and ground offensive began. For residents of southern ​ ​and central Israel, rocket fire is a constant threat, not just during the three Gaza wars so far. The town of Sderot has been under indiscriminate bombardment from Hamas for a decade. The Kibbutz of Nir Am has been hit more than 180 times over the last 10 years. Ashdod, Ashkelon, Beersheva, Kiryat Gat, Ofakim, Yavneh and many more towns were targeted.

2. Hamas’ rockets (3,500 at this point) are launched purposefully at civilian centers in Israel

to cause the most possible carnage and terror among the civilian population. Israeli homes, businesses, schools and kindergartens have been struck by rocket barrages. This is a war crime according to international law. Hamas’ rockets are generally not aimed at Israel’s military. Unlike Hamas, Israel’s counter offensive targets rocket launchers, arms depots and Hamas command centers and terrorist hideouts. This is legitimate defense.

3. Hamas’ rockets are launched from civilian sites,

homes, schools, playgrounds, mosques, hospitals, cemeteries, in violation of international law. The terrorist regime of Gaza urged civilians to assemble on rooftops of buildings from which rockets were launched. Hamas uses civilians as human shields for two purposes: (1) It hopes Israel will be dissuaded from attacking rocket launchers for fear of causing civilian casualties. (2) Should Israel attack nonetheless, Hamas uses the civilian casualties as a propaganda tool to provoke international opinion against Israel. Either way, Hamas hopes to gain from its total disregard for human life. As the coined phrase goes, “Hamas uses civilians to protect its rockets; Israel uses rockets (Iron Dome) to protect its civilians.”
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4. Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

Israel has stated that it intends to destroy the extensive tunnel and bunker network that Hamas uses to hide its rocket stockpiles and to cross into Israeli territory for attacks. What do we know of the tunnels?

Tunnel construction was extensive. Scores of Hamas-built tunnels and exit shafts have been discovered and destroyed. Some reaching as much as a mile into Israel. Several emerged very close to kibbutzim. One ended close to a kindergarten where 57 children attend.

Information from captured Hamas terrorists and evidence found in the tunnels revealed that Hamas was planning a major terrorist attack on Rosh Hashanah this coming September. In a coordinated attack, hundreds of Hamas terrorists were to emerge through tunnels leading to six Israeli communities and kibbutzim. Once there they would have killed as many as possible and held others hostage. Thank God, the current conflict exposed the intention and the routes of the terrorists.

Inside Shuja'iyaInstead of building schools, hospitals (or even bomb shelters for civilians in case of war) or sewage treatment plants, water and power supplies and civilian infrastructure, Hamas diverted concrete imports from Israel amounting to 800,000 tons to build a terrorist tunnel and bunker network—solely for attacking Israel and storing arsenals.

Writing in Tablet, July 23, 2014, Liel Leibovitz pointed out that with all the concrete Hamas used for tunnels it could have built at least seven towers as large as the Burj Khalifa Tower in Dubai—the tallest building in the world ​​(2,717 ft./828 m.)-which required 110,000 tons of concrete during construction.

Over 160 Gazan children have died digging Hamas tunnels according to Hamas’ own records writes Nicolas Pelham (Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. IV, no. 2, Summer 2012). If that many died, one can imagine how many times more actually worked digging the tunnels. Children are chosen for their small size and nimbleness in the tunnels. Once again, Hamas shows its disregard for children’s rights and safety by using child laborers.

Israel had correctly assessed that Hamas would misappropriate building supplies for terror purposes and therefore blocked their delivery to Gaza from Israel. Under pressure from Europe and the U.S.A., Israel begrudgingly allowed concrete and other building supplies into Gaza in a 2010 agreement touted by then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Israel now regrets that decision. Those shortsighted European and American government officials have yet to acknowledge their error. They still speak of unfettered trade through Israel’s Gaza checkpoints not as a future goal, but as an incentive to ceasefire. In other words, appeasement.

5. Does Israel target innocent civilians and civilian sites in Gaza?

Hamas and its unofficial spokespersons and supporters would have the world believe Israel shows disregard for human life. Israel does not target civilians on purpose or even indiscriminately. Israeli pilots have frequently aborted missions when civilians were detected in the vicinity of military targets.

Regrettably, due to Hamas’ militarization of civilian areas, civilians sometimes become casualties when Israel attempts to neutralize rocket and mortar launchers.

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Recently, Hamas attempted to place blame for the deaths of 15 children killed at a UN-run school on Israel. However, Israel did not fire on the school. Hamas fails to admit that many of its own simpler, “garage-built” rockets are notoriously unreliable, landing in Gazan territory ​ ​(by July 30, 3​6 percent of Gazan rockets were landing in Gaza), even striking civilian sites, such as near the al-Shifa Hospital. Italian journalist Gabriele Barbati twittered on July 30 that a misfired Hamas rocket killed the 10 (some say 30) children in the playground of the Shati refugee camp and not the IDF as Hamas claimed. Barbati subsequently fled Gaza fearing Hamas would kill him for having dared to report the truth.

Over the social networks, Hamas has instructed the population to report every casualty, even among its terrorists, as civilian. The IDF believes that as many as 900 Hamas terrorists have been killed till now during Operation Protective Edge. Hamas further inflates its “civilian” casualty rate by reporting those it executes for collaboration with Israel (about 30 so far) or for any other reason among the civilian statistics. Some 20 civilians were executed by Hamas for having dared to demonstrate against it for the destruction it brought upon the Shuja’iya neighborhood in Gaza.

Though civilian casualties occur, by international law Hamas bears responsibility for turning civilian sites into legitimate military targets. Those civilian sites include at least three UN-operated schools and a UN-run clinic, which served as depots for Hamas rockets and for other terror functions. One is reminded of previous Gazan conflicts when UN schools were used as cover for rocket launchers and when UN relief workers were also found to be Hamas operatives. This is Hamas’ method—inhumane to the core. Additionally, the neutrality and humanitarian function of the UN’s refugee agency, UNRWA, have rightly been called into question.

6. Israel’s army has done more than any other modern army involved in conflict to reduce civilian casualties on the opposing side.

The former head of British forces in Afghanistan, Col. Richard Kemp, has in past conflicts defended Israel’s military policy in regard to civilians in combat zones, characterizing it as the most humane army in history. On July 24, 2014, he said no other army in the world has ever done more than Israel is doing now to save civilian lives.

[videojs mp4=”http://hashivah.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/IDF-Soldiers-Find-Mosque-with-Weapons-and-Tunnel-Openings.mp4″ width=”680″ height=”380″ class=”alignleft” autoplay=”false” tittle=”IDF Soldiers Find Mosque with Weapons and Tunnel Openings”] When Israel’s military has identified Hamas rocket launchers, depots and command centers in residential areas, it has dropped leaflets, telephoned residents and even sent SMS text messages to them warning them to leave before an attack took place. Other, more dramatic steps, such as the “knock on the roof” method, have also been used to convince residents to leave. Additionally, if civilians are identified in the immediate area, missions to destroy the terrorist’s rocket launchers have been aborted.

Israel has often sacrificed the element of surprise, allowing even the Hamas rocket teams to escape, in order to warn civilians.

Contrary to some news reports, Israel is, in fact, setting new, higher moral standards for such conflicts. While the USA today still defends its use of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, primarily to avoid predicted massive military losses, and the British defend the horrific bombing of Dresden in light of Germany’s merciless attacks on British civilian centers such as London, Israel puts its own soldiers at risk to diminish the loss of civilian lives in Gaza.

When civilian lives are lost it is indeed tragic. It is, however, directly attributable to Hamas’ military strategy, placing military weapons and installations directly among civilians. Short of not responding to attacks at all, which some irrational critics advocate, Israel takes precautions to which all others have yet to prove they adhere. Israel’s government and military have the responsibility of defending its civilian population first and foremost. Civilian life in enemy territory must be preserved, but not at the expense of allowing Hamas to continually target and kill Israeli civilians.

7. Don’t the respective casualty rates prove that Israel is responding disproportionately to Hamas’ attacks?

Iron Dome
Iron Dome

The term “disproportionate,” as used by many politicians, journalists, commentators and others critical of Israel suggest that they would be more satisfied if Israeli casualties were higher, more comparable to those of Gazan casualties. Israeli casualty figures are not lower for lack of effort by Hamas. During this summer’s conflict, over three thousand rockets and mortar shells were ​​fired at civilian targets in Israel. That Israel has invented an air-defense system, “Iron Dome,” with a substantial success rate doesn’t lessen the murderous intent and criminal effort of Hamas. What then would a proportionate Israeli response look like? Should Israel launch one rocket at Gaza’s civilian population for every rocket Hamas launches? Should Israel purposefully target Gazan civilians the way Hamas tries to kill Israelis? Ridiculous.

By comparison, the NATO bombing campaign during the 1999 Kosovo War resulted in two US deaths, but over 1,000 Serb casualties (500 civilians). Over 40,000 homes were destroyed. The war in Afghanistan resulted in almost 3,500 coalition deaths, but roughly 20,000 Afghani civilian deaths, not to mention Taliban combatant deaths. The Iraq war resulted in 4,802 coalition deaths and about 110,000 documented Iraqi deaths (66,000 civilians). What emerges is that numbers do not tell the whole story. Indeed, there’s something inherently sick in judging morality by the evenness or lack thereof of the number of casualties.

8. Isn’t a truce the most desired solution?

There is no reason to believe such a proposal will lead to anything other than a respite of a couple years during which Hamas rearms, rebuilds its terror infrastructure, and begins a new round of potentially deadlier attacks. There have been three Gaza Wars due to Hamas’ rocket attacks upon Israel since Hamas came to power in 2007.

  • In 2008-2009, Hamas rocket attacks led to Israel’s Operation Cast Lead.
  • In 2012, Hamas attacks resulted in Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense.
  • The current 2014 conflict was again initiated by Hamas rocket attacks.

In between these conflicts, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have periodically launched rockets against Israel.

Previously, a truce was reached each time after great pressure was put on Israel (as opposed to Hamas). And each time, Hamas was able to recoup its losses, increase its stockpiles of rockets above pre-war numbers, as well as increase the range and quality of its rockets. It was also able to develop terror infrastructure, such as the extensive tunnel system. Besides improved rockets, Hamas has also revealed new technological capabilities in this conflict, launching several drones or UAVs.

Each previous truce has allowed Hamas to escape to fight another day. If Hamas’ demilitarization is not achieved, it will no doubt seek to again rebuild its terror apparatus beyond current capabilities. There will definitely be more wars—and even more Israeli and Gazan civilians will suffer. European and US pressure on Israel to unilaterally enact a ceasefire is therefore misguided. It leaves Hamas with a military capability to threaten again and again, exactly as it has done in the past, and time to build terror infrastructure. Recall that Hamas grievances are not fundamentally over blockades, or settlements or post-1967 “occupation.” As long as Israel exists, Hamas will launch rockets and acquire the means to terrorize Israel.

9. Some pundits say if Israel wants quiet on its border with Gaza, sooner or later it will have to negotiate with Hamas and find a modus vivendi to allow a ceasefire, even peace-like co-existence.

This assumes that Hamas will be a trustworthy partner to a peace agreement. It also assumes that Hamas shares certain basic democratic and humanitarian values that most Western states do.

Hamas has repeatedly stated through its spokesmen and declared in its charter that it will never recognize the State of Israel. This is not a conflict about Israeli occupation of Arab lands or Jewish settlements. This is an existential conflict. Hamas’ goal in its own words is the destruction of the State of Israel. Under these circumstances, any ceasefire or peace agreement is temporary. Once Hamas feels it has the means to wage an effective war, or even just carry out a major terror attack, it would again break the peace.

But forcing Israel to accommodate Hamas, as the Europeans and Americans insist, is the same as Neville Chamberlain’s naive and doomed efforts to forge a peace with Hitler. It is a truce of fools.

Like the Nazis, the Islamist worldview of Hamas includes a genocidal policy towards not just Israelis, but all Jews everywhere. Hamas Islamists believe that the killing of all Jews is incumbent upon devout Muslims before the final redemption or judgment day can occur, according to the oral traditions (Hadiths) attributed directly to Muhammad, the founder of Islam. This does not preclude Hamas agreeing to some temporary truce arrangement in order to position itself better for future hostilities against Israel.

The Islamist Hamas regime is no less a blood cult than the Nazis. Repeatedly, it has shown itself willing to sacrifice its own civilians, including women and children, for the purpose of killing Jews—all Jews. The Nazis too, when defeat became evident, were prepared to take down all of Germany with them. To the very end, the Nazi killing machinery diverted manpower and equipment from the military to kill Jewish civilians, even as the Third Reich was imploding. To negotiate with Hamas is in principle no different than negotiating with Hitler and the Nazis. Would anything less than complete defeat of the Nazi regime have sufficed?

Some American and European politicians distinguish between Hamas’ military wing and its political wing. They suggest that Hamas’ political wing can play a legitimate future role in Gaza. They even reference the humanitarian role that Hamas plays in Gaza, operating summer camps, sports clubs and social welfare offices for the civilian population. This distinction is disingenuous.

The Nazi regime also operated schools, summer camps, sports clubs, cultural, social welfare and other humanitarian projects. All were geared to fulfill the Aryan racial aims of the Nazis. Like the Nazi regime, Hamas is a rabidly racist, anti-Semitic, genocidal terrorist organization. Its tactics are fully in line with other similar organizations, such as ISIS (now called the Islamic State) in Syria and Iraq, Boko Haram in Nigeria, Hizbullah in Lebanon, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and al-Qaeda. These organizations in turn are financed by Islamist regimes such as Iran, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Unfortunately, too many Western states are willing to coddle these sponsors of terror for the sake of trade, market-share and oil. The currency of payment has been Israel. Israel, however, refuses to be that currency any longer.

10. What about worldwide condemnation of Israel? Even the Obama administration has criticized Israel.

rockets-in-schoolIn general,the Obama administration has been balanced, condemning the Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli civilians too, which most other governments and news editors ignore or mention only as a footnote.

On the other hand, Washington was very quick to condemn the shelling of a UN-operated school, and implied that Israel was responsible, without knowing all the facts—there not yet having been an investigation, not by Israel, not by the UN or any other body. It also failed to mention in this case that Hamas fire on Israeli troops originated from the vicinity of the school, clearly a civilian area.

This frequent rush by many governments to judge Israel, and frequently only Israel, suggests a political agenda more than a desire for truth. It’s a desperate search for the means to force Israel into a quick-fix truce.

Canada has been the exception, condemning Hamas for initiating the conflict, for committing war crimes by firing at civilian centers, and for locating military installations among civilian sites—thereby endangering its own population. The Stephen Harper government has also stated Israel needs to destroy Hamas’ rocket-launching capabilities completely, thereby freeing Israel, as well as Gaza, from the scourge of Hamas terror once and for all.

Obama’s criticism notwithstanding, most politicians in the US Senate and Congress understand the difficulty Israel faces in eliminating the terrorist threat. They support it vocally and in deed.

The USA too has had to express regret over the killing of civilians. During operations to “extra-judicially assassinate” Taliban leaders and operatives in Afghanistan, on numerous occasions, scores of civilians were killed when Islamist commanders attended weddings and other family gatherings. The number of civilians killed by coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq is in the tens of thousands. The USA maintained the legitimacy of such operations nonetheless.

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has voted to investigate alleged Israeli war crimes during the current conflict. No mention was made of Hamas and its direct attacks upon Israeli civilians. No attempt at balance was made. Only the USA voted against this one-sided investigation. All of the European member states abstained shamefully, letting states like China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia set the agenda.

The UNHRC has yet to condemn Hamas directly even once. It has yet to deal with massacres and conflicts, some ongoing and 100 times worse in terms of lives cost, such as in Iraq or Syria. But between 2006 and 2012, it managed to condemn Israel 47 times. Of course, with current or former members like China, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, what kind of legitimate statement or human rights would one expect? One need only recall that the “champion” of human rights, Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, was elected as President of the council in 2006, to understand the outrageous deception committed by the UNHRC. Under the august name of “human rights,” that notorious cesspool of anti-Israelism, the UNHRC, is in fact engaged in promoting anti-Semitism, like other UN agencies, at the behest of the majority Arab and Muslim states and their economic dependents throughout the world.

Notable at the UN, UNRWA, UNHRC, UNESCO and UNICEF is the general ignoring or mitigating of Hamas’ overall responsibility for initiating the conflict, for endangering the lives of civilian non-combatants (including women and children) on both sides. Indirect, weak condemnations of Hamas’ terrorist activities are viewed by Hamas as a propaganda victory. As a result, these human rights, refugee relief, children’s relief and rights agencies have encouraged Hamas to continue its violations. Rather than solving the problem, they have partnered with the problem.

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