7 August 2014


The refrain of Israeli politicians and the country’s supporters in the West is familiar: Israelis who live within reach of Hamas rockets live in fear on a daily basis. And Israel has a right to defend itself. The steady stream of images and video footage, showing entire rows of houses in Gaza, and dead and wounded civilians — including children — appears to be drowning Israel’s message out.

According to the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz, approximately 1,700 Palestinians — including 400 children — have been killed. Nine thousand have been wounded. In contrast, virtually all of the Israeli losses are troops. Sixty four have been killed so far.

Supporters of Israel’s latest military action point to Hamas’s Charter — which is certainly anti-Semitic, influenced by Western conspiracy theories, and advocates the destruction of Israel. Troublingly, though, rhetoric not entirely different has been heard, over the last month, from the Israeli side. Moshe Feiglin, the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset and a member of the ruling Likud Party, has reportedly called for the “conquest of the entire Gaza Strip, and annihilation of all fighting forces and their supporters.” On August 1,Feiglin wrote on his Facebook page that Israel, “is our country – our country exclusively, including Gaza.”

Support for the state of Israel appears to be declining, and current hostilities and the devastation in Gaza is undoubtedly largely to blame. Rhetoric, such as that of Feiglin’s can only make matters worse for the state. But the decline in support is likely to be a long-term trend. In the US, while those 30 and over largely condemn the Islamist organization and militia Hamas, among the 18-29-year-old age group, 21 percent blame Hamas and 29 percent Israel for the current crisis.

No less significant, a number of important figures have roundly condemned Israel’s actions. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has called the state’s latest offensive a “moral outrage and a criminal act.” Likewise, Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former US national security adviser has said that, “The world community is almost unanimous in its disapproval of Netanyahu’s massive use of force in Gaza.”

It is true, of course, that prominent supporters of Israel have appeared on US television, and that the mainstream press in the West has, with few exceptions, either supported Israel’s actions or remained neutral. But, the arguments for the latest military campaign begin to look extraordinary weak in the face of so much evidence of destruction in Gaza.

One video currently doing the rounds on pro-Israeli sites — though it is from 2009 — shows a Hamas official relaying how he received a phone call from Israeli security, who told him that they were going to blow up his house. According to his testimony, an alert was sent out via loudspeaker, calling for people to gather on the roof to protect the building, though endangering their own lives. Other footage seems to show Hamas fighters forcing civilians to act as human shields — a charge that has been leveled at Hamas frequently since the outbreak of current hostilities. (Using human shields is illegal under the Geneva Convention.)

Israel is keen to remind the world that, in contrast, it warns civilians to leave their houses when they are about to launch an attack on them or on the area. It is difficult to imagine what it must be like to be told that your home and everything you own will be blown up any moment, but it must certainly be devastating. Destroying civilian homes, and targeting non-combatants, is also, of course, illegal under the Geneva Convention, though Israel says that it is necessary — and therefore legal — because Hamas uses civilian infrastructure to hide weaponry and operatives.

According to Haaretz, though, 10,000 homes have been flattened so far, and, from photographs released, the devastation has transformed whole areas of the 139 square miles that is Gaza. It seems difficult to believe that the majority of these could have been stores for weapons, or bases for fighters.

Israel far outstrips Hamas militarily, as is more than obvious. But, today, wars can be lost in the realm of public opinion. And, with every new report about the destruction of civilian home and lives, and with every new photo of dead Palestinian men, women and children, Israel will find its actions becoming increasingly difficult to explain and, for those outside the state, increasingly difficult to support.

Angel Millar is an independent researcher, a former contributing editor for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, and the editor of People of Shambhala, a webzine of news and culture. His work has been published by the Journal of Indo-European Studies and the Calgary Herald, among others.

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