Here is a reply to David Morrison's anti-Israel piece in The Irish Times, December 30th 2008:
David Morrison of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign attempts to blame Israel for the breakdown of the six-month ceasefire with Hamas and claims that its military action against Hamas was not necessary to secure its citizens from Hamas rocket and mortar fire -- in short, that its claim to self-defence is bogus (December 30th).
The one wholly factual sentence in Mr. Morrison's article is his statement that no Israeli was killed between June 19 and December 27 as a result of rocket or mortar fire from Gaza. The rest of the piece is obfuscation.
Let us examine his claim that ‘Israel broke the ceasefire by killing six Palestinians in Gaza on the night of November 4th’. The first fact to note is that the rocket and mortar fire had never ceased entirely since June 19. Figures for the ceasefire period up to November 4 show that 18 rockets and 20 mortars landed in southern Israel during that time. In addition, Hamas used the period of calm to smuggle in military supplies and weapons, including long-range Grad rockets supplied by Iran.
Next come the events that led up to November 4. On the night of October 31, Hamas operatives were seen trying to lay an explosive device at the security fence near one of the border crossings. When approached by Israeli soldiers, they fired two anti-tank missiles at them and escaped. That weekend, Israel continued its policy of allowing humanitarian supplies to cross the border as it done each week during the ceasefire. Between November 1 and 3, a total of 421 trucks crossed into Gaza carrying 12,160 tons of goods, 124,410 litres of petrol and 262,400 litres of diesel. In addition, there were 148 medical evacuations to Israel.
We now come to November 4. That night, the Israeli military acted on intelligence that a tunnel had been dug under the border fence by Hamas terrorists, from 250 metres inside Gazan territory, as part of a plan to abduct Israeli soldiers in Israel. When soldiers entered Gaza to thwart this plan and destroy the tunnel, they exchanged fire with the terrorists. In the resulting operation, six Israeli soldiers were wounded and six of the Hamas operatives were killed. This is the ‘unprovoked assault’ and these are the ‘six Palestinians’ so disingenuously referred to by Mr. Morrison.
Further serious violations of the ceasefire by Hamas took place on November 12 and 28, when its operatives were intercepted while placing bombs at the security fence. It seems that, in Mr. Morrison’s view, Israel’s adherence to the ceasefire required it to ignore these attempts to breach the security fence and to attack and abduct Israeli soldiers.
From November 4 onwards, Hamas renewed its missile attacks on southern Israel, and by December 18, had fired 213 rockets and 126 mortars across the border. Nevertheless, during this period, Israel continued to indicate, via the Egyptian intermediaries who had brokered the ceasefire, that it was interested in extending it.
It is when discussing the end of the ceasefire that Mr. Morrison’s piece becomes most interesting. Suddenly all human agents leave the scene: ‘the ceasefire broke down’ and ‘the ceasefire formally came to an end’. Who formally ended it? It was Hamas that formally announced on December 19 that it would not extend it.
It is strange that an Irish supporter of the Palestinian cause should adopt a more extreme position on this matter than the spokepersons for the legitimate Palestinian Authority. Its Chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, and leading figures in the PLO have placed the blame for the crisis squarely on Hamas. Abbas has said: ‘We told them, “Please do not end the tahdiah [calm]”’. Similar criticism has come from the Egyptian foreign minister.
Between Hamas’ ending of the calm and the start of Israel’s military action in Gaza on December 27, rocket and mortar fire escalated once more to the intolerable levels seen in early 2008, making an Israeli response imperative. Most of the firing comes from positions located in the midst of Gaza’s civilian population. In this light, it is ironic that Mr. Morrison should accuse Israel of depriving Gazans of ‘a dignified existence’.
Since its violent takeover of Gaza in summer 2007, Hamas has turned the territory into an armed camp, indoctrinated its young people with its radical Islamist ideology of hatred and turned children as young as five into aspiring suicide bombers. It is guilty of a double crime against civilians – against the Israelis it targets, and against its own citizens whom it exposes to attack by using them as human shields.
All of this is consistent with the 20-year-old Charter of Hamas, which expresses its scorn for all negotiated settlements and states clearly ‘There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad’. It is tragic that it is civilians on both sides who must pay the price for this madness.
Irish Friends of Israel.
Will it be published?