[up-date 06/01/09 - UN officials are now stating that there is nowhere safe in Gaza for civilians (i.e. Non-Combatants)].
As promised here are some further thoughts on why we as a family participated in the protest against what is going on in Gaza.
The observant among you will notice that that placard we made simply says “Stop the killing”. It is thus a plea to both Hamas and the Israeli military to stop the killing. Yet as my wise mother taught us as kids, two wrongs don’t make a right. We therefore need to ask is Israel’s assault on Gaza is the right response to the Hamas firing Qassam and Katyusha missiles into Israel.
[most of the missiles Hamas have and fire are “homemade” Qassam missiles. These are imprecise with a small warhead of about 10kg of explosive. Hamas however have recently gained access to Katyushas which Hezbollah have used in the past against Israel. These missiles are still imprecise but less so than the Qassam. They have a warhead of about 20kg which is approximately equivalent to a cannon shell from an Israeli Merkava tank. Since Hamas took power in Gaza in 2007 they have fired approx 5 ½ thousand missiles into Israel. Given they are primarily Qassam’s they are a weapon of fear rather than destruction. These 5 ½ thousand missiles have caused 4 fatalities].
There are many who would narrate what is happening in Gaza as being provoked by Hama’s and that Israel has the right to defend herself. However the narrative of this story goes back to the turn of the 20thCentury, to the Balfour declaration, to the forced removal of Palestinians from their homes in 1948 and their subsequent sojourn in the refugee camps of Lebanon and the poverty of Gaza and the West Bank. There is a deep seated injustice which does not legitimise Hamas or Hezbollah in their targeting of Israel with missiles, bombers or other acts of terror. But until the injustices towards the Palestinians which culminated in many of them losing their land to Jewish settlers from Europe and the US in 1948 are addressed the hatred, the simmering wrath of the Palestinian people towards Israel will continue. Israeli military action will not and cannot solve this problem, and until this problem is addressed there will, I fear, continue to be terrorist attacks on Israel. Many Palestinians in the refugee camps of Beirut still have the title deeds for their homes and farms in what is now Israel. Many others bereft of hope, despairing of ever returning threw their keys away. For a fuller account of this I’d recommend a read of Robert Fisk’s Pity the Nation, chapter 2 “The Keys of Palestine”.
The injustice of Israel towards Palestine is not however restricted to the recent annuls of history. Israel has a hegemonic grip on Gaza controlling her borders, her sky, the sea. While arguments can be made that the economy of Gaza had been mismanaged by successive Palestinian authorities this has been in conjunction with Israel’s restrictions on travel, theft of land (the building of the wall has encroached upon the already limited land resources of Gaza) etc. Thus no matter who the people of Gaza return in their elections (and let’s not forget that Hamas have been democratically elected), there is a feeling of powerlessness. Take the feeling of powerlessness many of us Scott’s felt in the 80’s when we voted against Tory governments and the feeling that our voted counted for little and the anger this caused and we may begin to understand the Palestinian experience.
I asked my oldest son what should happen to a child the persistently kicked an adult in the shins. Should the adult take a baseball bat and break the legs of all children to stop this from happening? The example is clearly absurd and I do not mean to trivialise what is happening by it. Nor am I suggesting that one party to this conflict has the maturity of an adult the other the immaturity of youth. What I was wanting to convey was the imbalance of power between the two parties to this conflict, and the ineffectiveness of military action to stop military action. In an area as densely populated as Gaza it is impossible to execute military strikes without knowingly causing civilian deaths. Gaza is so densely populated that military targets are in residential areas because there is nowhere else for them to be. Israel’s actions are both disproportionate and given the known mix of civilian and military targets to attack one is to knowingly attack the other. This [imho] is not the law of double effect.
I could go on and on, but fear I would drift deeper and deeper into polemics.