Stephen Hoffman rejects the simplistic notion of Israel as the perennial bad guy
To blame Israel for everything, saying it is the sole reason for the Arab-Israeli conflict, ignores the roles of Palestinian rejectionism making it harder to achieve peace. For instance no one told Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the more moderate Fatah Group to refuse to talk to Israel for the past few years. Nobody told him to refuse to respond to former Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert’s offer in 2009, which offered a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and Jerusalem as its capital. Abbas did this all by himself and in doing so destroyed the chances of the long suffering Palestinian people the chance of a state. Nobody told Hamas who controls the Gaza Strip to allow and actively engage in firing over 8,000 rockets at Israel since 2005. Nobody told them to continue to call for Israel’s destruction and refuse to denounce its own charter, which quotes the old antisemitic forgery the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Nobody tells the Palestinian leaders in Gaza to fund school books that call for the destruction of Israel and contain much antisemitism. This was all done by Palestinian leaders and has helped wreck the peace process and incite terrorism against Israel.
Israel is one of the only stable and mature democracies in the Middle East, with a free press that often criticises the Government and an independent judiciary led by the Supreme Court, which time and again has shown it is not afraid to stand up and rule against the Government. Rather than being a terrorist state, Israel, throughout its existence, has had to frequently defend itself from terrorism. A terrorism, which as the Second Intifada showed indiscriminately targets Israeli civilians in nightclubs, buses, trains, cars, schools and restaurants amongst others. A terrorism, which as Hezbollah and Hamas’s rocket attacks on Israel show aims to cause maximum civilian deaths, whilst putting their own civilians in harms way by firing from civilian areas and using their own civilians as human shields. In doing so committing a double war crime. Consequently, to paint a nation, which itself is besieged by terrorism, as a terrorist
state is deeply wrongheaded.
Hamas and Hezbollah see life as cheap on all sides of the conflict. This is why, sickeningly, Hamas has been found – in both Operation Pillar of Defence in 2012 and Operation Cast Lead in 2009 – to fire from hospitals and even hide weapons caches under hospitals. Even
more disturbingly, in the last conflict in Gaza caused by constant rocket fire into Southern Israel, a rocket fired by Hamas killed a Palestinian child of 6 years old. By contrast Israel has spent money on Iron Dome and rocket shelters to avoid the loss of lives. It is only due to its commitment to the security of its inhabitants that more Israeli civilians have not died in recent years.
Additionally, Israel tries to avoid the loss of Palestinian lives. This is why that the deaths in Gaza were under 200 in Operation Pillar of Defence, as Israel didn’t target civilians or people or personalities as such, except Ahmed Jabari, who was the commander of Hamas’s armed forces. It concentrated on terrorist hotspots. Furthermore, as it does in all conflicts, Israel sent warnings on the phone and in leaflets to Palestinian civilians before it launched attacks, to try and minimise casualties. Unfortunately, due to the way Hamas fights civilian deaths are unavoidable. Therefore, Hamas’s hands are caked in the blood of both Israeli and Palestinian civilians. Moreover, Israel has been allowing many loads of building materials into Gaza, the like of which we have never allowed before, since Operation Pillar of Defence. This is certainly not the actions of a terrorist state, rather one that sees the loss of lives on either side as a tragedy. To say due to its commitment to protect its citizens from terrorism that Israel is a terrorist state is wrong. Israel for instance has never given any money whatsoever to Islamic extremists, but is leading the fight against global terrorism financed by regimes like Saudi
Arabia and Iran.
It’s also important to note that Israel over time has shown it’s not extreme. They signed up to the Oslo Accords led by Yitzhak Rabin, to agree peace with the Palestinian people. They acted on this under both Olmert and Ehud Barak in 2000, when generous offers were made to create a Palestinian state. Israel acted on this, when in 2005, under the premiership of Ariel Sharon it pulled out of Gaza and the Northern West Bank. It showed its commitment to peace, through reaching peace deals with Egypt and Jordan.
Even under Prime Minister Netanyahu, a person who is not to my liking politically, it froze settlement building for 10 months in 2010, in order to try and kick start negotiations with the Palestinians. Indeed, in his Bar Ilan Speech in 2009, Netanyahu committed himself to the two state solution, something he affirmed a few weeks ago, as well as talking to the Palestinian leaders who do not call for Israel’s destructions without preconditions. This is something I support. Is Israel perfect? No. Do I support settlement building in the West Bank? No. Do I think Israel’s leaders could do more for the peace process? Yes. Do I think they are solely to blame for the current failure of the peace process? Certainly not. Finally, to respond to the accusation, do I think Israel’s a terrorist state? For all the reasons I’ve outlined above, If Israel’s a terrorist state then I’m the Queen of Sheba!