Aron Keller’s recent article (May 16, 2018), “Gaza massacre should be a turning point for British Jews”, is a prime example of how ignorance, combined with baseless platitudes, unfortunately frame the thoughts of some of British Jewry.
In his article he claims that the 14 May “bloodbath” and “massacre” of Palestinians in the Gaza strip should bring “true friends of Israel” to “loudly and forcefully condemn” her instead of excusing her actions.
The fundamental mistake made by Keller, is to completely misunderstand and misrepresent the events in Gaza that started on March 30th.
Only when these events are presented, in their entirety, can any judgement be made regarding the events and their outcome. So let’s examine the facts.
The months preceding March 30th saw a rise in terrorist activity from the Gaza strip. Improvized explosive devices (IED’s) were planted by terrorists on and around the security fence that separates Gaza from Israel and Israeli forces were attacked. On February 17th, four IDF soldiers, operating in Israel, were injured.
Alongside the rise in terrorist activities, Hamas pushed forward in its preparations for the “Great March of Return”. The goals of the ‘March’ were very clear – Wipe Israel off the face of the map by flooding it with hundreds of thousands of ‘Palestinian refugees’. On April 7, Yahya Sinwar, the Gaza head of the internationally recognized terrorist organization Hamas, clearly described the goal of the ‘March’ saying “We will take down the border and we will tear their hearts from their bodies.”
Even the Palestinian Authority, which is no friend of Israel, criticised the Hamas. As reported by Palestinian Media Watch, on April 6, one of Mahmoud Abbass’ senior advisers accused Hamas of deliberately encouraging civilians to endanger themselves and said that the Hamas is saying to the Gazans, “You Palestinians, our people, go and die so that we’ll go to the TV and media with strong declarations.”
Instructions of the ‘March’ organisers, also reported by Palestinian Media Watch, called on the participants to “Treat seriously and do not take lightly the requests to bring a knife, dagger, or handgun, if you have one, and to leave them under your clothes and not use them or show them, except if you identify one of the [Israeli] soldiers or settlers. Do not kill Israeli civilians, instead hand them over to the resistance immediately, because this is the point that Israel fears, as it knows that the capturer can set any condition he wants.”
Following the so called “massacre” a senior member of the Hamas’ political bureau, Salah Al-Bardawil, admitted that 50 of the 58 killed were, in fact, Hamas terrorists. Palestinian Islamic Jihad, also an internationally recognised terrorist organisation added that three others were their members.
It is unclear whether these figures include the eight terrorists who attacked IDF soldiers in the north of the Gaza strip who threw IED’s and hand grenades and live fire at the soldiers, or three others who attacked IDF soldiers in the south of the Gaza strip.
Indeed, a recent report of the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre showed that at least 93 of the 112 Palestinians killed during the events of the ‘March’ since March 30th were identified as terrorist operatives or affiliated with the terrorist organisations.
Incredibly, instead of admitting, as the terrorist organisations themselves did, that those killed were indeed terrorists, Keller attributes their deaths to Israel’s “occupation”.
Is Keller unaware that in 2005 Israel withdrew both its civilian and military presence from the Gaza strip? Does he not know that “occupation” requires “boots on the ground” and “effective control” of the area under “occupation”?
When Keller argues that international law “dictates that lethal force may only be used on in cases of mortal danger” what exactly is he referring to? What is the basis for his learned opinion?
In July 1996 I immigrated to Israel from England and in 1997 I joined the IDF Military Advocate General Corps. In January 2017, I retired from the IDF after nineteen years of service. I have both experience and expertise regarding international law. Even in my civilian capacity, I recently appeared before Israel’s Supreme Court in a petition regarding the legality of the IDF use of force in the Gaza strip during the events of the ‘March’.
Not unsurprisingly, three Judges of Israel’s Supreme Court, which enjoys well warranted international respect, including Chief Justice Ester Hayout and Deputy Chief Justice, Hanan Melzer, also rejected Keller’s claim.
In reality, international law clearly permits Israel to use force, even lethal force, to defend itself and its population from homicidal terrorists.
What’s worrying about Keller’s article is that despite the fact that he has no clue what is really going on, he appears to align himself with “Israel’s true friends”. If Keller’s unfounded and uninformed opinion, which advocates allowing crazed terrorists to murder Israelis, is indeed reflective of Israel’s “true friends”, then, as the saying goes, “with friends like that, who needs enemies?”
- Lt. Col. (res) Maurice Hirsch served for 19 years in the IDF Military Advocate General Corps and is currently the Head of the Legal Department of Palestinian Media Watch.