Saturday, December 27, 2008

On the Events in Gaza

Shalom All,

Shalom means an absence of the threat of violence. It is not simply an absence of violence. Shalom is a sense of well-being. Constant barrages of rocket and mortar fire eliminate a sense of shalom.

There are numerous ways to analyze the ongoing conflict between the Palestinians and Israel. Certainly, it is not a conflict of military equals. It is not a conflict among ethical equals either. One side tries, not always succeeding, to target only military, militant, and governmental targets. The other side deliberately tries to target civilians, women and children all the better. It is not a conflict in which both sides wish to live peaceably with one another. One side wishes peace and receives ongoing attacks. The other side wishes the destruction and removal of the other, calling for an ongoing struggle to eliminate their enemy rather than attempt to make a lasting peace.

Governments will condemn Israel's strikes on Gaza and on Hamas installations. The international community will say, "There are civilian deaths!" The response to that contention is very simple, "There will be civilian deaths." Hamas and Islamic Jihad attack Israel from within densely populated areas and therefore Israel must attack them within densely populated areas. When militants routinely launch attacks while accompanied by children both to teach them how to conduct attacks and to present Israel with an ethical dilemma, what choice does Israel have? What is the dilemma? Militants give Israel the choice of allowing its civilians be attacked indiscriminately or to retaliate against the militants using civilians, including children, as shields.

The very concept that wars may be fought without civilian casualties is illogical. The only way that peace will come to Israel or the Palestinians is for one side to inflict so much harm on the other that one side will surrender. That level of harm cannot possibly solely consist of attacks on soldiers. Soldiers expect to be attacked and to die in wars. Wars come to an end when civilians realize that ongoing conflict will result in their being harmed more and that hope for them lies in stopping the conflict. Only then will peace come. Hence, to an extent, avoiding involving civilians in a conflict can and usually will prolong the conflict indefinitely.

The concept of proportionality in war is likewise illogical. A man holding a gun, who is being attacked by someone wielding a knife, should not drop the gun and grab a knife. He should shoot his attacker. Eventually a man holding a gun who is being attacked by people throwing rocks will either need to withdraw and let the rock throwers win or he will need to shoot the rock throwers until they withdraw. Israel has developed technologies to handle rock throwers and Molotov cocktail throwers without killing them, it has no such technologies to handle rocket and mortar fire that target its civilians. Its only response to such attacks is to use deadly force and to use deadly force that could potentially affect people who are nearby. Civilians who aid and abet as well as civilians who simply happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time become part and parcel of legitimate military targets. Using human shields, attacking from within civilian populations, is a war crime, NOT attacking those who are attacking from among human shields.

The deaths of the civilians are the responsibility of those originating attacks from or hiding within their midst. Those who defend Hamas' ability to attack from among civilians and who condemn Israel's attempts to attack them are in fact aiding Hamas in its commission of war crimes and encouraging others to commit the same war crimes in the future, knowing them to be effective against moral and ethical opponents.

The only reason that Israel is blamed repeatedly for civilian deaths is because blaming those who purposefully use human shields in the hope of creating civilian casualties is not politically correct. This is especially true when those very same people are accused of using terrorism against the West in which they deliberately target our civilians. We might be accused of piling on were we to insinuate, much less point out, that neither do they care about their own civilians and simply use their deaths as propaganda tools, posting the pictures of bloodied children whose families and whose government deliberately put them into harm's way, or at least allowed them to enter it, as a way to garner sympathy for their cause and to evoke hatred of Israel. The dead, after all, become shahids, holy martyrs. One can find no few television shows, sermons by pro-Hamas imams, and speeches by Hamas leaders advocating for Shehada, martyrdom, even of children, as the pinnacle of demonstrating faith. Children's shows are Hamas television have repeatedly proclaimed this theme.

It is a sick and twisted philosophy that is in gross violation of what I understand Islam to teach and certainly of the Islam practiced by the vast majority of Muslims in the world. Yet, the only condemnation heard from the Muslim community is directed at Israel. Where are the condemnations of Hamas as anti-Muslim? Where are the condemnations of Hamas as being in direct violation of the Qura'an? Is the hatred of Israel and the Jews so strong as to compel well meaning people to ignore the truth? Can Jews and Muslims get along? Absolutely! Can true Muslims and those who would encourage children to seek martyrdom rather than a peaceful life coexist? I do not believe so.

Israel seeks peace and has offered peace. Hamas seeks war and has offered war. Yes, it has thrown in an occasional cease-fire, but only to make it easier to rearm and wage war later.
Hamas' hope is the destruction of peace and the destruction of the Jewish state with the ultimate aim of creating a Palestinian state upon all of Gaza, the West Bank, and the land that is now Israel. Hamas has stated this goal over and over again. It is written in the Hamas charter and is uttered whenever its leadership speaks about the possibility of long term peace and the recognition of Israel. There will be no peace, there will be no recognition. Yet, these sick and twisted individuals will be defended in the press by people who mean well, people who believe that no father or mother could possibly wish to endanger their children, much less to encourage them to seek danger, despite the articles and television programs proclaiming exactly that philosophy, and therefore such civilian casualties as undoubtedly will occur must be caused by irresponsibility or even ill intent on Israel's part.

This, known to be false by Hamas' leaders, becomes the rallying cry to the Western world. "They are killing us," they yell, neglecting to point out that it is exactly that which was their hope in promoting violence against Israel, creating a culture of violence against Israel, Jews, and the West, and through continually provoking Israel through rockets, mortars, and cross border attacks. Their goal in all of this, as it has been for many years now, was to create the very level of conflict that faces Israel and the Palestinians today.

Israel warned Hamas. America warned Hamas. Even Egypt warned Hamas to stop firing rockets and mortars into Israel. Hamas turned up its nose and threw shoes in the face of its friends.
During a massive Hamas rally in Gaza City to mark twenty-one years since its founding a little more than a week ago, a Hamas member dressed as kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit was led to the stage by Hamas militants. The activist, who was dressed in an IDF uniform, pleaded for his life in Hebrew and begged the Israeli government to do its utmost to return him home. "Shalom to my father and mother, I miss my father, I miss my mother," the "soldier" declared as hundreds of thousands of Hamas supporters shouted, "We will never recognize Israel."

Translated into plain English my friends, that means "We will never desire peace with Israel."


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