News David Quinn

Thursday 18 September 2014

Israel has the right to defend itself against brutal foes that are hell-bent on destruction

Published 25/07/2014 | 02:30

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A Palestinian runs in an area damaged in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, July 24, 2014. Israeli tanks and warplanes bombarded the Gaza Strip on Thursday, as Hamas militants stuck to their demand for the lifting of an Israeli and Egyptian blockade in the face of U.S. efforts to reach a cease-fire. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
A Palestinian runs in an area damaged in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City in the Gaza Strip. AP
A Palestinian baby boy is carried after being evacuated from a U.N-run school sheltering Palestinian refugees, which witnesses said was hit by Israeli shelling, at a hospital in the northern Gaza Strip July 24, 2014. At least 15 people were killed and many wounded on Thursday when Israeli forces shelled a U.N.-run school sheltering Palestinian refugees in northern Gaza, said a spokesman for the Gaza health ministry, Ashraf al-Qidra. Chris Gunness, spokesman for the main U.N. agency in Gaza UNRWA, confirmed the strike and criticised Israel. The Israel army had no immediate comment on the reports. Hamas fired rockets at Tel Aviv and said its gunmen carried out a lethal ambush on Israeli soldiers in north Gaza. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
A Palestinian baby boy is carried after being evacuated from a UN-run school sheltering Palestinian refugees, which witnesses said was hit by Israeli shelling, at a hospital in the northern Gaza Strip. Reuters
A smoke trail is seen as a rocket is launched from the northern Gaza Strip towards Israel July 24, 2014. Gazan authorities said Israeli forces shelled a shelter at a U.N.-run school on Thursday, killing at least 15 people as the Palestinian death toll in the conflict climbed over 750 and attempts at a truce remained elusive. The Israeli military said its troops were fighting gunmen from Hamas, which runs Gaza, in the area and that it was investigating the incident. A spokesman for the U.N. relief agency said it had tried in vain to arrange an evacuation of civilians from the school with the Israeli army, and noted reports of Hamas rockets falling in the area at the same time. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
A smoke trail is seen as a rocket is launched from the northern Gaza Strip towards Israel. Reuters

Almost unnoticed by the world's media this week, the Christians of Mosul in Iraq have been fleeing their ancient, ancestral home under threat of violence from ISIS, the ultra-radical Islamist group that has conquered much of Syria and northern Iraq.

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Christians have been living in Iraq since before Islam even existed. They have been living in Iraq since the very early centuries of Christianity.

ISIS burnt down one church in Mosul that has existed for 1,800 years.

Monks were forced to flee a monastery where monks have been for 1,600 years.

ISIS have marked Christian homes and establishments with the Arabic version of the letter 'N', standing for 'Nasrani' or 'Nazarene' meaning Christian.

ISIS represents quite possibly the most extreme version of Islamism that has so far appeared on the planet.

The fact that Christians have survived under Islam for so long in Iraq and now being 'cleansed' from the areas under ISIS control shows that.

Hamas is only a slightly watered down version of ISIS.

It is also an ultra-radical Islamist group, totalitarian in its aims and tactics with an exterminationist agenda towards Israel.

People may say that Israel itself has created this sort of extremism.

But ultra-violent Islamism exists in countries that Israel has nothing at all to do with and only at a great stretch can the existence of Israel, or Israeli policies be said to influence feelings in those countries.

Pakistan and Afghanistan come to mind.

The so-called 'Arab Spring' has shown that when a military dictatorship falls it is usually followed by something much worse. That would be happening with or without Israel.

It is happening because of the internal tensions and divisions that exist in many of these countries.

They bring to mind the former Yugoslavia.

When it fell apart, all the ancient animosities that Tito, the first and longest-lasting ruler of Yugoslavia, suppressed, often brutally, bubbled to the surface again unleashing huge intercommunal violence.

Israel is in the middle of all this trying to find some way of peacefully co-existing with its neighbours while dealing with its own and many internal tensions, especially those that exist between those Israelis who are willing to offer a fair deal to the Palestinians, and ultra-Zionists who dream of more and more settlements on the West Bank and a Greater Israel.

But the cause of the 'peace party' in Israel has been hugely undermined by what has happened every time land has been ceded for peace.

When the West Bank was granted autonomy the suicide bombers began to flow into Israel and only the so-called security wall has stopped them, something that has caused problems of its own.

When Israel pulled out of the buffer zone in southern Lebanon it simply brought Hezbollah closer to its borders, making the situation of Israelis living in northern Israel more vulnerable than ever.

When Israel pulled out of the Gaza strip completely in 2005 and forcibly dismantled all Jewish settlements in the area, Hamas quickly seized power and since then have fired thousands of rockets into Israel.

This simply encourages Israel's 'security party' and weakens the 'peace party'.

If the outcome of ceding land for peace isn't peace, but more dead Israelis, then it is no wonder Benjamin Nethanyahu is currently in power in Israel.

But, say Israel's critics, if only the country would offer a comprehensive and just settlement to the Palestinians, then Israel would at last be safe.

The rise of Hamas and Hezbollah does not encourage such thoughts.

If the result of Israel ceding land for peace to date had been fewer dead Israelis and a lower security threat, then Israel's 'peace party' would be enormously strengthened and a full and just settlement that much closer.

But instead Israel finds itself faced with foes bent on its utter destruction and sees ultra-militancy on the rise in a huge swathe of the Muslim world.

The current campaign against Hamas is clearly aimed at increasing Israeli security.

Most of the debate about the campaign so far has centred on whether the Israeli response to the Hamas rocket attacks and the attempt to smuggle Hamas fighters into Israel via underground tunnels is proportionate.

Proportionate does not mean one dead Palestinian for every dead Israeli.

If Israel could destroy the rockets and the tunnels without killing any Palestinians then even one dead Palestinian would be too many.

What 'proportionate' really means is doing enough to destroy the rockets and the tunnels but no more.

It is absolutely clear that Hamas is happy to locate its rockets in built-up areas and therefore is absolutely happy to expose the citizens of the Gaza strip to mortal danger.

I simply don't know whether the rockets and tunnels can be destroyed by Israel while causing significantly fewer civilian casualties than at present.

However, it is certain that Hamas could reduce civilian casualties by placing the rockets further from the most built-up areas.

But they won't do that because Hamas is happy to see both Palestinians and Israelis die in order to achieve its aims.

The proportionality test, wrongly applied, effectively strips Israel of the right to self-defence by condemning almost any effective measure Israel might take to defend itself as 'disproportionate' or a 'war crime'.

If you take away a country's right to self-defence you basically take away its right to exist also.

Israel's dilemma is that when it cedes land for peace the result is more violence.

When it defends itself, the result is also more violence and more international condemnation and isolation.

This is why I ultimately fear for Israel's long-term survival.

David Quinn

Irish Independent

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