Special Report: Gaza - Israel Responds to Hamas's Escalation
Loss of human life in a conflict is invariably an ugly situation and one that creates intense media interest. Such is the case of Israel's military operations in Gaza that are currently making international headline news.
However, the focus on Palestinian casualties ignores the context behind Israel's actions and only tells a part of the real story.
HAMAS FIRES KATYUSHAS AT ASHKELON
Sderot and the western Negev region have been under constant attack from Qassam missiles and mortars. Palestinian terrorists have deliberately set out to kill and maim innocent Israeli civilians making life unbearable for those within missile range.
Since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in mid-June 2007, over 800 rockets and over 900 mortar bombs have been fired. Since Thursday 28 February alone, over 100 rockets have been launched at southern Israel. At the time of writing, rockets continue to be fired at such a rate as to make it impossible to give completely up-to-date statistics. While many media have downplayed the effects of the Qassams, referring to them as "homemade", no such language can be employed to describe the latest Hamas escalation.
The situation has escalated in the past few days, as over 15 heavy rockets were fired from Hamas-controlled Gaza against Israel’s southern port city of Ashkelon. The 122 mm GRAD rockets are a type of standard military artillery weapon produced in the former Soviet bloc and by other states deploying non-Western arms. It is manufactured to military standards, by a conventional arms industry, and is equipped with a weapons-grade high explosive fragmentation warhead.
GRADS are also known as Katyushas - the same type of weapon fired at northern Israel by Hezbollah during the 2006 Lebanon War, possessing the same lethal capabilities.
Despite repeated Israeli warnings of an arms buildup in Gaza, the GRAD rockets were apparently smuggled into the Strip from Iran via Egypt through tunnels and the breached Rafah border fence.
The range of the rockets fired against Ashkelon is over 20 km, an upgraded capability which places about a quarter of a million Israeli civilians in constant danger of Hamas attack.
The primary responsibility of any government is to protect its citizens. Israel disengaged from Gaza in 2005 with no intention of ever returning. In the face of these missile barrages, Israel is left with little choice but to take action against those who target its towns and cities.
Israel is acting in self-defense.
TERRORISTS OPERATING FROM WITHIN RESIDENTIAL AREAS
Civilian casualties on any side of a conflict are tragic. Many headlines have concentrated on the high death toll of Palestinians during the fighting, which, sadly, has included a number of civilians. However, casualty statistics only tell part of the story:
Israel never intentionally targets civilians whereas Palestinian terrorists deliberately set out to kill innocents, celebrating hits against schools and kindergartens.
The vast majority of Palestinians killed during Israeli military operations were armed terrorists or those directly involved in firing missiles into Israeli towns and cities.
Hamas has exposed the Palestinian civilian population to risk by operating within and firing missiles from built-up areas, effectively using civilians as human shields.
NO 'HOLOCAUST' IN GAZA
Media analyst Tom Gross notes a Reuters mistranslation of remarks made by Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai on February 29 which led to dramatic headlines such as The Guardian's "Israeli minister warns of Palestinian 'holocaust'."
As Gross points out: "In fact Vilnai said this morning in off-the-cuff remarks made on Israel Radio that: "The more the Qassam rocket fire [on Israeli civilians] intensifies and increases its range, the Palestinians are bringing upon themselves a bigger disaster because we will use all our might to defend ourselves."
Vilnai used the word "shoah" (meaning disaster), which Reuters mistranslated as "Holocaust," which is "HaShoah" in Hebrew. It is like confusing a "white house" with "The White House."
Irrespective of whether or not Vilnai's choice of words were ill-thought out or whether the media is to blame for the resulting furore, one fact is undeniable - Israel is not carrying out a 'holocaust' or genocide in Gaza.
Anti-Israel propagandists have jumped on this bandwagon to repeat the false and disgusting analogy that compares Israel to the Nazis or seeks to deny the scale of the Holocaust. Unfortunately not only Hamas but also Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has described Israel's actions as "worse than the Holocaust". Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal called Israel's military operations "the real Holocaust" and accused Israel of "exaggerating the Holocaust and using it to blackmail the world."
The European Union's Working Definition of Anti-Semitism includes:
Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust; and
Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
Please be on the lookout for these false comparisons in op-eds and media articles and respond appropriately.
A FULL-SCALE INVASION?
Hamas terrorists have no qualms about targeting innocents, safe in the knowledge that the world's media is slow to condemn such acts. Israel's enemies, however, are fully aware of Israel's efforts to avoid civilian casualties. In an asymmetric battle, the Palestinians are adept at waging war through the media in order to pressurize Israel into curtailing IDF military operations.
The IDF's latest actions to defend Israeli towns and cities under rocket attack may be only the beginning before a full-scale invasion of Gaza. Please monitor your media to ensure that the full story is being told of Hamas's responsibility for the violence and Israel's responsibility to defend her citizens.