Hamas has never deviated from its oft-stated goal of eradicating the Israel state
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It was déjà vu last Monday when residents of cities throughout southern and central Israel found themselves under yet another deadly missile barrage from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Ever since Israel’s evacuation of Gaza fifteen years ago, Hamas has regularly used the territory as a base from which to launch rocket attacks on Israeli population centres.
An unapologetically Islamist movement primarily sponsored by Iran, it has never deviated from its oft-stated goal of eradicating the Israel state and reinstating Muslim domination over the entire land. For Hamas, as with Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other radical groupings, the ultimate aim is not peace, but victory.
Using the clashes between police and demonstrators at the Temple Mount as an excuse, the Hamas regime elected to end the relative quiet that has prevailed along the Israel-Gaza border in recent years by commencing the heaviest bombardment of Israeli cities since 2014.
This time, however, the barrages are at a level Israel has never seen before. Whereas previously missiles were fired piece-meal, now they are delivered in concentrated barrages of twenty to thirty in rapid succession, followed minutes later by resumed attacks.
The intention is to overwhelm Israel’s Iron Dome defence system, and inevitably, a significant number of rockets have reached their intended targets. Evidently Hamas, for all its insistence that the people over whom they rule are being ‘starved’ by the Israeli blockade, is quite capable of building up a massive stockpile of offensive weaponry, which it routinely stores in schools and mosques.
There have already been dozens of deaths and scores of injuries on both sides, the majority of them civilians, and by initiating the conflict in the first place, it is Hamas that must be held accountable for each and every one of them. As of Thursday morning, more than a thousand projectiles had been fired, each one capable of inflicting multiple deaths and injuries. More than 200 of these in fact fell short and exploded in Palestinian territory, thereby in all likelihood contributing to the widespread destruction that the war is causing.
Were Hamas and fellow extremists held to the same kind of moral standards expected of others, they would also be denounced for using their own civilian population as a screen from behind which to carry out their operations and thereby making non-combatant casualties inevitable when Israeli forces respond.
Effectively, they are knowingly bringing about casualties within their own civilian population and then exploiting these for propaganda purposes, declaring that they are victims of “Zionist genocide”. The question is why, particularly in our own country, they are routinely allowed to get away with it?
Ostensibly, the latest wave of violence, which at the time of writing, threatens to escalate into all-out war, has its origins in a long-running legal dispute over certain property titles in East Jerusalem. Overwhelmingly, the local media, together with the political establishment and civil society, have uncritically regurgitated Palestinian claims of Arabs being illegally evicted to make way for Jewish settlers. That the dispute concerns properties to which the Jewish claimants have legal title stretching back nearly 150 years has been all but suppressed.
Likewise, minimal efforts have been made to critically examine other highly inflammatory accusations being hurled at the Israeli state, most notably the charge that peaceful Palestinians worshippers were indiscriminately assaulted by rampaging Israeli police at one of Islam’s holiest sites. One would be hard put to find any mention of how, prior to the riots, rocks and other weapons were stockpiled in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, how Hamas openly incited its West Bank operatives to carry out attacks there and inflame tensions and how Jewish bystanders in Jerusalem, Lod and other centres were violently assaulted by Palestinian demonstrators.
Somehow, when it comes to this particular conflict, such elementary principles of ethical professional reporting as ensuring that the claims of all parties to a dispute are reflected, paying due regard to context, avoiding exaggeration and basic fact checking are allowed to fall by the wayside in what has become a virtual stampede to excoriate Israel come what may.
The result, as hardly needs be spelled out, is not journalism but bald, unadorned propaganda. That its consequences include whipping up religious antagonisms at a time when the scourge of religious conflicts so plaguing the African continent has now reached our own borders is something that should concern us all.
Those who look the other way when Israel’s enemies provoke lethal confrontations are silent when these actions endanger both Israeli and Palestinian civilians and only choose to air their outrage when Israel retaliates are complicit in this fanatical, nihilistic and profoundly self-destructive strategy. They further give the lie to claims that solidarity with the Palestinians and concern for their well-being is what motivates them; rather, they are willing participants in what has become a sustained ideological vendetta against the Jewish state.
So long as the international community fails to take a decisive stand to counter these trends, the tragedy we are currently seeing unfold before us will repeat itself again and again, to the detriment of both peoples.
* David Saks is the Associate Director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL and Independent Media.