As news channels flash through images of suffering Palestinians, it’s challenging for those of us on the other side of the world to understand the Israeli Defense Force’s actions in the Gaza Strip. While conditions in Gaza continue to worsen, Israel’s war against Hamas continues. As we all mourn the loss of human life, it’s important for us to examine the reasoning and strategy behind Israel’s defensive mission.
In 2005, Israel unilaterally disengaged from Gaza, removed settlements throughout the area and took a crucial step toward establishing a Palestinian state. In January of the next year, the Palestinian people democratically elected Hamas to a majority in the Palestinian legislature. Promising better healthcare, education, jobs and less corruption, Hamas provided an enticing option to Palestinian people in need.
Once Hamas took power, the party’s actions proved that the plight of its constituency was less important than radically denying Israel’s right to exist. Instead of investing in the vital infrastructure that the people of Gaza need and deserve, Hamas focused on acquiring rockets to fire at Israeli civilians and digging tunnels to smuggle weapons from Egypt. Hamas’s illogical set of priorities has left the Palestinian people with a leadership unwilling to guide them in a progressive or peaceful direction.
Over 7,000 rockets launched from Gaza have fallen on Israeli soil in the three years since the Israeli disengagement. These rockets are not fired at military bases or weapon depots, but at schools, homes and marketplaces. These actions cannot be considered an attempt to reach a peaceful resolution.
For years, Israel has tried a variety of nonviolent methods to combat Hamas’s violence. After a six-month ceasefire that Hamas continually disregarded, Israel must now address the needs of its citizens. When President-elect Barack Obama visted Sderot, the Israeli city closest to Gaza and most affected by the ongoing rocket attacks, he said, “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do everything to stop that and would expect Israel to do the same thing.” The people of Sderot and the other 500,000 Israelis in range of Hamas’s rockets should no longer undergo the emotional and physical trauma of having to find refuge in bomb shelters 10 to 15 times per day. Thankfully, few civilians have been killed during these constant, random rocket assaults on civilians. But the low Israeli death toll does not make Hamas’s actions any less belligerent or terrifying.
Israel has consciously done its best to prevent the deaths of civilians. The IDF specifically targets locations Hamas has used to store weapons or fire upon Israelis. Before it bombs a location, the IDF drops leaflets and sometimes calls civilians to ask innocent bystanders to leave the area for their own safety. Unfortunately, Hamas hides behind civilians, using human shields to raise the death toll in the ongoing public relations battle to accentuate Palestinian suffering for world approval. What sort of government monopolizes the pain of its people to further a destructive ideology?
The delivery of humanitarian relief to the affected civilians in Gaza remains an important issue to Israel and the rest of the world. Hundreds of supply trucks have been brought through Israeli border crossings, including medical supplies, blood units, medicine, and basic food commodities. Whether or not these supplies are properly distributed to civilians depends on Hamas as the governing body of Gaza.
Three years ago, Israel spent millions of dollars removing its citizens and troops from Gaza in an effort to further the peace process. Today, it is forced to reenter the region in order to protect the basic living conditions of its citizens. The goal of a two-state solution inspired by August 2005’s disengagement has been deterred by years of rocket attacks and recent explosions of violence, but cannot be forsaken. We encourage the Michigan community to continue to hope for a peaceful solution with an end to the violence on both sides of the border.
Rachel Goldstein is chair of American Movement for Israel and Daniel Neumann is the AMI Treasurer.
Read the pro-Palestinian viewpoint from Students Allied for Freedom and Equality here.