Sometimes, I despair of the way the international media covers the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Watching last night’s BBC News report filed by their correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes from the rubble of a destroyed house in Gaza, I was livid at the lop-sided, biased, and frankly irresponsible way in which the scenario that had unfolded on that spot was presented to the world in a way that cast Israel as the villains and the Palestinians as innocent prey to a Jewish war machine.
The recent escalation of violence in the south of Israel was triggered when the IDF acted upon reliable information that suggested that a Hamas cell was close to carrying out what was intended to be a devastating terrorist attack on an Israeli civilian target. The cell planning the incursion is understood to have been very closely associated with the one that entered the same area some months earlier and shot to death seven Israelis on a bus not far from Eilat. Taking pre-emptive action, the IDF is believed to have fired a missile from a drone that completely destroyed a vehicle containing the terrorists and eliminated the threat of their particular mission of death.
The response was predictable. Citing Israeli aggression, terror groups within Gaza launched hundreds of missiles into southern Israeli, firing indiscriminately in the hope that they would ‘get lucky’ and kill as many Israelis as possible. There were some injuries, but due to the fact that most residents of the region – estimates suggests as many as 500,000 people – were hiding in bomb shelters, together with the apparent effectiveness of the ‘Iron Dome’ missile defence system, the barrage of missiles failed to achieve the terrorists aim and cause as much loss of innocent life as possible.
In seeking to eliminate the source of the missile firing it appears that the IDF targeted a property from where it is understood missiles were being launched. The result was the destruction of the site, a building that is reported to have housed no less than 30 members of one Palestinian family, 25 of whom were injured. Thankfully, none of the family, including nine children died. I say “thankfully” because as a Jew – a wholly secular Jew I might add – I don’t believe in martyrdom. I don’t believe that if a family of Muslims is killed it is something to celebrate. I don’t believe it is a blessing on that family and that they have been martyred in a good cause. I believe that innocents of all creeds and faiths should be protected and cherished. Sadly, there are a significant number of Muslims who believe in martyrdom and the will of Allah, and who are quite prepared to sacrifice their own children and see it as a blessing should such a horrific event come to pass. In Judaism we cherish life, we want to live, and do everything possible to protect our families from being placed in harm’s way.
After standing in the rubble of the house that was almost certainly the source of a missile launch, (or at the very least granting sanctuary to those that fired the missiles ‘willy nilly’ into Israel), after emotionally tugging at the heartstrings with references to the smell of burning and destruction, and hinting very strongly at the ‘terrible’ thing the Israelis had done, the BBC’s Wingfield-Hayes, in an effort to appear as even-handed as possible then ended that section of his report, (having previously expressed in his undisguised vocal intonation his disdain for what Israel had done), by eventually getting the crux of the matter, confirming that the father of the family, the owner of the destroyed house, was a proud Hamas supporter whose son had been killed some time before
“The man who owns the house doesn’t deny he supports the militants. One of his sons has already been killed fighting the Israelis. I have another two sons, he (the Hamas supporter) says, and I’m ready to sacrifice them too.” – Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, BBC News 12/3/2012
It’s easy to get lost in semantics, but in referring to the dead son as having been “killed fighting the Israelis”, Wingfield-Hayes suggests a moral equivalence of both sides. He never spells it out to the uninformed observer that the son was a terrorist, intent on killing as many Israelis as possible. He never highlights that fact that the father would know that if he allowed missiles to be fired from his home this action would almost certainly draw a response from the IDF to the source of the missile launch, and that this father was deliberately placing his wife, his children and other family members in the line of fire, cynically using them as pawns in a game in which he was more than prepared for them to be ‘martyred’.
What sort of a person places his wife and children in the line of fire? And crucially in this scenario, is it any wonder that the casualty rate amongst Palestinians is so many times higher than that amongst Israelis? Sadly, the perception appears to be amongst much of the misinformed international media and those that lap up their skewed reporting, that until more Israelis die and the figures of the dead and seriously injured even out, Israel will remain the bloodthirsty aggressor and the Palestinians the innocents being unjustly targeted. It is a terrible travesty of the truth.
In 1957 Golda Meir astutely observed that, “Peace will only come when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us”. Tragically, her words remain as hauntingly accurate today as they did 55 years ago. Until those Arabs who believe in martyrdom step out from behind their children and stop using them as a tool with which they might destroy Israel, this conflict that drains us all will never come to an end.