The latest count of rockets and mortars fired into Israel from Gaza tops three thousand. They’ve targeted Israeli towns, villages, city centers, homesteads—anything—as long as it has life to take. Many of those same explosives (an estimated 15%) fail to reach Israeli soil. They fall to the ground in Gaza, killing Palestinian men, women, and children.
Hamas wants to cause death and remain the victim. And the international response to their conflict is allowing them to do exactly that.
Third party observers in the news and on social media blame Israel for the aggression, either by equivocating the blame between Israel and Palestinian leadership or deceptively framing the conflict as much worse: one motivated by ethnic cleansing or Israeli imperialism.
This is exactly what Hamas wants, and arguably exactly why they engage in this type of reckless violence.
Hamas has been considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the international community since 1997.
In 2006, they took power in Gaza under questionable “elections.”
Since then, Hamas has oppressed and abused their citizens. They spend international humanitarian aid on rockets and mortars instead of bread and books. They have no free market, and no democratic institutions.
The Palestinians in the West Bank don’t have it much better. Take it from Palestinian journalist Bassem Eid. Mahmoud Abbas, who is in his “15th year of what was supposed to be a four-year term,” just decided to cancel elections yet again.
The Palestinian leadership is not freely elected by its people, and thus do not represent their interests. Many Palestinians do want peace. But they live under extremist governments that use propaganda and lies to incite violence and hatred.
Hamas focuses nearly all of its efforts on perpetuating or motivating violence against Israel. They launch rockets and mortars at Israel knowing Israelis will die, but also knowing that Palestinians will die. They know that their actions will require a military response from Israel. They use the Palestinian people living in Gaza as human shields to protect their military assets. That’s why they store explosives in schools and have military headquarters in residential apartment buildings.
Because of this, Hamas also knows that Israel will be the target of the world’s condemnation. Not them. They will get a free pass to continue to hate Jews, oppress their citizens, and get away with murder.
False equivalencies and fake narratives about Israel’s motivations – “ethnic cleansing,” “apartheid,” or whatever – feed Hamas’ penchant for violence. They use it to their advantage. These narratives make allies reluctant to be public in their support of Israel; they bring in more international aid dollars to Palestinian leadership that can be used for weaponry; and worst of all—they wound Israel in a way that Hamas cannot do physically.
It wounds Israel in the hearts and minds of the world. Hearts rightfully break for the loss of innocent life, and Hamas willingly sacrifices their people for this reaction.
This narrative needs some truth spoken into it, or the violence will continue. The false equivalency between the two has got to stop. Israel protects its people with its military; Hamas uses its people to protect its military.
Israel, in responding to Hamas’ terror, goes to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties. Strikes on Hamas’ military assets in Gaza are preceded by phone and leaflet warnings to Gazan residents of the impending destruction.
Israel targets Hamas’ weaponry; Hamas targets Israel’s people.
They are not the same.
So, too, must the lies end about Israel’s motives for fighting back.
Israel is not motivated by “ethnic cleansing.” If they were, they’re really bad at it. Twenty percent of Israeli society are Arab citizens.
This conflict did not arise from the Sheik Jarrah property dispute, nor would Hamas’ response be justified if it had. That dispute will be settled in court where both the Jewish and Arab claimants have standing and legal rights to an evidentiary proceeding—regardless of ethnicity.
This isn’t a land dispute, at all. In fact, Gaza was under Israeli control after the 1967 war. But in 2005, Palestinian leaders told Israel they would exchange land for peace. So Israel voluntarily vacated the Gaza strip – forcefully removing every Jew from every home in that region.
What Israel got for this deal was terror.
Israel is not the obstacle to peace. Despite serious offers for peaceful coexistence in 1937, 1947, 1967, 1999, and 2008, Israel has been rejected every time by Palestinian leadership. To them, Israel must cease to exist.
This all-or-nothing mindset will keep this tragic conflict alive, at least until the international community gets honest about where the problem lies.
Israel is unfairly criticized, demonized, and singled out among the entire world in its struggle for self-determination. No country gets the level of hate, double standards, or false narratives spun about them in social media, on the floor of the UN, or in the chambers of student governments worldwide than does Israel. No country would be expected to sit idly by while their citizens are under attack, but Israel.
There’s an almost instinctive need to find criticism of Israel or reiterate that the Israeli government has made mistakes in every conversation about the conflict – even from Israeli advocates.
But this should not happen to the extent that it feeds the false equivalency between Israel and Hamas.
Of course, Israel isn’t perfect—no country is. Israel will make mistakes in its choices of response to Hamas’ attacks. But Israel cannot choose—and should not choose—to do nothing. Israel, at 73 years old, is in the seventy-third year of an existential battle.
Any decent heart will break at the news of the climbing toll of Palestinian casualties. This writer’s does. Israeli hearts do, too.
To end this, Hamas’ violence must no longer be shrouded by the anti-Israel din.
This conflict needs truth spoken over it:
Any argument for the end of the State of Israel is an argument against self-determination for the Jewish people. Disagree about borders or settlements, but peace is only truly found in coexistence.
The desire to support the Palestinians in their self-determination is noble within the context of coexistence, but horrific and wrong if at the cost of the Jewish state.
And no side will get everything they want in a deal. This is a reality which has been acceptable to the Israelis but not to Palestinian leadership. This is where peace currently fails.
• Bryan Griffin is a distinguished fellow of Middle East foreign policy at the London Center for Policy Research and the National Field Director of the Maccabee Task Force.