Hamas is a cruel and cynical enemy, but as an IDF veteran, I ask if Israel has lost respect for human life.
It has been almost four weeks since the military operation “Protective Edge” commenced in Gaza, and the region yearns for quiet. Three civilians were killed at the hands of Hamas Militants and the rockets they fire at Israeli population centers, in the time these sentences were written.
Sixty-one soldiers and officers were killed throughout the duration of the operation thus far. As our hearts fill with pain and concern for the deaths of these young people, the lives of civilians in Southern Israel have been disturbed for three weeks now by sirens warning against rockets approaching from Gaza. Many civilians living near the Gaza Strip have left their homes and are moving between the houses of friends and family until this fury blows over.
Who fires rockets at a civilian population in Israel? The answer is clear. The governing force in the Gaza Strip today is Hamas. It is their will for Israeli civilians to live under the terror of rockets, and it will take their resolve to diminish this very threat. Hamas presents their struggle as one for the liberation of the Palestinian people, though they effectively eliminate Israeli civilians’ right to lead liberated lives.
The relatively low number of civilian casualties in Israel is not a result of this tenderhearted terrorist organization, but rather of the low quality of their rockets and Israel’s advanced defense capabilities. As a Jew and a Zionist living in Israel, I know that Hamas threatens me, my family, my friends and the values to which I am committed.
These things are clear and correct. Yet as a veteran of the IDF and an Israeli citizen, I don’t bear responsibility for Hamas’ actions, but rather for those of the Israeli society of which I am a part. So let’s focus on Israel, my country and my home.
Imagine a big family gathering in a home during days of war. Fear fills the air but it’s easier when everyone’s together.
Suddenly a bomb hits the home – and the family is erased. On July 20th, twenty-five members of the Abu Jamei family, from the town of Bani-Suheila in Gaza, lost their lives to a bomb dropped by the Israeli Air Force. Why was the Abu Jamei home bombed? Why have other families lost their lives in recent weeks in similar bombings? Among them eight members of the Kawara family, six of whom were children; six members of the Hamad family who were killed in their sleep and eight members of the Al Haj family.
The IDF explains that Hamas members, or members of another organization that the IDF wished to harm, were in these homes – and at least in some cases a warning was given to the family in the form of a telephone call, or the dropping of a smaller bomb on the house.
Hamas is a cruel and cynical enemy. But what have we become? Is it not a cynical act to bomb Hamas members’ family homes that don’t constitute a “ticking bomb” threat – that is to say, don’t pose an immediate threat to soldiers or civilians – with the knowledge that there are innocent family members who will be harmed inside? Does the fact that a family didn’t heed our telephone request to leave a building grant us the right to sentence them to death? When we choose to do so, are we not functioning as executioners who have lost respect for human life? When we choose to act this way, can we really continue to boast the claim that we do everything in our power to avoid civilian casualties? The answer to the last question, to my dismay, is no.
I wrote that Hamas controls Gaza, but Hamas isn’t alone. Israel also continues to control Gaza. Israel controls the daily entry and exit of goods from the Gaza Strip; prevents access to Gaza from the air and the sea, limiting the fishing area for Palestinians; Israel even controls the population registry in the region. According to the UN, approximately 1,800 people were killed in the Gaza Strip these past few weeks, around 250 of whom were minors. Most of the dead did not take part in hostilities against Israel. Can we as Israelis earnestly shrug off our responsibility to the residents of the Gaza Strip?
I believe that we cannot shake off this responsibility.
As an Israeli citizen who loves his home, I hope that many other citizens will join me in calling on Israel to stop this practice of bombing homes with their inhabitants inside – an act that causes unreasonable harm to Gazan civilians. We must stop sending our friends and our soldiers on operations that will definitively harm civilians. We must end Israel’s protracted control over the Gaza Strip.
The writer served as an infantry combat soldier and commander in the IDF, and is a founding member of Breaking the Silence, an Israeli NGO of veteran combatants who through published testimony, lectures, meetings and tours attempt to give the Israeli public a fuller picture of everyday life in the Occupied Territories since the start of the Second Intifada.
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