The Truth about Gaza: One Rabbi's Reflections

May 14, 2019Rabbi Fred Guttman

On May 4 and 5, Hamas fired 690 rockets into Israel from Gaza. Four Israeli civilians were killed in the barrages, dozens were wounded, and the lives of many more were shattered. Hamas and Islamic Jihad aimed their rockets at civilian centers, striking homes, a factory, and even a kindergarten and a hospital in the city of Ashkelon. 

Murdered in the attacks were:

  • Moshe Agadi, 58, a grocer and father of four who was hit by shrapnel in Ashkelon
  • Ziad Alhamada, 49, a Bedouin hit by a rocket in the Ashkelon factory in which he worked
  • Moshe Feder, 67, whose car was hit by an anti-tank missile near the Gaza border
  • Pinchas Menachem Prezuazman, 21, an American-Israeli killed by shrapnel from a rocket in Ashdod

On the Palestinian side, there were 23 deaths, including 17 combatants. In one confirmed case, a misfired rocket exploded inside Gaza, killing a woman and her child; nonetheless, the Palestinians blamed Israel.

Human Rights Watch, an organization not usually sympathetic toward Israel, reported: 

None of these rockets can be reliably aimed. Under international humanitarian law applicable to the fighting between Palestinian armed groups and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), such weapons are inherently indiscriminate when directed towards densely populated areas. The absence of Israeli military forces in the areas struck by the rockets, as well as statements from the leaders of Hamas and other armed groups, indicate that many of these attacks are deliberately intended to strike Israeli civilians and civilian structures. Individuals who willfully authorize or carry out deliberate or indiscriminate attacks against civilians are committing war crimes.

If aiming rockets indiscriminately at Israeli civilians and using Gazans as human shields are not crimes against humanity, I do not know what is!

This ongoing violence, which began in the spring of 2018 with the so-called “March of Return,” has been anything but a peaceful demonstration, somehow implied by the word “return.” In fact, the goal of this “March” is best described by senior Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahhar, who admitted in an interview to Al Jazeera: "When we talk about ‘peaceful resistance,’ we are deceiving the public. This is a peaceful resistance bolstered by a military force and by security agencies and enjoying tremendous popular support.” Hamas’ Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar, in a speech to Gazans, set forth the ultimate goal:

The March of Return will continue until we remove this transient border. The protests mark the beginning of a new phase in the Palestinian national struggle on the road to liberation and “return.”… Our people can’t give up one inch of the land of Palestine. 

On numerous occasions during the “March of Return,” terrorists placed bombs next to the fence. When the border was not breached, Palestinians put incendiary bombs on kites and in helium balloons and launched the into Israel. These explosives burned more than 7,000 dunums (nearly 1,730 acres) of farmland and nature preserves along the border. (A dunum is a traditional unit of land area in the Middle East.) In addition, balloons with explosives launched from Gaza have landed in Israel.

There’s no doubt that the situation in Gaza is terrible, if not desperate; but let us also remember these facts:

  • Hamas, the Palestinian arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, took over Gaza 14 years ago, consolidating their power in a violent coup only one year after an election was held. There have been no elections in Gaza since. 
  • Prior to the Hamas’ takeover, some 100,000 Gazans were crossing the border into Israel daily to work. Until the recent disturbances, more than 300 Israeli trucks carrying goods and necessary supplies to Gaza crossed the border daily. Many of these supplies were commandeered by Hamas to build bunkers and tunnels with hopes of infiltrating Israel and killing innocents. According to international agencies, last year alone, Hamas spent more than $100 million to build these nefarious tunnels. Over time, this figure has been more than $240 million.
  • The Palestinian Authority (PA) also bears responsibility for the lack of infrastructural investment in Gaza. Last year, the PA paid some $340 million to compensate terrorists’ families for terrorist activities including murder against Jews. “Pay for Slay” is the term used by the American and Israeli governments for the payments.
  • The partial blockade of Gaza continues and is certainly warranted. The primary reason Hamas lobbies to lift this blockade is to import weapons – to kill Israelis -- into Gaza. As Times of Israel editor David Horowitz, wrote: “Israel is not going to hand a gun to the murderer next door. What it could use is some help, support and understanding in trying to run the murderer out of town.”
  • Because the PA desires to choke Hamas’ control of the Gaza Strip, it no longer pays for electricity for Gaza nor the wages for more than 40,000 employees it had employed in Gaza. Recently, making matters worse, the PA, which rules most of the West Bank, refused to accept the tax revenues owed to it by the Israeli government because the Israeli government will not allow those funds to be used to fund the “Pay for Slay” initiative described above.

Yes, the situation is terrible. It is also complex. Remember that at even as Israel fights Hamas’ terror, it also participates generously in international efforts to assist and develop the Gaza Strip.

So why did this flare-up occur now? There are many theories.

One suggests that Hamas and Islamic Jihad wished to create violence before Ramadan, a holy month for Muslims that traditionally is dedicated to peace. A second theory is that the violence was meant to disturb the celebrations of Israeli Independence Day on May 9. Lastly, this violence may have been an effort to force the organizers of Eurovision, the gigantic European song festival being held this year in Israel, to cancel.

Whatever the cause, firing 690 rockets at Israeli civilians does little to promote peace. Once again, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have shown their sincere commitment to the total destruction of Israel. 

Perhaps former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said it best when she tweeted: “If this was any other country, the international community would raise havoc. No other country would sit back and take this. Why should Israel?”

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