Those innocent lives lost as a result of Israeli attacks on perceived Hamas locations in Gaza are not the victims of just one side, they are the victims of both sides and the fact that both leaderships find it easier to hurl rockets at each other, to provoke each other, than they do to negotiate a settlement that protects all civilians in the region. They are the victims of the failures of leadership not just in Israel and Palestine, but the international community also. Too often, those seeking to highlight the plight of the Palestinians and the misery caused by occupation and bombings, try hard to underplay the misery caused by those in groups like Hamas seeking to kill as many as possible.
A couple of days ago, Mohammed Ansar posted this:
– I see variants of this theme all too often. The image of an apparent Hamas rocket on a barely scratched road implies a pathetically inconsequential capability from the group. When Ansar chooses a picture of a charred road, rather than a picture of dead or injured Israelis to highlight what happens when a rocket from Gaza strikes Israel, he does so consciously, the image of one rather than the other is chosen for a purpose, and so the image Ansar shared works only to dehumanise those victims of Hamas’s rockets in the past, and the recent terror inflicted upon those in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ashkelon, Kiryat Malachi, Eshkol, Sderot and more, by subtly hinting that those rockets do no real damage. Ansar then posted pictures of the bodies of victims of Israeli bombs in Gaza. This works to downplay the horrific consequences of rocket fire by Hamas (dismissed as a charred road), whilst highlighting the horrific consequences of the bombings by Israel. The political motivation of such a hideously manipulative tactic, is fuel for the fire of groups like Hamas, and when emulated on the opposite side, fuel for the fire of religious fanatics in Israel.
Contrary to Mo Ansar implying impotence of Hamas rocket fire, between 2001 and 2012, 64 people have been killed by Hamas’s rockets and hundreds more injured, whilst over 4000 in Sderot alone are treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
In 2004, a nursery school in Sderot was the victim of a Qassam rocket, that killed Mordechai Yosepov, 49, and Afik Zahavi, 4. Hamas then claimed responsibility for an attack that wounded 30 and killed Yuval Abebeh, 4, and Dorit Benisian, 2 in Sderot.
In July 2006, the town of Ashkelon was hit when a rocket from Gaza struck a school – empty at the time, thankfully – and destroyed classrooms. In March 2008, again in Ashkelon, a rocket injured seven people. In May 2008, another rocket into Ashkelon hit a shopping mall, with four treated for severe injuries, 15 for minor injuries and 87 for shock. Most shockingly in Ashkelon, Iman Shefi – a Palestinian woman from Beit Lahiya – was in an Israeli hospital in Ashkelon, having given birth to two premature babies. Whilst in hospital, Hamas rockets were fired directly at it. Shefi said:
“I was scared that the rockets would hit the Ashkelon hospital where my two babies are.”
– Given the awful situation that Iman Shefi and her children (who are both safe and well) found themselves in, and being from Gaza too, she showed real class and integrity, and a sense of common cause with those affected by Hamas’s bombs in Israel when she said:
“I dream that my children will not have to go through what I have had to, that they will grow up in an era of peace. I pray that the residents of Sderot will not be angry with us. I sympathize with their suffering and don’t want them to be harmed, but we are victims as well. We have no control over the Hamas. They do as they please, in contradiction of the Quran. I do not want the Hamas in power, but I am not sure that Abu Mazen can stop the shooting.”
– Hamas do not care the heritage, or age of those they purposely hurl rockets at. The aim is to kill.
On March 18th 2010, a rocket claimed by both Ansar al-Sunna, and Fatah’s militant wing, al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades killed Thai national Manee Singmueangphon. He was working at an agricultural community in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council. Fifty other Thai nationals were treated for shock.
On April 7th 2011, Hamas shot a Kornet anti-tank missile at a school bus in southern Israel, killing 16 year old Daniel Viflic. On August 20th 2011, Hamas fired 64 rockets into Gaza, in which 500,000 people rushed to bomb shelters, and 38-year-old Yossi Shoshan of the town of Ofakim, and on his way to ensure his 9 month pregnant wife was safe, ended up killed. The same day, a four month old baby was badly wounded, as well as a 9 year old boy. On October 29th 2011, Moshe Ami of Ashkelon was killed after suffering serious shrapnel wounds as a result of a rocket sent from Gaza by Hamas.
Between March 9th – 15th 2012, Hamas and other groups in Palestine fired 300 grad missiles into Israel. In less than a week. 23 people were injured, 11 whilst fleeing in terror, for cover. on October 12th, the militant “Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem” fired a rocket into Israel, which exploded in the garden of a family home, and sent shrapnel into a child’s bedroom. Two were taken to hospital for acute stress reaction. A little over a month later, on November 15th 2012, Mirah Scharf (25), Itzik Amsalem (24), and Aharon Smadja (49) were killed by a rocket attack on an apartment in Kiryat Malachi. Mirah Scharf was a female emissary to New Delhi in India, and had come to Israel to give birth, when she was murdered by terrorists. Ahron Smadja was a father to an eight month old baby girl. The residents of the building were running for any cover they could find, as the rockets flew over, killing three of them.
As well as Mo Ansar, Owen Jones writing for the Guardian says:
“The macabre truth is that Israeli life is deemed by the western media to be worth more than a Palestinian life.”
– He then goes on to reverse his point:
“Israel under renewed Hamas attack”: this was last night’s BBC headline on the escalating bloodshed in Gaza. It is as perverse as Mike Tyson punching a toddler, followed by a headline claiming that the child spat at him.”
– All those killed, injured or terrified mentioned above over the years, are flippantly dismissed here as similar to the inconsequential spit of a child on a heavyweight boxer.
Let’s stop playing the “who kills the most” game, because it isn’t a game. Each civilian death must be regarded as an unacceptable tragedy regardless of which side of the border they happen to reside, for any serious discussion on peace to be workable. Each death is the responsibility of the leadership on both sides. Each death reaffirms the failures of the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships, along with the international community, in coming to a negotiated settlement. The partisans who post insensitive and dehumanising comparisons like the one above, work only to provide fuel for those who seek no peaceful resolution, believing their side to be the sole victims of the aggressive opposite, when the reality is that both leaderships – for decades – shoulder the blame as the people they are supposed to be protecting continue to suffer.