Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

A tragic day on Gaza's border

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Update from AIJAC


Update 05/18 #03

As readers will be aware, yesterday was the bloodiest day so far of the six weeks of Hamas-led violent protests along the Gaza border known as the "Great March of Return." In all, more than fifty Palestinians were killed - the exact numbers are still unclear - and many more wounded (according to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Ministry of Health), as a result of repeated efforts to breach the border fence at numerous points and other acts of violence, including several shooting attacks. 

Meanwhile, even more violence is expected overnight - as today is "Naqba day", when Palestinians mark the "catastrophe" of Israel's creation. 

AIJAC's Ahron Shapiro has assembled some key material as background to understanding what happened - including an original translation of the social media directive sent to the protesters, which called for mass rushes to breach the border together with bulldozers, concealing weapons under clothing, and efforts to kidnap Israeli civilians and hand them over to Hamas. It also includes a timeline of the violent attacks associated with the claimed "peaceful protests" and we highly recommend it to anyone trying to comprehend the events of yesterday. 

The rest of this Update includes additional information and background on those events.

We lead with noted Israeli security expert Ron Ben Yishai, who argues the bloodshed is best understood as Hamas sacrificing lives to boost its prestige and ensure its continued rule of Gaza. He says the much larger casualty toll compared to past border demonstrations were because it, together with other organisations, made efforts to breach the fence in 12 different locations, much more than in past unrest. He stresses that these "protests" were far from non-violent and were not about defending Gaza, but about invading Israel, with explicit plans distributed by Hamas to target Israeli border communities. For Bin Yishai's knowledgeable analysis of what happened and why, CLICK HERE.

Next up, American commentator and columnist Sohrab Ahmari dissects two themes common to much media coverage of the events of yesterday. One is to juxtapose the celebrations of the opening of the new US Embassy in Jerusalem with the bloodshed on Gaza's borders, the other is to claim that the Palestinians' willingness to sacrifice their lives in Gaza only shows how hopeless and desperate their lives have become. He argues that such claims deny Palestinians any moral agency as well as the power of Hamas antisemitic ideology - and says that it is bad for Palestinians to  "treat them as children entitled to tantrums." For his complete argument, CLICK HERE

Finally, American Middle East scholar Michael Rubin takes on more directly the claim that life in Gaza is so desperate that obviously they have no recourse except violent protest. He notes that in terms of life expectancy, infant mortality, and even youth unemployment, Gaza is, even today, better off than many other places in the world, including fairly successful countries like South Africa, Brazil, Russia and India. He argues that the way to help Gazans is to hold their rulers accountable, while to buy into Hamas propaganda about Gaza suffering is to simply ensure that Hamas' cynical and destructive tactics continue. For all the details of Rubin's discussion, CLICK HERE.

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Article 1

Hamas's march of folly

 

Op-ed: Neither Hamas nor Israel want another round of fighting in Gaza, which would force the IDF to enter the strip, but the high number of casualties on the border might leave Hamas with no choice but to respond. If Hamas, or one of the other Palestinian factions, fires rockets at Israel, a full-blown conflict might erupt. 


Ron Ben-Yishai

Ynet.com, May 14, 2018


The Gaza border protests - vastly increased efforts to breach the border fence led to much higher casualties.

It was a symbolic day, as an event in Jerusalem bolstered and advanced the State of Israel's sovereignty and legitimacy, while at the same time dozens of Palestinians were killed and injured on the Gaza border in an ostentatious and suicidal move that had no practical purpose. This is the same thing they've been doing for over 70 years. This time it was just to boost Hamas's prestige and ensure its survival as a ruler.

Meanwhile, Israel sent a warning to Hamas that if Monday's events repeat on Tuesday, and if the situation escalates further, it would not hesitate to target the terror group's leaders as well. This warning was conveyed through the Egyptians as well as other channels. 

The Hamas leadership didn't even manage to give meaning to the death of dozens of Gazans, except for vague slogans and hollow symbols, which they've produced plenty of over the past 70 years.
 
Furthermore, Hamas failed on Monday in almost every other aspect: the Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem didn't rise up and go out to clash with Israeli security forces en masse as the Gazan rulers had hoped; Hamas was also unable to drum up any significant international support for its struggle; and it failed to bring the masses to the Gaza border—with barely 40,000 protesting, which is nowhere near the 100,000 it wanted. 

Hamas failed to provide the population in Gaza what it needs, and it failed because it doesn't have an "exit plan" that would allow it to take advantage of the situation it created to benefit both itself and the population.
 
The "March of Return" is a classic "March of Folly" that has yet to end. Tuesday would be another day in which Palestinian youth, including children, charge at the border fence, clearly knowing that in the best case scenario, they'll come back with a leg injury that leaves them crippled.
 

In a "March of Folly", Palestinian youth were incited to charge at the border, knowing it could it could led to their being shot. 

The number of dead, over 50 by now, is a deviation, but it happened not because IDF soldiers are trigger-happy, but because Hamas, to cover up its own failure in recruiting the masses to march on the fence, recruited the other Palestinian factions to try and breach the fence in 12 different locations. The double and triple amount of attempts to breach the fence are what caused the double and tripled amount of casualties.  
  
The IDF had no choice. There isn't a non-lethal measure or obstacle that could prevent the crossing of the border. The sniper fire was the minimum the army could do to stop thousands of Palestinians from swarming into Israel and the communities near the border fence.
 
The Palestinians and their supporters are talking about a "massacre." They're using this term to get international support, and in that too they failed because European Union politicians know the difference between a massacre and legitimate fire in self-defence. A massacre is a situation in which the helpless victims are completely under the mercy of the stronger side, as it kills them while they are unable to change their fate. But when it comes to the events in the strip, it's a spectacle in which the casualties were cast for this role by Hamas. But they had a choice—they could've not tried to breach the border fence, and then they wouldn't have been killed. They were also warned in advanced in every possible way.


A Gazan tears up Israeli leaflets warning of the consequences of attempting to breach the border fence. 

It's important to understand, the Gazans who were killed in the previous "marches of return," were not defending their homes from an Israeli invasion, they were trying to invade Israel. They also revealed exactly what they intended to do once they entered Israel. Hamas made it known that the plan is to breach the Gaza border fence in order to infiltrate Israel and then sabotage security infrastructure and equipment, and more gravely to abduct a soldier or a civilian to be used as a bargaining chip. And, if possible, infiltrate Israeli communities and take over them for a time and hold a press conference there. Hamas even published the map of communities it planned to infiltrate.
 
The claim that the Gazans tried to break the siege also fails the test of common sense—because even if tens of thousands of Gazans had managed to breach the fence, without the IDF stopping them, would that have ended the Egyptian and Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip? The answer is no.
 
If these protests of tens of thousands on the border fence—peaceful protests as the "march of return" claimed to be—were without Molotov cocktails, without explosives, without gunfire, and without incendiary kites meant to set fire to the wheat in the fields near the border, then they could've been said to be a legitimate measure to breaking the blockade by appealing to the international community.

 
Incendiary kites designed to set fire to wheat fields were a major feature of the protests. In all, the kites succeeding in setting 23 fires.

But the Palestinians in Gaza, led by Hamas, are shooting themselves in the foot. Just like they set fire—for no logical reason—to the fuel depot at Kerem Shalom, through which they get cooking gas and fuel oil to operate their power plants.
 
Therefore, the IDF sniper fire is a legitimate act of self-defence, for which the army exists and which it must carry out. This is something the diplomats in Brussels understand, and the statement from the European Union reflects that.
 
During the clashes on the fence, and under their cover, there was an unusual number of shootings and explosives being thrown. This is why the IDF responded with aerial bombardment and tank fire at Hamas targets. The intention was to make it clear to Hamas that if they continued the infiltration attempts—which are directed and led by them—Israel will escalate its responses.
 
Neither Israel nor Hamas have the desire or intention to escalate the current hostilities to another war in Gaza. Hamas knows that in such a war it would likely lose its rule, and Israel knows that after such a war things would go back to being as they were and might even be worse. That is why, in the absence of any real interest, Hamas and Israel do not want to go into another round of fighting that would force the IDF to enter the strip.
 
But the high number of casualties might force Hamas to respond. Which is why what Monday night is critical. The question is whether Hamas or one of the other Palestinian groups can resist the temptation to fire rockets at Israel. Such rocket fire could launch another round of fighting.
 
On Tuesday, the events on the fence will reach new heights. It's safe to assume that after so many funerals, many Gazans will run to the border riled up, even without being prompted by Hamas and the other factions. So it's too early to tell how Nakba Day events would end.

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Article 2

The Media War on Palestinian Agency

 

A false compassion

 

SOHRAB AHMARI

Commentary "Contentions", MAY 14, 2018

Palestinian Arabs are human beings, which means they are possessed of free will, agency, and the natural capacity to reason like any other people. This basic, incontestable anthropological reality needs to be frequently restated today since our media and foreign-policy establishment has apparently concluded the opposite.

The latest media assault on Palestinian agency came Monday, as Israelis celebrated the relocation of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, while Palestinians attempted to infiltrate en masse the barrier fence that separates the Jewish state from the terrorist-run Gaza Strip to the south.

By the Western media’s dim lights, the blame for Hamas’s criminal stunt and the casualties it caused lay with . . . anybody and everybody but Hamas and the Palestinians.


Juxtaposing the Jerusalem Embassy opening with the deaths in Gaza - as in this image from the New York Times - proved irresistible to reporters.

The narrative emerged early on Twitter, and the social-media platform’s deplorable tendency to flatten reality into cheap, emotive images no doubt accelerated its dissemination. The juxtaposition – of “Jivanka” and Benjamin Netanyahu celebrating in Jerusalem while Israeli forces opened fire on Palestinians at the Gaza border – proved irresistible to reporters. The BBC’s Katty Kay, for example, was quick to point out that President Trump’s warm words for the Jewish state came while there were “41 dead on the Israel Gaza border today.” An AFP White House correspondent posted the two sets of images side-by-side–a smiling and clapping Bibi next to a photo of fire and smoke from Gaza–with the words: “Quite the disconnect.” He had garnered more than 2,600 retweets as of this writing.

Then there was Peter Beinart: “While Jewish + Christian bigots celebrate an occupied city, Jewish soldiers kill people fleeing an open-air prison. As a great lover of Zion said long ago, ‘This is not the way.'” Yes, “fleeing.” That is an interesting way to describe a concerted, Iranian-regime-funded operation to violate Israeli sovereignty and do “whatever is possible, to kill, throw stones,” as the Washington Post quoted one of the “protesters” describing the movement’s goals.

The Palestinians’ more sophisticated friends know what Hamas is all about. They understand that young men whipped into a frenzy by an organization that exists to destroy world Jewry, per its charter, aren’t exactly latter-day Freedom Riders. But they think that the Palestinians can’t help themselves. While they expect Israel–a state encircled by hostile populations and threatened with nuclear extinction by the Iranian mullahs–to behave like Norway, of the Palestinians they have the most dismal, if any, expectations.

Thus Eurasia Group President Ian Bremmer tweeted: “The Palestinians killed today knew Israeli Defense Forces would use lethal force in response to their demonstrations. It didn’t stop them. They felt hopeless.” The Mideast reporter Sulome Anderson echoed his sentiments: “Imagine the desperation it takes to walk into live gunfire from the Middle East’s most powerful fighting force, armed with nothing more than rocks & the occasional Molotov or grenade. Try to conceive of the circumstances that could drive so many human beings to such an act.”

Or maybe try to conceive of the poisonous power of Hamas’s anti-Semitic ideology and the Palestinians’ permanently aggrieved mentality, which has allowed the conflict to fester despite numerous peace offers from the Israeli side. There are desperate people all over the world who never translate their frustration into suicide bombing, stone throwing, border-rushing, and violent “Days of Rage.” It does the Palestinians no good to treat them as children entitled to tantrums, as permanent wards of the international community or, worst, as wild men bereft of reason. Then again, such highhanded pity isn’t really about helping the Palestinians so much as it is about flattering their Western friends.

Meanwhile, Israel has good reason to celebrate: 70 years of independence, a dynamic economy, an innovative tech industry, a vibrant public square, a globally influential culture, demographics that are the envy of the West, burgeoning alliances with former enemies, and now American recognition of its capital. Leave it to the New York Times to frame the anniversary as a moment of “peril” and a “nightmare taking shape.” The Times dispatch, by David Halbfinger, acknowledges these successes. But it claims that “Israelis seem not to know what to feel” and quotes historian Tom Segev, who says that the “future is very bleak.”

This is a distorted picture of Israeli sentiment. Massive celebrations have been going on for weeks, involving hundreds of thousands of people. It does, however, reveal the psychological anguish in the Times newsroom over the Jewish state’s triumph.

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Article 3

 

Living in the Gaza Strip isn't so bad, despite what Gazan protesters say

 

by Michael Rubin

Washington Examiner, May 14, 2018 


The Gaza port area - contrary to perceptions, life in Gaza is not worse than many other parts of the world on most measures.

Israeli forces reportedly killed 52 Gazan protesters along the border fence amid violent protests. The Palestinian Authority called the killings a “terrible massacre” and the United National Human Rights Council called for the Israelis responsible to face justice. South Africa recalled its ambassador to Israel until the occupation of Gaza ends (seemingly unaware that happened 13 years ago).

Let’s put aside the fact that the same activists condemning Israel for defending itself against Hamas were largely silent when the Syrian government destroyed a Palestinian refugee camp last month. And let’s also ignore that while the world blames Israel for the Gaza siege, Egypt also shares a border with the Gaza Strip and allows far less humanitarian transit.

Eight years ago, against the backdrop of a Turkish-sponsored flotilla to bust Israel’s blockade of Gaza, Washington Post columnist George Will noted the irony that Turkey was sponsoring the Gaza flotilla at a time when Gazans enjoyed higher life expectancy and had better health than Turks. While the situation in Gaza is far from ideal, some perspective is necessary: In terms of health and welfare, the plight of Gazans today is far better than those living in many other countries.

Take, for example, life expectancy at birth. According to the CIA’s World Fact Book, Gazans born today can expect to live 74.2 years. That’s higher than Peru, Iran, Brazil, Jamaica, Ukraine, Russia, India, and more than 90 other countries.

The pattern is more the rule than the exception. Consider infant mortality. In Gaza, it is 16.6 deaths per 1,000 live births. That’s better than Pakistan, Ethiopia, Senegal, India, South Africa, and several dozen other countries.

Youth unemployment in the Gaza Strip is bad, but young Gazans are still more likely to find jobs than young South Africans, Bosnians, or Greeks.

The economy is still a problem. The Gaza Strip leads the world in gross domestic product decline, but then again, its decline is inversely proportional to the money which Hamas spends on rockets and other systems of terror. It can be hard to make ends meet anywhere in the world, but consumer price inflation is less in the Gaza Strip than in Egypt, Argentina, Turkey, Mexico, and the United Kingdom.

Cell phone penetration in Gaza is greater than in much of Africa, and more Gazans use the Internet than Lithuanians. If the Gazan leadership wanted, they could transform their territory into a regional Singapore. That they choose not to is no one’s responsibility but their own.

Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, leaving behind intact infrastructure capable of supporting a number of industries and to employ thousands. Rather than accept Israeli largesse, the Palestinians in Gaza destroyed greenhouses and tens of millions of dollars in other structures. Simultaneously, the international community has donated more to the Palestinians on a per capita basis than to any other people on earth. Palestinians may seek to ascribe current suffering to Israeli actions, but Palestinians have agency and, for more than a decade, have emphasized terror over welfare.

The situation in Gaza is tragic, but it’s important to keep perspective: Life for the average Gazan is far better than for the average South African, Egyptian, or Russian. That may not be the story told by press and self-described human rights activists, but World Bank and U.N. statistics do not lie.

If the international community truly wanted to help Gazans, perhaps the best way would be to hold their own government to account rather than a neighboring democracy which no longer occupies the Gaza Strip and which has allowed sufficient aid and assistance through to give Gazans far better opportunities than many Turks, Russians, and Egyptians enjoy. Let’s hope journalists and diplomats fact-check protesters, because to buy into Hamas propaganda is to endorse the tactics Hamas embraces in the Gaza Strip and to ensure terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip and elsewhere replicate them.

Michael Rubin (@Mrubin1971) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Pentagon official.

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