By now you’ve heard plenty about the ceased Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip that resulted in many civilian casualties. What you didn’t hear, however, is just as startling. The silence of protesters was deafening when Hamas was firing rockets on a regular basis into southern Israel, making life there unbearable.
Also deafening is the lack of protest over Hamas’ intentional use of civilian facilities — such as houses and schools — to store arms and stage attacks. “Hamas is using its huge civilian losses to pressure the Israelis and to embarrass all their Arab adversaries,” explained Mohammed Abdel Salam, a strategic analyst in Cairo, Egypt. Something is seriously out of balance here.
When Hamas was elected in to the Gaza Strip, they could have focused on developing their economy and infrastructure. A peaceful Palestinian leadership could’ve then harnessed international pressure to persuade the Israelis to let up on their oppressive security measures. Instead, Hamas fired rockets into Israel, necessitating the present military operation.
Left-wing opponents of Israeli policy never seem to mention this, nor do they mention that the Hamas attacks have been going on for eight years. It seems as if an Israeli life is worth less than a Palestinian life.
The implication is that the conflict is solely Israel’s fault. This results in the left perpetuating the conflict, explaining away every Palestinian atrocity while strictly condemning every Israeli atrocity. Are the Israelis seriously expected to look the other way as Hamas fires rocket after rocket into Israel? Why doesn’t that stir the left’s outrage?
Hamas has made the dream of an independent Palestinian state even more remote by giving the Israelis countless reasons to continue the occupation. By doing so, Hamas helped perpetuate the occupation when they could have leveraged more concessions out of the Israelis by pursuing a peaceful development plan.
It is unfair and absurd to expect Israel to ease their security measures without any change of behavior from Palestinian militants. To demand such a thing ignores the enormous risks to Israel’s people.
Another guilty party ignored by the left is Iran, who supports Hamas. Iranian influence has soared throughout the region since the U.S. removed Saddam Hussein — Iran’s principal enemy. Sunni-Arab states like Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have tacitly sided with Israel in recent years as Iranian influence expands in the region. They see their interests in harmony with Israel’s, while Iran sees the Arab street as the weak link in this alliance, inflaming Arab public opinion.
This conflict has no chance of being brought to a lasting peace until one side is decisively defeated or suffers losses of such magnitude that continuing is simply untenable. I also think that the Israeli government’s primary duty is to tailor a solution that resolves the problem permanently.
The Bush Administration’s “Freedom Agenda” directly led to this mess by pressing for open Palestinian elections when they knew Hamas was likely to win. The focus should instead be on bringing prosperity to the Palestinian people through economic, political and infrastructural development. People who are warm, well fed and employed usually do not become terrorists.
Christopher Herrin is a graduate Religious Studies major and columnist for the Daily Forty-Niner.