Gaza Reality Check: Terrorist-run Territories Will Produce Terrorism
Shock and awe over Israel’s publicly forewarned response to the predictable outbreak of violence during Gaza “protest”
Mass chaos erupted along Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip this weekend as the Hamas-sponsored “March of Return” predictably descended into violent confrontations that left at least sixteen Palestinians dead and hundreds of others injured. Friday’s affair was the first in a series of planned provocations along the frontier over the next six weeks, culminating with the May 15 commemoration by Palestinians of the “catastrophe” of Israel’s creation on so-called Naqba Day.
While much of the international community denounced Jerusalem’s “disproportionate” response to the storming of its border by an estimated 40,000 people, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned Sunday that the military will, by contrast, employ even tougher measures if the unrest continues. The defense chief also claimed that ninety percent of the “protesters” comprised Hamas officials or “activists”—accompanied by their families, including children—who were paid to sow disorder. This is reinforced by the IDF’s assertion that at least 10 of the 16 individuals killed in the conflagration were card-carrying members of Palestinian terror groups, with Hamas proudly acknowledging that among the dead were five fighters from its ranks.
In fact, many analysts are astonished by the widespread shock and awe generated by the fully foreseeable outcome of an initiative spearheaded by a terror group dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish state. Since assuming power in the Strip just over a decade ago, Hamas and Israel have fought three major conflicts—the last being the fifty-day confrontation in the summer of 2014—interspersed by the unprovoked firing of thousands rockets at Israeli cities; the construction of a network of subterranean attack tunnels stretching into Israeli territory; and the kidnapping of numerous Israeli soldiers and civilians. This, as Hamas has reigned over Gaza with an iron fist, consistently using its “subjects” as a collective human shield and squandering hundreds of millions of dollars on its war machine that instead could have been spent with a view to alleviating the humanitarian plight in the enclave.
Yet, when another round of hostilities inevitably breaks out, so too does the same old international chorus of refrains ranging from “independent investigations” and “restraint by both sides” to accusations that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians. And this tune sung by actors that seemingly should be capable of digesting the simple fact that terrorist-run territories invariably produce terrorism.
And that, as a tragic corollary, people are going to die.
“Hamas’ purpose was to see much more bloodshed and to inflame the whole area,” according to Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Israel Ziv, formerly the head of the IDF’s Operations Directorate. “Also, the Arab world has forgotten about Gaza and the Palestinians in general. The events of this weekend were geared mostly towards getting attention because Hamas is in a desperate situation.
“The question of whether Israel acted correctly must be viewed in this context,” he elaborated to The Media Line, “and in this case there were casualties but things could have been much worse. It is unfortunate that deaths occurred but the incident was contained. Overall, it was the right deployment [of force by Israel].”
Ziv, who commanded the Israeli army’s Gaza Division, believes that the Palestinian enclave represents a “Catch-22” situation for Jerusalem, in which its desire to improve the humanitarian situation there is tempered by the imperative of restraining Hamas. “Strategically, Israel is handling things militarily and this is not comprehensive as it does not change the conditions on the ground. Hamas, as a government, does very little and is unwilling to go further. So the big question,” he concluded, “is whether Israel should assume more responsibility over the Strip. If not, little can be done and it may be that another round or two of escalation will be required to change the circumstances.”
But since Hamas currently is not interested in engaging Israel in a full-blown conflict, the terror group this weekend reverted back to the tried and tested method of “popular resistance” to harm the Jewish state diplomatically. And with reason, because history shows that no matter the circumstances, the Israeli military’s actions—including unavoidable mistakes under frenzied conditions—are more apt to garner international headlines than Hamas’ instigation of crises.
Indeed, much of the focus in the aftermath of the present fighting is on a video that purports to show an unarmed Palestinian being shot in the back while retreating from the border fence. Already, threats abound to take Israel to the International Criminal Court over an incident for which no concrete evidence has been presented. Moreover, given the number of Palestinians killed, Jerusalem has come under heavy criticism for tactics that it argues would be employed—without any afterthought—by every other country in the world under similar circumstances.
“Generally speaking, using live-fire in such a complex arena is not illegal in and of itself, although it has to be used very carefully and only against legitimate targets,” Col. (res.) Liron A. Libman, previously the head of the IDF’s International Law Department, told The Media Line. “Also, there are rockets regularly fired on Israel and a few weeks ago an [improvised explosive device] that was planted along the border injured four soldiers. So the protest on Friday cannot be viewed as a normal demonstration whereby police use regular riot control measures.
“The fact that people were killed is troubling,” he continued, “but that is not evidence that Israel broke international law. Each and every occurrence must be investigated to determine whether the rules of engagement were followed.”
On the flip side, Libman stressed that Hamas, as an organization that controls territory, “has an obligation to keep its citizens out of harm’s way and should therefore have prevented people from approaching the border fence. It does look as though Hamas was attempting to benefit from putting civilians on the front lines.”
Recently, the White House convened a roundtable discussion on the situation in Gaza, attended by Israeli officials and counterparts from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, among other regional Arab countries. According to reports, American representatives made clear during the meet that President Trump views Hamas’ control of the Strip as one of the most serious impediments not only to Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking but also to the basic delivery of humanitarian aid to the enclave and its eventual reconstruction.
The U.S. administration therefore supported the recent failed reconciliation attempt between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, a pact that might have restored President Mahmoud Abbas’ control over Gaza. But Abbas refused to send a delegation to the White House for the Gaza talks, instead choosing to uphold a boycott on American officials he imposed in the wake of Washington’s recognition in December of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Accordingly, the prospect of political change in the Gaza Strip will remain exceedingly low for the foreseeable future. And so long as it is run by the Hamas terror group, the status quo can be expected to persist even as the international community expresses bewilderment and outrage with every new episode of violence.