This [showering a neighbour with rockets is an act of war, perpetrated by Palestine on Israel and Israel is quite entitled to take out the Hamas military apparatus] is a general argument I’ve often heard in the media, blogs, etc. over the past few weeks.
It assumes – for the present conflict – that the conflict was started by Hamas rockets. It wasn’t.
For better or worse, we have the official Israeli position that it was started by a kidnapping. Whatever Hamas rockets were entering Israel prior to that were obviously not sufficient to provoke the current offensive from Israel.
So, the first point is that the claim that this has something to do with Hamas rockets is factually incorrect – unless you want to argue that Israel used the kidnapping as a disingenuous cover for an assault they had already planned to make?
The second point concerns the implicit moral claim that Hamas rockets (and their ineffectual strike rate) are a greater provocation to mass violence than is the blockading of Gaza, the routine supersonic flyovers of Gaza over the last few years, the game-playing by Israel over the funds Gaza needs to survive, the predictable increases in illnesses and general deprivation and, most obviously, the frequent bombing of Gaza all of which have been clear causes of many, many Palestinian deaths (over a thousand dead just a couple of years ago in yet another short, sharp assault).
In that context, it is very hard to see how this ‘greater provocation’ argument can hold any water at all. Surely, provocations are in part to be judged by their effectiveness at killing, intimidating and oppressing? Israeli actions have achieved these goals to a much greater extent than have Hamas actions. So which side has been most ‘provocative’? (Remember,provocation relates to each action – it is not about ultimate ‘blame’.)
Third – and relatedly – it is often claimed that the terror induced by the Hamas rockets should help to explain the Israeli government’s reaction. That is, the question has been posed to critics of Israel ‘How would you like to have rockets raining down on you? Wouldn’t you want to retaliate?’
This unreflective plea misses entirely the obvious response in defence of Hamas launching their rockets. That is, ‘How would you feel if your children were dying through lack of sanitation, good nutrition, Israeli bombs, etc. on a regular basis? Wouldn’t you want to retaliate?’
In the current conflict, of course, the Israeli bombs (that, it should be remembered,preceded the current increase in Hamas rocket firing as they – the bombs – were a response to a kidnapping) are orders of magnitude more violent and more ‘effective’ than are the Hamas rockets.
Given that, Israelis who are suffering under the terror of Hamas rockets should understand entirely how Palestinians suffering under the terror of Israel bombs feel and, therefore, why they wish to fire their rockets. Shouldn’t they? Yet, in fact, they don’t appear to understand.
Aren’t both deliberate forms of terror? And isn’t one form of terror clearly far more ‘effective’ at terrorising?
Finally, Golda Meir once said “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.”
In the context of the disproportionate casualties that have always characterised the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians- and the extremely limited number of Israeli children killed by Hamas rockets – it would be hard to conjure up a more immoral justification for the current mass and indiscriminate killing of children.
It’s as if one is somehow ‘forced’ to kill hundreds of children should one child be killed. This can’t be true.
Such an overwhelming onslaught also seems like an extraordinarily ineffective way to encourage the Palestinians to love their (dead) children more than they hate Israelis.
Killing someone’s child is not usually the best way to make them hate you less.
But it is, of course, quite a good example of an act of terrorism.