Opinion: This war is a catastrophe, and Hamas bears the blame
photo by: Contributed
Hamas is banking on short memories, lazy journalism and short fuses. The lies it told about the Al-Ahli al-Arabi Hospital event illustrate the war on truth that it conducts simultaneously with sadistic attacks on civilians. Hamas’ attack on Israel constituted an encyclopedia of war crimes: targeting civilians, rape, parading of corpses, burning people alive in their homes, torture, killing children in front of their parents and vice versa, kidnapping and more. But Hamas knows that those atrocities will fade quickly from memory. They will be replaced — they are already being replaced — by images of Palestinian civilians fleeing from their homes or weeping over the bodies of their lifeless children or surveying their smashed neighborhoods. After a few days of this horror, even people of goodwill will begin to forget their sympathy for Israel and demand that the killing stop. “What good does it do?” they will ask. “Aren’t both sides equally at fault?”
But both sides are not equally at fault here.
Gaza is not occupied. But even if it were, it would not justify Hamas’ crimes against humanity. Odd that Hamas defenders invoke the concept of “disproportionality” when decrying Israel’s self-defense yet recognize no limits on Palestinian savagery in response to “occupation.”
Gaza has been autonomous since 2005, when the Israelis pulled out of the territory completely, uprooting 9,000 Israeli settlers.
Imagine what might have been if the residents of Gaza had focused on building their own society instead of making war on their neighbor? They had autonomy. They had, and have, international support from Iran, Qatar, Turkey and others. They could have developed the economy, encouraged tourism and invested in education. A flourishing, free Gaza would have been a signal to wary Israelis that a two-state solution might really be possible. The whole region would look entirely different.
Well, some object, what about the blockade? “The oppressed people of Palestine broke out of the open-air prison!” exulted demonstrators in New York. Israel did not impose a blockade on Gaza in 2005. That happened only in 2007 when Hamas took power. Egypt, no fan of Islamist fanatics, also imposed and maintained a blockade on weapons or materials that could have military uses to Gaza. And besides, Israel was recently lulled by Hamas into thinking they were softening, and accordingly issued permits allowing 18,000 Gazans to work in Israel and the West Bank. Some prison.
And in any case, the blockade was obviously ineffective. Hamas managed to smuggle in and manufacture thousands of rockets, which they have been shooting over the border at Israel ever since. They’ve invested in a massive network of tunnels, and, as the world saw last week, spent God knows how much on training commandos. What should Israel have done for the past 16 years? Accept the hail of rockets with no response?
Hamas deliberately placed its missiles and other military equipment in hospitals and schools to guarantee the maximum number of civilian deaths. They do this because they know — even if many members of Students for Justice in Palestine don’t — that Israel holds itself to certain standards in war. They know that Israel is constrained by not wanting to cause civilian deaths and takes steps to avoid them. For example, in previous wars, before hitting targets in Gaza, Israel has engaged in “roof knocking” — dropping a piece of metal on the roof of a building to warn residents to flee. Israel does not target hospitals or other civilian targets, as they have proved in the face of this latest calumny. Hamas knows this and uses Israel’s morals against her.
So isn’t Israel also committing war crimes by making war on civilians now?
No. It is Hamas’ fault that Israel must inevitably but unintentionally cause civilian deaths in the fight with terrorists (and indirectly Iran’s fault for funding and supporting the whole enterprise). The entire war, with all the suffering on both sides, is the fault of Hamas. That is not to say that Israel should descend to the level of her enemies, but that urban fighting with its attendant suffering is unavoidable because of the choices of Hamas, a jihadist terror organization that seeks to wipe Israel from the map.
Israel must fight back. As President Joe Biden put it, “Israel has the right, indeed the duty, to defend herself.” The first duty of any government is to protect its citizens.
In a better world, the Gulf states, Iran, Turkey, the European Union and the United States would come together to provide humanitarian relief to Gaza’s people. They would send supplies and money to Egypt to house and care for hundreds of thousands of people who would wait out the war in Sinai or Cairo. Secretary of State Antony Blinken seems to be urging something of the sort with the more reasonable actors in the region. The worst, like Iran, will of course do nothing to relieve the suffering they have caused.
This war is and will be a catastrophe for both Israel and the Palestinian people of Gaza. But only one side is to blame.
— Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist with Creators.