Oct. 4, 2014 : “Fears of massacre as Isis tanks lead assault on Kurdish bastion”, Hannah Lucinda Smith, The Times (UK)
The empty spaces in Gaza
How many times have you heard on television or read in the media that the Gaza Strip is “the most densely populated area in the world”? Repeating this statement, however, does not make it true. There are dense parts of Gaza, especially Gaza City, Beit Hanoun and Khan Younis, but there are far less dense areas in Gaza between these cities. Just look at Google Earth, or this population density map.
The fact that these sparsely populated areas exist in the Gaza Strip raise several important moral questions: First, why don’t the media show the relatively open areas of the Gaza Strip? Why do they only show the densely populated cities? There are several possible reasons. There is no fighting going on in the sparsely populated areas, so showing them would be boring. But that’s precisely the point—to show areas from which Hamas could be firing rockets and building tunnels but has chosen not to. Or perhaps the reason the media doesn’t show these areas is that Hamas won’t let them. That too would be a story worth reporting.
Second, why doesn’t Hamas use sparsely populated areas from which to launch its rockets and build its tunnels? Were it to do so, Palestinian civilian casualties would decrease dramatically, but the casualty rate among Hamas terrorists would increase dramatically.
That is precisely why Hamas selects the most densely populated areas from which to fire and dig. The difference between Israel and Hamas is that Israel uses its soldiers to protect its civilians, whereas Hamas uses its civilians to protect its terrorists. That is why most of Israeli casualties have been soldiers and most of Hamas’ casualties have been civilians. The other reason is that Israel builds shelters for its civilians, whereas Hamas builds shelters only for its terrorists, intending that most of the casualties be among its civilian shields.
The law is clear: using civilians as human shields—which the Hamas battle manual mandates—is an absolute war crime. There are no exceptions or matters of degree, especially when there are alternatives. On the other hand, shooting at legitimate military targets, such as rockets and terror tunnels is permitted, unless the number of anticipated civilian casualties is disproportionate to the military importance of the target. This is a matter of degree and judgment, often difficult to calculate in the fog of war. The law is also clear that when a criminal takes a hostage and uses that hostage as a shield from behind whom to fire at civilians or police, and if the police fire back and kill the hostage, it is the criminal and not the policeman who is guilty of murder. So too with Hamas: when it uses human shields and the Israeli military fires back and kills some of the shields, it is Hamas who is responsible for their deaths.
The third moral question is why does the United Nations try to shelter Palestinian civilians right in the middle of the areas from which Hamas is firing? Hamas has decided not to use the less densely populated areas for rocket firing and tunnel digging. For that reason, the United Nations should use these sparsely populated areas as places of refuge. Since the Gaza Strip is relatively small, it would not be difficult to move civilians to these safer areas. They should declare these areas battle free and build temporary shelters—tents if necessary—as places of asylum for the residents of the crowded cities. It should prevent any Hamas fighters, any rockets and any tunnel builders from entering into these sanctuaries. In that way, Hamas would be denied the use of human shields and Israel would have no reason to fire its weapons anywhere near these United Nations sanctuaries. The net result would be a considerable saving of lives.
But instead the UN is playing right into the hands of Hamas, by sheltering civilians right next to Hamas fighters, Hamas weapons and Hamas tunnels. Then the United Nations and the international community accuses Israel of doing precisely what Hamas intended Israel to do: namely fire at its terrorists and kill United Nations protected civilians in the process. It’s a cynical game being played by Hamas, but it wouldn’t succeed without the complicity of UN agencies.
The only way to assure that Hamas’ strategy of using human shields to maximize civilian casualties is not repeated over and over again is for the international community, and especially the United Nations, not to encourage and facilitate it, as it currently does. International law must be enforced against Hamas for its double war crime: using civilian human shields to fire at civilian Israeli targets. If this tactic were to be brought to a halt, then Israel would have no need to respond in self-defense. Applying the laws of war to Israel alone will do no good, because any country faced with rockets and tunnels targeting its civilians will fight back. When the fighters and tunnel builders hide behind human shields, there will inevitably be civilian casualties—unintended by Israel, intended by Hamas—regardless of how careful the defenders are. Israel has tried its hardest to minimize civilian casualties. Hamas has tried its hardest to maximize civilian casualties. Now the United Nations and the international community must try their hardest to become part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
Alan Dershowitz’s latest book is “Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law”.
The citizens of Israel are now into their second week of a horrific war of rockets inflicted upon them primarily by the Hamas terror group operating out of Gaza. So far over 1350 rockets have been hurled at Israeli population centers, traumatizing children and putting an unfathomable burden on the little country. Tens of thousand of Israeli reservists have been pulled from their families and await possible orders to enter into a dangerous ground war with a ruthless enemy.
There is hopefully some comfort for Israel in the stalwart support of tried and true organizations like the Jewish National Fund, the Orthodox Union, Magen David Adom,One Family and the Jewish Federations of North America, all who have set up Emergency Funds to support the beleaguered Jewish state. These special campaigns are providing much needed services like counseling , medical assistance, mobile shelters, toys and foodstuffs.
We are thrilled that our “Stop the Sirens” campaign is being implemented in collaboration with local Jewish Federations- and other groups. We in North America stand shoulder to shoulder with all Israelis. - Jewish Federations of North America
One organization, the New Israel Fund issued an impressively evenhanded press release today to publicize their very own efforts to support and raise the morale of the besieged citizens of Israel.
Given the military confrontation between Israel and Hamas, which came on the heels of unprecedented incitement and tension between Jewish and Arab Israelis, the New Israel Fund stands ready to fund projects through our Emergency Grant Program
The New Israel Fund (NIF) promotes itself as a younger, hipper pro-Israel organization, and they certainly are trend setters. As part of their own Emergency response to the terror war on Israel, NIF has authorized an expedited grant to “Al Amar to help establish a series of special working groups for young Palestinian-Israeli political activists to help them organise non-violent protests.”
What a great morale booster it will be to Israeli families hunkered down in their bomb shelters to hear the heartwarming chants of NIF funded protesters rushed to the scene to decry the Jewish state.
NIF is no less concerned about the stresses this war has inflicted upon the valiant men and women of the IDF. It will be a source of great comfort for the soldiers to know that NIF has rushed an emergency grant to BDS funded B’Tselem an organization’s whose sole purpose is to critique and thus hamper Israel’s defensive operations. As a nod to the appreciation Israeli’s have for B’Tselem’s efforts, NIF has designated funds for extra security at B’Tselem’s offices.
While the sentiment of NIF’s efforts to “support Israel” in these difficult times is certainly appreciated, we respectfully suggest that they consider redirecting some of that same type of “support” to Hamas, the IDF would surely appreciate the help.
המלחמה קשה למי ששייכים לפוסט־מודרנה גלובלית, שהפנימו רעיונות של ניו־אייג’, ואיבדו בדרך את זהותם הישראלית. המלחמה מסכנת את ה”אני” שלהם. סכנת אובדן “האני המאפשר”, ה”מקבל כל אחד כמו שהוא” תחייב אותם להוכיח שמלחמה היא טעות. המלחמה כה מזעזעת את עולמם, שכדי לשרוד נפשית הם צריכים להעלים מן התודעה את אכזריותו של האויב, או לקחת חלק מהאשמה על עצמם: לא סיפקנו לחמאסצורכי יסוד, לא הקשבנו באמת לצד השני, לא נתנו לעזתים חופש תנועה שהוא מיסודות זכויות הפרט.
גדל כאן דור שאינו יודע להתמודד עם תופעה שאי אפשר לפתור באמצעות חשיבה חיובית, אי־שיפוטיות, מאבק על זכויות המיעוט, אפליקציה, או אוכל טבעוני. הניצחון במלחמה מסוכן להם כמו ההפסד.
העולם אכזר. אויבינו נמנים עם האומות האכזריות ביותר. רק הצבא יכול היום לנהל את מצרים. רק רודן אכזר כמו סדאם חוסיין הצליח להחזיק ביחד את כל המרכיבים של עיראק.אסד והאיראנים נראים פתאום מתונים יחסית לדאע”ש.
קשה לקבל כי אויבי אינו שותף לערכי. שהוא לא עבר את עידן הנאורות וההשכלה ולא הפנים את ערכי הדמוקרטיה. הערכים האלו שלי, הם איום על עולמו, על המשפחה המסורתית שהוא מתקשה להמשיך לקיים כשילדיו חשופים לאינטרנט. מזעזע לגלות שערכי האהבה, ההידברות, וזכויות הפרט הם בעיניו סימנים של חולשה. מזעזע לגלות מתחת לשכבה הדקה של התרבות, את האכזריות של זולתי, ושלי. אנושיות היא המאמץ להישאר אנושי גם במקום שאין בו אנשים.
יש עת להידברות ועת שאסור בה להידבר. יש עת לאפשר, ועת לקחת מהזולת את כל מה שיש לו. יש עת לאהבה, ועת שתוקפנות הישרדותית צריכה להוביל. ואחריה, לקוות, תהיה שוב עת להידבר. קהלת, שלימד אותנו שיש עת לכל דבר תחת השמש, לא האמין בכוח ולא האמין בהידברות. הוא לא האמין בזכויות הפרט, ולא האמין במלחמות. חייו היו מאורגנים ממקום אחר. מלחמה ושלום היו בעיניו מרכיבים באישיות שצריך למצוא להם את המקום, הזמן, והמידה הנכונה.
ד”ר כספי הוא מנהל מרכז “פסיכולוגיה ויהדות”
As everyone knows, Hamas has embedded its command posts, rocket launchers and weapons storage facilities within the civilian population of Gaza. This makes it difficult to destroy them from the air without large numbers of civilian casualties. It is also the case that important installations are underground where they are difficult to destroy from the air.
I have been expecting (and I admit it, hoping for) the IDF to mount a ground attack against Hamas in Gaza. But there may be an alternative, better, approach.
The very knowledgeable Dr. Mordechai Kedar lists some of the difficulties of going after Hamas in the heavily populated Gaza city area:
1. Population size and density, especially in urban areas such as Gaza City, Khan Yunis, Rafiah and the refugee camps make it necessary for Israel to introduce large infantry forces to a considerable number of points.
2. A tank has no advantages in urban areas as it has limited maneuverability, cannot aim at upper floors and is a slow-moving, easily hit target for antitank weapons, such as RPGs and rockets.
3. An armored jeep is also an easy target for antitank weaponry in a built up area.
4. Soldiers making their way on foot in built up areas are sitting ducks for snipers. Hamas has laid mines, built tunnels underneath the houses, fortified sniper positions in strategically placed buildings.
5. Eliminating Hamas military and civilian infrastructure requires a large Israeli presence over a lengthy period of time, enabling Hamas to attack command posts and headquarters (that is what occurred in Tyre).
6. Total elimination of Hamas will not prevent its resurgence as soon as our soldiers leave.
Kedar makes two points: that the ground attack would be costly — both to Israel and to the civilian population — and not assured of success, and that even if the Hamas infrastructure were completely destroyed, a permanent IDF presence would be required to keep it from being rebuilt.
Keep in mind that Hamas is depending on the “international community” to force a cease-fire and then help it rebuild; this will be accelerated by civilian casualties in Gaza. It has therefore encouraged its population to become human shields by ignoring IDF warnings, even going to rooftops of houses that are expected to be bombed.
Hamas sees casualties both among IDF soldiers and Gazan civilians as advantageous, and is doing everything it can to force Israel into a ground war in order to increase them. It certainly has been behaving as though this is its aim, deliberately crossing red lines and bragging about its intentions.
Here is Kedar’s strategy:
1. Israel must not enter Gaza and continue dealing with the problem from the air, where Israel has a significant advantage over Hamas and the other terror organization.
2. Israel must continue and expand its targeted assassinations against activists and leaders. Israel must give Hamas political leaders clear warning that continued rocket launching will lead to their elimination.
3. Israel must announce publicly that two days after the aforesaid announcement, it will shut the supply of electricity, water, food and fuel to Gaza, and that this will continue until the rockets cease. Israel can also threaten to cut off all line-based communication to Gaza that goes through Israel. There has never been a situation in which a country continues to provide supplies and services to an area from which it is being shot at. This two days in advance warning is intended to deal with legal, public, political and media issues that might result from the cutoff.
The third point is important because Israel is providing a propaganda victory to Hamas by its humanitarian policies, enabling it to retain popular support:
Our side keeps saying: We differentiate between terrorists and civilians: we fight terror and send food to the civilians. There is nothing more infuriating and incorrect, because think about it – who hands out the food to the people? Israel or Hamas? In other words, the people thank Hamas for succeeding in blackmailing Israel into transferring food even though Hamas is raining missiles on Israel.
We say that we are transferring food and fuel so that world media will report it. This, too, is a faulty approach, because it is based on a twisted scale of values, according to which Israeli lives are less important that Israel’s image.
Continuing to transfer food, water, fuel and electricity, is seen as a sign of weakness by the other side, and weakness invites more pressure in the form of rockets and missiles. Stopping the supplies would cause the residents of Gaza to demand that Hamas cease to launch rockets. Clearly, continued transfer of supplies is the reason for the continued rockets.
Kedar would prefer that Hamas — a humiliated and weakened Hamas — maintain control of Gaza, while being forced to stop its aggression against Israel.
I think he’s right about the contradiction between ‘humanitarian’ assistance and warfare. After all, the population of Gaza overwhelmingly voted for Hamas in 2006, and overwhelmingly supports its objective of killing Jews. We have no obligation to place the well-being of Gaza’s population over that of our own. The opposite is true!
If we cut them off, we can expect great international pressure to resume the transfers. Our response can only be: “yes — as soon as Hamas stops its attacks and begins to disarm.” Continued transfer will depend on the progress of disarmament.
I don’t suggest that we embark on this course unless we are prepared to follow through, because surrender to pressure would be far worse than not taking it at all. It must be made clear that the fate of Gazans is in Hamas’ hands, not ours.
Unfortunately, Hamas is probably correct that this war will end with an imposed cease-fire like previous conflicts. Our strategy should be designed to 1) hurt Hamas as much as possible — materially and psychologically — before this occurs, 2) establish conditions afterwards that will work against a recurrence of the conflict, and 3) protect our own people, both civilians and soldiers.
It is possible to combine air attacks with small, targeted ground operations by special forces without committing to a major ground offensive that sees dozens of tanks rolling across the border. I think that this can be combined with a cutoff of Gaza’s lifeline as advocated by Kedar to best achieve our goals.
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