Palestinians extinguish the vehicle carrying Ahmed Al Jabari, after he had been killed by an Israeli air strike
A government that is responsible for the protection and well being of those being governed has every right to protect those it represents from any outside aggressors. As U.S. President Barack Obama put it: “there is no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders”. Does this statement only apply to missiles? What about bullets? Or Fighter Jets?
So what do we make of such statements when applied to situation where a 13-year-old boy is shot dead by an occupying military while playing football? Or how about when that same military fires two artillery shells at a playground, killing two teenagers who were also playing football, and then firing three more after others rushed to their aid?
I bring these horrifying examples up because this was the case on the 8th and 10th of November, respectively, when the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) ended the lives of these children after crossing into Palestinian territory and firing off indiscriminately. Within the following days, armed Palestinians fired several rockets into southern Israel, giving Israel an opportunity to assassinate Hamas commander Ahmed Al-Jabari on November 14th under the pretense of responding to rocket fire. As a result, the 8 days that followed were filled with Hamas aimlessly launching rockets into Israeli cities, killing 5 civilians, while Israel sent its US supplied fleet of fighter jets to drop 200lb bombs into Gaza, killing more than 160civilians.
So who is to blame for all the loss of life? …It depends who you ask of course.
Just as no government in the world would be expected to tolerate rockets being fired in their towns, none should be expected to tolerate an occupying military force to come in and kill its constituents at will. Hamas governs Gaza, meaning they are responsible for the well being of the 1.6 million people that are packed into that 20 mile by 4 mile strip of land. Meaning that if some military force enters its borders, it cannot be expected to tolerate the murder of its civilians by that military.
I say this not as a defense for Hamas and any of its practices, but as a way of showing that perspective can be shifted to make any murderer look like a victim. Yet the fact is that both the IOF and Hamas are two sides of the same murderous coin. The only difference is that every year Israel gets $6 billion from US tax revenue to buy fancy war machines and Hamas gets Cold War era rockets smuggled in from Iran, making one side of that coin much heavier and capable of going on murderous rampage.
We can go back a few decades and trace the root causes of this conflict (i.e ethnic cleansing, illegal occupation, neo-colonialism), but we've become so conveniently short-sighted enough to ignore these all too important factors and treat recent flare ups that are symptoms of an uncured disease as the disease itself. So lets do that…
Ahmed Al-Jabari, as one Israeli journalist put it, was Israel’s Osama Bin Laden, and by all means the man was no angel. However this 'Bin Laden' was heavily involved in intense peace negations with Israel and was at the threshold of coming to a final long-term peace agreement between the de facto Hamas government and the occupying state. As a matter of fact, Al-Jabari had received the latest (and expected to be final) draft of the agreement just a few hours prior to being blown up in an Israeli airstrike. As a matter of fact, he most likely had the document with him in the car when an Israeli air strike blew him to smithereens, along with a nearby infant, a seven-year old girl, 3 adults, and any hope for stability, security, or peace for the people of Israel and Palestine.
The nature of this extrajudicial killing sent a clear message to Hamas, the people of Gaza, and the world: Israel has no interest in reaching a permanent peace agreement. By shooting down the dove just before it was getting ready to fly, Israel and the IOF instigated the following eight days of violence which left 5 Israelis and more than 160 Palestinians dead. The days that ensued were filled with the usual slogan slinging and biased reporting on behalf of every major news network in the world. The narrative was simple: the State of Israel is doing what it must to defend itself from the nasty terrorists that are throwing rockets into civilian towns who want to wipe it off the map. Meanwhile in Gaza, hundred of civilians were on the receiving end of the IOF’s expensive American-bought bombs that demolished hundreds of homes along with the families that lived in them. What we heard in the news regarding the loss of civilian life was that Hamas chose to hide amidst the civilian population and use them as human shields. Also, that before blowing their lives to bits the IOF dropped leaflets warning civilians to evacuate the area. But of course when you live in a 20x4 mile strip of land packed with 1.6 million people and sealed shut so that nothing can come in or go out, there isn't really anywhere to evacuate to. Unlike in the southern Israeli towns that also suffer from incessant rocket fire, there are no bunkers to hide in. The only option is to sit at home with your family, endure through the non-stop roaring of jet engines, explosions, and collapsing buildings, and hope for the best.
So who do we blame for this? The answer is not a simple one, but we can easily say that both parties are grossly responsible for the loss of many lives. But it is also important to note that there’s this general consensus in the international community that is usually referred to as the Fourth Geneva Convention that states that, as the occupier, Israel has an obligation to the safety and security of all civilians it presides over. This is an obligation that, along with a whole score of international laws, the State of Israel has yet to comply with. Hamas on the other hand is breaking some of the same laws by firing rockets and letting them land wherever the wind takes them.
Now if we take off our shortsighted-vision goggles and look at the bigger picture, we can see that Hamas is a reactionary force. Everything they do is a direct reaction to the decades of occupation, oppression, and ethnic cleansing that the Palestinian people have endured. The existence of Hamas itself is due to Israel’s attempts at finding a way to weaken the Palestinian Liberation Movement by politically dividing it. Because of this, placing blame on either party for this continual cycle of violence eventually leads to the same conclusion.
To tackle the issue we must examine more than just the symptomatic spurts of violence, but the factors that allow such violence to manifest. It is important to realize that one cannot expect a government to allow its people to be attacked, but also understand that one cannot expect an oppressed people not to resist.