[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 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.