I haven’t posted during the current conflict between Israel and Hamas because, to be honest, I have been seriously concerned about the safety all friends and family there which has somewhat paralysed my interest in writing.
The other problem has been that I just have not had the time to make any considered assessment when so many others are doing such a good job.
The situation changes so fast that the best medium to follow has been Twitter and that has been an invaluable and fascinating resource which, at times, made me feel that I was almost there. Except I do not have to run to a shelter every few minutes and have my life made a misery for years.
As I travel toward London where I hope to take part in the annual AJEX (Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen) parade for the first time, it brought home to me the experiences of my mother during the London Blitz. She knows well what it is like to be under constant threat of being bombed or at the receiving end of a V1 or V2. Although what has been happening to Israelis in the south for years is not the Blitz, there are certain similarities.
Can you remember the last country to be subject to a constant rain of rockets? I don’t think it has happened since the V2 attacks on England in the 1940′s.
So I thought I’d try to put some context into this conflict, a context which is sadly missing from almost all news reports.
If you are a regular reader I probably don’t have to convince you of what I am about to write, but please disseminate widely if you agree. There are still many out there who simply, and understandably, accept everything the media, and especially the TV and Internet news media tell them.
What has been particularly striking over the past week is the reporting behaviour of the television and Internet media of the major news outlets and newspapers.
The BBC, in particular, has developed a culture of what it would consider to be good news reporting. This is an attempt NOT to be biased but to simply report what it sees and to deal with both sides ln the conflict evenhandedly.
This is an admirable approach, except when it comes to dealing with a terrorist group it amounts to naivety, ignorance and moral equivalence on a scale that undermines the entire reporting enterprise. By falling over itself to be ‘fair’ it often involves accepting the lies of Hamas and its supporters, treating a genocidal, fanatical, Islamist fascist regime as being trustworthy and distorting history and chronology as well as misinterpreting the root causes of this particular conflict.
The extent of the moral blindness this attitude can imbue is starkly revealed by a report
on the BBC news website which actually challenges both the main Twitter account of Hamas and the IDF spokesperson and postulating that both are guilty of a breach of Twitter’s rules by encouraging violence.
On Thursday, [the Al Qassam Brigade] posted a YouTube video purportedly showing the launch of a Fajr 5 missile towards Tel Aviv for the first time.
In its turn, the IDF tweeted a link to a video purportedly showing an Israeli air force attack on a “rocket warehouse in #Gaza”, on day two of its “Pillar of Defense” operation.
Al Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, has also been using Twitter to get its message across.
The use of social media to announce and comment on military operations, almost in real time, is a significant departure for the social networking platform.
And it potentially brings the warring parties into conflict with Twitter’s own rules, which state: “Violence and Threats: You may not publish or post direct, specific threats of violence against others.”
This is frankly ridiculous on two counts: firstly, once again, there is the moral equivalence between a terror organisation committing a war crime every time it launches a rocket, and the target of those rockets. Secondly, the IDF spokesperson is providing what could be life-saving information to Israelis as well as propaganda. The Hamas account belongs to a terror group and should be banned for that reason alone. It’s also telling lies.
So now for the context which makes this moral equivalence so reprehensible.
All too many commentators and, indeed, those who are disposed to be against Israel, consider and describe the conflict as if it were between two nations in a dispute over territory. I am talking specifically about Gaza, not the Palestinian controlled areas of the West Bank.
These same observers are also too easily duped by the lie that Israel ‘occupies’ Gaza and assume it does so for some malign reason to suppress and punish the people of Gaza for the perceived crimes of Hamas.
Israel evacuated Gaza in 2005 even before which rockets or mortars were being fired into Israel.
Prime Minister Sharon took the painful step of forcibly evicting Israelis and abandoning towns and synagogues and even exhuming the dead and repatriating to Israel.
The Israelis left behind billions of dollars worth of agricultural equipment which could have kick-started the Gazan economy. This resource was vandalised by locals more interested in using it for spare parts and other resources than creating a viable economy.
The Israeli largesse was soon repaid.
When Israel left there were no blockades, no embargoes on goods allowed through, no drones, no army, no closures. Gaza was free as its supporters now wish it to be, as they shout it at rallies across the world.
Then in 2006 after a vicious internecine war with Fatah where Hamas executed dozens of its political opponents by summary firing squads or throwing off tall buildings, Hamas won a ‘democratic’ election.
Hamas apologists are keen to point out that Hamas are the democratically elected representatives of the people of Gaza. During the London riots I was tweeting about Hamas, can’t remember why, when none other than Yvonne Ridley, doyenne of the pro-Palestine movement in the UK, tweeted to me claiming just this, that Hamas were the democratically elected government of Gaza. When I challenged her as to when their next elections would be, she got rather evasive and said it would be as soon as they had dealt with the Israelis, or something similar.
So Hamas are not democrats. Their election would not meet the standards of the civilised world or even the uncivilised. They allow no opposition, no free press. free speech, freedom of association. They kill gays, repress women, murder opponents without trial. They are, in fact, the incarnation of evil.
So don’t confuse a democratic election with democracy. Hitler was democratically elected, as I told Yvonne. She said she did not deny this without conceding the point.
Soon after their ‘election’ Hamas began a campaign of firing rockets into Israel. Since 2000, well before they came to power, they have fired about 12,000. This rocket fire has been intermittent. Sometimes several in a day, sometimes none for several days. It was rocket fire which precipitated Cast Lead in 2008.
Hamas have also sent suicide bombers into Israel, fired artillery shells at school buses, fired at IDF soldiers across the border, packed tunnels under the border with explosives and IEDs and, notoriously, took Gilad Shalt hostage for 5 years.
Israel’s forbearance did not last. Hamas were importing and manufacturing a huge cache of arms after 2006. Why? There was no occupation. They were free. Israel allowed in all that was necessary. Israel provided gas and electricity, as it still does.
So why the rockets?
Hamas’s charter clearly states their goals. They are an extreme jihadi, Islamist organisation whose raison d’être is to ‘end the occupation’. This is not the occupation of Gaza or even the occupation of the West Bank, but all Israel. They consider Israel to be illegitimate and that all the land, from the river to the sea, is Arab Muslim. Their role is to liberate it using any means possible.
But their aims don’t stop there. They are a virulently anti-Semitic group. They do not want a one state solution with Jews living harmoniously with Arabs and Muslims, they want to kill every last Jew in Israel – AND THE WORLD.
Don’t believe me? Read their charter Do read it. This is an absolutist, rejectionist movement which is a death cult.
Hamas have no regard for international law, although it puts up a vague pretence in front of Western cameras. It has no regard for human rights. It has no regard for human life. It abuses its children dressing them in jihadi ninja outfits replete with suicide belts and assault rifles and rocket launchers.
It indoctrinates its children into hatred and the need to shed Jewish blood.
This is the organisation in support of which demonstrators will often say, ‘We are all Hamas now’.
Hamas have been pounding southern Israel for years. Leading up to the targetted killing of a senior Hamas figure last year, I had been tweeting for days and written an article about the online #stoptherockets hashtag. The rockets did not come as a result of the killing, the killing and subsequent offensive was after many years of intolerable rocket fire from Gaza. Rocket fire which had escalated to an extent before the killing which forced Israel to act.
When those commenting on Israel’s actions caution restraint, where were they when the rockets were falling like rain on Ashkelon, Beersheva, Ashdod, Sderot and other towns and cities in southern Israel? How would you like to live under that barrage delivered by an implacable enemy not defending itself but carrying out the objectives of its own charter. A charter which seeks the destruction of Israel.
Hamas, affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, supplied by Iran, financed by – well, partly by you and me if you are in the EU.
So how can anyone fail to see that it is Israel,who are the victims of aggression, not the other way round. the blockade, the embargo, the fence around Gaza, the controlled crossings are all of Hamas’s making.
Yet, despite this, Israel continues to provide power, humanitarian aid, treatment in Israeli hospitals for the people of Gaza who are also victims of the obscene and vicious death cult named Hamas.
I say nothing of the lies and falsely reported images coming from Hamas during the conflict. I say nothing of their evasive interviews which never answer direct questions.
Remember. Hamas fire from schools, hospitals, residential area. They stockpile munitions in mosques and bedrooms. Every time they fire a rocket from a residential area towards Israel they commit two patent war crimes. Yet no-one calls them out for this. The opposite; they receive support from national governments and organisations across the world.
NGO’s which say nothing about rockets fired at Israel are always apoplectic as soon as Israel responds.
Yet I detect things are changing. The UK, many European countries, the USA and even Ban Ki Moon himself seem to realise that Hamas are the aggressors. Whilst asking Israel to show restraint, something they never asked Hamas to do, they nevertheless clearly recognise the sequence of cause and effect here and they know that to ask Israel not to react would be utter hypocrisy.
Maybe you can now understand the background a little better.
My train is about to pull in to London.
See you later.
I’m in Jerusalem this week. You can write as much as you like about a place, but here’s no substitute for actually being there and imbibing the culture and the atmosphere first hand.
I’ve been here many times now. Today, however, I noticed two contrasting memorials as I walked back from the Old City to where I am staying off Emek Refaim.
I’ve seen them both on several occasions but for some reason, this time, something resonated.
The first is a plaque outside the King David Hotel which commemorates the attack on that hotel during the British Mandate. The plaque is at pains to tell us how many warnings were given by the Irgun to various bodies asking them to evacuate the building. The target was the central offices of the British Mandate authorities in July 1946.
This same plaque expresses the regret of the Irgun that these warnings were ignored and 92 people died.
Something is not right with that expression of regret.
As you enter Emek Refaim you cannot fail to miss a stone memorial for the eight people who died on a 14a bus as it was leaving the German Colony during the second Intifada in 2004. The suicide bomber was, of course, a Palestinian terrorist who gave no warning except, presumably, a final shout of Allah HuAkbar as he detonated he bomb.
Let’s, go back to the King David Hotel memorial. This plaque is telling us that the Irgun, and by implication, the Israeli people are very sorry that 92 people died, but it really wasn’t their fault because they did warn you and if you didn’t listen to that warning or believe it, then that was your problem. We regret the loss of life BUT ….
Well, sorry, there can be no ‘buts’. Terrorism is terrorism. Now I know such a view may not be popular among some supporters of Israel who will claim that the Irgun ‘had to do it’, ‘we were fighting for our state’, ‘we had to drive the British pro-arab mandate authorities out’ etc. etc.
Now imagine that the terrorists who flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon had given warnings that were ignored by the US authorities. Suppose the planes were empty, except for terrorist pilots. Suppose that thousands of people were killed because the New York and Washington authorities had not heeded the warnings and evacuated the Pentagon and downtown New York.
Who would be to blame for these deaths? The municipal authorities or the terrorists?
So who was to blame for the King David Hotel bomb? The Irgun or the Mandate authorities?
You can argue all you want how much worse Palestinian terrorism is than Jewish terrorism of the 1940s, and I would agree, but it is still terrorism. I think it is time Israelis and the Israeli government acknowledged this and apologise for it rather than sanitise the worse excesses of the Irgun, Stern Gang and others. Not only is it morally right to do so but it avoids accusations of hypocrisy when it comes to terrorism and the glorification of terrorists.
It is always dangerous to judge the past by the standards of today, but very often the passage of time gives us a much clearer vision, even a clearer moral vision of past events. Much has been written about the bombing and much historical analysis about the ‘warnings’ has been written. I take the simplistic view: the British were not the Nazis, they were not an evil regime. The bomb was a crime – no excuses. This has always been my view.
When I was very young and saw the film Exodus these Jewish Freedom fighters became glamorous heroes of the Jewish people. This view became somewhat modified over time until I formed a completely contrary view.
None of this has ever changed my conviction of the rights of and the necessity for a Jewish State, but all decent states have to be cognisant of the crimes of the past committed in its name even before that state was actually formed. I will not be fully comfortable until that cognisance and that acknowledgement are made.
It goes without saying, but I will, nevertheless, say it, that it is unlikely that Palestinians will ever make a single apology for any act of terrorism. But their attitude has absolutely no bearing on the obligations of Israel. I mention it as a knee-jerk attempt to mitigate by comparison and thus I contradict myself.
What a terrible irredeemable Zionist I am.
I wrote a few days ago that it had to be done but I cannot rejoice at any man’s death.
I also said there may be a reaction from the upholders of international law who may deem the USA’s actions as illegal.
Let’s look at the morality of an operation which the USA said was a kill and capture mission. There was no question of capturing him alive. As a captive he would have to be tried in a criminal court. This would be the trial of the century.
Any trial would probably lead to hostage taking, reprisal mock trials, huge security and expense.
We all know the result of any such trial.
bin Laden was guilty by his own confession.
So what would be the sentence?
If tried in the USA the sentence would surely be death.
If tried in an international court, the sentence would be life – that would be problematical.
bin Laden led an organisation dedicated to murdering innocent people all over the world. In the USA alone he killed more than 2000 people at the World Trade Center and in Washington. He threatened again and again to keep killing until the West left Iraq and Afghanistan and Israel was destroyed. His version of political Islam is dedicated to the overthrow of Western civilisation and the spread of this ideology throughout the world.
bin Laden and al Qaeda had declared war on the West and the USA in particular. He was totally ruthless in his intention to prosecute that war.
In conventional warfare, “taking out” an enemy leader is considered a legitimate and legal act of war.
The problem many people, like the Archibishop of Canterbury, have with this particular killing, is that they do not see it as a military operation in a war zone; bin Laden was not in uniform, was not armed, was “at home”, with his family.
It is this domestic environment, albeit in a fortress complex, which gives people moral qualms.
Those that have these qualms seek either to take a morally superior position or they want to convince us that, despite bin Laden’s obvious crimes, nevertheless the rule of law has primacy.
Both the moralists and the legalists are telling us, in their own way, that our civilisation can only retain its moral superiority to the likes of bin Laden if we observe the very rules, laws and mores which underpin that civilisation.
I understand what they are saying and I have some sympathy for this point of view. The argument is that we defend our civilisation by acting only in ways which reinforce that sense that our civilisation is superior, and that keeping to this strict moral and legal code is essential to its survival and our self-respect; our moral “soul”. In brief, the argument is that we should not “lower” ourselves to the level of the enemy.
I think they are wrong.
And one of the reasons I think they are wrong is the Israeli paradigm.
Israel has always regarded terrorists and terrorist leaders as valid targets – often characterised as “extra-judicial killings” by Israel’s detractors and enemies and also by NGOs.
Israel is in a paradigmatic situation to the USA and the West. It is involved in “asymmetric warfare” where the norms of the rules of war are problematic.
I’m not an international lawyer or an authority on the rules of warfare, but Israel, facing an existential threat since its birth, has engaged in assassination which is ultimately aimed at protecting its citizens. Does Israel put the welfare of its citizens first or does international law as interpreted in relation to conventional warfare trump these considerations?
It is clear that Israel has made that decision. Israel is prepared to take opportunities, where their intelligence offers, to kill the leaders of Hamas and other enemies who are at war with Israel in everything but name.
The terrorists do not observe a single rule of war; not the Geneva Conventions, not international laws of conflict – nothing.
Yet Israel, and in the bin Laden case, the USA are actually challenged and their actions questioned.
Not only are we now in a phase of history where warfare is not necessarily between national actors, but that war is not a conventional war over territory or tribalism, it is a war of a particular ideology, a political religious ideology, against the rest of the world and the West in particular.
In these circumstances I believe that international laws of warfare are inadequate. States have a right to protect themselves from ruthless killers and genocidal maniacs who might even equip themselves with WMD.
Of course, there is great danger in my suggestion. After all, do the Western democracies alone have the right to abandon or break or stretch international law and the rules of warfare? If they arrogate this right to themselves alone, could not the other nations of the world equally arrogate rights which are inimical to the West’s moral codes andethics?
Isn’t the point of international law that states who may have different political, moral and ethical systems and traditions all sign up to a common set of rules?
What right does any one country have to flout these laws?
Sounds like I’m having second thoughts or talking myself out of my original conclusion?
Any country that has a civilisational or existential threat against it has to make decisions and take risks to protect itself. In conventional wars state actors take unconventional actions, even illegal actions, to protect themselves with covert operations.
The West is facing an unconventional, unprecedented threat. The USA had every right to consider bin Laden an enemy combatant and a leader of an enemy army. What was more moral: to kill him or allow him to kill thousands of others? What was more moral: killing him or capturing him and risking the lives of the Navy Seals?
It’s exactly the same for Israel: kill an enemy combatant with an airstrike that may also kill innocents or allow him to continue to kill Israeli innocents?
The USA did the right and moral thing