The Israel Defense Forces launched Operation Protective Edge against Hamas with the mission to weaken the terrorist group’s ability to attack Israeli citizens July 8. In the three weeks since the operation began, I have heard and read numerous reports of Israel’s inhumane actions against the Palestinians and its “disproportionate” response to Hamas’ rocket attacks. This leaves me wondering if people around the world, Americans in particular, know the difference between Hamas and Palestinians.
Hamas is a terrorist organization. It is recognized as such by the United States, Canada and the European Union. After Israel disengaged from Gaza in 2007 with the hope of exchanging land for peace, Hamas gained control and has been firing rockets at Israel ever since. The Palestinians are the innocent civilians living in poverty at the hands of Hamas. Israel is at war with Hamas — not with the Palestinians.
The misconception that Israel responds with force disproportional to Hamas’ attacks is widely thrown around by the media. In an interview with CNN in 2009, then-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg summarized the situation perfectly:
“Proportionalism is for theoreticians. The real word is governments have a responsibility to protect their citizens with everything they have. … There’s no such thing as proportional response to terrorism.”
The loss of life on both sides is horrific. But it is clear that both sides are handling the deaths very differently. The conflict was sparked in part by the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers by Palestinian extremists, and by the revenge murder of a Palestinian teenager by Israeli citizens. Israel condemned the murder of the Palestinian teen and has since arrested three Israelis as suspects. Hamas publicly praised the abductors of the Israeli teens.
In a war in which Hamas is taking no precautions to protect Palestinians, Israel is taking many. Before every aerial attack, the IDF drops leaflets over civilian homes, warning them to leave the area. In addition to this method, the IDF drops empty shells on the rooftops (roof knocking) of targeted buildings and calls homes in target zones, warning residents to leave.
Hamas has released public messages telling citizens to remain in their homes despite these warnings. They fire rockets at Israel from cemeteries, schools, hospitals, playgrounds, homes and mosques with the explicit intent of preventing the IDF from attacking them. Hamas released a statement saying they are “committed to drown Israel in Gaza Strip mud.” These are the terrorists responsible for “governing” the Palestinian Gaza residents.
To put Israel’s precautionary measures into perspective, at the time of the July 17 Malaysia Airlines disaster in Ukraine, more souls were lost in the crash alone than were lost on both sides in the entirety of Operation Protective Edge.
Hamas has shown no desire for de-escalation either. On July 15, Israel stopped all air strikes for six hours, in accordance with an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire. Hamas refused the deal, and fired 50 more rockets at Israel. On July 17, Israel agreed to a United Nations humanitarian window so aid could be brought to Gazans. Rockets continued to be fired into Israel — allegedly by Hamas. On July 20, during a temporary ceasefire for Red Cross efforts in the northwest border town of Shuja’iya, IDF soldiers continued to come under attack. On July 26, Israel agreed to a Hamas-proposed humanitarian window. When Israel wanted to extend it, Hamas resumed attacking.
As the total count of Hamas rockets fired at Israel climbs to nearly 2,700 since the start of the conflict, Israel is doing what Hamas is failing to do — protecting civilians. Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system has successfully thwarted a significant number of the rockets fired from Gaza. And although Hamas has not killed as many Israelis due to the Iron Dome system, they have still attempted to kill civilians 2,700 times. And by the way, more than 200 Hamas rockets fired at Israel have actually landed in Gaza.
Furthermore, in the past three weeks, Israel has delivered more than 1,000 trucks with food, fuel and medical supplies to Palestinian civilians. The IDF also set up a field hospital at the Erez border crossing to treat wounded Palestinians.
Now the operation has shifted to destroying Hamas’ terror tunnels. They are used for smuggling weapons and terrorists across Gaza’s borders. Despite eliminating more than 250 terrorists and thousands of terror sites, the IDF will not be able to successfully prevent further attacks without ending this threat to its borders.
Thirty-two terror tunnels have been discovered so far. At an approximate cost of $3 million to build each tunnel, Hamas has spent an estimated $96 million on this terrorist infrastructure. This is money that should have been used to buy supplies and machines to build public infrastructure such as roads and parks or protective bomb shelters. Rather than building up Gaza, Hamas has focused all of its resources on destroying Israel.
This corruption has marked Hamas even before its command began seven years ago. While its officials are living luxurious lives, the unemployment rate in Gaza is 41 percent. Khaled Mashal, the Hamas leader, has been living in a Qatar hotel during the fighting. Using the border restrictions to its advantage, Hamas overcharges for basic goods smuggled into Gaza. Even Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in 2012 that “800 millionaires and 1,600 near-millionaires control the tunnels at the expense of both Egyptian and Palestinian national interests.” Gazans will always live in poverty while Hamas continues to rule.
So, during the next news report you hear criticizing Israel for disregarding human life, remember all that Israel does to protect innocent people — and all that Hamas does not. Remember that the purpose of this operation is to root out the evil that has terrorized the area for the majority of the past decade.
I return to Bloomberg’s interview and highlight an example he gave to bring the conflict home to Americans:
“If you’re in your apartment, and an emotionally disturbed person is banging on the door screaming, ‘I’m going to come through this door and kill you,’ do you want [the New York Police Department] to respond with one police officer, which is proportional, or with all the resources at our command?”
I choose the latter.
Josh Dienstman is a biomedical engineering major at Drexel University. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.