Hamas, Hamas, Hamas, you didn’t mention Hamas!
Such is the cry that goes up whenever one sees an Israeli spokesperson on the news, or hears them on the radio. And, unsurprisingly, it’s been levelled at me in response to my blog about actions that people can take over the massacre in Gaza.
It’s the cry of the apologist. A pathetic whinge by people desperate to hold onto what they presumably view as a valid excuse for the humanitarian emergency they have bought into being. A particularly vile example of this was a representative on Channel 4 recently telling Jon Snow (who has been reporting from Gaza) that Israel is making ‘literally super-human efforts’ to avoid civilian casualties. In the face of all the evidence, such assertions are absurd. Sickeningly so. And that’s why no one is buying them.
I’ve also been told that the things I’ve said are a ‘single-minded attempt to pin all blame on the Jews.’ Two things in here. Firstly, this notion that anyone that criticises Israel is anti-Jewish is so absurd as to be laughable. The world isn’t speaking out against the actions of Israel because it’s a Jewish state. The world is speaking out against Israel because of the atrocities it is committing. I know there are terrible people that are jumping on this situation as an opportunity to espouse anti-Semitic views. I’m not one of them. Nor of most of us who are condemning the actions of Israel. Secondly, to quote a reporter that I read today (Robert Fisk, in ‘I’ by the Independent) ‘Blame game?! Do they think this is a bloody football match?’ Don’t be bleating at me with your claims of ‘but they started it! It’s all their fault!’ This is not the time for discussing ‘the complexities of the region’s history’. Discuss history, say sorry to one another, and sort out your political differences around the table like the civilised people you pretend to be. In the meantime, stop killing people and, even more importantly, stop pretending you have every right to be killing people. And when you do sit around that table, perhaps you could negotiate a peace that treats Palestinians like human beings and doesn’t keep them living in a ghetto with Israel controlling every aspect of their lives.
Everything that needs to be said about Hamas has been said. They’re the democratically elected government of Palestine. They don’t recognise the sovereignty of the occupying nation of Israel. They fire inaccurate rockets indiscriminately towards Israel, and this is in violation of International law. I don’t dispute that the rockets shouldn’t be fired. Nor do I doubt that Israelis are genuinely frightened of those rockets. I know little about Hamas, but I gather they’re unpopular; plenty of bad stuff gets said about them. And their actions do not appear to be in the pursuit of peace. My condemnation of Israel doesn’t mean that I think Hamas are heroes. My condemnation of Israel does not mean I support Hamas. My condemnation is about the infliction of suffering upon the Palestinian people. This includes the current assault, it includes the blockade, it includes the daily inequalities experienced by Palestinian people.
Whilst we’re on the subject, I’ll take a moment to respond to the person that said ‘if Hamas wasn’t firing rockets, Israel wouldn’t be doing this’ with this, from Noura Erakat (human rights lawyer);
Immediately preceding Israel’s most recent operation, Hamas rocket and mortar attacks did not threaten Israel. Israel deliberately provoked this war with Hamas. Without producing a shred of evidence, it accused the political faction of kidnapping and murdering three settlers near Hebron. Four weeks and almost 700 lives later, Israel has yet to produce any evidence demonstrating Hamas’s involvement. During ten days of Operation Brother’s Keeper in the West Bank, Israel arrested approximately 800 Palestinians without charge or trial, killed nine civilians and raided nearly 1,300 residential, commercial and public buildings. Its military operation targeted Hamas members released during the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange in 2011. It’s these Israeli provocations that precipitated the Hamas rocket fire to which Israel claims left it with no choice but a gruesome military operation.
(Read her full debunking of the popular apologist memes here: http://m.thenation.com/article/180783-five-israeli-talking-points-gaza-debunked)
However, putting aside ‘who shot first’ for the moment, let’s just say ‘Hamas is firing rockets at Israel’. This would mean that, as the occupying force, Israel has a right to take proportional action against such illegal and dangerous activities. There is nothing proportional about what Israel is doing. It also has a duty to protect the people of Palestine: people that have no legitimate means to defend themselves against Israel’s attack. Furthermore, what Israel has no right to do is to carry out collective punishment. And what we’re seeing is collective punishment. Some would go as far as to say it’s genocide; using the tenuous excuse of ‘Hamas! Hamas! Hamas!’ to wipe out an entire people.
This isn’t a balanced situation. We don’t need to balance out what Israel is doing with what Hamas is doing every time there’s yet another Israeli attack. We don’t need to mention Hamas when we talk about the latest Israeli strike on a hospital, care home, school, Mosque, power station, news centre, ambulance, home or playground. We don’t need to mention Hamas when we’re talking about the 200,000 refugees crammed into UN facilities that can’t support them and, thanks to Israel’s constant and indiscriminate bombardment, can’t keep them safe. We just need to talk about the fact that people are dying, and that it needs to stop.
Hamas breaks international law by firing rockets. It shouldn’t be doing that. Quite aside from anything else, it shouldn’t do it because it gives Israel all the excuse it needs to continue to kill Gazans.
What would apologists like us to say? Perhaps something like this:
I recognise that the people of Palestine are grateful that the Israeli army, which has described itself as the most moral army in the world, is being so rigorous and diligent in its efforts to eradicate the terror organisation of Hamas once and for all. I’m confident that the people understand the need, sad though it is, for the IDF to bomb homes, civilian buildings and community areas, because it is possible that a member of Hamas could be hiding there, or could be hiding weapons there. It is also known that Hamas puts people into these public places and makes them stay there, so they can be used as human shields. However, this tactic doesn’t work, because the Israeli army is implacable. If Hamas puts civilian targets in its way, the IDF will, with regret and great sadness, kill the civilians in order to get to the militants. Furthermore, I’m sure the people of Palestine recognise that it is necessary for all borders to Gaza to be sealed, in order to prevent any members of Hamas from escaping. I don’t doubt that the people of Palestine will understand completely the regrettable need to kill their families and destroy their homes. Even if every last Gazan needs to be killed in order to stop Hamas continuing to violate international law, then that is what Israel is prepared to do. Because this is the moral thing to do, and the only way to ensure a lasting peace for the region.
There. I mentioned Hamas. I mentioned them a lot.
Now then, what about Israel’s violations of international law? Let’s see. If I’ve understood correctly, the violations include;
- Using military might against an occupied people (who have no legitimate means of defence) in a way that is disproportionate to the threat
- Directly targeting civilians and civilian buildings without sufficient evidence of military involvement/use
- Targeting medical personnel and facilities
- Targeting UN facilities and refugee shelters
- Failing to protect civilians
- Collective punishment against an entire population
I would imagine that corralling a people into a small area and preventing their escape is also a breach of humanitarian law. And this is without mentioning the on-going violations caused by the existence of the blockade and the illegal settlements in the West Bank.
(You can find out more about the legalities of the occupation and the assault on Gaza here: http://lphr.org.uk/)
If you are one of those people that believe that everything that is happening is justified – because Hamas, then you are a poor excuse for a human being. Take a long hard look at yourself in the mirror. Know that you are complicit in the death of every child in Palestine. When the dust settles and leaders in Israel are hauled before the International Criminal Court, know that you belong in the dock with them. You didn’t just allow this to happen, you didn’t just turn a blind eye, you encouraged it. You believed it to be right. You are every bit as guilty as the people pulling the triggers.
Whilst there are people that believe that the end always justifies the means, that mass murder is ok ‘when it’s us doing it’, then the world can never know peace. And you, apologists and supporters of such slaughter, you will never know peace in your heart.