Sunday, July 20, 2014

Israeli war a fundraising event for HAMAS? #PrayForIsrael #PrayForGaza #PrayForPalestine #PrayForPeace

Israeli war a fundraising event for HAMAS?

You could almost set your clock by it. HAMAS and Israel are at war again. The backdrop once again lies in world events which take focus off this conflict. Israel as usual accuses HAMAS of using human shields. HAMAS supporters however point out that due to Israeli alliances with neighbouring nations, the people in the Gaza Strip are pretty much stuck in the Gaza Strip. Whether or not HAMAS has stocked Israeli targets with women and children is also a point of contention. The Gaza Strip is densely populated with an impoverished and very captive population. Dense urban fighting inevitably gives rise to high civilian casualties when people are unable to flee an area. Whether Israel should ignore consistent rocket attacks over its border, which statistically do likely kill less people than dog bites and bee stings, or consistently almost yearly: invade and enforce control against the Gaza Strip, is also a matter of much contention. There is a vast difference between a dog bite and a bee sting and intentional murder. Did Israel pamphlet the Gaza Strip telling people to flee? Did HAMAS ask civilians to crowd around their soldiers? Is dropping pamphlets upon a densely populated area where people have next to no where to go, enough to do away with the obligation not to hit civilian targets? Is HAMAS breaking international law by operating in densely populated areas?

These are not questions which are easy to answer. The fighting often resembles a blood feud. When America invaded Iraq, shockingly, children from my South African Christian junior school at the time were flown into Iraq by their parents, to be human shields in Iraqi buildings. The practice is not unknown in modern war.

So what is important about covering this blood feud? It is vital not to take sides or to report propaganda as if it were truth. Most South Africans support the Gaza Strip, leading to calls for the Israeli ambassador to be ejected from the country. Instead of such an approach, a focus not on taking sides but on attempting to encourage warfare which is less dangerous to civilians might be a better placed effort. I deeply empathise with the civilians on both sides of this intractable deadly mudslinging exercise between parties who have been fighting for decades, in what: until Palestine is recognised as its own nation is best phrased as the Israeli civil war. After all, HAMAS is not a state government, it is merely an organisation which attempts to govern, administer, and control the Gaza Strip. If there is a Palestinian government it is the one situated in the West Bank, once just as much under the horror of violence and war as the Gaza Strip currently is.

What is important is the humanity of the situation: creating humanitarian corridors and means of escape for the population of the Gaza Strip are vital measures that ought to have been taken already and should be taken for the sake of the innate value of every member of the humankind. Creating humanitarian ceasefires for the caring of the injured, the endangered and the ill is important. The focus should not be the blood feud, revenge, and the annihilation of opposing parties. The focus should be upon keeping civilians safe. It does not matter whether these civilians, by their own stupidity are volunteering to be human shields, or whether they simply cannot flee their homes to escape disaster. What matters is protecting noncombatants in this horrendous war in which no one is entirely innocent except the civilians. Pray both for the civilians of Israel, who for years have lived in terror and deep fear of death and utter annihilation among nations that have often been deeply hostile to their mere existence, and for the nations around Israel who have feared it for many years, and especially for the civilians in the Gaza Strip who have only ever known consistent returns to war, mixed amongst the ardour of extreme poverty and little control over their own lives.

The question then is whether or not HAMAS is benefited or hurt by Israel's invasions? For me the answer is clear: just as Israeli politicians who invade Gaza gain the support of the populous, HAMAS is legitimised with every civilian that dies at the hands of an Israeli soldier. Every time Israel invades the Gaza Strip, HAMAS gains more legitimacy in the international scene, as their supporters point to the lopsided death count in every invasion. War is maintained by war. Peace is maintained by peace. Hamas have their legitimacy amongst the Palestinian people, as their protector against Israel. These people, until such time as a two state solution is gained: are Israeli people. The people who are killed in the Gaza Strip, including Hamas militants are Israelis. Let us not assume that simply because they have been herded like cattle, by fear and opposing sides over decades: that the people of the Gaza Strip have chosen either side in this conflict and are not simply attempting to survive as best they can. Just as American drone strikes have turned Al Qaeda into not a small Afghani organisation but an intercontinental fighting force, through the civilian deaths that had been wrought: Israel is not securing its border by giving the world a civilian death count, whether the deaths resemble human shields, prisoners of ideology, or hapless victims in the wrong place at the wrong time, simply attempting to survive another day in subhuman conditions wrought by consistent conflict and fear.

The arguments of both Israel and Hamas bear a lot of weight. Israel should not suffer under consistent terror of missile launches. The Gaza Strip should not be a prison of stateless people with little to no say over the path of their lives. Hamas is an acronym for Islamic Resistance Movement. Their purpose of existence and their legitimacy if they have any is in resisting. If they had nothing to resist, if Israel spent more money on the Iron Dome, preventing Israeli deaths and ending the fear that consistently causes Israel to act in revenge against HAMAS: instead of on consistent invasions, perhaps I would not be writing this article today. Hopefully peace will one day come to the Gaza Strip, as it impossibly has to the West Bank.

But whatever happens as you read the horrific stories which come out of the situation in the Gaza Strip, be certain to take this not as a new event but as a long-standing conflict. There is history on both sides. And there are strong emotions which have had generations to foster themselves into firestorms. Focus instead on the people on both sides of the conflict, who so desperately need relief from the warfare of a blood feud.

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