Targeting enemy civilians is a war crime. Let’s not entertain any doubt about that. Hamas and other Palestinian militants have targeted Israeli civilians with rockets for years; the fact that these rockets are crude and their aim poor doesn’t mitigate the simple fact: Targeting civilians is a war crime.
Trying to determine who “started” our current state of conflict is not quite so simple, though, unless we accept ideology as fact. For some Jews, the Palestinians started it by refusing to accept our nationalism as ascendant to theirs; for some Palestinians, the Jews started it, in precisely the same way.
If, however, we’re trying to uncover a chain of discrete events leading to the seemingly permanent state of war between Israel and Gaza, the waters are muddy. Did the latest round of rockets come in response to an IDF incursion, or the other way around? Did it start when Israel neutralized a terrorist infiltrator, or was that terrorist a farmer trying to gather crops? Both sides play into the provocation-response cycle, each conveniently forgetting that actions have consequences, often beyond those we first imagined.
Each society brings to this process its own dysfunctions, as well, picking and choosing which events support which narrative, often to paradoxical ends. Israel’s paradoxical storyline goes something like this: We control the West Bank, and Gaza’s borders and airspace, but only because we have no choice, because we’re victims facing annihilation, but/and our military (which we love and are very proud of because it’s the region’s most powerful) can be trusted to pound our enemies (armed with crude rockets and a shattered society, but that goes into the “forgetfulness” file) into submission. Just let the IDF win – t’nu l’Tzahal lenatzeah!
As problematic as any of our cognitive inconsistencies might be (and I can only assume Palestinian society has its own), the biggest discrepancy appears to be all but invisible: The IDF has, actually, been pounding Hamas for some time, and oh hey, look – here we are again.
Let’s go to the tape:
Israel officially withdrew from Gaza nine years ago; the following months saw both rockets and air strikes. On June 24, 2006, Israeli forces entered southern Gaza and kidnaped two suspected Hamas members from their homes. Hamas retaliated the next day with a cross-border raid in which two soldiers were killed, and Gilad Shalit captured.
Israel then launched Operation Summer Rains. Prime Minister Olmert was clear about the operation’s goals: “to release the kidnapped soldier and eliminate terror.”
In the course of hostilities, the IDF seized 64 Hamas-linked Palestinian officials, flattened Gaza’s power plant, razed several bridges, and by October, had killed 256 Palestinians, including 60 children. Two Israeli soldiers were also killed, and 31 civilians injured.
In the winter of 2008/2009, we saw Operation Cast Lead.
To read the rest, please go to Haaretz.