We created for the Israelis, Jews and supporters of Israel all over the world answers to the tough questions that arise in light of Protective Edge Operation. You may find the questions below provocative, but that is to be expected as they come from those not necessarily sympathetic to Israel. Their wording should not be misconstrued as reflecting any position on our part regarding the issues they raise.
The questions and answers were published in a special desigrned booklet given to passengers at Ben Gurion Airport.
1. Aren't Israel's settlements and its occupation of the West Bank the real reasons for the rockets being fired from Gaza?
No, and the evidence to that effect is overwhelming. While Hamas indeed claims that its armed struggle is aimed at bringing about an end to the "occupation," the occupation they seek to end is that of the entire State of Israel.
In 1998 we offered to withdraw from 96% of the area over the Green Line as part of a comprehensive peace proposal that was summarily rejected by the Palestinians. In 2005, we nevertheless withdrew unilaterally from Gaza, dismantling all of our settlements there in the process, hoping only for quiet in exchange. Still, the rockets continued to fall. What reasonable conclusion can be drawn, then, other than that Hamas is serious about what appears in its Charter:
“The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that… Palestine is an Islamic Waqf land consecrated for Muslim generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it… should not be given up. Neither a single Arab country nor all Arab countries, neither any king or president, nor all the kings and presidents,,,possess the right to do that."
The Charter goes on to call for the destruction of the State of Israel and its replacement with an Islamic state extending from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, an objective fueled by blatant and vitriolic hatred of the Jew.
“The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews, when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will sa,"O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.'"
Whatever one's position regarding the Israeli presence in what you refer to as the West Bank and others call Judea and Samaria, it has precious little to do with the current conflagration, and certainly cannot justify the double war crime being committed by Hamas of targeting Israel's civilian population with rockets, while using its own civilian population as a human shield to prevent Israeli retaliation.
Hamas Firing rockets from grave yard
2. Doesn't Israel's stranglehold on Gaza, and its maritime blockade leave the Gazans with no choice but to resort to violence?
Frankly, I feel for the innocent civilians of Gaza and recognize that if there is ever to be a long-term resolution to this conflict, Israel is going to have to do its part to facilitate an economic infrastructure that is independent and sustainable. To claim, however, that an Israeli “blockade” is the cause of Palestinian violence is simply fallacious.
When Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005, uprooting nearly 10,000 Israelis from their homes, it was with the sincere intention that the disengagement would lead to a genuine peace.
Hamas endangers the lives of civilians in Israel & in Gaza
At the time, Israel even signed an Agreement on Movement and Access with the Palestinian Authority which by now is long forgotten. It granted the Palestinians control over their own borders for the first time in history, allowed for imports and exports, approved the construction of a seaport and opened discussions in regard to an airport. Then came the 2007 elections in Gaza which brought Hamas to power after a bloody and violent struggle.
In the wake of these developments, both Israel and Egypt placed restrictions on the borders of Gaza and imposed a maritime blockade, which even a usually hostile UN recognized as being legal. , As stated in the 2011 Palmer report:
“There is a real threat to its [Israel's] security from militant groups in Gaza. The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law.”
Still, despite the ongoing attempts to smuggle weapons into Gaza, Israel has continually facilitated the import of needed commodities and humanitarian aid. This has continued even during Operation Protective Edge, with some 1,300 trucks carrying food, medical supplies and essential goods, and fuel crossing into Gaza from Israel during the first 3 weeks of the campaign. This is in addition to the massive amounts of building supplies that were freely transferred over the years that, it is now evident,were used for constructing tunnels to facilitate terrorist attacks against Israel's civilians rather than serving the needs of the local population.
Rockets Fired On Your City? It's Surreal!
3. Even if Israel has a legitimate right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Gaza, doesn't the disproportionate death toll of Palestinians indicate a disproportionate response on the part of Israel? How can Israel claim it is not waging a war against the people of Gaza when so many civilians, particularly children, have been killed?
The death of every innocent, Palestinian or Israeli, is a horror and your question raises a disquieting moral issue. If you claim that Israel’s response has been disproportionate, however, what would you considered a proportionate response to be? Certainly you can’t mean that every time Hamas targets Israeli homes, schools, or nurseries that Israel should fire at Palestinian homes, schools and nurseries!
Instead, we have been targeting only terrorist tunnels, arms caches, rocket launchers, and other military targets. The problem is that while Israel uses its weapons to defend its people, Hamas is using its people to defend its weapons. So much so, that it not only launches rockets from schools, hospitals and mosques, but actually encourages residents of Gaza to remain in places which Israel has warned them to evacuate, hoping to bring about a humanitarian disaster that the international community can’t ignore.
This unconscionable Hamas tactic is the primary cause of the appalling number of civilian casualties in Gaza, which even UNWRA has roundly denounced:
“UNRWA strongly and unequivocally condemns the group or groups responsible for this flagrant violation of the inviolability of its premises under international law.”
For its part, Israel is continuously laboring to minimize civilian casualties, dropping leaflets and telephoning potential targets, warning of planned military actions. Our pilots have even gone so far as to call off imminent airstrikes after identifying civilians gathered as human shields in the vicinity of military targets.
Still, there is no denying the suffering and tragic death of so many of Gaza's civilians, and regret the circumstances that have occasioned this. Ultimately, however, it is Hamas that must abandon its armed struggle if the children of Gaza are to have any hope for a brighter future.
You Have 15 Seconds to Take Cover, Run!
4. Why does Israel believe the tunnels leading from Gaza into Israel pose such a serious threat? The IDF has discovered more than 30 of them, but not one has been used to launch a successful attack on Israel's civilian population.
It turns out that the ground operation Israel launched to destroy the tunnels came just in time. Intelligence gathered since the war began reveals that Hamas had planned to use them to carry out a mega-attack on Israel's civilian population during the Jewish High Holidays in the fall. Hundreds were to have simultaneously infiltrated through this sophisticated and extensive underground labyrinth of terror, pouring out into Israeli kibbutzim and villages unobserved, there to slaughter as many of the residents as possible and taking others as hostages back through the tunnels into Gaza, as they did with Gilad Shalit in 2006. In the meantime, many of the tunnels were serving as terrorist command centers, or being utilized for storing weapons, launching rockets, and smuggling arms. Both Israel's political and military leadership now appear to be firmly committed to completing the daunting and dangerous task of destroying this maze of horror before withdrawing back into home territory.
Watch: Hamas Terrorists attempt to infiltrate Israel
5. Isn't the cycle of violence that Israel and Hamas are currently caught up in evidence that one side is as much to blame as the other?
Hamas Fires Missiles from Densely Populated Areas in Gaza
Your question suggests that there is a claim to be made here of moral equivalency. There is no justification for that. Israel did not precipitate this war. In fact, it was precipitated by the kidnapping and cold-blooded murder of three innocent Israeli teenagers by Hamas terrorists. As Israel sought to arrest those responsible, Hamas launched a continuous barrage of rockets from Gaza deliberately aimed at our civilian population centers. Israel responded with air attacks aimed at destroying Hamas' ability to continue terrorizing us, stating categorically that it would end its air raids the moment Hamas ceased firing its missiles. Quiet would be met with quiet, we declared, but to no avail.
Still, for several days, Israel resisted sending in ground troops that it believed could put an end to this intolerable situation, agreeing throughout to a variety of cease-fire proposals that were summarily rejected by Hamas. Finally, with no other options on the table, the Israel Defense Forces moved into the northern area of Gaza with the explicit objective of restoring calm to the region and destroying the tunnels that Hamas had constructed from Gaza into Israel proper for the explicit purpose of terrorizing Israeli civilians. Hoping to limit the loss of life on both sides of the conflict, we continued to urge Hamas to cease firing rockets into Israel, which could have brought about an immediate end to the bloodshed.
Indeed, we continue to hope and pray that a ceasefire will have been brokered by the time you are reading this. But whether or not that is the case, to hold the victim of violence responsible for the violence perpetrated against him is not just unfair, it is morally repugnant, just as it is to blame a victim of rape for having been violated.