“Crimes against humanity,” according to the International Criminal Court, include acts committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population…” As might be expected, murder tops the list of such acts, and the indiscriminate murderous (we use the term advisedly) Hamas rocket attacks aimed at Israeli civilian population centers are, purely and simply, crimes against humanity and on a grand scale. We draw no distinction between attempted murder and murder, because every rocket that is launched is, in fact, an attempted act of murder.
Hamas isn’t displaying deviant behavior with its unrelenting rocket barrages. It is displaying its raison d’être as memorialized and codified in its unambiguous and odious Charter. It is waging jihad, and in this case, the meaning of Jihad is also unambiguous. It means murder of Israelis whenever and wherever possible, whether they are men women or children. Likewise, using their own civilians — men, women and children – as shields behind which they launch their attacks should, we believe, also qualify as crimes against humanity.
We are not surprised by Hamas or by the violence Hamas has unleashed. To the contrary, we anticipated in our essay last week that the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teenagers by apparent Hamas operatives had a purpose besides the obvious bloodlust of the perpetrators. The purpose, we opined, was to initiate a new cycle of violence, which it predictably has accomplished. Jewish extremists, apparently teenagers themselves, are in custody alleged to have kidnapped and murdered an Arab teenager as retribution. Immediately, Hamas unleashed (or we should say increased) a rain of rockets and mortars against Israeli population centers. Of course, Hamas operatives have never really ceased sending rockets into Israel. In fact, more than 8,000 rockets have been lobbed at various Israeli population enters since Israel exited Gaza in 2005, with nearly 700 fired into Israel during the past week.
Think about that. What nation on the face of the earth with any capability to defend itself would tolerate such cold-blooded, murderous attacks against its citizens by another government? Hamas is the elected government of all of Gaza, and now shares governing responsibility with the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank, making the UN-recognized state of Palestine complicit in the outrageous criminality of Hamas.
Virtually every western government (including the US, Canada, Great Britain, France and Germany) has been unequivocal in condemning the Hamas aggression against Israel. Even UN Secretary General Ben Ki-moon has been unusually unambiguous in condemning the provocation by Hamas, calling Hamas irresponsible in its attacks on Israel.
Of course everyone is also calling for Israel to show restraint. The response should be measured and “proportionate “ Israel is told. Proportionate to what? The only sensible definition of proportionate is, in our view, that Israel should immediately cease all combat operations against Hamas as soon as the rocket attacks against Israel end…permanently. That, it seems to us, would be appropriately proportionate. “Quiet for quiet” as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has suggested, and as Hamas has rejected.
Hamas, and most Palestinians and other Arabs see Israel as the aggressor in the current conflict as well as in all prior conflicts simply by the fact of its very existence. That’s the cultural, historical and, to many, even the religious mindset of most of Israel’s neighbors. It is a mindset that most American leaders just don’t get. Largely ignorant of the history of the region, too many in the west buy into the notion that there was a country called Palestine that simply was invaded or colonized by European Jews. That simply isn’t true. It is a perversion of history.
History is unambiguous regarding the long and continuous presence of Jews in the land given the name Palestine around 132 CE by the Romans (and first recorded in Greek literature six centuries earlier). Various groups during the millennia came to either invade or otherwise settle in the land, among them (to name a few) Mongols, Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Ottoman Turks, but every group that came chronicled the presence of Jews both when they came and when they left. And while Jewish habitation in the land often shrank to meager numbers, always Jews remained and always Jews returned. Others, over time, also came and others also remained. The list of “invaders” is almost too long to write about in any detail in this essay. Jews were not the historical invaders of the land. They were, sadly, among the historically chronicled victims. It is true that by the beginning of the 19th century the Jewish population of the land called Palestine had been greatly decimated numbering no more than about 15,000, but Jews continued to return, especially in the late 19th century and throughout the 20th century. Until the 20th century the Ottoman Turks had occupied Palestine for four hundred years, and Jews and Arabs lived, more or less together, under the Turks. The first movement to establish a nation-state really began at the turn of the nineteenth to twentieth century when Jews began focusing on the re-establishment of a Jewish nation-state where they had had such a long historical presence. Arabs, of course, also have had a long historical presence in the land but with the exception of Egypt, never as a nation-state until the 20th century.
In fact, all of the modern Arab nation-states in the region, with the exception of Egypt, are 20th century creations of the British and French. So there are, today, five neighboring states in the immediate area of concern. (1) Israel, born of an ancient movement, the modern historical (Zionist) variation of which began in 1897, was codified by the United Nations in 1948; (2) the modern, (and then largely Maronite Christian) state of Lebanon was created by the French in 1920; (3) the modern state of Syria which grew out of the French Mandate of Syria (which in 1943 included present day Lebanon); (4) Jordan which was carved out of the British Mandate of Palestine by Great Britain and given (as a monarchy) to the Hashemite Arabs to forestall a war between Hashemites and the Wahhabis from Saudi Arabia; and (5) Egypt.
The real issue is that Islamists believe that once territory, any territory, has been conquered by Islam, it is God’s will that it remain Islamic in perpetuity. The presence of any other people must, therefore, be with the sufferance of Islamic rulers, and the presence of any other Non-Islamist State is anathema, indeed, a sacrilege to be rectified (Spain and Portugal beware). This is why peace talks with Islamists fail, except as a triumphalist tactic. It is also why Hamas feels free to lob rockets into Israel at any time. Hamas neither recognizes Israel’s right to exist nor any rules of conflict. It’s Charter, which we commend to President Obama and Secretary Kerry, explains rather well the rationale for the barbaric, continuous firing of rockets at Israeli population centers. These attacks are provoked not by Israel’s actions, but by the fact of Israel’s very existence.
Demonstrations are being organized throughout the world to protest Israel’s efforts to stop the rockets. There have been, and will continue to be, innocent civilian casualties as Israel goes after the launch sites and those who are commanding the rocket war. There is no way to combat rockets launched from behind civilians without civilians becoming casualties. It is, however, unique in the annals of warfare that a combatant goes to the extremes to avoid civilian casualties, as do the Israelis. Never before has a nation at war telephoned civilians to warn of an impending attack or fired unarmed projectiles as warnings prior to an actual aerial assault. Indeed, according to Colonel (Ret.) Richard Justin Kemp, the celebrated and highly decorated veteran and recent Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, “the Israeli Defense Forces (in the 2008-09 campaign against Hamas in Gaza) did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in the combat zones than any other army in the history of warfare”
People ask when the ever-recurring bloodshed will end. It won’t — not as long as fanatics consider Israel’s very existence to be an untenable affront and an Act of War. Hamas’s rocket war against non-military civilian targets is a crime – a crime against humanity. It is time the entire world recognized it as such.
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