13 January 2009

Israel vs Hamas

[Reading music: U2 - Sunday Bloody Sunday
U2 - Sunday Bloody Sunday (Radiohead cover, live)
U2 - Sunday Bloody Sunday (Evergreen Terrace cover)]

Today the conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip entered its 19th day and, though there has been little talk about it amongst our friends who seem to be too busy partying/schooling/being ill to consider the issue, I thought it was important to give you an update on the situation and my own thoughts on an often vehement argument.

(Please note that the present conflict between Israel and Hamas has a very specific historical context that can be traced back to at least the 1940's and should be taken into consideration when examining the current situation. Not doing so would be like trying to follow an episode of Frisky Dingo without having seen the whole show--fucking impossible.)

December 27th - 28th, 2008: In retaliation for prevailing rocket fire on Southern Israel originating from the Gaza Strip, Israel begins "Operation Cast Lead" and launches a series of aerial strikes against targets in the Strip, including paramilitary bases, training camps, underground rocket launchers, Hamas headquarters, government offices, police stations, mosques and roads. Hamas responds with increased rocket attacks on cities in Southern Israel.

December 29th: The Israeli Air Force continues its attacks on Gaza, targeting a university, a government building and a refugee camp. Gaza's maintains its rocket fire response. Israeli infantry begins to gather on Gaza's border. The Israeli Navy begins taking part in the operation, enforcing a blockade, attacking Hamas ships and bombing Hamas offices and headquarters on Gaza's coast.

December 30th - January 2nd: Israeli air strikes continue with attacks on ministerial compounds, university buildings, the residential homes of Hamas' leadership, smuggling tunnels between the border of Gaza and Egypt and a number of ambulances. Israel's blockade is eased to let humanitarian aid enter Gaza. Hamas' rocket fire continues. Israel rejects petitions from the international community for a ceasefire. Hamas claims it is willing to accept any ceasefire that ends Israeli air strikes and the blockade.

January 3rd: Air strikes destroy the homes of more Hamas officials, a mosque and a school. Hamas' retaliation continues. Israel begins using artillery strikes and ground forces cross the border into Gaza. This marks the second stage of "Operation Cast Lead," which is to secure areas of the Strip from which rockets have been launched.

January 4th: Israeli troops surround Gaza City and Israeli artillery strikes a school, market, ambulance and homes. One grave incident that stood out amongst the violence is the rounding up of 110 Palestinians (mostly women and children) by Israeli soldiers into a condemned building, which is shelled 24 hours later.

January 5th - 7th: As swathes of the Gaza Strip are seized by Israeli troops, Palestinian civilians flee their homes and flood into Gaza City. Phase three of "Operation Cast Lead" begins with Israeli troops engaging Hamas troops in the streets of Gaza City. Israeli air strikes continue, attacking ambulances, a refugee camp, residential structures, and both UN schools and convoys. Rocket strikes on Southern Israel continued. An extended family with about 100 members is ordered by Israeli troops to gather in a home that is later shelled, leaving between 60 to 70 dead. Amongst continued fighting, a three-hour, mid-day ceasefire allows desperately needed humanitarian aid to enter Gaza. This ceasefire becomes a daily routine, although it is not strictly adhered to.

January 8th: Amongst continued fighting in Gaza, unknown militants fire rockets from Lebanon upon North Israel.

January 10th: The Israeli military reports that Hamas' fighting force is suffering from exhaustion and troops are beginning to desert. Rocket fire on South Israel ceases.

January 11th: Retaliatory rocket fire on South Israel begins once more. An Israeli patrol on the Syrian border comes under attack from unknown forces.

January 12th: Fighting between Israeli paratroopers and Hamas soldiers continues around the Gaza Strip. President Bush sounds like a redneck douche bag when claims that Israel has the right to defend itself, but hoped that it "continued to be mindful of the innocent folk."

The Wrongs

- The latest conflict was ignited by continual rocket fire from the Gaza Strip onto Israel. Hamas claimed these rocket attacks were due to Israel's severe blockade of the Strip, but Israel claims that the blockade was a response to earlier rocket fire. It's like which came first, the chicken or the egg? Except with rockets and blockades. Although Hamas denied responsibility for the initial attacks, it also refused to patrol the border with Israel, leaving Israel little choice but to enforce sanctions or respond militarily. It tried the first, and when that didn't work work it tried the second.
- Although many people sympathize with the Palestinian people's "David and Goliath" battle against Israel, it should be recognized that the people of the Gaza Strip democratically elected Hamas, a radical, Islamic paramilitary organization and political party which maintains that Israel does not have the right to exist. Until Hamas recognizes that Israel already exists and that there is no way to expel Israel from the region, the group will not be internationally recognized. Fatah, the secular Palestinian political party currently in control of the West Bank, has come to terms with Israel's presence and, though their relationship remains thorny, has a much better chance of bringing both peace and a proper homeland to the Palestinian people. Hamas should do the same or the Palestinian people should vote them out of power.

- Although I agree that Israel has a right to defend itself (Put yourself in their position: What would you do if Canada was lobbing rockets at New York?), they have definitely taken this too far. They broken a number of international laws by intentionally attacking media institutions, medical compounds, humanitarian aid organizations and civilian structures. They have barred journalists from Gaza despite rulings from their own courts stating that to do such is illegal. They have been accused of using white phosphorus in questionable military circumstances. They have turned the Gaza Strip into a humanitarian nightmare. A number of countries have considered taking Israel to court of war crimes and human rights abuses, but it is dubious whether this will amount to anything. Worst of all is that Israel may not accomplish any of their goals, which is ending the rocket fire and disabling Hamas. As of now, rocket fire has not ceased. On the contrary, Israel is finding itself occasionally besieged on new fronts, such as Syria and Lebanon. As for Hamas, this operation has been so overwhelmingly and indiscriminately violent that even if Hamas is disbanded, it is likely that popular resentment amongst the Palestinians will only give birth to another radical group bent on destroying Israel. The only possible victory for Israel in this situation is for the Palestinian people to acknowledge that radicalism will only bring them more hardship and that they should reject Hamas if Hamas continues to reject Israel. But that's akin to Israel shaking up a bee's nest and expecting the bees to go and vote for a new queen instead of stinging Israel in the ass.
- Israel could also stop being such a douche bag to the rest of Palestine (i.e. the West Bank). Although it has repeatedly agreed to curtail the building of illegal settlements in the West Bank, extremist Israeli settlers continue to clash with Palestinians on land that has been acknowledged by both the Israeli government and the Palestinian National Authority to be Palestinian land. Also, they have yet to return the border with the West Bank to its pre-1967 condition. Unless Israel gets a handle on its own radical citizens and shows some good will, they risk the Palestinian people losing faith in the two state solution and, thus, in Israel's right to exist.


  1. you're an encyclopedia.

    i've seen some gruesome images of the atrocities, which only conjures up hatred towards israel (but i don't want to say i hate israel because i know so little about it). but at the same time, i question how the palestinians expect any sort of decency from individuals who have been denied an identity for 60 years. i like your blog post because everything i've been reading lately is so partial to either side (most frequently in favor of palestine). so, i'd like to say *clap,clap* and thanks for being so informative. very well written.

  2. Thanks for the e-applause. It's true that you're going to see gruesome images of only Palestinians, but that's because a) the war is going on in Gaza--not Israel, b) the Israeli military is vastly superior to Hamas' and c) Israel is being pretty reckless about civilian casualties. Also, it's easy to side with Palestinians since they are the clear underdog. Israel doesn't really need anyone's sympathy because, well, they have weapons. Guns trump sympathy, for the most part. It's important to examine the actions of both sides because simply vilifying either side will not lead to anything worthwhile.

  3. I'm really glad you took a non-biased attitude towards this. The other day I got flack from an old friend of mine criticizing my support for Gaza, because of my religion. I'm not a Muslim. And I don't view these people as Muslim's. They are people. Innocent civilians dying while fuel is being put to the fire that is the anger that turns so many youths into easily molded soldiers for fundamentalists. My "support" never went to Hamas or any government. It goes to Palestinian people who don't deserve "a day in the life of.." to be composed of blood on the streets and bombs over their heads.

    Also, the Evergreen Terrace cover brings back fond memories.

  4. I'm glad to hear a bit of approval, Foisol. I just got through arguing with two, maybe three different people on points fairy close to what you said.

    Check it out: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=55452197802

  5. I was having this very discussion at lunch today. Your thoughts on the matter are eminently reasonable. I tend to argue more on the side of Palestine in these conversations to balance out the people who believe Israel can do no wrong. Both sides have very bad actors who are only giving the other side more reason to follow their extremist leaders. I wish there was a way to separate these two groups, put them in different rooms for a few decades so their tempers can cool.

  6. It's funny how an army can annihilate over 1,000 people, while only losing roughly 11 of their own (4 of which were from their own friendly fire...go figure), and still consider themselves the victims. The problem with the Isrelis and most of their sympathizers is that they have their history all wrong. Never will young Israeli students learn about the large scale massacres committed against Palestinians during the 1948 Nakba nore the hundreds-of-thousands of people that to flee. To the Isarelis, the Palestinians are all nothing but blood-thirsty Islamist extremists. Little do they know, they are on the land which once belonged to Palestine. It's only fitting the U.S. should support Israel unconditionally -- it is a gift from one thief to another. Perhaps one day Israel will be kind enough to give Palestinians some casinos on their "reservations", as we so graciously hand off to the 'Indians' in our homeland. These events are borderline absurd. Thank you for writing this piece.

  7. Badrul: I don't think anyone is going to say that Israelis are the victims of this particular conflict because that's pretty absurd. But I don't see why anyone would expect an even fight, either. Also, I think you do have to admit that the citizens of Southern Israel are often the victims of terrorism at the hands of Islamic Jihad/Hamas/whoever is firing rockets out of the Gaza Strip. I don't believe that all Israelis think so lowly of Palestinians--the majority actually believe in a two-state solution, which is the only reasonable solution. Israelis may be on Palestinian land, but before that the land was British, Greek, Persian, Assyrian, Babylonian--take your pick. Arguing about who was there first doesn't really solve anything. What needs to be acknowledge is that both Israelis and Palestinians are now there, and they need to find some way to make it work. Israelis and the Palestinian National Authority (sans Hamas) have both already committed themselves to some degree to a two-state solution, so talk of casinos is pretty baseless.

  8. Don't get me wrong, Arvind. I understand where you're coming from. I'm not denying that it was equally wrong for rockets to be fired into southern Israel -- when I said this situation was bordering on absurdity, I really meant this entire situation, and not just the Israeli counterattack. And yes, there were indeed man cultures that existed and coexisted in that land before the Israelis and Palestinians. However, no single group of people were forced out of that land in the form of an exodus as the Palestinians were circa mid 20th century -- and that's what I was referring to. If Israelis were willing to assimilate back then with Palestinians as Jews and Muslims have been able to do elsewhere (Yemen, Iran, & more), perhaps they could still coexist today. As for casinos, that's just my sarcastic jab at an ironic situation :) Nothing baseless there.

  9. many cultures**

    my spelling has been shit lately