Gaza in Context

by Steven Perlin, Incoming Staff Writer

In the wake of anti-Israel protests, who is seen as just in their actions?

On January 10, 2009, a 10,000 member protest took place at the Westwood Federal Building. Most of the crowd was comprised of pro-Palestinian supporters. Hundreds of flags and signs lined the streets in support of the Palestinian cause. Makeshift coffins draped in Palestinian flags led the march to an area near the UCLA campus and was followed by a “die-in”. During the “die-in”, the sound system produced sounds of gunfire, mortars, and bombs in hope of echoing the current situation that the Gazans are facing. Later on, while watching CNN just after the London march for Palestinian rights, a young girl was interviewed and gave her position on the conflict. She tore apart Israel and how they are acting in this crisis. I feel that she has given it an unfair representation and I feel it my job to portray Israel for what she really is: a nation that fights its enemies in order to survive. With around one thousand three-hundred Palestinians and thirteen Israelis dead, which view seems more righteous and most logical?

This struggle between the Arabs and Jews has been going on for a very long time. In order to try and understand the current situation in the Middle East, one must know the history of the area. As the story goes, Israel has had the land for three thousand plus years (not entirely important to the point). In 1917, Chaim Weitzman pushed for the writing of the Balfour Declaration. Lord Balfour of Great Britain essentially promised the land of milk and honey to the Jewish people. This declaration became a major topic when, after the tragedy of WWII and the Holocaust, Jews from all over Europe and Russia began to immigrate to Palestine. They worked and worked in the hope of insuring better and much safer lives for their families. Amidst conflict, in 1947, the UN adopted a two state resolution (Resolution 181) which gave Palestinians and Jews their own part of what they each believed to be rightfully theirs. UN Resolution 181 had the possibility to create an Arab and an Israeli state, but this proposal was rejected by the Arabs.

In response to the creation of a Jewish state, armies from Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria (with some members of the Saudi military and the Yemenite military) invaded Israel. Their goal was the destruction of the state of Israel so it could be held by the Arab people. Poorly trained and underequipped, the Jews began to fight desperately for their own existence. By July 20 of 1949, the fighting ended on all fronts with Israel the victor.

It was not until June 10, 1967, however, that the Palestinians officially came under the control of Israeli government. When the Egyptians closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli ships, Israel attacked Egypt thus sparking the counterattack by the surrounding Arab nations. However, after just six days of fighting, a ceasefire was signed. Israel acquired the Sinai Desert to the West, the Golan Heights to the North, and the West Bank to the East. From this point onward, over one million Palestinians were now under the rule of Israel.

More currently, in 1993, the Oslo Peace Accord was signed by Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin. Its intention was to end all attacks by the Palestine Liberation Authority (PLO). Eventually, during the year of 2006, the problem with Hezbollah in Lebanon sprung up when a few Israeli soldiers were captured at the Lebanese border and murdered. Hezbollah, similar to Hamas in style, launched Katyusha rockets (supplied by Iran) into Israel. This prompted the Israeli bombing and eventual invasion of Lebanon. In the eyes of Israel, the invasion was successful and greatly decreased the striking ability of Hezbollah. According to Hezbollah and leader Hassan Nasrallah, the invasion of southern Lebanon was a failure because Israel did not complete its goals. A UN brokered ceasefire was put into place and the fighting stopped.

The current Israeli-Gazan problem remains an old problem. The first intifada began in 1987 and aimed at getting world recognition for the Palestinian struggle. Since the first intifada, Palestinian suicide bombers have been attacking innocent Israeli civilians. At one point, there would be daily bombings of buses, restaurants, nightclubs, or other frequented locations. Thankfully, after the removal of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq, the suicide bombings have finally subsided (for the most part).

One problem, though, has been more prominent than others. Members of the Palestinian Sunni Islamist faction which is a paramilitary organization and political party (known as Hamas) recently began firing large numbers of Qassam rockets into densely populated regions of Israel from the Gaza Strip. The rockets range in length from about 3 feet to about 6 and one half feet. Qassams are unguided rockets armed with warheads that weigh between 1 and 22 pounds. They are shot from building tops, backyards, schools, mosques, and every other imaginable place. This is where the largest problem lies.

On December 27, 2008, in response to the firing of one too many Qassam rockets into Israeli neighborhoods, the Israeli Air Force launched counterattacks to destroy the positions from which the rockets were fired. Later in the campaign, the airstrikes began to seek specific targets of importance. In comparing the Israeli civilian casualties to the Palestinian civilian casualties, one might notice the great discrepancy in numbers. The relatively small amount of deaths on the Israeli side could be contributed to the fact that Qassam rockets are unguided and do not spin in their trajectory, therefore very inaccurate. One reason that Palestinian casualties remain high is that the weapons used by first world democracies (or countries that try to be democratic) are made to destroy large areas. In a conventional war, this is acceptable because the targeting of multiple enemies at one time is very probable. However in the war against Hamas, individuals need to be targeted rather than the area that they are in. Unfortunately for the civilians in Gaza, there are no ways for the Israeli Air Force (AIF) or the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) to attack individuals. Another reason that the Palestinian losses are so high, as previously discussed, is the rocket firing positions chosen by the Hamas insurgents. When a Qassam rocket is launched from a rooftop, the Israeli Air Force attacks that rooftop in order to prevent that same position from being used in the future. The locations that are used lie deep within residential neighborhoods in the Gaza Strip; therefore, when attacked, there are very high civilian casualties. The cowardice of Hamas remains at such an extreme that they insist upon “hiding” behind their own family.

Some people call the Israeli counterattack “disproportional”. These people claim, essentially, that there should either be no retaliation or the old “eye for an eye” cliché should be used. Seriously speaking, Israel will not stand by and let their land be attacked. In a quote from Benjamin Netanyahu, former Prime Minister of Israel, it was said that “If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel.” So, Israel retaliates when it is attacked. But just how can a person convert a Qassam rocket into a value for an Israeli bomb? Just how many rockets are equal to a bomb? It is not possible or logical to ask Israel to put their emotions into a proportional attack against an enemy that they can barely find.

In being a man of logic, I like to use the brain I have to as full an extent as possible. To put things into perspective, let’s say that the Israeli-Gazan situation was happening right here in California. To be fair, the United States will represent Israel, and Mexico will represent Gaza. If Mexico was to launch rockets into San Diego, time would stand still. The United States would send in the Air Force to take out key targets. If rocket attacks were to assume, the Army Rangers, Navy Seals, Delta Force and all other specialized fighting units (that nobody knows about) would invade and do what is deemed necessary. If rocket attacks continued, there would be a full scale withdrawal of troops from the Middle East, and Mexico would have about 200,000 American troops living within its borders (if we didn’t just nuke them to begin with). Some questions would arise about the amount of force used, but in the end there would be hardly any second guessing the most powerful nation in the world. Countries worldwide would feel that the response by the American government was responsible and appropriate. In the same respect, the world should understand that what Israel is doing is in self-defense and necessary for its survival.

A problem I have is that I can’t seem to make much logic of what Hamas and their supporters are saying. In fact, I find it absolutely puzzling that supporters of Hamas believe that it is acceptable for them to attack Israel on a daily basis and not expect any retaliation. I find it ironic that the supporters of Hamas see that the rocketing of Israeli citizens is acceptable but that the bombing of Gaza isn’t fair. The genocide they claim that is happening will only stop when rockets stop falling into Israel. Now don’t misinterpret what I am saying here. I am not accepting the killing of innocent civilians on either side; rather, I am stating the conditions upon which these deaths happen. I am trying to clear the way for smarter, more rational people to make decisions that can’t be made at this point in time.


One comment

  1. […] their first posts is some evocative reporting about anti-Israel protests earlier this year: On January 10, 2009, a 10,000 member protest took […]

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