A few simple facts to distinguish between the Israeli government’s claim that it is ‘bombing Hamas’ and the actual bombs that are landing on the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli armed forces are not dropping bombs on Hamas, because Hamas is not a place. They are dropping bombs on Gaza, which is one of the most densely populated places on this earth. The language of ‘bombing Hamas’ gives us the soothing impression that the bombs land in a distinct, guilty, non-civilian Hamas-place. No such location exists in Gaza.
Israeli space also densely mingles the civilian with the military. The headquarters of the Israeli Ministry of Defense stands in the commercial centre of Tel Aviv. Uniformed and / or armed Israelis can be seen on every sidewalk of Israel’s cities and towns. The government of Israel has long justified its aggressive force-protection stance by labelling its army as civilians in uniform. Yet Israel demands its full share of civilian protections.
Israel places police stations in every neighbourhood, yet it just blew up ‘dozens’ of Gaza’s police stations as ‘Hamas targets.’
I heartily wish that every combatant would stand at a distance from every non-combatant in this world, truly I do. Until that happens, we must not allow anyone to discount the safety of Gaza’s civilian space as it is being discounted in this bombardment.
I have grappled with my dislike of Hamas in print and through four years of living under Hamas’s rule. I am no defender of theirs. I consider Hamas to be an unfortunate product of Israel’s occupation.
However, in Israel’s official speech, “Hamas” becomes a deadly strategic convenience that confuses our understanding of civilian Gaza. So, a few simple facts.
Hamas is the governing authority in the Gaza Strip. It employs teachers, rubbish collectors and countless other non-combatant civil servants. Those people are civilians. The homes of combatant and non-combatant Hamas employees hold families. Those families are civilians. The family members of Hamas combatants have not forfeited their civilian protections. The children of Hamas combatants have the same protected status as any other child.
Human Rights Watch studied Israel’s targeting of Hamas persons in their family homes across Gaza in 2014. Its findings are titled: “Unlawful Israeli Airstrikes Kill Civilians: Bombings of Civilian Structures Suggest Illegal Policy.”
Hamas rockets did not start this. Nakba started this. Blockade. Repeated bombardments and deprivation. Now Sheikh Jarrah has triggered an uprising that Hamas joined with its rockets. History books don’t begin their explanations with today’s events, and neither should our media.
Rockets do not let Israel off the hook for its bombs. No number of rockets can relieve Israel of its legal obligations regarding Gazan civilians – not for one instant – because Israel’s obligations are not to Hamas. In the laws of war and occupation, belligerents are not responsible to each other. Each belligerent is independently responsible and accountable for its actions. One violation does not release anyone else from their legal obligations.
Israel fires at will and has time to make its choices. It chooses to bomb overwhelmingly at night, exacerbating the fear and depriving everyone of sleep. Israeli planes and drones and tanks and gunships could fire just as well in daylight because Gaza has no defensive weapons.
We must hold Israel accountable for its choices. To understand what that means, here’s a good enquiry into military accountability for the deaths they call collateral.
I do not celebrate the rockets, because I hate weapons of war – but I do not equate the weapons of the powerful and the powerless. Rockets make a hole in the ground. Bombs blow up apartment buildings and essential infrastructure. Common sense would never confuse them, and neither should our government in its official statements.
I am aghast when I see the wreckage, the shattered bodies and the now-homeless survivors, the petrified children and the grieving parents who will have this horror imprinted on their minds forever. When an unvaccinated, trapped populace flees before one of the world’s most powerful (vaccinated) military machines, I am speechless at the notion of Israel’s restraint – let alone its claim to victimhood.
Just look, and you will see who is the aggressor and who in need of defense.
When I speak about Gaza, people sometimes tell me that they hesitate to stand up because they’re afraid that they might disrespect the Holocaust.
Standing up to protect our fellow human beings does not disrespect anyone. Indifference disrespects the memory of every person who ever needed us to act.
We honour history by living with moral courage. A trapped community is under assault by one of the most powerful militaries on earth. Stand up for it.
Help Gaza. Do you understand – we end this. We own the laws of protection. Israel always, only stops when it is told to stop by other states. Israel’s Office of the Comptroller assessed that the 2014 war was fought without a meaningful strategy. They bombed until the world stopped them. Now they are doing it again.
Jacinda Ardern, we beg you to tell them to stop.
Alternative Jewish Voices