As every day brings more bad news I keep thinking “I really should write something about this” but then hit a wall of fug when I try to distil exactly what it is I want to say.
I’ve not read any Israeli media but I expect they are the only people who are not condemning what is going on over there and demanding a cease fire. In fact, if reports are to be believed, the Israeli media find the whole thing very amusing. The rest of the world’s media and organisations, especially the British/American that I am mostly exposed to, are doing what I expected – ignoring the more complicated issues to concentrate on the emotionally powerful stories of dead, innocent, Palestinian families & children. Innocent is perhaps a debatable word in this case?
In my opinion, the outrage against the current Israeli actions are driven by two things; the fact that it is most obviously not a fair fight and the fact that most of the Palestinian deaths are “innocent” women and children, not Hamas fighters with rocket launchers in their hands.
Rules of engagement: Is Israel in breach of the laws of war?
Critics of the Israeli invasion of Gaza say that the military response has been disproportionate and in breach of international rules of war. According to international agreements based on principles dating back to St Thomas Aquinas and enshrined in the Geneva Conventions, Israel should adhere to rules on:
Proportionality No more force should be used than is necessary, and casualties should be kept to a minimum. The response should be in proportion to the level of the threat.
Civilians Should not become victims of the war and have the right to be protected and their safety ensured.
Children Are not to be treated as combatants; medicines, food and clothing should be allowed through.
Targets Only military targets should be attacked and indiscriminate bombing is forbidden.
Weapons White phosphorus should not be used as a weapon of war in civilian areas, but Israel has argued that there is nothing to stop it being used as a smokescreen. [from here]
I have to confess that I’m not a fan of having “Rules of war”, they seem such a ridiculous contradiction. I suppose they come in handy when putting people on trial after the deeds are done but nobody really pays them any heed them while the war is raging so as an atrocity-deterrent they are pretty worthless.
There’s no denying that Gaza is not a fair fight. Hamas (presumably) send rockets over into Israel, injure one person and scare a few dogs. Israel replies with vastly superior weapons and soldiers and kills a handful of Palestinian families. Not an even fight at all then but it must be said that this imbalance doesn’t seem to be worrying either of the combatants. Hamas are still sending over their fireworks and Israel are still replying. To expect Hamas to give up bothering or Israel to respond “in kind” is to completely misunderstand both sides. It’s just not going to happen. We might feel uncomfortable at witnessing this modern-day David and Goliath (with the Jew now taking the part of Goliath!) but that’s our problem, not theirs. To the Hamas fighters, even one Jewish life extinguished is a huge step closer to their ultimate goal and the Jews know that. To the Israelis, the fact that Hamas only have super-size fireworks today is just good luck, tomorrow they might have something more powerful so lets stop them now, eh?
Lets explore the innocent women and children. This is a tough one because there’s a need to ask questions like who is responsible for that child’s death? Is it the Israelis for sending the tank shell into that courtyard, is the Hamas rocket launcher who used the courtyard (or somewhere close-by) to fire a rocket, is it the family who support Hamas or the family who continue to bring up their children in a war zone? Perhaps it is the Palestinian National Authority’s fault for not dealing with the terrorist organisation within their midst thus allowing Israel to perhaps justifiably see the entire Gaza strip and all its inhabitants as one big nest of vipers?
Of course there are supplemental questions like did the Hamas rocket-man have a choice of locations, does the Palestinian family have a choice other than to support Hamas or to live where they do? Could they send their children to live somewhere safer, would they do that even if they could or are they busy raising the next generation of Jew-hating terrorists? The media seem to be only interested in one choice, the choice of Israel in deciding whether to fire that tank shell or not. Isn’t that a little too simple?
Of course, I am moved by the same feelings as everyone else. It’s not right that Israel kills so many in retaliation against such a weak threat. It’s not right that women, children, entire families are dying on both sides of the fight. I am however prepared to look beyond the superficial and immediate news and to realise that, nasty as it is, this is probably exactly how both sides want it to be and that neither side is remotely interested in what any of us have got to say about it. Even if a proper Palestinian state is created in Gaza and the West Bank, even if the issue of East Jerusalem is resolved to everyone’s satisfaction the fighting will not stop until the Palestinians have removed every trace of an organisation, like Hamas, who’s aim is the total destruction of Israel and Jews. Also, as long as this terrorist organisation is allowed to live and work amongst the truly ‘innocent’ people in Gaza, these truly ‘innocent’ people will keep being killed in far greater numbers than any Israelis are.
Israel is wrong in thinking that it can ever wipe out Hamas itself. They know from bitter experience that for every Hamas or Hezbollah terrorist they destroy a few more take their place. The more they kill, the worse it gets. If they were to kill every man woman and child in the Gaza strip they would not stop Hamas, they would not stop the rockets and they would also alienate most of the rest of the world. Dealing with Hamas, in my opinion, can only be done by the Palestinians themselves and they seem to be either unwilling, or unable to do so. So who’s to blame for all these innocent deaths? I don’t think it’s as easy to answer as most people seem to think.
The people of Manchester, if they really feel it’s their issue at all, should be demonstrating outside both the Israeli embassy and whatever building represents Palestine up there. To be honest though they’d be better off not wasting their time on it and instead get down to Old Trafford to watch today’s game with Chelsea.