Why was there armed conflict recently between Gaza and Israel? Hamas, the ruling organization in the Gaza Strip, argues that its violent actions stem from resistance to the Israeli occupation.
What Israeli occupation? In 2005, Israel renounced any claim to the Gaza Strip, giving the Palestinians complete control over the area in the hope of advancing prospects for peace. Israel gave the land and got no peace: It has seen more than 9,000 rockets and mortars fired at its population centers since that disengagement.
These rockets are fired not because of a blockade or an Israeli occupation but because of a radical, hateful, and genocidal ideology. As classified by the U.S., Japan, Israel, Canada, and the European Union, Hamas is a terrorist organization. The charter of Hamas explicitly calls for the absolute annihilation of Israel and the Jewish people. It is this aspiration to genocide that has caused so much conflict between Gaza and Israel. It is also why Hamas will never accept a peace accord with Israel, no matter how much land is given to them.
The events leading up to the recent round of violence between Israel and Gaza follow a pattern that has been seen quite frequently since Israel renounced any claim to the Gaza Strip. Israel withstands rocket attacks in southern Israel from Gaza for as long as possible, certainly longer than any other nation would or could. Eventually, Hamas escalates the attacks and Israel is forced to defend itself.
However, the recent violence is different in that Israeli citizens living in southern Israel are now not the only ones who must live in constant fear. Hamas has smuggled in from Iran new rocketry, such as the Fajr 5, that can reach Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Take a moment to imagine what it would be like to live in Israel. You would spend your life constantly anticipating those warning sirens, convinced a rocket is on its way every time you hear an ambulance. You would have only 15 seconds after hearing the sirens to take cover and seek out a bomb shelter. This is an everyday reality that Israelis must face.
Israel not only has the right to defend its citizens from these rockets; it has an obligation to do so.
Furthermore, even when forced to act, Israel does everything in its power to minimize harm to Palestinian civilians. In the words of Colonel Richard Kemp, the former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, Israel does “more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.” This draws a sharp contrast to Hamas, which breaks international law by placing its launching pads and weapons depots near civilian populations in order to deter Israeli strikes. Very often they succeed, and Israel is forced to call off a strike due to the target’s proximity to civilians. When Israel is not deterred, any harm done to innocent Palestinians ultimately still benefits Hamas by fueling its anti-Israeli propaganda machine.
Hamas desires death more than life, the destruction of Israel more than the creation of a Palestine. To have any chance at peace, Hamas must change its hateful ideology or be overthrown. In the interim, Israel has the right to defend itself from rocket attacks, and we at the University of Chicago must support its ability to do so.
Benjamin Dauber, Jonathan Gutman, Benjamin Hammer, and Eric Wessan are students in the College.