What about the Palestinian right to self-defence?


1:00 pm - February 10th 2009

by Ben White    


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Israel’s ‘right to self defence’ has been supported, recognised and repeated ad nauseam over the last few weeks. The incessant invoking of this ‘right’ is important for two reasons: one, because of how little thought normally goes into what it actually permits and prohibits; and two because of the notable absence of any backing of a Palestinian right to self defence.

At the very least, given the surface commitment to even-handedness by the likes of the Quartet, surely ‘both sides’ should have their right to self defence affirmed?

But of course, to suggest that the Palestinians have a right to self defence is problematic, because it threatens to show up the approach of the international community to Palestine/Israel for what it is: a duplicitous farce.

Since Israel called a temporary halt to its large scale attacks on the Gaza Strip, and Hamas opted for an uneasy truce, two issues have dominated the international community’s energies: reconstruction aid for Gaza and preventing arms smuggling by Palestinians inside the Strip. For the Israelis, meanwhile, the continued detention of the soldier Gilad Shalit by Hamas is sufficient for a punitive blockade of the Gaza Strip to continue.

It is not hard to spot the hypocrisy and inconsistency in Western nations rushing to condemn and help prevent Palestinian arms smuggling, while simultaneously helping to arm and supply Israel’s state-of-the-art military. But the emphasis on arms smuggling actually points to a far bigger hypocrisy: the total denial of the Palestinian right to self defence.

That Palestinians are forbidden to defend themselves is obvious when one takes a look at Israel’s priorities (then faithfully repeated by the likes of the Quartet). For the Palestinians to hold prisoner a single Israeli soldier from an army that blockades and attacks the Gaza Strip is an outrage; but daily Israeli arrest raids are not even news, never mind the 11,000 Palestinian in Israeli jails.

Palestinian violent resistance is still ‘terrorism’ when directed against an occupying army that protects a network of colonial settlements. But it is important to remember that even when Palestinians launch attacks on Israeli civilians, this practice is not condemned as ‘disproportionate’ self defence – as when Israel hits Palestinian civilians – but as unjustifiable terror divorced from the ongoing Palestinian struggle for self-determination.

Palestinian violence then, is always terrorism. Additionally, it is often framed as irrational, rooted in cultural-religious factors, or even practiced simply for its own sake. Israeli violence is retaliatory, defensive, while Israeli military operations are subjected to in-depth analysis about the aims and tactics. Criticism of Israeli violence, when it does emerge, is focused on the question of ‘proportionality’ or whether or not the operation is strategically wise (not whether it is legal or moral).

It could be claimed that part of this imbalance is a result of the privileging of state violence over and above that of non-state actors: but that has not been the case in other situations around the world. Peter Beamount pointed out how “it has been seen as unremarkable to support the rights of groups to turn to violence in order to pursue ambitions of statehood, seceding from regimes that they complain suppress both their human rights and desire for self-determination”, citing Kosovo and Darfur.

Not, however, in the case of the Palestinians. The equation that dominates the approach of the international community to Palestine/Israel is ensuring Israel’s ‘security concerns’ while easing Palestinian frustration at the ‘restrictions’ of occupation. But what if the Palestinians’ ‘security concerns’ were afforded at least equal significance? What if the Palestinians were assumed to have an untouchable ‘right to self defence’?

If the Palestinians could defend themselves, who could question the legitimacy of attacks on an occupying army that since 1967 has enforced a cruel colonial regime in the Occupied Territories? Or who could question the legitimacy of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip striking back at those who enforce the siege? After all, it was the Israeli Foreign Minister at the time, Abba Eban, who said of the blockades targeting his country in 1967, that:

To blockade, after all, is to attempt strangulation — and sovereign states are entitled not to have their state strangled. The blockade is by definition an act of war, imposed and enforced through violence. Never in history have a blockade and peace existed side by side.

Sometimes, Palestinian violent resistance is bemoaned by those who wish that the Palestinians would embrace nonviolent resistance en masse. The question is asked, ‘Where is the Palestinian Gandhi/Martin Luther King?’

In fact, the Palestinians have indeed long been practitioners of civil disobedience, from the Revolt in 1936, to the First Intifada in the late 1980s, and right up to the present day. Palestinians are, in fact, of their tradition of nonviolent resistance.

Tellingly, Israel has responded to nonviolent resistance with dismissive repression – after all, it’s the resistance itself that’s the problem, not its violent/nonviolent nature. Israel had those who led nonviolence movements, besieged and assaulted entire villages to – in the words of famous ‘dove’ Yitzhak Rabin – “teach them there is a price for refusing the laws of Israel”, and met nonviolent demonstrations with lethal force.

Contrary no doubt to what some will infer, this is not an argument for Palestinian violence. Rather, it is a case for abandoning the disingenuous moralising that characterises so much of the (often liberal) hand-wringing about the ‘cycle of violence’, while embracing an approach to Palestine/Israel that gives equal weight to both Palestinian and Israeli ‘rights’ to self defence.

Given that the Palestinians are stateless, occupied and struggling to realise self-determination and equal rights, legitimising their right to self defence would turn upside down the dominant approach to the conflict in the West, and open up the possibility of Israel being confronted in the serious manner that is long overdue.

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About the author
This is a guest article. Ben White is a freelance journalist who has written for Guardian's CIF, Electronic Intifada and others. His book 'Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner's Guide' (Pluto Press), was published in 2009.
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Reader comments


Non-state Palestinian groups, and Israel alike have the right to self defence, but not the right to commit war crimes.

There are arguments that certain facets of Israeli military conduct amount to war crimes. For example, there is a live argument as to whether the use of white phosphorous in built up areas is permitted or prohibited: the International Committee of the Red Cross have found no evidence of WP being used in an impermissable way, but other groups say that it hit civilians, and that its use was a war crime.

Hamas, by contrast, has no strategy that does not constitute a war crime. Before the wall was built, it sent suicide bombers into restaurants and bars. Now that the wall has been built, it directs rockets to civilian towns, with the intention of killing civilians

Article 7.2 (a) of the Rome Statute provides:

“Attack directed against any civilian population” means a course of conduct involving the multiple commission of acts referred to in paragraph 1 against any civilian population, pursuant to or in furtherance of a State or organizational policy to commit such attack.”

In other words, the prohibition on directing attacks against civilians applies to Hamas as it does to Israel.

There is now also ample evidence – much caught on video – of Hamas using civilian areas as a cover for their military operations. That, also, is a war crime:

Article 28 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states:

The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations.

Article 51/7 of the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions (adopted in June 1977) specifies:

The presence or movements of the civilian population or individual civilians shall not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations, in particular in attempts to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield, favour or impede military operations. The Parties to the conflict shall not direct the movement of the civilian population or individual civilians in order to attempt to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield military operations.

Both Israel and Palestine should be held accountable for any war crimes they commit.

It would also be interesting to hear whether supporters of Hamas accept that their entire military strategy constitutes a war crime, and whether they believe that it should be condemned.

Were he sacked, you can be certain that this will be trumpeted as proof of the huge Jewish conspiracy against anybody who dares to speak the truth ect ect ect.

Sorry – wrong thread!

I see from the Cif site that Ben has spent “several summers” in Palestine/Israel – wow.

legitimising their right to self defence would turn upside down the dominant approach to the conflict in the West, and open up the possibility of Israel being confronted in the serious manner that is long overdue

And would result in their own destruction.

But perhaps that is what you want?

The Palestinians do have a right to self-defense. No arguments

Can you explain to me which violent acts by Palestinians constitute ‘self-defense’? Thee has to be a reasonable expectation that acts of self-defense will have a defensive outcome or serve a legitimate military objective

How is shooting rockets at Israeli towns defending the Palestinians? What legitimate defensive objective is that acheving?

“How is shooting rockets at Israeli towns defending the Palestinians? What legitimate defensive objective is that acheving?”

It’s not, clearly, but then I thought that this article was being ironic in that the point is Israel don’t have any more right to fire their rockets in to Palestinian towns (which they do knowing full well they may hit civilians, and don’t care).

7. organic cheeseboard

How is shooting rockets at Palestinian towns defending the Israelis? What legitimate defensive objective is that acheving?

etc etc.

It would also be interesting to hear whether supporters of Hamas accept that their entire military strategy constitutes a war crime, and whether they believe that it should be condemned.

someone from HP starting a will-you-condemn-a-thon! what a surprise!

I am just interested to see whether those who have strong views on – say – the arguably dubious legality of white phosphorous use in an urban context, also have the same view of the Hamas military strategy, which is in essence, a war crime, namely:

– directing attacks specifically against civilians; and

– carrying out attacks from civilian areas.

I would like to know whether, in fact, we’re arguing about war crimes and the right to resist.

Or, alternatively, all this talk of international law is just a hook for Ben White to hang his “rah rah Hamas” articles from.

It would also be interesting to hear whether supporters of Hamas accept that their entire military strategy constitutes a war crime, and whether they believe that it should be condemned.

Well David, skipping nimbly past the “supporter of Hamas”* part, I’d remind you that Hamas are internationally recognised as a terrorist group and its leaders would be subject to arrest anywhere outside of Gaza or the West Bank, following which they’d likely be prosecuted as war criminals.

However, I’d note that your shat-pants and those of your fellow war enthusiasts over the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit and the killing of his colleagues in ’06 kind of brings into question what actions you would regard as acceptable. I feel terrible for the kid – I’ve read Brian Keenan’s book on being held prisoner by (IIRC) Islamic Jihad, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone – but ultimately he was an armed soldier manning a checkpoint, and targets don’t get much more military than that.

Unless, of course, the “right to resist” means the right to fire a rifle at a bomber flying 30,000 feet above one’s head, and even then only if it is about to blow up your house. Which I suspect it does.

And while we’re on this subject, I’d remind you that your blog currently has a post and thread on its front page that involves a lot of willy-waving over a survey that suggests support for Hamas has decreased since OCL ended. I haven’t seen it since this morning, but I recall it celebrates the fact that violence and intimidation for political ends appear to have been successful in changing the Palestinians’ minds – the fact that the use of violence for such ends is known to the rest of humanity as “terrorism” doesn’t seem to bother your colleagues so much. Not the ones invoking Clauzewitz, anyway.

Being the suspicious type, I suspect this is because you’re a shower of one-eyed, belligerent partisans with a nice line in pretending to give a damn when your own guys get caught breaking the law. Am I being too harsh?

*Incidentally, people would react more kindly to your points if you stopped accusing everyone who disagrees with you of being supporters of this, that and the next thing. It’s very annoying, as are the constant demands that people condemn things.

For example, there is a live argument as to whether the use of white phosphorous in built up areas is permitted or prohibited: the International Committee of the Red Cross have found no evidence of WP being used in an impermissable way

ICRC also said later they hadn’t actually had time to look around properly for white phosphorus. The Israeli govt is, unsurprisingly, very quiet on the issue.

“However, Herby said evidence is still limited because of the difficulties of gaining access to Gaza, where Palestinian health officials say more than 900 people have been killed and 4,250 wounded since Israel launched its offensive late last month. Israel says the operation aims to halt years of Palestinian rocket attacks over the border.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/01/13/israels-use-of-white-phos_n_157648.html

“Unless, of course, the “right to resist” means the right to fire a rifle at a bomber flying 30,000 feet above one’s head, and even then only if it is about to blow up your house. Which I suspect it does.”

Do you have a view on what the “right to resist” might permit, in that case?

Engaging soldiers is certainly permitted.

Directing attacks against civilians is not.

Neither are attempts to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield, favour or impede military operations.

Engaging soldiers is certainly permitted.

Directing attacks against civilians is not.

But, according to the Israeli govt, if civilian casualties occur as a result of attacking Hamas, then that’s inevitable. I didn’t see you condemn that anywhere, David T.

So the Israeli govt should be allowed to get away with civilian casualties (and how will they even be held accountable?) while Hamas are not…?

Aye Sunny, Israel’s Mark Regev came out and said that they knew they were firing on civilians but that they only were intending to kill hamas. When pressed on whether they should take the blame for this he stated that it was Hamas that are to blame for Israel choosing to blow up known UN refuge areas, not them, holding the trigger.

I too would like to see more condemnation from people such as David T to this travesty, until they do I can’t get on board fully with their arguments. Now is not the time to let pride get in the way.

Article 28 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states:

The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations.

This is why Article 51/7 of the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions (adopted in June 1977) specifies:

The presence or movements of the civilian population or individual civilians shall not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations, in particular in attempts to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield, favour or impede military operations.

In other words, although a State must certainly not target civilians, and must do its best to keep civilian casualties as low as possible, Hamas’ decision to launch attacks from civilian areas does not render them immune from attack.

This is the reason that it is a very serious war crime, for Hamas to pursue its military strategy from civilian areas.

A few rockets hit Israel, that is pretty terrible. What happens?

Israel takes out police stations, power stations, other infrastructure…mostly that provide basic living standards to an already poor life style for palestinians…this is the first set of “self defense” measures.

They then destroy outposts outside of civilian areas used by Hamas…

Then they fire on civilian areas (allegedly) with an array of illegal weapons.

Then they destroy tunnels that were used for smuggling arms as well as aid, before killing more civilians and injuring them with attacks on UN structures.

At what point in all of this does self defense finish applying? How many Hamas members have to be suspected of being in a UN refuge before it is no longer “immune from attack”?

he stated that it was Hamas that are to blame for Israel choosing to blow up known UN refuge areas, not them, holding the trigger.

Are you talking about the 42 people killed by Israel while sheltering in a UN School?

http://www.hurryupharry.org/2009/01/29/israel-did-not-attack-un-school-in-jabalya/

Nobody was killed in the school. Israeli troops returned fire against Hamas missile launchers, operating outside a school, and civilians in the vicinity of that fight were killed.

Those who died were not in a “UN refuge area”.

You can be forgiven for not knowing this. The original UN announcement that its school had been hit, and John Ging’s statement that Israel had the co-ordinates and that ‘nowhere is safe’, was widely reported. However, the true facts, and the UN’s acknowledgement of them, has only been reported sparsely.

17. organic cheeseboard

Are you talking about the 42 people killed by Israel while sheltering in a UN School?

Well he could be talking about the UN stockpiles of food that israel blew up using white phopsphorous.

there are countless instances of Israel targetting civilian infrastructure unconnected with hamas in the last onslaught on Gaza, places where rockets had never come from and where no rockets were being stored, where there were no Hamas members residing.

and you know it full well. Which is why you imemdiately shift to one of the few misreported attacks out there. The main reason for the misreporting, lest we forget, is that Israel illegally blocked foreing journalists from entering Gaza during the conflict. even a slavishly pro-IDF paper like the j-post was carrying reports that israel had shelled the school.

Hamas’ decision to launch attacks from civilian areas does not render them immune from attack.

David T – you’ve already said that you think Hamas should be allowed to capture Israeli soldiers as a ‘proportionate response’ to resisting the occupation.

So, if you believe Hamas’ response should be ‘proportionate’, why doesn’t the same apply to Israel? If it does, then what is it allowed to do and not? And do you think the attack on Gaza was ‘proportional’?

The answer to that question depends on whether Israel’s actions have been effective in ending rocket attacks on its population. Israel was entitled to use no more force than was necessary in achieving that aim. That is what “proportionality” in international law means.

It is incumbent on Hamas not to launch attacks from civilian areas. That is the purpose of Article 28 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Article 51/7 of the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions.

By contrast, there would be no objection in international law to Hamas launching an attack on a military facility. It would be entitled to do so.

“Nobody was killed in the school. Israeli troops returned fire against Hamas missile launchers, operating outside a school, and civilians in the vicinity of that fight were killed.”

Right, though I wasn’t talking about the school, let’s just look at this line of argument…so if Hamas do it and fail to kill anyone it is a crime worthy of mass destruction and invasion. If Israel do it then it is proportionate and justified? You would make Mark Regev very proud.

I’m also talking of this… http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article5521925.ece .. so let’s not even go in to the realm of pretending that Israel did not fire on the UN, that they didn’t hit UN structures, and that they didn’t injure innocent people in the process.

Do you have a view on what the “right to resist” might permit, in that case?

I don’t have my Big Book Of International Law handy, but I think it’s reasonable to suggest “On-duty military personnel from active combat units” are legitimate targets. Note that this doesn’t mean I am in favour of attacks on Israeli soldiers, nor that I support them – I would far prefer to see an outbreak of group hugs and hopscotch, but since that’s not going to happen any time soon, I personally would find attacks on armed military personnel far less offensive than I would suicide bomb attacks on restaurants.

Article 28 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states:

David, this protocol allows that states are permitted to attack enemy forces who are stationed in or attacking from civilian areas – it does not state that it is a war crime to station troops in urban areas, or to fight from within such areas. If you think about it, that wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense, unless, of course, one wanted to read it that way in order to provide one’s favoured nations with a blank cheque to smash up cities and kill large numbers of civilians. Surely that’s not what you’re up to, is it?

…John Ging’s statement that Israel had the co-ordinates and that ‘nowhere is safe’, was widely reported. However, the true facts, and the UN’s acknowledgement of them, has only been reported sparsely.

Again, this is a bit daft. If large numbers of civilians were killed by a missile strike right outside your front door, you wouldn’t regard yourself and your family as being “safe”, on account of the missile crater and the large piles of corpses outside your front door.

(BTW, it really is pretty cynical to try to parlay what I’ll charitably call a “misguided” missile attack that kills lots of innocent people into another one of your Ooooh, them United Nations types are bastards and the media don’t like the Israelis much, do they? I wonder why that is, bit suspicious, nudge nudge freakouts. If anyone else was pulling this crap about, say, Darfur or the Russian invasion of Georgia, you’d be going off your nut.)

The answer to that question depends on whether Israel’s actions have been effective in ending rocket attacks on its population.

Curious, that you say Israel should be allowed to do as much as possible to end rocket attacks, but say Hamas shouldn’t be allowed the same reign if it wants to end the blockade, and occupation, the settlements, the wall and the checkpoints.

What is Hamas allowed to do to stop Israel building more settlements?

Either White Phosphorous was used as a weapon of war, or it wasn’t. If it was used lawfully to create a smokescreen, but misfired and set fire to the UN building accidentally, that is not a war crime. If it was directed against the UN building, and used offensively, then it would be a war crime. Which do you think is more likely?

It is worth noting that nobody was killed in the UN compound.

if Hamas do it and fail to kill anyone it is a crime worthy of mass destruction and invasion. If Israel do it then it is proportionate and justified?

No, it is unlawful for Hamas to direct attacks at civilians in Israel. Likewise, it would be unlawful for Israel to direct attacks at civilians in Palestine.

if Hamas direct missiles at civilians in Israel, then it is lawful for Israel to take military action that is proportionate to the aim of stopping those attacks. Hamas’ strategy of launching attacks from civilian areas is itself unlawful. The presence of Palestinian civilians does not prevent Israel from taking military action to end attacks on its civilians.

Do the people in Iraq and Afghanistan also get a right for ‘self-defense’ from the invading forces, or is it just those who shoot rockets at innocent civilians?

“Curious, that you say Israel should be allowed to do as much as possible to end rocket attacks, but say Hamas shouldn’t be allowed the same reign if it wants to end the blockade, and occupation, the settlements, the wall and the checkpoints.”

1. Hamas is not permitted to direct attacks at civilians. It can engage in attacks on Israeli military targets, where Israeli civilians risk being killed.

2. However it can only do so if it does so in a manner which is proportionate to its military aim.

The problem with using terrorist attacks to end “the blockade” is that it was terrorist attacks that resulted in the blockade in the first place.

It is worth mentioning that Hamas’ definition of “the occupation” is “the existence of Israel”.

“Again, this is a bit daft. If large numbers of civilians were killed by a missile strike right outside your front door, you wouldn’t regard yourself and your family as being “safe”, on account of the missile crater and the large piles of corpses outside your front door.”

What put those 42 people who were killed – although their identities have yet to be announced – was Hamas’ calculation, either that Israel would not return fire against its militia, if they launched mortars from within the refugee camp or, worse, that civilian deaths would work in their favour.

Can you seriously doubt that this is the case?

Was there any imperative for Hamas to launch mortars from the street outside a school?

If so, what was it?

I’m getting so tired of this argument its beyond despair. Instead of trying to find who the worst war criminal is, why can’tt we rather look at trying to solve the problem, so maybe Israel doesn’t have to use military force in the future. The Israeli government was really in a lose lose situation with the rockets from gaza, if they do nothing the Israeli’s won’t be happy and if they bomb the rocket throwers, the palestinians won’t be happy. Noone is coming up with suitable solutions – and I already know about the suggestion to open up the borders, but how do you expect the Israeli’s to open their front doors to people who are throwing rockets at civilians.

I think that’s what we should be struggling to solve.

“No, it is unlawful for Hamas to direct attacks at civilians in Israel. Likewise, it would be unlawful for Israel to direct attacks at civilians in Palestine.”

Which they are doing, and they have admitted they are doing, so thanks for at least admitting it’s unlawful. I really don’t give a shit about the wrangling over proportionality and “lawfulness” of willingly murdering innocents, especially when more risk could be taken by the IDF to lessen the risk to innocent Palestinians but it is clearly not in their interest.

If you care about the principles of the Geneva Convention then you don’t even think about firing WP near a UN location such as they did, and you use “normal” weapons rather than morally dubious choices in civilian areas, if you fire in to them at all. Right now the GC is being hid behind as an excuse to use as much force as they can, which is certainly not why it was created.

“Was there any imperative for Hamas to launch mortars from the street outside a school?”

They can pinpoint a strike against mortars to outside a school and “only” injure those inside, but they can’t avoid hitting a whole UN compound full of aid and (though it wasn’t at the time) potentially refuges? That’s…”unfortunate”

How good is your knowledge of the failure rate of military hardware?

Good enough to know that unfortunately I do have to sit hear and entertain the notion that out of all the successful strikes, the UN compound was supposedly a mistake…while you sit there and use that knowledge, as well as your “legal” technicalities, as solid proof of Israel doing no wrong.

Here are a few examples of the difficulties faced by fighting a terrorist group that operates out of civilian buildings:

United Nations Humanitarian Affairs Chief John Holmes blasted Hamas Tuesday for its “cynical” use of civilian facilities during recent hostilities in the Gaza Strip.

“The reckless and cynical use of civilian installations by Hamas and indiscriminate firing of rockets against civilian populations are clear violations of international humanitarian law,” Holmes told the UN Security Council.

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1059475.html

Palestinian civilians have accused Hamas of forcing them to stay in homes from which gunmen shot at Israeli soldiers during the recent hostilities in Gaza, the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported Thursday.

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1057874.html

In an interview with Channel 4 News, Hamas have denied accusations that they used human shields in the conflict with Israel in Gaza.

But this programme has heard accounts of Hamas fighters taking over homes to fight the Israelis and executing any family members of residents who objected.

http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/politics/international_politics/did+hamas+use+human+shields+/2909867

Every day, the Hamas rocket teams sneak through the fire and fury of Gaza to launching sites concealed in tunnels, trucks, rooftops and courtyards of schools and mosques.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-090114-gaza-rockets,0,7042515.story

Members of a Gaza family whose farm was turned into a “fortress” by Hamas fighters have reported that they were helpless to stop Hamas from using them as human shields.

They told the official Palestinian Authority daily newspaper that for years Hamas had used their property and homes as military installations from which the group would launch rockets into Israel, dig tunnels and store arms. According to the victims, those who tried to object were shot in the legs by Hamas operatives.

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1233050211857&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull

As the injured man spoke to The Sunday Telegraph, a crowd gathered and people started shouting: “Be quiet. Silent. You’ll get in trouble.”
But he went on to blame Hamas fighters for causing his predicament. Israeli soldiers had bulldozed his orchard of orange and olive trees, he said. “The Israelis destroyed my orchards because Hamas was using the cover to shoot rockets.
“I asked them to stop once and was told they would shoot me in the legs as an Israeli collaborator if I asked again.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/palestinianauthority/4414395/How-Hamas-is-reasserting-itself-in-Gaza-using-money-manpower-and-force.html

Senior Hamas officials in Gaza are hiding out in a “bunker” built by Israel, intelligence officials suspect: Many are believed to be in the basements of the Shifa Hospital complex in Gaza City, which was refurbished during Israel’s occupation of the Gaza Strip.

Shifa, the coastal strip’s largest hospital, was built while Gaza was under Egyptian rule, before 1967.

http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1054569.html

Hamas was under no obligation to do any of this.

So that, in practice, is the problem that Israel faces.

1. Daily attacks on its civilians from Hamas, until it took military action to stop it

2. Hamas military action conducted overwhelmingly from the middle of civilian areas

3. Palestinian civilians attacked by Hamas if they objected

4. Hamas’ aims being not limited to lifting blockades, ending settlements – all reasonable aims – but rather the expulsion of Jews from Israel.

So, I can tell you exactly what I think Israel should be doing. Freezing settlements, 1967 borders, and so on.

Trouble is, as long as Hamas’ war aim is (4) and as long as they carry it out by (1)-(3), Israel’s options are a mixture of blockade and war.

What put those 42 people who were killed – although their identities have yet to be announced…

Indeed, David – can I take it that this is an attempt to cast doubt on the existence or civilian status of the 42 people witnesses say were killed? If you’re expecting me to doubt the word of those witnesses, then it’s only fair to note that your source for the alleged Hamas militants in the street just before the attack is, er, the IDF. Surely you can think of reasons why the IDF might not be an unbiased actor in this case? That should surely cast at least some doubt on the “Hamas firing from the street” thesis, which you seem to accept as concrete fact.

Given that, your decision to passionately defend this mortar attack on a heavily poplated area, and indeed to portray it as if it were yet more evidence of the evil media/United Nations axis, looks a little bit odd.

Additionally, I can’t help but notice that you jumped right on my comment about this incident – and only this incident, mind, not the other verified attacks on UN installations in the last few years – while completely ignoring the fact that the protocol you cited does not say what you are telling us or your readers it says.

This is precisely why I pick you up on this stuff, by the way – most people don’t seem to be wise to your habit of backing up on your arguments and presenting the most one-eyed and partisan interpretation of any issue or situation. It flusters the uninitiated, but to people who have been reading your stuff for a while it’s just a bit annoying, really.

“Indeed, David – can I take it that this is an attempt to cast doubt on the existence or civilian status of the 42 people witnesses say were killed? If you’re expecting me to doubt the word of those witnesses, then it’s only fair to note that your source for the alleged Hamas militants in the street just before the attack is, er, the IDF. Surely you can think of reasons why the IDF might not be an unbiased actor in this case? That should surely cast at least some doubt on the “Hamas firing from the street” thesis, which you seem to accept as concrete fact.”

It is certainly possible that Hamas did not fire from the street. It is also possible that Hamas never fires from civilian areas, and that those people quoted above are liars and Israeli stooges. It is also possible that death tolls in wars are never exaggerated and that 500 Palestinians actually died in Jenin, as was originally claimed: rather than the 52, mostly members of militias, who the UN later determined had died.

…It is also possible that Hamas never fires from civilian areas, and that those people quoted above are liars and Israeli stooges.

You know very well that I’m implying no such thing. I’m saying that you can’t have your cake and eat it without people drawing adverse conclusions about your impartiality and the validity of your arguments – that’s a standard that applies to all of us.

@David T

“Hamas, by contrast, has no strategy that does not constitute a war crime.” (Comment #1)
“Engaging soldiers is certainly permitted.” (Comment #11)

So what about all the times when Hamas’ military wing has targeted Israeli armed forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territories?

“The problem with using terrorist attacks to end “the blockade” is that it was terrorist attacks that resulted in the blockade in the first place.” #25

“The Israeli Defence Ministry has recommended imposing a series of further restrictions on the movement of Palestinians, Israeli reports say….The proposals include stopping workers leaving Gaza for Israel or the West Bank, and turning the Gaza-Israel crossings into international borders….Palestinians would also be denied the right to travel between Gaza and the West Bank, with only a limited number of VIPs able to apply for permits. Transforming the Gaza-Israel crossings into formal international borders would also mean a number of additional security checks. Israel Radio said the proposed restrictions would take effect after the Palestinian Legislative Council’s (PLC) first session.” BBC News, 16 Feb 2006

“It is also possible that death tolls in wars are never exaggerated and that 500 Palestinians actually died in Jenin, as was originally claimed” #35

Claimed by who?

@Flying Rodent

“David, this protocol allows that states are permitted to attack enemy forces who are stationed in or attacking from civilian areas – it does not state that it is a war crime to station troops in urban areas, or to fight from within such areas. If you think about it, that wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense…”

No, you see what David T wants is for the Palestinian fighters, in one of the most densely populated territories in the world, to all gather in one of the few open spaces around, and comfort each other as they wait for the airstrike.

@organic cheeseboard

“there are countless instances of Israel targetting civilian infrastructure unconnected with hamas in the last onslaught on Gaza, places where rockets had never come from and where no rockets were being stored, where there were no Hamas members residing.
and you know it full well. Which is why you imemdiately shift to one of the few misreported attacks out there.” (Comment #17)

Indeed – it’s not a particularly subtle strategy they’ve got going, is it?

No, you see what David T wants is for the Palestinian fighters, in one of the most densely populated territories in the world, to all gather in one of the few open spaces around, and comfort each other as they wait for the airstrike.

Or alternatively not aim their rockets at the Jews in the first place ?

David T: If you could just, for one moment, explain to me how the response to Hamas rockets that do terrorise, but rarely do more than injure, Israeli citizens (qualifying this with, yet again, how abhorrent that is in itself) by:

a) destroying infrastructure more vital to civilians than Hamas,
b) firing rockets with significant fail rates in to the vicinities of refuges and aid workers/aid stations
c) knowingly firing weapons in to civilian areas without absolute knowledge that Hamas still reside in that area
d) knowingly fire weapons in to civilian areas based not on militant activity but of knowledge of stockpiles
e) knowingly fire on civilians while accepting that Hamas manipulates and forces them to be in the line of fire, and
f) in knowledge of all the above still decides to use weaponry that is deemed illegal for use in civilian areas

…all for the period of a month killing 1000’s, given that

a) Israel first broke the ceasefire, not Hamas
b) Hamas fired rockets for several days, and significantly cut their rocket fire in the paltry 24 hours (if that) that the IDF gave them to ceasefire before they invaded

…is what you could describe as “proportionate”?

I’m also vetoing your usual claim of “it’s legal” with Geneva Convention references…because quite frankly if the Geneva convention allows this many civilians to die and be injured by this type of attack for this length of time using weapons with this level of uncertainty over where they’ll hit and what they’ll damage (i.e. non military targets) then it is quite frankly out of date and lacking the necessary relevance of modern warfare and terrorism.

David – Be a dear and stop apologising for the rightwingers who killed over 400 children, would you? Just repeat after me:

“They’re blood-drenched bastards. Israel needs to be shot of them to survive.”

You’ll feel a lot better afterwards, I assure you.

a) Israel first broke the ceasefire, not Hamas

How so ? There was nothing , then there was rockets , then there was this . Hamas started it and Palestine ,as we know , have already been offered all they claim to want anyway.Lee can you explian what you think it would be right and reasonsble for the Jews to do , take a suicide pill and lie down ?

Do you think anyhting less would satisfy Hamas , do you really ?

So far as can been told Hamas stopped firing rockets during the ceasefire, the Salafists, Islamic Jihad etc didn’t.

Then Israel breached the ceasefire and Hamas resumed.

Well that’s all nice and well (or horrible and unjust depending on your stance), but the majority of these comments seem to beg the question of how modern warfare is fought.

How would a war be fought today, while abiding by laws of war, laws of decency, and laws of humanity? Has any war _ever_ been fought with the distinction of being Just and Legal?

I can’t think of any military action that has not resulted in one side waging a legal battle against the other on charges of massacre, war crimes, illegal use of arms, civilian deaths, and oppression. Perhaps this conflict has finally hit home for people around the US and Europe that war is an awful human enterprise, and that each generation must learn this fact anew.

But the efforts are commendable in attempting to determine a common basis to analyze both Israel’s actions in Gaza and Hamas’ actions aimed at southern Israel. By extension, this can also be increased in scope to include Fatah and Hizbollah, since their goals all mirror each other: elimination of Israel and return of the land. But I digress, the issue is not real estate; it is the intolerance of the minority. And so, we must begin the process again to analyze those very societies and determine, if, when, or where the source of the problem lies.

I assert that Israel, in comparison to her neighbors, allows her citizens more freedom regardless of race, religion, gender, minority status, or any other human characteristic (and some political freedom too! – look at the Knesset’s Arabic MK [member of Knesset] and how they collude with Israel’s terrorist enemies) than any of the surrounding countries. Don’t fool yourself that all societies mirror your own and share the same freedoms that you enjoy. Look at the society, how it functions, how it deals with conflict and you will be closer to understanding their actions. Only then can you truly judge these people and the government that serves them. Bear in mind that a government which does not act on behave of its people is not truly representing its constituents. Is this the case for Hamas? Is this the case for Israel?

Newmania: This week Iran has significantly scaled back the level of hostility towards the US simply because the US stopped treating it solely as an enemy and a threat. I believe that the same can happen with Hamas and Israel, but not before this tit for tat “war” stops being the first step each side takes

David T – hope you get a chance to respond to the three specific queries I raised.

Jacob K. – If you’re looking for a model then think Northern Ireland with less internment.

I agree.The Palestinian Authority should have the right of self defence from the acts of terror committed against them by Hamas.

“David T: If you could just, for one moment, explain to me how the response to Hamas rockets that do terrorise, but rarely do more than injure, Israeli citizens (qualifying this with, yet again, how abhorrent that is in itself) by:”

the reason why the deaths are low is a 25/30 second warning so the population can get into their underground shelters.if there were no shelters and no warnings then Im pretty sure the fatalities would be much higher.Hamas has no intention of making peace with Israel its in their charter.they dont want a 2 state solution so if they remain as the government in Gaza there will never be peace between Palestinians.

Frank: Perhaps you want to try and argue the proportionality instead?

“Hamas has no intention of making peace with Israel its in their charter.they dont want a 2 state solution so if they remain as the government in Gaza there will never be peace between Palestinians.”

Frank, I put it to you that you are believing the demonology of the Decent Left over the recent statements of Hamas’ actual leaders. I suggest you google the phrase “Hamas Decade Peace West Bank” and get back to me.

James – If by model you mean a government that has at least more than one party (Gaza does not [1]) then yes, I would conclude that is correct.

Unfortunately, this is not the case, as Hamas has ousted fellow Gazans from political posts to that it may rule alone.

Perhaps you mean N.Ireland as a model for Israel+Gaza; but this too doesn’t apply, since Gaza is autonomous (politically anyway, they still rely on Israel for just about everything else but rockets) from Israel.

So is Gaza autonomous or not?
If it is, then Gazans can enjoy the political freedom to chose whomever they wish. They chose Hamas and consequently have been dragged into a religious-political war of intolerance against Israel. See evidence: rocket fire starting 2001, suicide bombers increasing in 1993, etc.
If it is not, then it is still a occupied territory of Israel… and Israel can remove Hamas as it see fits, no matter how menacing Israel might appear. As stated in Fourth Geneva Convention, “the Occupying Power shall be bound, for the duration of the occupation, to the extent that such Power exercises the functions of government in such territory”. Israel must then provide the protected persons with the basic necessities such as water, electricity, etc. (It is the case that Israel still supplies this)

So what happens in 2005? Israel leaves Gaza, and cedes to the Palestinians self-determination. But Israel must still supply resources? I’m just as befuddled by this as you.

1. “Hamas eliminating opponents”
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20090210/wl_mideast_afp/mideastconflictgazarightsngoamnesty_20090210122358

Fortunately for all sides – especially the Gazans – it looks as though Hamas support is crumbling.

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1233304721441&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Though I fear that when it comes to it they won’t go down without a fight, or at least a few hundred more opponents murdered.

James writes- “Frank, I put it to you that you are believing the demonology of the Decent Left over the recent statements of Hamas’ actual leaders.”

Shall we take statements from the exiled head leadership in Syria, or the local leaders living in Gaza Strip?

The head exiled leader has stated:
“We accept a state on the June 4 line with Jerusalem as capital, real sovereignty and full right of return for refugees, but without recognizing Israel.” Apr. 21, 2008

But spokeman says this:
“We agree in principle with a one-year truce,” spokesman Fawzi Barhum – Feb 2, 2009

Which leader should we listen to?

54. organic cheeseboard

The Palestinian Authority should have the right of self defence from the acts of terror committed against them by Hamas.

And should Hamas not have had the right of self defence from a coup attempt by Fatah. funded by Israel and the USA?

That’s how they ended up in total control of the Gaza strip.

Hamas has no intention of making peace with Israel its in their charter.they dont want a 2 state solution so if they remain as the government in Gaza there will never be peace between Palestinians.

well – that’s debatable at best. A lot of Hamas leaders have said they’d accept a long-term peace based on the 1967 borders.

Weird, isn’t it, that the government in Israel will soon be a Likud/Lieberman coalition.

A government opposed to a two-state solution.

Will the same people who bleat on about the Hamas opposition to a two-state solution being the main reason why bombing them is preferable to talking to them now advocate the PA attacking Israel, over dialogue – as he Israeli govt will be opposed to a two-state solution?

By the way, Pankaj Mishra is excellent on all this in tehgraun today.

The problem with you lot is that if you don’t like facts you decide that they are propogander or lies. Why don’t you go to Israel and Palestine and actually speak to people. You’ll find that on both sides they’re not nearly as small minded as you.

The problem with you lot is that if you don’t like facts you decide that they are propogander or lies.

Well, the sole reason I raised any doubts about the IDF’s claims about Hamas militants firing near the UN school is because David T. was implying there was something dodgy about eyewitness accounts, and the sole reason I did it was to show that David is happy to swallow one side’s pronouncements hook, line and sinker and rubbish the other’s to back up his points.

I’m not giving a verdict on what happened – I’m not qualified to do so. I am, however, qualified to call bullshit on other commenters’ deliberate misrepresentations (see also, that line about the protocol to the fourth Geneva Convention) and I don’t think I have to visit Tel Aviv to do that.

57. organic cheeseboard

Can I also add this to the ‘IDF-supporter disingenuousness’ list:

It is certainly possible that Hamas did not fire from the street. It is also possible that Hamas never fires from civilian areas

No – the former is possible, the latter isn’t. and:

Hamas’ strategy of launching attacks from civilian areas is itself unlawful. The presence of Palestinian civilians does not prevent Israel from taking military action to end attacks on its civilians.

Maybe not, but surely the presence of civilians in places unconnected with terrorist attacks – eg police stations hosting graduation ceremonies – should prevent israel from firing missiles at them?

What I find so strange aout IDF supporters, and Decents (the two are more or less the same thing, but still), is how quick they are to jump from discussions of particulars to imposing thoughts on their oppnents; essentially, moving the goalposts. So from the discussion of individual IDF attacks on places that don’t appear to have had any connection with Hamas (and the IDF has form in this – remember the bombings of airports, lighthouses and power stations in Lebanon 2006?), David T immediately starts talking about this vague notion that Israel was only targetting places where missiles were being fired from – which apparently were all in urban locations, even though they weren’t. IDF supporters seem to have this magic ability to ignore any facts about what Israel was actually targetting and resort to that hoary old untrue cliche that Israeli soldiers stand in front of women and kids while Hamas terrorists stand behind them. It’s not based in reality, or history, but prejudice.

The reason for David T’s recourse to vague hypotheticals, away from empirical evidence, is one of two things:

1) David T has not been following news from Gaza, either during the Israeli onslaught or afterwards, and he’s unaware of what happened in Lebanon.

or:

2) David T is fully aware of the IDF’s track record in targetting places and people unconnected with acts of violence, and is choosing to ignore this track record and change the subject as soon as possible.

I wonder which it is? Maybe he could tell us.

58. British Stuntman

“Hamas has no intention of making peace with Israel its in their charter”

Can we stop with the “charter” crap, once and for all, please?

– The Likud charter says all of The West Bank belongs to Jews, cos God said so. This seems as much of a stumbling block to a two-state solution as Hamas’ charter is. Hamas have offered to negotiate and have tried ceasefires, and had them thrown back in their face.

– The Labour Party have never explicitly renounced their 1983 General Election manifesto, with its commitment to nationalisation of industry, tax increases, withdrawal from the EU and nuclear disarmament. This does not mean that they plan to do all of these things and one would think, after nearly 12 years in Government, they’d have done them by now.

Why not concentrate on what people do, rather than what they say?

59. Alex Higgins

“Why not concentrate on what people do, rather than what they say?”

Exactly – the spurious argument that Israel governments cannot negotiate with Hamas because of that organisation’s aims as set out in its charter is a major obstacle to peace.

On that logic, the British government should not have negotiated with the Provisional IRA which was committed to the view that it was the only legitimate government of the whole of Ireland, a view much of its leadership continues to take seriously.

Hamas may have any number of hateful or grandiose intentions written in a charter – it does nothing to alter the actual power relations between the region’s foremost military power and a minor militia.

As it happens it is clear that throughout the last few years of conflict, it is overwhelmingly Israeli forces and not Hamas that have sought to escalate the violence and broken lulls in fighting with a round of killing.

David T hasn’t been able to respond to my points yet. Maybe that’s because I didn’t express the second one specifically as a question. So, a reminder.

Question 1:

“Hamas, by contrast, has no strategy that does not constitute a war crime.” (Comment #1)
“Engaging soldiers is certainly permitted.” (Comment #11)

So what about all the times when Hamas’ military wing has targeted Israeli armed forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territories? Does that not make your claim quoted in Comment #1 incorrect?

Question 2:

“The problem with using terrorist attacks to end “the blockade” is that it was terrorist attacks that resulted in the blockade in the first place.” #25

But didn’t the blockade begin initally in relation to Hamas’ success in the PLC elections?

“The Israeli Defence Ministry has recommended imposing a series of further restrictions on the movement of Palestinians, Israeli reports say….The proposals include stopping workers leaving Gaza for Israel or the West Bank, and turning the Gaza-Israel crossings into international borders….Palestinians would also be denied the right to travel between Gaza and the West Bank, with only a limited number of VIPs able to apply for permits. Transforming the Gaza-Israel crossings into formal international borders would also mean a number of additional security checks. Israel Radio said the proposed restrictions would take effect after the Palestinian Legislative Council’s (PLC) first session.” BBC News, 16 Feb 2006

Question 3:

“It is also possible that death tolls in wars are never exaggerated and that 500 Palestinians actually died in Jenin, as was originally claimed” #35

Claimed by who?

The extremist wings of Israel and the Palestinians now dominate the conflict . Perhaps it is time to cordon off an area and allow the extremists on both sides to slaughter each other while those who want a peaceful coexistence try to work together to achieve a less violent future.

62. Alex Higgins

Incidentally, the first claim I read of Jenin being a massacre with a large number of casualties was the privately expressed fears of Simon Peres, reported in Ha’aretz.

The actual events of Jenin were recorded in some detail by Human Rights Watch. Their report does not make attractive reading for apologists for the Israeli armed forces and occupation. The notion of returning to this epsiode in order to cast the IDF as the victim of injustice really is a bad idea.

@Alex Higgins

“The notion of returning to this epsiode in order to cast the IDF as the victim of injustice really is a bad idea.”

The notion of David T returning to this thread in order to either defend or retract his unsubstianted claims really is an increasingly improbable idea.

Shall we take statements from the exiled head leadership in Syria, or the local leaders living in Gaza Strip?

[Quotes]

Which leader should we listen to?

Neither of the leaders are referring to what I was referring to – a longer-lasting peace in exchange for removal of the colonists from the West Bank. Anywhere from a decade to a generation to longer, but with ten years the minimum. Hamas honoured the last ceasefire (the Salafists, Islamic Jihad and other groups didn’t stop firing rockets, but then they never made an agreement which stated they would. If you want to strengthen that sort of Islamist then my suggestion would be destroying Hamas.).

Hi Ben

Nice piece. David t usually cuts and runs after one question on my blog. You cheated and asked him three!


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