“[The enemies of Allah] do not know that the Palestinian people have developed their [methods] of death and death-seeking. For the Palestinian people, death has become an industry, at which women excel, and so do all the people living on this land … It is as if they were saying to the Zionist enemy: ‘We desire death like you desire life.’ ”
This is a statement from Fathi Hamad, a member of Parliament of Hamas – the Islamic militant group in “control” of Gaza – in February 2008. And to this day, Hamas insists that it is the Israelis who are brutalizing the inhabitants of Gaza. The only reason people have even entertained this fairy-tale idea is because Hamas represents its people. Surely, a government has its people’s best interests in mind, right? Even if Hamas sees the lives, blood, flesh and sorrow of the Palestinians as a publicity tactic that can be exploited and used against its enemy. The Palestinian people deserve hope, prosperity and economic development just like any other people. But Hamas members’ tendency to wrap themselves in explosives and hide behind them in gunfights will never turn that dream into a reality.
In an effort to foist the primary responsibility for the Palestinians’ suffering away from Hamas and onto Israel, Reem Salahi, a National Lawyers Guild delegate invited by the Muslim Student Union (MSU) to speak about Gaza last Tuesday, addressed the living conditions of Gaza’s inhabitants.
“Malnourishment is high among children and 800,000 people – over 50 percent of Gaza’s population – is under 18,” Salahi said.
Apparently, this is somehow meant to insinuate that Israel is responsible, despite the fact that the Palestinians’ first action upon moving into Gaza was to destroy existing infrastructure; even after that suicidal offense, Israel has consistently supplied the people of Gaza with food, water and electricity for almost four years. No other country in the world willingly supplies the very people committed to its destruction.
Salahi compiled a slideshow divided into six sections, each meant to address and refute Israel’s reasons for its recent Operation Cast Lead. The first attacked the idea that Israel targeted Hamas militants.
“If you’re going to engage in warfare, you have to distinguish between militants and civilians,” Salahi said.
However, Salahi fails to realize the difficulty in differentiating between a plainclothes militant and a civilian, not to mention situations in which injured Palestinian civilians have been found with bombs strapped to them; in essence, civilians who had been used as bait by Hamas.
Particularly ludicrous was Salahi’s claim that Israel targeted civilians and used human shields without even bothering to mention Hamas’ 8,000 potshots at southern Israeli towns over the last eight years, or its militants’ tactic of stepping outside a building with a convoy of children and women.
She also forgot to mention this line from the Hamas charter: “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews, when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees.”
Salahi fails to see how Israel, a technologically and militarily superior nation, takes great effort not to target or harm civilians.
Salahi’s second argument attempted to refute the idea that Israel targeted only Hamas infrastructures. She noted that 2,400 Palestinian homes had been attacked in the operation without noting that Hamas used those homes to dig smuggling tunnels and launch rockets, as they did with crowded hospitals, mosques and schools. In a very blasé tone, Salahi dismissed Israel’s obligation to protect its citizens: “Oh, Hamas is firing from the area and we have to respond.”
Salahi’s third argument focused mainly on Israel’s use of white phosphorous, a potentially burning agent that is used to create smoke screens for troop advancement, but offered no argument to prove it was used illegally. She instead condemned Israel’s “use of force in densely populated areas” without acknowledging that Hamas operated intricately amongst and within its civilian population. For example, the Hamas leader Ismael Haniyeh hid in a crowded Gaza hospital.
The fourth segment attempted to dispute the fact that Israel allowed humanitarian and medical aid into Gaza. Hamas has been caught on numerous occasions stealing humanitarian aid sent to the Palestinians and selling it back to them at much higher prices. On Feb. 4, 2009, a UN spokesman reported that the United Nations caught a group of Hamas militants stealing over 3,500 blankets and 400 food parcels from a UN storehouse because it was being given to other parties – not Hamas – to be distributed to the Palestinians.
Salahi’s fifth segment tried to refute the widely-acknowledged fact that Israel alerted Palestinian residents of buildings it was targeting with plane-dropped flyers, text messages and phone calls. Her only argument was that during her trip to Gaza, more than a week after the operation ended, she saw one flyer. Apparently, Salahi doesn’t understand that text messages and phone calls aren’t usually left lying on the ground.
Salahi’s sixth and final erroneous presentation attacked the belief that Israel was acting in self-defense.
“Can an occupying state declare self-defense against an occupied people?” Salahi asked.
Putting aside the controversy of the “occupation” claim, the answer, as seen by the more than 8,000 rockets Hamas has launched on Israeli neighborhoods since 2001, as well as eight years of Israeli acceptance of these rockets, is an overwhelming “yes.” Salahi also brought in the usual “Israel used disproportionate force” argument, and this is one point on which the two of us agree; Israel’s response was very much out of proportion. If it wanted to react in the same way as Hamas, the Israel Defense Forces would have gathered 8,000 rockets, pointed them at Gaza, closed their eyes and fired.
A noticeable trait in MSU presentations is that they never present what they believe in; only what they oppose. Who do they support? “The Palestinians” is not a legitimate answer, as they are powerless to affect the struggle between Hamas and Israel. And the MSU certainly doesn’t support Israel. This only leaves Hamas, a group of militants that should be condemned for its willingness to hurt the Palestinians in order to hurt Israel.
If this really were “Palestine Awareness” week, then the focus should center solely on raising money and support for the Palestinians to help build schools and hospitals, instead of damning and blaming Israel every year.
The sad truth is that Fatah and Hamas have killed more Palestinians through infighting than Israel. The Palestinians deserve a chance at economic prosperity and the opportunity to develop their society and flourish in the desert, just like Israel. Unfortunately, this will never happen as long as Hamas has an iron grip over the Palestinian people.
For proof, just look at the Hamas charter: “There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad [holy war]. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.”
AE Anteater is a third-year English major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Filed Under: Opinion