By Michael Addai
On October 7, 2023, Israel as a state witnessed a horrific, barbaric attack on its civilians by the designated terror group, Hamas, from the Gaza Strip, butchering, murdering, and kidnapping innocent civilians including children. About 1400 people were reportedly killed and about 240 civilians kidnapped. This barbaric attack on civilians was unprecedented in its scale for the state of Israel.
These heinous crimes by Hamas, deservedly attracted widespread condemnation and repudiation from well-meaning and people of goodwill and drew almost unanimous empathy, sympathy and consolation for the people of Israel across the world. There is absolutely no justification for this terrible, horrendous attack on civilians and thus Israel is obliged under international laws to take steps to defend itself, secure its borders, and to safeguard its people. The state of Israel has every right to defend itself against the militant Hamas group and protect its citizens from the constant Hamas rocket’s attacks.
However, in doing so, Israel as a democratic state is expected to be measured in its response and be proportionate in whatever it chooses to do to retaliate — it is more so obliged under international humanitarian laws to safeguard the civilian population, especially children. Hence, it is incumbent upon those prosecuting the military retaliatory response to know that not all Palestinians are members of Hamas, let alone Muslims, and therefore they cannot be lumped in together as such. There are Christian Palestinians, Muslims Palestinians as well as agnostic Palestinians. Further, not all those Palestinians in Gaza are even Hamas members or supporters, let alone Muslims. Like those Palestinians found in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and the West Bank, almost all of those Gazans on that strip have been forced to confine there when they were driven from their homes at gun-point in the mainland Palestine/Israel when the state of Israel was established in 1948 — about 75 years ago. This is what the Palestinians call the ‘Catastrophe — Al Nakba’. It is believed to be one of the many deliberate and systematic acts intended to establish a Jewish majority in Palestine.
In its desire to exact maximum revenge against this Hamas group, is Israel not committing war crimes by its disproportionate, indiscriminate bombardment with devastating airstrikes in Gaza and the West Bank over the past few weeks? Even those Palestinians in West Bank who have nothing to do with Hamas attack on Israel are not even spared by this indiscriminate and disproportionate bombardment which is killing thousands of Palestinians including scores of children. These indiscriminate, disproportionate airstrikes are, undoubtedly, causing catastrophic humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Israel asks the people to move from the north of Gaza to the south but then continues to rain bombs on them on their way down there and on the very south where people are supposed to seek refuge. It does not make any humanitarian sense that nowhere is safe in Gaza.
Even if Palestinian civilians are being used as human shields by this despicable Hamas group as claimed, will any civilized, responsible, democratic nation like U.S., U.K., Germany etc. sincerely go ahead to bomb these targets anyway knowing very well that vulnerable people like the elderly, women and children are likely to be the main casualties? Is Israel not a member of international community signed to human rights conventions committed to the protection and safety of innocent civilians especially the vulnerable? Overall, it is reported that at least 8,400 people have been killed in this war and U.N. has confirmed the deaths of at least 2,360 and more than 3,600 children. Is Israel not violating international laws with impunity with these civilian massacres?
The state of Israel is not at war with all Palestinians, the state of Israel is at war with Hamas and therefore the war should be conducted and prosecuted as such. If the Hamas terror attack on Israel cannot be justified under the despair of occupation, siege, and blockade of Gaza, then equally the wholesale killing of innocent civilians cannot be justified under the cloak of ‘Israel has the right to defend itself’. Honestly, if the mass killings on any side cannot be justified under any circumstances, why should the same be justified under threat to security? Ukraine was violently attacked by Russia and its civilians continue to die under constant Russian artillery strikes and bombardments, but Ukraine is not retaliating these unprovoked attacks by engaging in vengeful, reciprocal, indiscriminate, disproportionate bombings, and drone attacks to cause mass Russian civilian causalities.
As has been the case with Netanyahu’s right-wing, zero-sum, winner takes all policies throughout his premiership, his pursuance of a ‘maximal war with little or no concern for innocent Palestinian casualties’ will inevitably harm and hurt Israel in the long-term. This warmonger has plunged Israel into one war after another, lurching from one controversy to another. It could safely be argued that his policies have,
a). nearly killed the path to the two-state solution by denying Palestinians’ rights and existence.
b). intensified Jewish settlers’ occupation and annexation by emboldening the ultra-right-wing militant extremist settlers to commit murder and other atrocities against Palestinians in the West Bank with impunity.
c). encouraged dispossession and the building of more Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian Territories.
d). systematically weakened the Palestinian Authority and for that matter strengthened Hamas and other militant groups in Palestine.
His extremist minority government’s bombastic, demeaning rhetoric against the Palestinians and anyone who opposed him, not only undermined Israel security but led to this catastrophic intelligence and military failure in Israel’s history — culminating in this horrific attack on Israel by the Hamas militant group. Apparently, his insistence on staying in power to save himself from prosecution by forming the most ultra far right-wing minority coalition government in Israel’s history with extreme hard-right conservative nationalists, including a convicted terrorist against Palestinians, divided the nation and brought mass demonstrations against his ill-conceived judicial reforms.
On Oct. 8, 2023, just a day after the terrorist incident, an editorial in Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, argued that; “The prime minister, who has prided himself on his vast political experience and irreplaceable wisdom in security matters, completely failed to identify the dangers he was consciously leading Israel into when establishing a government of annexation and dispossession.” The Haaretz newspaper further added that, Netanyahu, adopted “a foreign policy that openly ignored the existence and rights of Palestinians.” These assertions by this Israeli newspaper sadly give credence to the speculation that the ultra-far right minority coalition government led by Netanyahu was on the cusp of instigating another ‘catastrophe’ — Al Nakba — to complete the unfinished business of driving all Palestinians from Israel.
Just as much as Israel has a right to security, peace and existence, Palestinians too have a right to peace, dignity, self-determination, and existence. Hence, the only way out of this never-ending intractable conflict is the two-state solution with the two Abrahamic neighbours living side by side with each other in peace, dignity, and justice.
The militant groups like Hamas and others would likely lose support, sympathy, and thus be sidelined, side-stepped and ignored by younger Palestinians only if there was a genuine path to dignity and self-determination for Palestinians, otherwise there would always be a legitimacy vacuum for these groups to fill as they are often seen as the force for resistance and the only ones fighting for the cause of Palestine. If there was ever going to be peace in the Middle East, there must be Israel-Palestine peace deal. It is, therefore, imperative that the U.S. with much influence on Israel and the rest of the international community put pressure on these protagonists especially Israel to go back to the drawing board to embrace and push for the two-state solution. They must be urged to seize the opportunity for a peace deal.
The fact is, Israel can use its military might today to eliminate and wipe out Hamas but after its demise something far more militant and dangerous is likely to emerge if Palestinians grievances are not addressed, continue to persist and there is injustice in Palestine. For instance, there was once a militant PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) which others considered bad until the Oslo I and II accords were brokered between Israel and Palestine in 1993 and 1995, respectively. But when Netanyahu and his henchmen did their level best to weaken both accords throughout the years, Hamas eventually emerged from the vacuum created by despair and hopelessness. As they say in “Oseikrom”, “Wokum apem a, apem beba” i.e. ‘You kill thousand, thousand will come’.
To be clear, Israel is losing the moral high ground, the international support and empathy by causing so many civilian casualties through the massacre of innocent Palestinian men, women, and children under the pretext of defending itself against Hamas militants. It is about time Israel stopped the mass slaughter and shedding of innocent blood if it is ever bothered to salvage any sympathy and support it has left. By causing mass Palestinian casualties, humanitarian crises, committing potential war crimes and genocide in Gaza Strip, Israel is gradually losing the edge of huge international popular support and sympathy it engendered right after the October 7, 2023, Hamas militants’ terror attacks on its citizens.
To conclude, conveniently denying atrocities committed against innocent civilians to escape accountability and commit more, does not help any legitimate cause whatsoever.
The deliberate massacre of innocent children, women, and men either by die-hard terrorist groups, state-sponsored entities or governments is blatantly wrong. And using murderous rhetoric to demean and dehumanize others to justify their killings puts one in the same category as genocide perpetrators.
As someone succinctly puts it, hasn’t one lost one’s humanity when one only cares about some humans but not others?
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