The Israel – Hamas Conflict

This is the transcript of the talk given by Ivor Weintroub during the service held by te BHC in support of Israel on 22 July, 2014.

Let us try and dispel some myths that surround the conflict between Israel and Hamas:

Israel is a state that has all the offices of a State and is a democracy as would be recognised by all other democracies. It was recognised as such virtually immediately following the declaration as an independent state by the then two great powers, and subsequently admitted as a member of the United Nations. It is significant that within the proclamation of the State the first minister David Ben-Gurion said,

“On November 29th, 1947 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish State in the Land of Israel, and required the inhabitants themselves to take all measures necessary on their part to carry out the resolution. This recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their own state is irrevocable.

It is the natural right of the Jewish people, like any other people, to control their own destiny in the sovereign state.”

That is as true today as it was on May 14th 1948 when it was pronounced, but Ben-Gurion went on, and, you may think importantly to say,

“It will rest upon foundations of liberty, justice and peace as envisioned by the prophets of Israel. It will maintain complete equality of social and political rights for all its citizens, without distinction of creed, race or sex. It will guarantee freedom of religion and conscience, of language, education and culture. It will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions. It will be loyal to the principles of the United Nations Charter.”

Article 51 of the United Nations Charter reads as follows:

“Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.”

Of course it is a myth to think that the Security Council will take any physical steps to protect Israel that will in any event not benefit Hamas. A premature cease fire in the very nature of the continuing conflict can do nothing other.

It seems to me that there can be no greater right for a State to seek to protect its citizens from rocket attacks that are indiscriminate, and by their very nature directed at its civilian population that puts all the citizens, including non-combatants at risk. No civilised state would expose its citizens to a continuing bombardment without taking action to protect its citizens which is what Israel has done.

The myth is that Israel has taken offensive action. By the very nature of what is said above the strategy (i.e. political object) is defensive, the tactics may appear offensive, but there is a great difference between strategy and tactics.

Contrary to the above what is the strategy of Hamas? It is to gain sympathy by exposing its citizens to the risk of modern firepower by instigating a bombardment of a State by indiscriminate rocket firing with the strategic aim (i.e. political aim) of ultimately destroying the State of Israel and its citizens whilst denying that State’s legitimicy, whilst itself having no legitimacy as a State. Indeed its military actions having been declared by the Palestinian representative at the United Nations Human Rights Commission as a ‘war crime’ which without doubt it is. Furthermore the military wing of Hamas is condemned by world opinion as a terrorist organisation, although by the British media, termed ‘militants’. The difference it seems to me in this case is mythical, at best a matter of semantics. Why do I say that?

A terrorist is someone who employs terrorism for a political goal that is, employs terror against innocents as well as lawful arms of a State to spread terror and to intimidate.

A militant is an aggressive who acts aggressively in support of a cause with or without legitimacy. Of course Hamas lacks legitimacy. Its military wing is recognised as a terrorist organisation. Indeed the Hamas Charter still calls for the destruction of Israel. To attack a lawful state indiscriminately with rockets, and to infiltrate its territory clandestinely, through tunnels with the intent of spreading terror and killing innocent citizens must be acts of terror. Ipso facto in this case the militants are terrorists. There is no difference. One must therefore ask why call ‘terrorists’ ‘militants’?

The myth therefore is that in this case there is any difference. The ‘militant’ is by definition a ‘terrorist’. It appears the media find this simplicity difficult, but that may be a lack of understanding of the simple truth. One can induce complexity into matters that are simple, and this the media seek to do, leaving them open to the accusation of bias.

It is equally a myth to describe Gaza as a besieged enclave, trapped and cut off from the rest of the world. It is, but it does not have to be. It is a consequence of the aggression of those that seek to govern it by coercion. It is facile to go into the history of Gaza since 1948, but until 1967 it was used as a base for terrorism to attack Israel. Israel withdrew from Gaza leaving highly fertile areas. Even before that, after the Oslo accords and the White House agreement there was the possibility of a two party state, Gaza to form part of Palestine. That solution has been rejected by Hamas which expelled the Palestine Authority by military means from Gaza. Thereafter Hamas has pursued a political and military objective of the destruction of Israel and carried out consistently acts of terrorism against Israel, by rockets and tunnels to penetrate the borders of the State with the intent of committing wilful acts of terrorism, thus exposing its own citizens to the consequences of lawful defence by Israel which includes military means of all kinds to defeat Hamas.

Another myth is for the media to refer to Israel’s operations and tactics as disproportionate. The media has neglected to describe what would be proportionate. Would indiscriminate firing of missiles from Israel into Gaza be proportionate? I doubt it. The casualties then caused to the innocent civilians of Gaza, particularly children would be enormous, but unlikely to be protected by Hamas. Hamas neglects to provide warnings or shelters for the citizens of Gaza. It seeks the propaganda value of injured and killed woman and children to demonise Israel. In fact during the current ‘Operation Protective Edge’ it has been Israel that has sent warnings before air attack, and extensive use has been made of modern technology in weaponry to cause limited damage where possible, but to think in warfare one can be proportionate as envisioned by the media, and casualties can be avoided is nonsense and unrealistic. Indiscriminate use of weaponry, which has been Hamas’s means of fighting can cause major disaster, as has been witnessed only in the past few days in the Ukraine, where a civilian airliner was brought down by one missile, causing as many casualties that resulted from the whole Israeli air bombardment aiming at specific targets, before the ground action began.

It is a myth to think that all the so-called humanitarian aid and funds that are sent by the European Union and British Muslim Charities to Gaza are used for this purpose. The money is commandeered by Hamas primarily for military infrastructure, the building of tunnels that begin within residential blocks, schools and other Community buildings, breaching Israel’s borders with the purpose of infiltration and murder of its citizens. There is no scrutiny as to the ultimate destiny of millions of Euros of aid even though there must be the real possibility that anyone with a modicum of sense will know the ultimate destination and therefore the purpose to which these funds are put.

It is a myth for UNWRA to claim that they act in good faith when they can hand back rockets surprisingly found on their premises to those they describe as the local authorities that happens to be Hamas. How could rockets be on UNWRA premises without those employed by UNWRA knowing about them, and what they were for? By storing these weapons the United Nations by one of its agencies imperils the lives of innocent citizens of Israel, a member state, in breach of its own charter.

Furthermore the aggressive nature of Hamas, an Islamic fundamentalist organisation, is recognised by others; that is Egypt which blockades its access into its territory. Even so Egypt sought to broker a cease-fire that Israel was prepared to accept but has been rejected by Hamas. The answer for peace and security for the citizens of Gaza is to reject violence, to seek to co-exist with its neighbours. If that were to happen there would be no blockade, but there is only Israel and Egypt as its neighbours that seeks peace and stability, Egypt having entered a peace treaty with Israel.

Of course the need for Israel to defend its citizens has been the sad duty of the State throughout its existence. Let us return to the Declaration of Independence: It says

“We extend the hand of peace and good-neighbourliness to all the states around us and to their peoples, and we call upon them to co-operate in mutual helpfulness with the independent Jewish nation in its Land. The State of Israel is prepared to make its contribution in a concerted effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East”

Israel’s hand of friendship was rejected and continues to be rejected by all other states in the Middle East that sought and seek its destruction, save for Egypt and Jordan. Nevertheless Israel has made an enormous contribution to the welfare of the world, not only its neighbours in technology, science, medicine and the arts. In terms of, and we can talk in this case properly of proportionality, to its population. In spite of the many wars and actions it has taken to preserve its existence, and it is its existence that is at stake, something the rest of the world, if it understands, chooses to ignore, even after the events of the 20th century. It is a tragedy that yet once again, members of ZAHAL, a citizen army have to pay the supreme price, to protect the Jewish State from unlawful and barbarous aggression.

It is not possible for Jews living in England to physically defend the State of Israel. That is the duty of Zahal, its citizen army, but we can defend Israel’s legitimacy and the action it is taking to defend itself, and support the State whilst it rids itself of blatant and unlawful aggression. We are here to pray to the Almighty for the protection of the Jewish state. We are aware of Jewish history and the legitimacy of the Zionist dream that has been realised. It provides a home for the whole of Judaism, even those Jews who have no understanding of what Zionism is and perversely reject the Zionist State, yet travel there for the religious significance of the holy places the most holy of which would be closed to Jews, as they were until 1967, were it not for those Jews who have fought to allow all Jews access and to glory in the miracles that have transformed what the Almighty pledged to give us, and which the Jewish State has now preserved and will preserve so that the word of His law resonates from Jerusalem.

It is this that gives rise to the truth that fundamentalism, and particularly Muslim fundamentalism is a major danger to world peace and security. One only has to look at the situation in the wider Middle East to evidence this, and yet Israel is left to take a moral and legitimate stance, putting its state at risk to effectively defend itself whilst the rest of the world stands by, seeking only to obtain a cease fire, allegedly to protect the citizens of Gaza. Meanwhile the leaders of the rest of the world manifestly fail to protect thousands of women and children in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and the displaced in Jordan. Indeed in the face of Muslim fundamentalism and the threat it will project the West has withdrawn from Afghanistan and Iraq leaving them to their fate.

It is a fact that should be understood, however much the media and those who seek to mythologise or reject might find it unpalatable, Israel pursues lawful action that sets an example to other world leaders who shy away, only able to state the danger terrorists threaten, but in this case leaving Israel to deal with. World leaders then seek to appease public opinion without adequately and fairly explaining why the Gazans find themselves in this situation, being used by Hamas as human shields in defence of their acts of terror. If the Gazans support and acquiesce in Hamas’s terror against Israel then they are nothing other than belligerents, and regrettably face the consequence. If they oppose Hamas then the remedy lies with them to rid themselves of Hamas that values them only as propaganda and human shields.

Let us remember the words from Devarim/Deuteronomy Chapter 20 verse 3 (Parashas Shoftim) that at the time of war the High Priest shall say to the people,

“Hear O Israel you are coming near to the battle against your enemies; let not your heart be faint ; do not be afraid, and do not be broken before them, do not panic, and do not be broken before them. For He is your God, is the one who goes with you, to fight for you with your enemies to save you”

The Rambam acknowledges that in the ordinary course of war, even in victory there will those who will perish, that is the natural tragedy of war, it is even more likely than not it will be the case when ground troops are put into battle. It is self-evident that the enemy has and will have sophisticated weaponry and armament. Israel has not fought a war where it has not suffered casualties. It has fought for its survival, and to protect its citizens.  Zahal does not and should not fight within limitations. It is the final myth to believe that when the people of Israel are threatened Zahal should fight with one arm shackled. It is the  duty of a Commander in war to win and to destroy the opposition’s forces. That has been the aim of modern warfare and that is why warfare is tragic. It is the strong and the just that seek to live in peace as Israel does. That is and has been Israel’s aim since David Ben Gurion declared the State 66 years ago.

Zahal is now performing a task for the benefit of peace without equivocating. Justice and peace for the citizens of Israel and probably the future security of the world; demands it.

“Am Yisrael Chai” and may that be the case for ever and ever.

Ivor Weintroub

22 July 2014

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