An Open Conversation

I’m a big believer in open conversation. I don’t actually think people have to agree with what I say. I just believe I should be given the chance to say it. Therefore, I invite any and all to contest my opinions and the facts I proceed to give forth. Because I think it’s healthy to hear every side of the story in any debate. That’s the only way to know the context. And since I don’t know the other side well, I can only proceed to give forth my side. So here goes.

When Israel unilaterally pulled out of Gaza in 2005, Hamas was democratically elected to be the governing body of the Palestinians who chose to reside there. Throughout their reign, Hamas proceeded to shoot rockets at Southern Israeli citizens, including children. In the last 12 years alone, Hamas has shot over 12,000 rockets into Israel. That’s more than 1,000 a year, and about 3 a day. It has disrupted the lives of the Israeli residents within their range, leading to PTSD, death, and many other psychological illnesses. A twelve-year-old child who grew up in the region cannot remember a time when he did not have more than fifteen seconds to run for cover at the sound of the sirens.

I don’t like to think that the Palestinians residing in Gaza all agree with Hamas and the tactics they employ as alleged protest against Israel. However, they are the only representatives of the people there, so they are the partner Israel has to work with in the region. Hamas is deemed a terrorist organization by the United States. Its charter states that Israel and the Jews should be “wiped off the map.” In addition, it provides a breeding ground for terrorist groups to organize and operate, including groups associated with al-Qaeda and Global Jihad. It becomes hard to work with a partner when their very charter pledges eternal war against you and their method of protest is violence. Israel has tried peaceful tactics to halt the violence including the current blockade named legitimate by the 2011 UN Palmer Report. However, even with all this, the rockets continued to rain on its citizens.

On November 14th, to defend and protect its citizens, Israel decided to launch operation Pillar of Defense. Their first target was Ahmed Said Halil Jabari, chief of the Hamas

Military arm in the Gaza Strip. In an Israel Defense Forces airstrike, Jabari was killed. He had been responsible for all Hamas terrorist activity emanating from the Gaza Strip during the last decade. In September 2010, Jabari was quoted as threatening to increase attacks against Israel to derail the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations when he said, “with the power of faith, weapons and missiles, tunnels and commandos we will achieve victory for Palestine.”

With Jabari out of the picture, Israel could now move on to their next target: weapons. Israeli intelligence had located a significant number of long-range (over 40km) rocket sites owned by Hamas. So they aimed to hamper the terrorist organizations’ rocket launching and weapons build up capabilities, by destroying them. They executed tremendous restraint to ensure there would be minimal civilian casualties, since again, Israel does not want to believe that every civilian in Gaza agrees with Hamas’ actions.

The goal of Israel’s current operation is clearly defined and is aimed at removing a strategic threat to Israeli citizens. Israel is not interested in a deterioration of the situation. All Israeli citizens want peace. Israel has demonstrated great restraint for a long period but cannot stand for the recurring attacks on its citizens. No other state would’ve accepted a similar reality, nor would any state have thought twice about launching a defensive campaign to protect its citizens.

Another problem that makes it increasingly difficult for Israel to protect Palestinian citizens from harm is that Hamas and the other terrorist organizations hide among the civilian population of Gaza. They also deliberately direct their fire at the civilian population of Israel. These acts constitute a double war crime, since not only do they endanger Israeli civilians but Palestinian civilians as well. As Golda Meir, the former prime minister of Israel in the 1970’s, said, “Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us. What bothers me most is not that Arabs kill our children, but that they force us to kill theirs.” Sadly, in the last 40 years, the story has not changed. But still, the targets of the Israeli operation are all military. Israel is making every effort to prevent harm to the civilian population of Gaza, and regrets any injury to civilians.

Throughout the entirety of the operation thus far, the border crossings from Israel to the Gaza Strip remain open, allowing for the routine passage of goods and humanitarian aid. This is because Israel does not believe in collective punishment, and does not feel the Palestinian civilians should suffer at the hands of Hamas’ violent protests.

I know I have just thrown a whole lot of information at you. And I know you may not care to read about the perpetual and seemingly never-ending Arab-Israeli conflict. However, I do invite you to look up just one fact I stated. See if I was right. Then, next time someone tells you something about Israel, think twice. Sometimes, things aren’t always what they seem. And sometimes a little knowledge puts everything into perspective.

About the Author
Melanie Goldberg is a current student at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. She also serves as the research assistant for Versa: The Israeli Supreme Court English Language Repository, and founded a chapter of The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights on her campus. Most recently, she was one of the recipients of The Jewish Week's "36 under 36" award.