Monday, January 05, 2009

David Israel on the Gaza Crisis

I received the following email from a member of the 6th Armored Division association, of which I am an honorary member:
Got so many questions like the one below I decided to write up a kind of common for whatever it's worth my answer.

What's Your Take

I live in a retirement community in Medford, Oregon. There are almost 1000 residents here between the ages of 65 and 100 years of age. The political makeup is approximately 275 Democrats, 100 Independents and 675 Republicans, although In the recent election there was a sizable number of crossover votes.

Within the past week I have been greeted by many fellow residents with, “So what's your take on Gaza?” (Many residents are aware that I lived in Israel for eight years which included the period of the 1973 war, “ The Yom Kippur War”). Before answering I usually counter with, “What's your take?”. (The last sentence of this piece will state the most common answers received to this question). Since Southern Oregon is Bible Belt country the answer is not the usual media reaction that appeasement and capitulation must be the Israeli policy. While it is true that some former members of the Academic community who consider themselves to be legal experts accuse Israel of gross violations of international law and demand an immediate cease fire, others see things differently. One woman asked when would Israel end their terrible occupation of Gaza. “Where did you hear that Gaza was occupied”, I asked. “I heard it on talk radio”, she answered. She was totally unaware that Israel had left Gaza in 2005, leaving all industry and infrastructure to the Gazan population. The Gazans then immediately destroyed everything. Ten thousand Israelis were uprooted and forced to move out of the Gaza strip. Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation spread by media people who do not have the knowledge or the background but who pose as experts on the Middle East.

Many opposed the Israeli evacuation of Gaza saying at the time it would just give terrorist organizations a closer base from which to bombard Israeli population centers. The politicians won out leading to what is being experienced today, exactly as predicted. It did take three years, but now the cities of Ashdod, Ashkelon and Arad are targeted by Hamas missiles on a daily basis. Sixty three hundred rockets and mortar shells have fallen on Israel since 2005. Five months ago President -elect Obama visited the city of Sderot in southern Israel. His reaction: “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do everything to stop that and would expect Israel to do the same thing.”

Who then bears the responsibility for what is happening in Gaza today? Israel does not want the territory. Israel had it and gave it to the people of the area. Egypt does not want Gaza or the Gazan people. The fact is that Egyptian borders are closed to the people of Gaza. When Egypt controlled the area the people were denied Egyptian citizenship. What would be the immediate effect if Hamas stopped firing missiles and mortars into Israel? Would there be quiet as there was during the six month cease fire which recently ended? Would the oil rich Arab countries offer aid to their brothers in Gaza? Would Egypt allow Gazans free passage into Egypt? Would any of the 22 existing Arab countries allow Gazans to emigrate? These situations have never taken place, although they may in the future. Maybe. Meanwhile there are one and a half million people in Gaza and the casualties mount daily. Terrorist groups numbering approximately 25,000 bring death and destruction on the entire population. Hamas warns the terrorists to dress in civilian clothes so that it would not be possible to distinguish them from the general population. Casualty figures are difficult to determine but both the UN and Palestinian Authorities claim that 60 civilians have thus far been killed. Israeli intelligence had pinpointed only military targets, but since Hamas places these facilities in populated areas civilian deaths are inevitable. There seems little doubt there will be many more civilian deaths, although up to now most of those killed were terrorists (according to Hamas' own figures).

The United Nations expressed serious concern at the escalation of the situation in Gaza and called for an immediate halt to all violence. The members called on the parties to stop immediately all military activities. It should be noted that no such calls for calm were issued by the United Nations while missiles and mortar shells were falling indiscriminately only on Israel. According to international humanitarian law there exists a principle of “distinction” when it comes to combat. Legitimate targets may be only enemy combatants or objects that contribute to enemy military activity. Furthermore there is a prohibition on the use of weapons that cannot be aimed at specific targets, thus violating the principle of distinction. Under these rulings every one of the 6300 rockets fired into Israel since 2005 is a war crime .Firing weapons aimed into civilian areas qualifies under both counts as war crimes. The UN has never called attention to these war crimes while calling for calm at this time.To some it would seem that Israel has exercised overwhelming restraint before responding to Hamas provocations.

British Prime Minister Gordeon Brown December 27: “I call on Gazan militants to cease all attacks on Israel immediately. These attacks are designed to cause random destruction and to undermine the prospects of Peace talks led by President Abas. I understand the Israeli government's sense of obligation to its population.”

The most common answer to the query ...What's your take?.......”Its about time.” david l. israel