Compare two announcements following Israel’s defensive actions against Hamas in Gaza, as reported by the BBC.
[T]he exiled leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, called for a new intifada, or uprising, against Israel, in response to the attacks. The movement’s Gaza leader, Ismail Haniyeh, said there would be no white flags and no surrender. "Palestine has never witnessed an uglier massacre," he said.
And here’s Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert:
Mr Olmert appealed to Palestinians in Gaza, saying "You – the citizens of Gaza – are not our enemies. Hamas, Jihad and the other terrorist organisations are your enemies, as they are our enemies. They have brought disaster on you and they try to bring disaster to the people of Israel. And it is our common goal to make every possible effort to stop them."
The Hamas response calls for further attacks on Israel, making no distinction between military and civilian targets. The Israeli response clearly defines the enemy – Palestinian Islamist terrorists who regularly launch assaults on civilian targets, as opposed to the Palestinian people as a whole.
When 25 mortal shells pounded Israel recently, the immediate Israeli response was to re-affirm a commitment to humanitarianism:
Despite the mortar shell fire, Israel began transferring humanitarian aid to Gaza on Friday morning. The army said the first of an expected 90 trucks started to deliver medicine, fuel, cooking gas and other vital goods to the Strip on Friday. Defense Minister Ehud Barak decided Thursday to open the Kerem Shalom and Sufa crossings to allow the transfer of humanitarian supplies to Gaza.
And then there was this news:
[A] seriously wounded 35-year-old Palestinian man, hurt by a misfired rocket on Tuesday, was taken to an Israeli hospital for treatment … The man was apparently injured in the head after a rocket directly hit his home. He received initial treatment at a hospital in Gaza, but it was later decided to transfer him for treatment in Israel. A Magen David Adom ambulance evacuated the man from Gaza to the Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv.
Yet, once again, Israel is being harshly attacked for its defensive actions against Palestinian terrorists who, in contrast to the Israel seen above, have no time for humanitarianism – quite the opposite, in fact. Here in the UK, a blogger for The Daily Telegraph, a leading conservative broad sheet, has claimed that ‘Israel is addicted to violence’. For him, Israel has committed acts of ‘slaughter’:
The attack on the Gaza strip is proof that Israel is addicted to violence. Slaughtering 155 civilians, many of whom are women and children, can not be justified.
Here we go again. Big bad Israel has been ‘slaughtering civilians’ and, according to Hamas, ‘Palestine has never witnessed an uglier massacre’. Slaughter? Massacre? Even the notoriously biased BBC is more honest:
Israeli F-16 bombers have pounded key targets across the Gaza Strip, killing at least 225 people, local medics say. Most of those killed were policemen in the Hamas militant movement, which controls Gaza, but women and children also died, the Gaza officials said.
Most were members of Hamas, affirms the BBC, although women and children also died, according to ‘Gaza officials’. If most of those dead are members of Hamas, this cannot possibly be described as a ‘massacre’, as Hamas members have made themselves legitimate military targets through their continual shelling of Israeli civilians.
The fact that there should be a knee-jerk response with talk of ‘slaughter’ is very telling. When Hamas proclaims that ‘Palestine has never witnessed an uglier massacre’ you can immediately guarantee that Western commentators will be falling over themselves to offer the most vitriolic condemnation of Israel. Of course, we have seen the claim that ‘Palestine has never witnessed an uglier massacre’ before. Last time it was the supposed Jenin ‘massacre’, even referred to as the Palestinians’ ‘9/11’ by The Guardian, Britain’s leading ‘left-liberal’ newspaper.
At the time, the Palestinian news agency Wafa announced that the State of Israel had committed the ‘massacre of the 21st century’ at the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin, with reports of ‘hundreds’ dead. The final fatality figures were 75 deaths: 26 Palestinian terrorists, 23 Israeli Defence Force soldiers and 26 civilians. Those figures in no way constituted a ‘massacre’ and the Israel that is supposedly ‘addicted to violence’ was smeared for what was in fact a very difficult operation, carried out with care. Michael Gove summarises the operation well in his book Celsius 7/7:
The Israeli Defence Force had to work its way through booby-trapped homes, negotiate situations where terrorists were using civilians as human shields, and counter an enemy prepared to endanger other Palestinians in order to evade capture. In the process the IDF had to be bound by an ethical code that requires it to minimize the risk to innocent life. In the process of observing that code, IDF soldiers exposed themselves to proportionately greater risk. Which is why 23 of them died. And their posthumous reward? To be smeared across the world media as war criminals.
The civilians who died at Jenin were being used as human shields by terrorists. That this may have been the case in Gaza goes largely unconsidered. Equally important to consider is the fact that there are female as well as male members of Hamas. Hamas has produced female suicide bombers in the past and will no doubt do so again in the future. Emotive language about the death of ‘women’ needs to be treated critically, given this fact. Are we talking about helpless cowering housewives, or are we talking about people every bit as fanatically devoted to terrorism as their male counterparts?
The common idea that Israel is ‘addicted to violence’ is spurious in the light of the following facts that have already been noted:
1. Israel seeks to target specific terrorist groups, not civilians or ‘the Palestinians’ as some monolithic group.
2. Israel is committed to making every effort to avoid killing civilians, even to the extent that it is sometimes willing to risk the lives of its own soldiers, rather than risk harming Palestinian innocents (as was the case in Jenin).
3. Israel regularly undertakes humanitarian actions in an attempt to help innocent Palestinians.
If anyone involved in the Middle East conflict is ‘addicted to violence’, it is Hamas, not Israel. The foundational Covenant of Hamas, which it has yet to repudiate or revise, states that ‘[t]here is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are a waste of time and a farce’. The Covenant states of Hamas that ‘Jihad [is] its way, and death for the sake of Allah its loftiest desire’.
Hamas is a movement that sees death as its ‘loftiest desire’ and, as we know, it doesn’t hesitate to put this ideology into practice on a regular basis. Hamas really is addicted to violence. Anti-Semitism and calls to violence lie at the heart of its foundational document. Now, here are the foundational aims of the State of Israel, as found in The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel:
it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
We could argue for a long time about the extent to which these aims have been adhered to, but the key point is this: Hamas is an Islamist terrorist organisation whose foundational statement calls for the destruction of Israel – ‘Israel will exist, and will continue to exist, until Islam abolishes it’ – and claims that because ‘Palestine’ is a land ‘that the Muslims have conquered by force’, it must be ruled theocratically for ‘as long as the heaven and earth exist’. Israel, on the other hand, is a country whose foundational statement calls for ‘complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex’, as well as ‘freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture’. These foundational ideals continue to manifest themselves very clearly, and continue to influence the essential approaches of Hamas and Israel. While Hamas seeks to indoctrinate children with conspiracy theories about Jews and teachings expressing Islamic supremacism, Israel seeks to provide children with a real education. While Hamas supporters use genocidal language regarding ‘the Jews’ and glory in religious fanaticism, such religious lunacy is excluded from Israel’s official policies. Of course there are religious extremists in Israel, but the key difference is that their views are not reflected in Israeli actions regarding the Palestinians. When Ehud Olmert speaks of the Gaza operation, he speaks of seeking to target only those who wish to kill Israeli civilians; he does not cite religious texts and call for genocide. According to the results of a Harvard University poll released earlier this year, 68% of Jewish citizens support teaching conversational Arabic in Jewish schools to help bring Arab and Jewish citizens together, and 69% believe contributing to coexistence is a personal responsibility. 73% of Israeli Jews ‘want to live in a society in which Arab and Jewish citizens have mutual respect and equal opportunities’ and 77% of the State of Israel’s Arab citizens ‘would rather live in the Jewish state than in any other country in the world’. Naturally, these figures could – and should – be higher, but imagine the results of a similar poll of Hamas’ members and supporters who adhere to the group’s foundational principles: 100% would be in favour of the destruction of Israel and the establishment of a theocracy; 100% would claim that seeking peace is inferior to ‘jihad’; 100% would justify attacks on Israeli civilians. The continuing attacks on Israel from those who claim to favour civilised values are based on a perverse inversion of reality. When theocratic devotees of a Jihadist death cult launch murderous attacks on Israeli civilians, the fashionable approach is to ‘understand’ these criminal actions. And when Israel, in a very limited way, fights back against this violence being directed at its civilian population it encounters a firestorm of criticism and abuse, being accused of ‘racism’ and painted as a bloodthirsty monster that delights in ‘slaughtering’ and ‘massacring’ women and children. All too many in the West have become apologists for terrorism and theocracy, and seem to get some kind of twisted pleasure from spewing bile towards a democratic nation that is based on the principles of secularism and humanism. Ismail Haniyeh is a terrorist propagandist committed to ‘jihad’ against civilians. Ehud Olmert is a democrat committed to halting attacks on civilians. Guess whose side Western ‘progressives’ are going to come down on?