It certainly is no more than we might have expected. But this does not make it even remotely acceptable. This has been the pattern:
Hamas is ALWAYS the party that initiates hostilities. Hamas – and with it PIJ, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, whose rockets are shown here. If these rockets don’t terrify you, you’re not paying attention.
When attacked, Israel responds with some measure of seriousness. But within a very short period of time the international community feels compelled to tell Israel what she can and cannot do and to try to limit Israeli self-defense efforts. There is a tepid recognition of “Israel’s right to self-defense,” which is always qualified. Then one nation or another – often Egypt – steps in to negotiate some sort of agreement that halts overt hostilities, in an informal ceasefire.
Yet now the pattern has shifted!! I want to explain how it has and why it should. That we are already seeing pressure on Israel is beyond infuriating.
As I continue to write these postings, I look to you, my friends, to continue to share them broadly and to speak on the issues in a variety of contexts – letters to the editor, discussions with friends, etc. There is SO much people do not understand. Your assistance helps.
As the international community rushes to limit Israel’s response, there is a term that is bandied about: Proportionality. Its use is galling because it is applied inappropriately.
Already yesterday High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell put out a statement on the “escalation of confrontations”:
“The grave escalation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (sic), including the major upsurge in violence in and around Gaza, must stop…
“The EU is dismayed at the large numbers of civilian deaths and injuries, including children. The priority must be to protect civilians. All efforts should be directed at avoiding civilian casualties, and supporting de-escalation…
“While recognizing Israel’s legitimate need to protect its civilian population, this response needs to be proportionate and with maximum restraint in the use of force.” (Emphasis added)
The EU totally lacks jurisdiction or the moral authority to advise Israel: Its officials tend to address representatives of Israel with arrogance. What is more, they provide the Palestinian Authority with major funding for, as well as guidance with regard to, illegal building in Area C under Israeli control.
But that doesn’t stop Borrell. So let’s look at what he is demanding.
He wants de-escalation of the fighting. Whether Israel’s very necessary objectives have been achieved is irrelevant. If those objectives cannot be achieved without civilian deaths, we damn well better stop.
He does not acknowledge that Israeli civilians are at risk because of Hamas, so that the purpose of Israeli actions is to protect them. And he simply ignores the fact that Hamas and PIJ aim for Israeli civilian deaths, while Israel takes every precaution to avoid civilian deaths whenever possible.
See a video here with Col. Richard Kemp, who says that “the IDF does more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.”
Col. Kemp was commander of British forces in Afghanistan, and he understands warfare issues, in particular when confronting a Muslim enemy.
The bottom line in warfare is that it is impossible to avoid ever hitting civilians. So what does the EU have in mind, precisely, when demanding “maximum restraint” in avoiding civilian deaths in combat? They are telling us, yes, there is some theoretical right you have to protect yourselves, but if that protection would mean civilian deaths in Gaza, pull back and “de-escalate.”
What puts Israel at a disadvantage is the fact that the Muslim rulers of Hamas have no regard for the lives of the civilians of Gaza and place military installations adjacent to civilian areas, thereby enormously increasing the possibility of the deaths of their people.
And what about “proportionate” use of force? From the Chicago Journal of International Law (Emphasis added):
“…Contrary to popular misunderstandings, proportionality is not a principle that limits the number of casualties one party can inflict on the other party by reference to the number of casualties they have suffered…Proportionality, rightly understood, is a principle that limits the acceptable amount of destructive secondary (non-targeted) effects an attack can produce given the anticipated military advantage from the attack.”
Put simply, a proportionate attack is one that does not cause civilian damage that is excessive for what is necessary for achieving a military goal.
Right now Hamas is attacking Israeli civilians. It is the military goal of Israel to severely reduce, or to eradicate, Hamas’s capacity to do this.
Were Israel to carpet bomb Gaza in order to achieve this goal, it would be seriously and unacceptably disproportionate. Of course Israel would never do that. Israel’s very careful, focused bombing of military installations, Hamas infrastructure, as well as heads of intelligence and leaders of bombing units, is quite proportionate. But the world refuses to see it.
What’s important now is that Israel’s leaders, civilian and military, see it. That leaders across the political spectrum are of one mind concerning the need to attack Hamas with great strength has been most reassuring. They are showing determination and seriousness with regard to achieving necessary military goals. And what has been fantastic is the way Netanyahu and Gantz have been working together constructively, on the same page.
Here we see Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chief of Staff Kochavi at an Air Force briefing,
What Israel has done several times in the past is to take a less comprehensive approach that is referred to as “mowing the grass”: This is the term used when Hamas’s capacity to hit Israel is reduced sufficiently so that there is an interval of quiet for some handful of years (the last major confrontation was in 2014). But it is understood that ultimately another round will have to be fought. The grass will grow tall again.
Now there is increasing recognition that this approach is self-defeating. Hamas never does a “ceasefire” in the sense that there is an understanding that fighting will cease. What Hamas does, in Islamic terms, is take a hiatus known as a hudna. Even as the cessation of fighting is agreed to, Hamas understands that this is time to be utilized for weapons consolidation, training and acquisition of newer, better weapons. Then, when Hamas chooses to resume fighting, it is in a better position.
And this is precisely what the Israeli military is seeing in this round of confrontations. Hamas has a rocket now with a lower trajectory that may avoid the tracking of the anti-missile Iron Dome. It also has the capacity to launch a series of rockets in a very short time. A couple of nights ago, some 100 rockets were launched at Tel Aviv in an extremely brief interval, most taken down by the Iron Dome.
Doing this again in a few years seems less and less a prudent approach. And there is no question but that the IDF is hitting in Gaza with focused intensity.
Yesterday, Defense Minister Gantz declared: “Israel is not preparing for a ceasefire. There is currently no end date for the operation. Only when we achieve complete quiet can we talk about calm.
“We will not listen to moral preaching against our duty to protect the citizens of Israel.”
While Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “We eliminated senior Hamas commanders and this is just the beginning. We will inflict blows on them that they couldn’t even dream of.”
So, Russia may be offering negotiating services, and the Quartet (groan) – the US, the UN, Russia and the EU – may be itching to get into the act. But so far, we are holding our own with determination.
This does not mean that we are not suffering casualties; we are. Seven people have been killed including a five year old boy and a soldier, St.-Sgt. Omer Tabib, hit by a Kornet anti-tank guided missile.
We’ve had our share of structural damage as well. A mother and her children in Beersheva escaped this house seconds before it was hit by a grad rocket.
And there is very regrettable trauma being suffered by small children in places such as Sderot, where rockets are frequent. In Sderot, because of the proximity to Gaza, people have less than a minute to reach a safe room. Some people are afraid to leave those safe rooms.
But the Israeli populace is resilient and ready to keep going.
As Douglas Altabef, Chairman of the Board of Im Tirtzu, wrote (emphasis added):
“Israel needs to learn one difficult but crucial lesson: no one respects our humanity, our decency and our exquisite care for the rights of our enemies. We are still castigated, vilified and convicted.
“It is time to prioritize our own safety and welfare over those of our enemies. While we might not win international accolades, we will win something far more important: enduring peace and quiet.”
Today, Thursday, IDF spokesman Brigadier General Hidai Zilberman announced several achievements, including the destruction of most of the rocket production facilities of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Over 700 Hamas targets have been hit by the Israeli Air Force and 60 operatives including senior commanders, have been killed.
“Last night, we started destroying government targets in the Gaza Strip, such as central banks and internal security buildings. Hamas is beginning to discover cracks and there is pressure in the organization…”
An offer of a ceasefire from Hamas has been rejected and there is increasing indication that there will be a ground invasion. Some 7,000 reservists have been called up from artillery, Iron Dome batteries, doctors, paramedics, IAF, intelligence and combat units. Soldiers have been instructed not to leave their bases and there has been additional deployment at the Gaza border.
As I write, the rockets are flying.
There are two other reasons why taking out Hamas is important, which I will touch upon here.
It is well understood that Iran does not fight directly, but uses proxies. The primary one is Hezbollah, in Lebanon. Then there are the Houthis in Yemen.
But this is the case as well with the terrorists groups in Gaza, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
As reported by MEMRI (emphasis added): “…on Al-Ahd TV (Iraq) on May 7, 2021, senior PIJ official Ramez Al-Halabi said that the rockets used by the faction to target Tel Aviv bear the signature of Iran and Soleimani. He added that faction members were trained by the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp] and that Iranian money was used to buy weapons for the armed factions in Gaza and Lebanon. Al-Halabi added that every home in Gaza has Soleimani’s portrait, and that ‘it is they [Iran] who support us with weapons, money, and food.’”
(Quasem Soleimani, who was commander of the Quds force of the IRGC, was assassinated in January 2020.)
“At a January 2, 2021 memorial for Soleimani, senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan said: ‘During the time of aggression of 2008-2009 [i.e. Israel’s Operation Cast Lead] a shortage of anti-tank weapons was discovered among the resistance fighters in Gaza, and Soleimani tried [to ensure] that those weapons would arrive in the shortest possible time…’”
We can say, then, that Israel is doing battle with Iran in Gaza. This is to be taken with utmost serious, and it behooves other nations to support us in this battle.
And finally a problem of enormous and deeply disturbing dimensions: In several of the mixed cities of Israel – cities with substantial Jewish and Arab populations, there has been unprecedented violence visited upon the Jewish residents by Arab residents since the beginning of hostilities with Hamas. This happened first in Lod, then in Ramle, and then in a number of other locations, including Haifa.
“President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday condemned ‘bloodthirsty’ Arab rioters over violence in Jewish-Arab cities across the country, calling the riots in the central city of Lod a ‘pogrom,’ as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was reminiscent of dark periods in Jewish history.
“Israel ordered a massive boost earlier Wednesday to police forces deployed in cities with Jewish and Arab populations. The move came hours after a state of emergency was declared in the central Israel city of Lod, where intense Arab rioting late Tuesday saw three synagogues and numerous shops set on fire, along with dozens of cars…
“In a statement with unusually strong language, Rivlin said that ‘the sight of the pogrom in Lod and the disturbances across the country by an incited and bloodthirsty Arab mob… is unforgivable.’
“’The silence of the Arab leadership about these disturbances is shameful, giving support to terrorism and rioting and encouraging the rupture of the society in which we live and in which we will continue to live once all this has passed,’ said Rivlin, who has long worked to improve Jewish-Arab ties in Israel.”
I want to return to this because the issue requires a closer examination than I can give it here. What must be understood is that we are speaking about Israeli Arabs, with Israeli citizenship. That they could turn this way is a terrifying prospect.
There is no question in my mind but that – whatever their conflicted identities — they were incited (which in no way excuses them) and that the incitement emanated from Hamas in Gaza, and by extension from Iran.
There is an attempt by Hamas to establish a fifth column inside of Israel even as we are battling them in Gaza. However the rioters are handled inside of Israel – large police reinforcements have been called out and a state of emergency has been declared in Lod – this situation requires a very strong response with regard to Hamas, as well. A situation that permits Hamas to claim it is victorious over Israel will simply further inflame the situation.
I do believe, I will add, that this is not separate from the rioting on the Temple Mount and the rioting over the Sheikh Jarrah houses – although those rioters were not Israeli citizens. I see the hand of Hamas in all of it.
The holiday of Shavuot is Sunday night and Monday. I don’t know that I will post again before them, and so now wish all Chag Sameach.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.