Who is to be blamed for the Gaza conflict?

Published: August 6, 2014
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Smoke and flames follow an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip on July 8, 2014. PHOTO: REUTERS

Demonstrators protest against action taken by Israel in the Gaza strip near Israeli embassy in London. PHOTO: REUTERS Smoke and flames follow an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip on July 8, 2014. PHOTO: REUTERS

Bring up Gaza in a mixed setting and you will hear a myriad of passionate responses. It is a complex and sensitive issue with a troubled history. One thing is for certain though that it is difficult to talk about it without saying a prayer for the innocents caught up in the violence and those that have passed away.

The Gaza conflict has been allowed to go on for far too long, fuelled in fact by delusion from both sides and the refusal to accept facts instead of heated emotions and false rhetoric.

Israel accuses Hamas of indiscriminately launching rocket attacks that has put their civilian population at risk. That is the excuse it has used to justify this current military action, riding on public support gained through the alleged manufacturing of the teenage kidnapping saga, which was blamed on Hamas without any evidence whatsoever. It has been revealed that the Israeli government knew early on that the teenagers had been killed but prolonged the deception, including gagging the press from reporting the truth, in order to foster a hostile environment that would create favourable conditions for them to re-arrest the released Palestinian prisoners without charge during the charade of an investigation, and launch an incursion into Gaza.

And now, with over a thousand innocent civilian casualties, most of them being women and children, the world, including many of Israel’s allies, is waking up to the fact that nothing can justify this heavy handed offensive. This aggression needs to be condemned in the strongest terms possible.

What can one say about Hamas?

With some leaders in exile and others safely tucked away in bunkers, it seems like the organisation has not a single care in the world while hundreds of their people die. It is fully aware that Israel has the Iron Dome defence that takes out almost all rockets that come its way. It boggles one’s mind when you think of the logic behind launching ineffectual attacks from densely populated civilian areas, knowing that it will invite a much larger reprisal from the Israeli side.

Considering all of the aforementioned factors, I have yet to come up with even a single positive that has been achieved by Hamas’s rocket fire. And apparently, neither does Palestinian President and leader of the rival Fatah party, Mahmoud Abbas, who said,

“What are you trying to achieve by sending rockets? We prefer to fight with wisdom and politics.”

The only thing that the rockets are doing is giving Israel an excuse to justify their violence when their representatives go on international sympathy tours, and their PR ploy seems to be working.

For example, Joan Rivers’ much publicised lambasting of pop starlet, Selena Gomez, when she had posted in support of Gaza.

“Let me just tell you, if New Jersey were firing rockets into New York, we would wipe them out. If we heard they were digging tunnels from New Jersey to New York, we would get rid of Jersey… (To) the Palestinians (militants), you cannot throw rockets and expect people not to defend themselves!”

In a similar incident, Hollywood actors Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz signed an open letter condemning Israel’s actions in Gaza, which was later criticised by actor and Angelina Jolie’s father, Jon Voight, who dubbed the Spanish couple ‘ignorant’ and told them to ‘hang their heads in shame’.

Even Sean Hannity, a Fox News right winger, repeatedly brushed aside any notion of sympathy for the people of Gaza because, “3,000 rockets… fired into Israel”.

Supporters of Israel harp on about the fact that Hamas uses its people like human shields. But there has been absolutely no evidence to prove that Hamas physically surrounds itself with civilians for protection. A UN report did, however, discover that Israeli soldiers have beaten up Palestinian children and used them as shields.

There are, however, substantial incidents that point to the fact that Hamas has intentionally put its civilian population at risk. There are only a few places in Gaza where the civilians can go to in order to receive shelter from the fighting, one of them being UN Schools. Despite knowing the danger it would put the women and children in there, Hamas stored rockets in, not one but two, children’s school, earning a furious condemnation from the UN relief organisation, United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). This also gives Israel and its sympathisers another excuse when it is called out for attacking civilian structures.

The reprehensible shelling of UN schools by Israel has pushed US, France and UK further to officially condemn Israel’s actions. In fact, Foreign Office minister, Baroness Warsi, resigned from her position in protest, saying its policy on the crisis in Gaza is “morally indefensible”. Both Israel and Hamas have been accused by the UN of being guilty of war crimes, and the guilty need to be held accountable.

There has been a lot of talk about the lack of support that Gaza has received from surrounding Arab countries, mainly because the leaders of most Arab countries abhor Hamas. It is aligned with Iran, which is the political nemesis of most political governments in the region. Through this alignment, Hamas is also associated with Hezbollah and Bashar al-Assad, who is responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent Muslims, far more than have been attributed to Israel. In fact, many of the posts about Gaza are mistakenly, or manipulatively, using pictures of the dead from Syria.

The US finally took a stand and forced Israel to commit to a ceasefire and come to the negotiating table. Almost immediately, the ceasefire was broken when Hamas kidnapped an Israeli soldier, embarrassing Barack Obama, and prompting Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to rebuke him by saying never to second guess him again when it comes to Hamas.

The right wing hawks in the Israeli government have gone too far and have damaged their own country’s standing in the eyes of those that used to be staunch supporters previously.

Throughout all this, one thing is very clear. Knowing that Israel is the fourth strongest military in the world, one with a nuclear arsenal no less, Palestinian independence cannot be won on the battlefield. It needs to be won through the hearts and minds of the international community.

If one were to watch a government official give a speech on Gaza, it should be the one by Senator David Norris, a gay Christian man, who despite knowing what would happen to him in a Muslim country, launches an impassioned plea.

Hamas is acting as an impediment to the peace process and the independence of their people. Capable and progressive leaders need to step forward and take back the mantle in the interests of the Palestinians. The Palestinians deserve somebody in charge that can navigate through the chaos and fight for the interests of the people, not just for the greed of the power.

In the meanwhile, all we can do is pray.

Mani Khawaja

Mani Khawaja

A journalist and musician with an MBA from the University of Sunderland. He tweets @manikhawaja88 (twitter.com/manikhawaja88)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Reddy

    Don’t say that there is no proof to Hamas firing rockets from civilian areas. NDTV’s Srinivasn Jain reported from Gaza what Hamas is up to. It has been picked up by lot of major news outlets.Recommend

  • Kushal

    “But there has been absolutely no evidence to prove that Hamas physically surrounds itself with civilians for protection.” Just check this link

    Watch- NDTV Exclusive: How #Hamas Assembles and Fires Rockets http://bit.ly/UR7arVRecommend

  • Anon

    Obviously the rocket firing isnt getting hamas anywhere… and neither will any use of force by it.

    But if theres one thing that people should recognise by now its that there is no “international community”… any actions taken by this so called “international community” are based solely on individual political and economic interests…. morality and ‘hearts and minds’ dont enter into it!Recommend

  • Prashant

    The Palestinians have truly become the orphans. Hamas uses them as shields and the Israelis would use every possible means to break through this shield. Either way, the people who perish are the innocent Palestinians.

    The Muslims all across the world seek US and UN intervention which shows the desperation of Muslim masses where in they do not expect even a single Muslim country/ organisation to take a stand against Israel.Recommend

  • fmidhet

    Tucked away safely in bunkers? How do you know! Consider this: You are living peacefully in your ancestral, rightfully owned home with your family. One night, some burglars break in, occupy your house and lock you and your family into a toilet. The cut you off from external world, which strangely doesn’t give a damn about what’s happening to you. This goes on for eight years. What will you do? Try locking you and your family in the toilet for eight hours just to get a taste of what Gazans are going through. Gaza is the world’s largest prison where a terrorist state has locked up a nation. And don’t give me the NY, NJ crap. It’s easy to open your mouth and boast. Much more difficult to live it. Recommend

  • raw is war

    No hearts will be won – as long as Palestinians shell Israel.Recommend

  • Malik

    Mani, You are a courageous man!Recommend

  • Muhammad Waqar

    Can you share the source of Hamas using Schools for storing rockets…..Recommend

  • Maryam Zia

    Do you think israel would stop bombing palestine if there was no HAMAS? was there Hamas in the past when they slaughtered the palestinians??..Israel created hamas through its oppression through its creation of the west bank barrier this is no self defence war this is an outright man slaughter aimed to drive away palestinians from their home..Recommend

  • Fact

    Hi Muhammad Waqar.. this is directly from the UN site about condemning:

    http://www.unrwa.org/newsroom/press-releases/unrwa-strongly-condemns-placement-rockets-schoolRecommend

  • Captain Obvious III

    The point wasn’t whether they were firing from civilian areas, but that there isn’t any evidence that they force the civilians to act as shields.Recommend

  • ady

    Kiddo seems to know very little about the conflict. Waste of time reading this blogRecommend

  • Ajamal

    Entire Gaza is a civilian area and Hamas is a resistance force. Are they supposed to go in the desert and fight IDF?Recommend

  • Ajamal

    Hamas resistance to Israel forced the Zionists to leave Gaza in 2007. Continued resistance will ensure full liberation.Recommend

  • Ajamal

    Maryam, this is not “man slaughter” – this is massacre, ethnic cleansing and mass murder.Recommend

  • Prashant

    Ethnic Cleansing- Do you understand the meaning of this term?Recommend

  • Prashant

    Ethnic Cleansing- Do you understand the meaning of this term?Recommend

  • Hamza

    The Hamas leadership is in Qatar right now and from over there they’re rejecting ceasefire proposals. So yeah they’re safely tucked away while Gaza gets bombed.
    And as for the NJ,NY “crap”. That’s not an example given by the author. He merely stated the reply Selena Gomez was given by Joan Rivers
    Try to read something without getting all hyper and emotional and you might actually understand something :)Recommend

  • SLHussain

    BBC,s correspondent for the middle east did not find any Hamas while reporting on Gaza and upon Israel,s complaint was taken off by BBC. Israelis try to invent much larger than life Hamas almost a false flag operation. Recommend

  • Rps Hundal

    Hamas, PERIOD.Recommend

  • fmidhet

    Hamas leadership is not in Qatar. Don’t believe everything you read. This is the time for solidarity with Palestinians. One becomes emotional when little children are murdered brutally. But yo won’t understand. Good luck to you with your visa applications. Recommend

  • Virendra Kaul

    I guess the situation is a little different than what you have portrayed. Imagine you own a barren piece of land and a buyer appears who offers good rate for that useless “Non Profitable Asset”. You think it is a steal and the guy offering that kind of money must be a fool. You sell the piece of land. The new owner toils and irrigates this piece of land with new technology and grows all kind of fruit, vegetables and other produce. Then you suddenly realize that it was probably sold for free and you develop hostility and threaten him to leave. You also hire local goons to threaten him but he retaliates and you resort to chest beating.Recommend

  • Muhammad Waqar

    Thanks for sharing…Recommend

  • Guest

    “.. they do not expect even a single Muslim country/ organisation to take a stand against Israel.”

    Taking a stand against Israeli oppression (not necessarily Israel) should not mean having to stand against the US, UK, Europe et al. What Muslims are seeking is for these countries to stop supporting IDF in their aggression.Recommend

  • Observer

    “Do you think israel would stop bombing palestine if there was no HAMAS?”

    The answer is yes.

    While Israel has been bombing Gaza, it has not fired a single shot in the West Bank ruled by the Palestinian Authority. Hamas provoked this current crisis by kidnapping and killing the Jewish teens and firing 4000 rockets into Israel.Recommend

  • Observer
  • Farid Midhet

    Hamas leadership is NOT in Qatar; We can easily digest 8-year of blockade of about a million people and killing of hundreds of innocent children? Just because we wish to appease the West?

    PLEASE SHOW THIS COMMENTRecommend

  • Captain Obvious III

    Just because you want something to be true and capitalise letters doesn’t make it so. Hamas leadership is either in Qatar or hiding under bunkers.Recommend

  • Fact check

    Even Jon Snow said that Hamas leaders are either in exile or in bunkers and it is the innocent civilians that are dying. Do you want to call him a liar?Recommend

  • ak

    Prey how is it different? Using civilians as shield doesn’t mean you “wear” them, it means you put them forward (during attack) or you surround yourself with civilian to save yourself.
    During attack civilian die first and you have a chance to escape. This is not battle, this “use of innocent” civilian livesRecommend

  • Hamza

    Khalid Mashal is in Qatar right now. He was previously in Syria but left after the Civil War broke out there.
    Shahzeb Khanzada did an interview with him about a month back, Do you think he went to Gaza for that?Recommend

  • Prashant

    “What Muslims are seeking is for these countries to stop supporting IDF in their aggression.”

    What have Muslims asked from Egypt, the country of Abdul Nasser who is probably one of the most charismatic leaders of the Arab world, have you also protested against the custodians off the Holy Mecca for being at best paying lip service to the Palestinian cause and nothing more.Recommend