In the last year, Hamas, the fundamentalist party that rules Gaza, has fired thousands of rockets into Israel — 1506 during the latest round of fighting. Israel had a right to defend itself as it did in the recent fighting, and its conduct more generally deserves vindication.
Hamas’ charter speaks volumes. A translation of the excerpt according to the Anti-Defamation League reads, “The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.” The charter also implicitly states that Hamas’ mission is to destroy Israel.
In 2005, in a grand gesture for peace, Israel dismantled its settlements and withdrew from Gaza. The result has been a nightmare for Israelis and Palestinians alike. Since Hamas took power in 2007, Israel has been subjected to relentless rocket attacks. It has responded by imposing a blockade on Gaza to prevent weapons smuggling. When Hamas has ratcheted up its rocket attacks, Israel has been compelled to respond forcefully. Hence the violent flare-ups between Israel and Gaza, of which this is just the latest.
The manner in which Israel and Hamas wage war evidences the conflict’s moral asymmetry. Israel carries out attacks against Hamas operatives and military targets. Hamas, by contrast, purposefully fires its rockets into Israeli civilian areas. Rockets are fired into Israel from, and weapons are stored in, densely populated Gazan areas. Israel is put in a catch-22: if it reacts defensively it often must take civilian life, and if it does not, its own civilians will continue to be rocketed. It is generally in this context, as a consequence of Hamas’ actions, that Gazan civilians are tragically killed.
While Israel must use force to defend its people, in doing so, it endeavors to protect innocent Palestinian life. Israel sends mass text messages and drops leaflets to Gazans, warning them to stay away from Hamas targets.
For this it ought to be commended. Instead, libelous accusations are flung at Israel. After a round of major fighting in 2009, Israel was accused of “war crimes,” by various organizations, with Hamas’ version of the facts accepted. Yet, in a November 2010 interview, Hamas interior minister Fathi Hammad indiscreetly conceded that Israel’s casualty figures — the ratio of military to civilian deaths — had been right. It brought to light the way Hamas stages incidents and distorts facts in order to slander Israel. Hamas’ and the anti-Israel movement’s strategy is to misrepresent Israel to the world as a human rights offender, thereby delegitimizing Israel’s defensive measures internationally.
Student governments all too often fall prey to anti-Israel propaganda. On Nov. 13, UC Irvine’s student government passed a resolution to divest from Israel. The resolution falsely accused Israel of being a racist state largely because of its military presence in the West Bank. Our own External Affairs Vice President Shahryar Abbasi, in violation of Student Action’s noble election pledge to represent “every student, every year,” voted in favor of a University of California Student Association resolution which made similar accusations. Student governments and leaders, when elected to represent entire campus communities, should not be serving one particular campus community and ignoring another, particularly when they have the facts wrong.
Israel has the best record on race of any Middle Eastern nation. Since Israel was founded, Israeli Arabs have been the only Arabs in the Middle East who have consistently had voting rights and basic human freedoms. Small wonder that the Obama administration and most Americans are naturally inclined to support Israel. The Israeli military presence in the West Bank ensures that what has happened in Gaza, which resulted in great suffering for Israelis and Palestinians alike, does not happen there too. The Israeli government has for years been trying to make peace and withdraw from the Palestinian territories.
Students may disagree strongly about the conflict, but hopefully we all share a desire to see the recent truce blossom into a lasting peace. Even as we argue the issues vociferously, that is something we should always remember.
Baruch Nutovic is a senior at UC Berkeley.
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