The ignored facts behind who started what in the Israel-Hamas war
By Ray Hanania
No single provocation is really the cause of another’s reaction in the Middle East conflict, although both sides claim it so. But in the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, you can follow the facts to a starting point that contradicts the claims made by both sides, especially those defending Israel’s government’s massive military assault who say the killing of civilians is unavoidable.
Israelis contend they had to attack Hamas in the Gaza Strip because Hamas fighters were lobbing missiles across the border into Israeli towns.
But that is not what really caused this fighting.
Hamas, a terrorist organization that rejects peace and often uses violence to achieve its goals, can’t suddenly claim that Israel’s violence is any different.
But, Hamas can make the argument that this conflict may have more behind it than the popularly advocated argument embraced by the mainstream American media that Israel was “forced” to act.
Israel was not forced to act. They made a choice. They wanted both the right to strike at Hamas and to also claim the cease-fire was intact, when in fact on Nov. 4, 2008, Israel intentionally broke the cease-fire with an attack against Hamas.
If you look at the timelines offered by the media, the Israelis and even the Bush administration, that Nov. 4 date is missing.
Israel and Hamas agreed to a six month cease-fire that was to end in late December.
But on Nov. 4, six weeks before the cease fire was to expire or be renewed, Israeli ground troops stormed what they alleged was a tunnel being used to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip. The Israelis alleged it was to be used to kidnap Israeli soldiers.
Six Palestinians were killed and seven Israeli soldiers were wounded in that fighting initiated by Israel. The next day, on Nov. 5, another date not cited on most media and pro-Israeli timelines, Israeli war planes crossed in the Gaza Strip and blasted more
Hamas sites killing at least one Palestinian at what they claimed was a rocket launcher site.
No rockets had been fired yet before the two assaults, but they came quickly after the second Israeli air strike. As many as 45 rockets into Israel. Two rockets landed in Ashkelon and while there were no casualties, six Israelis were treated for shock.
The rocket barrage was not initially blamed on Hamas, but on members of the “Popular Resistance Committee.” Hamas leaders like Mahmoud Zahar said they could not control everyone but were using their influence to convince “others” to restrain the renegade fighters.
No one can dispute the tunnels exist. They do exist and they have a purpose. The border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt’s Sinai is a beehive of tunnels. For most of the five months of the cease-fire, the only thing smuggled through the tunnels was food, fuel and other black market items such as clothing.
Gaza’s small cities and villages have among the densest populations in the world, and the poorest. The black market is in fact its only real economy.
Although Israeli soldiers do not “occupy” the Gaza Strip, the border crossing on the Israeli side and even the Egyptian side are controlled by Israel. When the Israelis are not happy with the Egyptian efforts, Israel steps in and seals the crossings.
In fact, after Palestinians responded to the Israeli strikes, Israel’s government ordered the border shut, including the border with Egypt where the tunnels exist.
When the Israeli attacks took place on Nov. 4, Hamas leaders were discussing extending the cease-fire for another six months.
Within 12 days, the cease-fire collapsed completely as the back-and-forth escalated between the two sides. As many as 20 Palestinians had been killed by Nov. 16. That back-and-forth fighting with both sides blaming each other, continued.
On Dec. 19, Hamas declared the cease-fire officially ended. And this latest war soon began.
I don’t know if Palestinians were or were not planning to kidnap an Israeli soldier or not as the Israeli claim. The Israelis never provide any proof for their accusations, although kidnapping an Israeli soldier is not beyond Hamas’ objectives.
But a choice was made to break the cease-fire on Nov. 4 and Israel’s government made that choice. Once out of control, Israel decided to attack and attack hard.
With no real voice in the American media, Israel’s arguments were unquestionably embraced and defended, giving Israel an even stronger mandate to respond even more forcefully.
Instead of bombing the tunnels, Israel stepped up its attacks with massive air strikes that focused on the dense populations, chasing rocket launchers fired by Hamas and the other of the Islamic militant groups.
Was this war ordered in order to stop the firing of Hamas missiles into Israel? Or, possibly, was it sought out by Israel’s government maybe hoping to show the Israeli voters as they go into elections in seven weeks, that they are tougher than their rivals on Israel’s far right like Benjamin Netanyahu, who has never needed an excuse to attack Palestinians?