“This is the first government in history that has deliberately sought to compel its enemy to kill its own people.”
Thus did Richard Kemp sum up the latest round of deadly confrontations along the Israel-Gaza border. A former British army colonel with thirty years of experience of counter-terrorism operations, Kemp has no doubt that Hamas, a radical Islamist faction whose totalitarian rule over Gaza has lasted for more than twelve years, is engineering deaths and injuries amidst its own civilian population in order to stir up international outrage against Israel. Through this horrendous tactic, the movement hopes to bring about Israel’s international isolation, and eventual destruction.
It hardly needs to be pointed out that Kemp’s hard-hitting analysis, nor any other piece similarly denouncing Hamas for its actions, will not have seen the light of day in any mainstream South African publication. Instead, on the local front it has been a case of near-ceaseless excoriation of Israel, often in terms so extreme as to border on hysteria.
From the point of view of Hamas and those who share its zero-sum goal of wiping Israel off the map come what may, all this was just what the doctor ordered. Those who feel genuinely distressed over the ongoing plight of the Gaza population, however, should feel very differently about what is being allowed to happen.
Over sixty Palestinians were killed and many hundreds more injured in the course of violent clashes along the Israel-Gaza border on 14 May. That this was a tragedy is something that nobody can deny, regardless of where they might stand on this most fraught of global conflicts. It was, however, a tragedy that would never have happened had it truly been the intention of Hamas to do no more than hold peaceful demonstrations. Amidst the frenzy of condemnation of Israel, the culpability of Hamas in orchestrating a situation in which civilian deaths and injuries were inevitable has been almost entirely overlooked.
Organising peaceful protests was never Hamas’s intention. Its purpose, as its own spokesmen explicitly stated time and again, was to incite a mass invasion of Israeli territory, knowing very well that Israel could not and would not allow this. Hamas Prime Minister Yahya Sinwar pretty much put the real intention of his movement in a nutshell when he said: “We will tear down the border, and we will tear out their hearts from their bodies.”
It has since been revealed, including by Hamas itself, that far from being “peaceful protestors”, some 80% of those killed in the violent clashes that took place on 14 May were active members of its armed wing. The “unarmed protesters” canard has likewise been disproved by the fact that during the demonstrations, militants fired on and threw grenades and pipe bombs at Israel soldiers and attempted to plant explosives along the border fence. In using unarmed Arab civilians behind whom to hide their weapons, it is Hamas and not Israel who are guilty of multiple war crimes.
No country can be expected to simply sit back and allow a mass invasion from a territory with which it is at war. This is even more the case when the tactic routinely used by the belligerent party has been to disguise combatants as civilians and use them to attack combatants and non-combatants indiscriminately.
The manner in which Hamas has pursued its war against the “illegitimate Zionist entity” has resulted in the traditional distinction between combatants and civilians being completely blurred, not just in terms of those who are targeted by its attacks, but in terms of those who perpetrate them.
Israelis have experienced countless instances of apparently harmless people suddenly pulling out a gun or a knife and attempting to kill as many innocent bystanders as they can, even if doing so means sacrificing their own lives. What may look like an unarmed civilian can easily turn out to be a human bomb – literally.
The reality that Israel faced last week was that every one of those who were trying to invade its territory was a potential mass murderer; it had no choice but to do whatever was needed to stop them. The Israeli Defence Force tried to pre-empt the violence by dropping leaflets warning Palestinians not to approach the border fence, nor participate in the Hamas display that was putting them at risk.
The fact that the vast majority of Palestinian casualties were injured, not killed further demonstrates that the IDF, so far as possible, sought to disable rather than kill those deemed to be threatening. Should a mass breach of the fence have occurred, casualties would inevitably have sky-rocketed, hence the IDF had cogent reasons for taking measures to prevent protestors from approaching the fence at all.
These are just a few of the kind of objective considerations that should have featured in the many reports and opinion pieces on the latest tragedy, but which instead have been so woefully lacking.
What are we to conclude in the end about those who consistently look the other way when Palestinian leaders recklessly engineer lethal confrontations in which their civilian population is placed right in the firing line, but are quick to cry “massacre” when Israel retaliates?
Is it genuine sympathy for the Palestinians that motivates them, or are they in reality driven by unreflecting hatred for the Jewish State?
What can certainly be levelled against them is that they are guilty of more than just displaying gross bias against Israel; they are also, whether wittingly or unwittingly, making themselves complicit in the deliberate sacrifice of Palestinian lives for propaganda purposes, thereby making it more likely that those guilty of such appalling practices will persist with them.
– David Saks is Associate Director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies.
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