The latest offensive between Israel and Hamas may only just have begun. But already a set of the usual lies have entered the British coverage. Let me pose a few questions to the people who are propagating them.
1) Why are Hamas firing into undisputed Israeli territory?
The territory that Hamas are firing rockets into is not disputed territory. They are firing into Israel proper – that is, into land which absolutely everyone except for Israel’s annihilationist enemies recognises is the land of Israel.
Is this Hamas’s way of calling for a two-state solution? Is it their way of trying to persuade Israel to sit down with Hamas’s enemies in the PA? Of course not. The reason Hamas are firing into the heart of Israeli territory is because they do not believe that there is any such thing as Israel. They do not accept that it is there. They do not believe it should be there. They want to do everything they can to ensure that it is not there. The reason Hamas are firing into the heart of Israel is because they do not believe that Israel should exist anywhere at all. Hamas are not quibbling over the 1967 borders, or the Oslo parameters. They are showing that they do not accept the 1948 borders. Hamas do not accept Israel. They say so and, by actions like these, they demonstrate it.
2) What is a proportionate response to Hamas aggression?
Already some people have focussed on the issue of ‘proportionality’. Now that three Israelis have been killed by a Hamas rocket fired towards Tel Aviv these people are presumably a lot more content.
In its most popular version the recently invented concept of ‘proportionality’ seems to assume that there is an obviously acceptable manner in which to respond to Hamas attacks, but that this is not it. Israel’s response is deemed to be proportionate only when Israel does nothing in response to Hamas attacks. Everything beyond ‘doing nothing’ is deemed ‘disproportionate’. The concept is based on a wild, or more often wilful, misunderstanding.
Hamas fires projectiles into Israeli population centres in the hope of hitting any target. Sometimes, as with the apparent block South of Tel Aviv hit yesterday, they succeed. Hamas does not target military installations. They fire into Israeli population centres in the hope that they will cause as many casualties as possible. The ‘proportionate’ response to Hamas would be for Israel to respond to each rocket sent by the terror group by sending their own unguided and random missiles into the population centres of Gaza. This they do not do.
Israel’s choice – when pushed – is to respond to random and untargeted attacks with highly specific and targeted attacks. An example of this was the assassination of the Hamas military commander Ahmed al-Jaabari in his car in Gaza earlier this week. Israel’s targets in the Gaza are specific individuals and specific sites. The latter include sites where Hamas store their rockets and rocket-launchers.
Do innocent people sometimes get killed in this situation? Yes, tragically and inevitably they do. As they do on the Israeli side. But unlike Hamas, the killing of innocent civilians is not Israel’s war aim. Everything possible is done, from using the highest precision missile technology to warning Gazan civilians by mobile phone where and where not to go at specific times. As British army Colonel Richard Kemp observed during a previous round of this conflict, no army in history has taken such care to avoid harming civilians living in the same area as that in which an enemy is operating.
It is not only in Israel’s strategic interests to limit the suffering of innocent Palestinians in Gaza, it is in their moral interest. And here we come to what is perhaps the key difference between the two sides.
3) Is Israel targeting civilians?
You are a Hamas militant in Gaza. You are dedicated to the annihilation of Israel. Your neighbours are all Palestinians. Some support Hamas, some support Fatah and some are doubtless done with politics altogether. Nevertheless, when you launch missiles against Israel you know that the Israelis often locate – and swiftly – the sites from which these rockets are launched, and often respond with immediate force against the spot where the launch occurred.
Knowing that, where do you choose to launch your rockets? Do you settle for an area of Gaza where there is nobody about? Some waste-ground, for instance? At least if you do then you know that this is about you and your enemy facing off. No innocent Palestinian needs to be brought into your quarrel.
Sadly, this is not what Hamas do. On the contrary, Hamas knows from experience that Israel is infinitely more careful with Palestinian lives than Hamas are. Hamas know that there are targets which Israeli forces are not only reluctant, but unwilling, to hit. These are therefore the places from which Hamas launches its rockets: schools, hospitals and other civilian targets. There are enough videos of this now, enough independent corroboration to establish this beyond doubt.
When Hamas launch rockets from beside a pram with a baby in it – as they do – they know that the Israelis have two options: they must either allow the rocket-launcher to remain in place to fire more rockets into Israel, or they must hit the site and risk killing the baby. For Israel these are two terrible options. For Hamas it is a win-win. If the Israelis do not strike then Hamas can fire more rockets at Israel. If they do hit then Hamas have another dead child they can hold up for the cameras and weep fake tears for. Hamas know that these pictures will travel round the globe and bring the anger of much of the civilised world against Israel. For Hamas, the child is worth it, for the child is a tool of their war.
If any of the current defenders of Hamas - open and discreet - would like to answer these questions themselves I would be very interested to read their answers.