By Shimon Z. Klein
The pressure cooker had threatened to blow up for a long time. Hamas had been firing rockets indiscriminately into southern Israel turning the lives of the people living there into a living hell. This has been going on for nearly eight years and nobody, apart from Israel, protested. These inhabitants are not occupiers of Arab lands as is the case in the West Bank. They are living within the green line. The firing of rockets into Israel is so pointless and no strategic advantage could be gained from it. Hamas had been warned to cease this hostile activity against Israel. They refused to renew the cease-fire and opted for continuing the violence. Hamas and its extremist allies must be held responsible for the turn of events. Â
After much debating in the cabinet, Israel decided to retaliate and created a situation that is disastrous for the Gaza Palestinians. What is the purpose of it? Hamas is stubborn and continues its destructive path. They have no chance of winning this war and everyday that the war continues, more Palestinian lives will be lost and the suffering of the Palestinian people will increase. This is such a pointless war! Blood is being spilled at a tremendous rate approaching catastrophic proportions.
Â The problem of Gaza should be seen in a different context to the problems in the occupied West Bank where Hebron is one of the main centres of friction between the Palestinians and illegal Israeli settlers.Â
In the West Bank, the illegal settlers encroach on Palestinian lands uprooting olive trees and carrying out vandalism against the Palestinians living there. The behaviour of the settler youth and their supporters is disgusting towards the Palestinians. They are hooligans! Â They have no right to be there. The responsibility for the skirmishes between the two sides lies in the illegal settlersâ€™ court! What right do these extremists have to justify their disgusting behaviour? There is no connection between what is happening in the West Bank and the developments in Gaza. The West Bank is under occupation with limited autonomy for the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority.Â
Gaza is an independent entity in so far that Israel has disengaged from it. Hamas was elected in democratic elections 2006 to rule Gaza which to all intents and purposes is separated from the West Bank. This being the case, the situation must be seen separately from what is happening in the West Bank, where the occupation and the Israeli illegal settlers are very much in place. In Gaza, there are no illegal settlers or Israeli occupation. It is true that Israel has blockaded Gaza preventing freedom of movement into Israel because of security reasons. This has contributed to much hardships for the Palestinians residing there.Â
Hamas must be held responsible for Israeli military action in Gaza. Over the last 7 years, Hamas and their allies have been firing Qassam rockets into southern Israeli towns turning the lives of Israelis in these towns into a living hell. Their intention is to kill and maim as many Israelis as possible in their quest to destroy Israel. The fact that the casualty rate and damage was relatively low in Israel is because of the inaccuracy of their rockets fired into populated areas. Many rockets fell short of their intended targets. The Israeli population in these towns is well disciplined and knows what to do when the alarm of a rocket attack is sounded. This is not the case in Gaza, where the Palestinians have no bomb shelters. This is reserved for the Hamas leadership and their lackeys. Regard for human life is not a priority in Hamas-ruled Gaza only if it serves their propaganda purposes.Â
Hamas has continued to fire rockets into Israel indiscriminately. They had no intention of acting responsibly towards their own people. There was never any rehabilitation plans to improve Palestinian lives or their economy. Plans for long term improvement of infrastructure, health, education and basic essential services that citizens of any country are entitled were never initiated, nor did they intend to initiate them. Hamas survives by intensifying the suffering of their people in order to remain in power. They provoke Israel into taking retaliatory action by their terror activities. They also engage in rhetoric and propaganda based on fantasy. This fantasy is their strong belief that in time they will demoralize Israelis and destroy Israel which they have no desire to recognize. They also never wish to negotiate with Israel.Â
The strength of Hamas lies in its oppression of opposition groups by torture and murder. Their fantasy world only intensified Palestinian suffering by provoking Israel into retaliation without regard to the cost in human life. We are witnessing this now as Israel continues to pound Hamas power centres and the human shields surrounding these centres. This has resulted in tremendous collateral damage and great loss of innocent lives. By their wicked tactics they feel that they can increase their support amongst their own people, neighbouring Arab states and the international world community. They rely on these elements to pressurize Israel into accepting a cease-fire on Hamasâ€™s terms.Â
The international community must be made to realize that Hamas is a terrorist organization, no different from Hezbollah in Lebanon and Al Qaeda. These two terrorist organizations view Hamas as an important ally in their terrorist causes. All these organizations are in the same league. They are not seekers of peace, democracy or human rights, nor are they liberation movements. The intense suffering that Hamas causes to their own people by their behaviour shows a total lack of regard for human life. They are criminals!Â
Israel, in this case, is exercising its right to defend its citizens from the indiscriminate Hamas rocket launches that had been plaguing the south of Israel for nearly eight years!Â What country on earth would allow a neighbour state to launch missiles into its territory in order to kill its citizens? Is there any logical reason for this insanity? Hamas, as is typical of extremist Islamist terrorist groups, tries to live out its fantasies in the hope that it would become their own warped reality. Hamas is tempting fate and destroying the lives of the people who had elected them into power. They do this because of their intense, uncontrollable hate for Israel. Their motive is to destroy Israel.
Â Why was the world silent when Hamas was firing rockets in the south? Why are they condemning Israel when it retaliates to defend its citizens from Hamas rocket attacks and terror against its Israeli citizens? Â
The international protests will gain momentum and it is possible that the UN will have Security Council emergency sessions to enforce a cease-fire. Already there are countries such as France who are trying to get a cease-fire into place. Â
Hamas is so intoxicated by its fantasies and delusions of victory that they have not exhibited any signs of surrender. They have a false sense of dignity based on total fantasy. This will only increase the suffering of the Gazan Palestinians.Â The reason that Israel has failed so miserably in its public relations work and explanations is that it is still an occupying power. It has done very little to remove the illegal settlers from the West Bank. It states that it does not wish to rule over the Palestinians while de facto they still do. This does not do much for Israelâ€™s credibility.Â
The tragedy in Gaza and the suffering of the Palestinian people is heart-rending. Our sympathies should be with them in their plight. It would be appropriate to assist the innocent men, women and children as much as possible by allowing food, medicines and other essential supplies into Gaza in order to minimize the suffering as much as possible.Â
Introducing a 48 hour cease fire is a questionable tactic. It may allow Hamas to regroup and continue the firing of rockets into Israel, they would view this cease-fire as Israelâ€™s weakness, and this could weaken the momentum to defeat Hamas. While Hamas remains adamant and they do not cease firing rockets into Israel there is no point in even discussing a cease-fire. Hamas has even stated that they are not amenable to discussing a cease-fire and wish to fight on to victory whatever that means. They have declared war on Israel. In a war the victor dictates the terms of surrender or cease-fire not the loser. If they would show a desire for ceasing the rocket fire into Israel and wish to embark on a different path to the one they are treading now, there is a greater chance of the cease-fire being affective. If Hamas is allowed to dictate its terms for a cease-fire, it will see itself as the winner. This would be bad for peace and stability in the region. It would give them the freedom to break the cease-fire when it suits them.
Â The leadership of Hamas is sheltering in bunkers under the ground. They are surrounded by human shields of women and children which explains the high casualty rate. This is the way they defend themselves!Â Â
The Israeli Air Force bombs Hamas installations and headquarters. The resulting collateral damage is enormous and this increases the human tragedy. It also creates more animosity towards Israel which is regarded as the aggressor. Photographs and TV clips of the destruction in Gaza is working against Israel. No amount of public relations on Israelâ€™s part can obliterate those tragic and vivid images of destruction and bloodshed!Â
This pointless war continues unabated taking its toll in human lives and suffering. There are no black or white solutions to the problems in Gaza. One can be sure that the immense poverty, overcrowding and economic hardships are conducive to the survival and support of Hamas. Israelâ€™s military action, assuming that it overthrows Hamas may also increase Palestinian animosity towards Israel. Under no circumstances must Israel remain in Gaza for any length of time.Â
The only way to end the siege is for Hamas to agree to cessation of violence and aggression towards Israel and Israel must cease military activity against the Palestinians. This must go hand in hand with negotiations for a genuine peace treaty observed by both sides. Â
The presence of an international peace keeping force with powers to ensure that a peace agreement, if signed, is observed by all sides. Â The leaders of Hamas, especially those in Damascus like Khaled Mashal are unconcerned about their peoplesâ€™ suffering. They are experts at capitalizing on it.
Â According to the International Herald Tribune editorial of Wednesday 31st December 2008, there is no justification for Hamasâ€™s attacks or its virulent rejectionism. Also others must take the responsibility for this mess. Hamas never fully observed the cease-fire that went into effect on 19th June 2008 and Israel never really lived up to its commitment to ease the tough embargo on Gaza.
Â Israeli PM Ehud Olmert also did nothing to stop the illegal settlements and support Mahmoud Abbas who happens to be a sworn enemy of Hamas. Â
However, if one wishes to get a sense of balance in this tragic situation, Hamas is responsible for the destruction and wide scale loss of life in Gaza. They had been warned by Israel in the past to cease launching missiles into Israel but to no avail. Now they are paying the price for their folly in their fanatic beliefs in the fantasy world they desire to create in their dreams of destroying Israel. Â