Ethiraj: Does Israel want peace or lives?

Raghul Ethiraj

Israel has been coordinating military attacks on the densely populated Gaza — a 139-square-mile Palestinian region on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea — to protect itself from ongoing rocket fire by Hamas, the democratically elected governing body of the Gaza Strip.

Many western and nonwestern governments classify Hamas as a terrorist organization while others, including Russia, China, Iran, Turkey and many Arab nations, do not.

The clash between the Gaza-based Hamas and the Israeli forces started after the June 12 kidnapping of three Israeli students in the West Bank, east of Israel and home to 2.6 million Palestinians.

The boys were later found dead on June 30, apparently executed. Israel alleged that Hamas was behind the kidnapping when no particular group took responsibility for it.

On July 2, a 16-year-old Palestinian was found dead, apparently burnt to death near his home in Jerusalem. Police arrested six Israelis in connection to that and told reporters that the killing was “nationalistic” and was in response to the murder of three Israeli boys. 

Clearly an inhumane “eye for an eye” action by both sides.

On July 5, a video surfaced showing Israeli forces brutally beating a teenage cousin of the Palestinian boy who was killed earlier that week.

Furious about the Israeli blockade of Gaza, the crackdown in the West Bank and the murder and assault of the Palestinian boys, Hamas launched a series of 40 rockets on July 8 — the first time since November 2012 that they had claimed responsibility for rocket fire.

Israel has justified its military actions since then.

Within 48 hours, 100 Palestinians were killed by more than 1,000 airstrikes by Israeli forces.

In the next few weeks, more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed and 8,200 were injured, consisting of mostly civilians. Israel, however, had 3 civilian casualties.   

Though Hamas has been launching rockets into Israel, a closer examination reveals that the Qassam rockets launched from the Gaza Strip are locally made from metal pipes and powered by fuel made from fertilizers and sugar.

Why would Hamas use such low-tech assaults against the high-tech defense system known as the Iron Dome, which is funded by the United States to protect Israel against such attacks, when it clearly knows that virtually none of its rockets would ever cause significant damage in Israel?

Well, it could merely be a sign of protest. A protest against Israel’s blockade of Gaza that cuts off basic supplies such as fuel, food and medicine. A protest against the continuing unlawful military occupation and expansion of Israel into the West Bank, which many countries around the world agree is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Hamas might be hiding rockets in schools and other civilian buildings, but that doesn’t give Israel, who has a superior military and uses advanced F-16 fighter planes and guided missiles in response to fertilizer-propelled rockets, the right to bomb those buildings when many civilians could be killed in the line of action.

Israel Defence Forces released a video earlier that went over the procedures and bureaucracy that the IDF follows before it attacks any targets in Gaza.

And yet Israel Defense Forces bombed a U.N. school that was designated as an emergency shelter, killing 15 and injuring more than 150. The precise coordinates of the shelter were given to IDF to avoid such an attack and still such bombardments continued.

The IDF has also been engaging in a social media propaganda by tweeting posters that justify Israel’s indiscriminate actions in Gaza. A poster  — Where do Gaza terrorists hide their weapons? — shows that houses, mosques, hospitals and schools in Gaza are targets because they are presumed to house weapons.

IDF also tweeted images of London and Paris under attacks from rockets with a title saying “What would you do?”

These appear to be desperate attempts by Israel to justify its inhumane actions in Gaza to the outside world.

The blockade of the Gaza Strip involves Israel and Egypt having complete control over all entry points into Gaza, including land, sea and air. They severely limit resources and people from moving in and out of Gaza, making it a large “open air prison.” People of Gaza are often subjected to random security checks and punishments, whose sole purpose appears to be to humiliate and degrade them.

Lately, it has been controversial to even come out and support Palestinians. Singer Rihanna tweeted “#FreePalestine” which was retweeted several thousand times before she deleted it.

Dwight Howard, a famous NBA player, similarly tweeted #FreePalestine and deleted it later saying it was a “mistake.”

While Secretary of State John Kerry worked tirelessly to bring a halt to the civilian bloodshed in Gaza, the Obama administration has also been stocking up Israel’s mortar and shell supplies that are used to bomb the same civilians.

I am sorry John Kerry, but the idea to build a rehab center to fight addiction is great but stocking it up with drugs at the same time is not.

Currently Israel and Gaza have agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire brokered by Egypt. While a longterm truce would be ideal, senior Hamas officials say that any longterm ceasefire should include lifting the siege on Gaza, opening the border crossing and for Palestinians to have free access to the world.

But this request for a free country is little too much to ask for, especially from the perspective of Israel which is backed by the United States.

Regardless of the differences Hamas and Israel might have, innocent civilian lives should not be put in danger. Not all Palestinians should be considered potential terrorists and Hamas needs to work with governments trying to broker a peace to secure the safety of its civilians.

You can learn more about Israel’s occupation of Palestine and its history here.