In the storm of media coverage that has cropped up in the wake of Israel’s targeted killing of Hamas military commander Ahmed al-Jabari on Wednesday, the focus has understandably been on the devastating human costs of the ensuing hostilities. Footage readily accessible on Youtube provides a window into a devastating tableau that recalls the early days of Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s 2008 offensive in Gaza.
Once again, we see that all too often we do not pay attention to volatile diplomatic situations abroad until they erupt into violence. Ever since the tenuous ceasefire between Hamas and Israel in 2009, the mainstream media has largely focused on the dramatic events of the Arab Spring – most recently, the bloody Syrian Civil War – and Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The situation in Gaza and southern Israel, which has been deteriorating for months, was barely discussed. It is therefore understandable that for many Americans, the renewed hostilities between the Israelis and the Palestinians may come as a shock.
Israeli and Palestinian partisans all over the world have already resorted to the knee-jerk recriminations and finger-pointing that has, unfortunately, become the norm. However, we at Flatiron Hot! believe it is important to approach such a delicate issue with a sense of proportion and context. So before you take to the streets in protest, here are some important points worthy of consideration.
1. Israel’s attack was not unprovoked
For roughly the past two months, southern Israel has been subject to constant bombardment by Hamas missiles. Despite a lack of casualties, life in towns such as Sderot had been brought to a virtual standstill, with Israelis living in a state of constant fear. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli military officials issued multiple warnings that a refusal to halt the missile attacks would result in massive retaliation. Hamas officials ignored these warnings, putting the lives of their people at risk and inviting what is likely to be massive civilian casualties in the coming days.
2. The timing of Israel’s offensive was likely motivated in part by domestic politics
Whether or not Israel’s latest offensive is morally justified, it is likely that its timing is in part motivated by domestic politics. As many media outlets, including The New York Times, have pointed out, Israeli parliamentary elections are to be held in a few short months. While in a strong position to win re-election, Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu faces pressure from all across the political spectrum on a number of delicate issues.
His intransigence on the matter of settlement construction on the West Bank – an unfortunate result of his alliance with extremist religious factions – and his less-than-civil relationship with President Barack Obama has outraged many Israelis, especially on the Left. Meanwhile, right-wing factions, who together make up a vital part of Netanyahu’s coalition, are pushing for strikes on Iran’s subterranean nuclear facilities. Defense Minister Ehud Barak is particularly vocal in his support of this risky course of action.
While it is impossible to peer into the Israeli Prime Minister’s head, the timing of the Gaza offensive reeks of political calculation. In renewing hostilities with the Palestinians, an enemy that – at least for the time being – poses no existential threat, could very well be a convenient way to draw international and domestic attention away from the aforementioned political landmines.
3. Ahmed al-Jabari was a terrorist, not a political leader
Ahmed al-Jabari, in line with the official position of the Hamas government, did not recognize Israel’s right to exist, vowing to drive the Zionist occupiers into the sea. However, for all his talk of repelling the Zionist entity, al-Jabari had arguably killed more Palestinians than Israelis, deliberately placing them in harms way and using them as human shields. Furthermore, he did done much to damage the reputation of Palestinians.
You may recall the horrific sight of Fatah officials being hurled to their deaths from buildings for having the audacity to oppose Hamas in the first – and, to date, only – democratic election in Palestinian history. That was al-Jabari’s work. If there were any doubts among Israelis and Americans that the Palestinians were unready for democracy, as U.S. President George W. Bush naively insisted, this display of barbarism put them to rest.
In the years following Hamas’s takeover of the Gaza Strip, al-Jabari deliberately set up missile-launching sites and weapons stockpiles in densely-populated civilian areas, including schools. The use of such inhumane strategies is part of a larger PR campaign to demonize the IDF and Israel’s political leadership, caught in the impossible situation of having to defend itself at the expense of its international reputation.
Al-Jabari’s efforts may have damaged Israel’s reputation, but the Palestinian people are still no closer to establishing their own state and are certainly in no position to obliterate the “Zionist Entity.” If anything, they are further from their goals than when Hamas took power, with Israel not particularly keen on negotiating beneath a hail of rockets and America’s attention turned to other matters.
It should go without saying that al-Jabari was no freedom fighter, but a terrorist who murdered his own people to advance a radical and unachievable agenda. Palestinians, of all people, should celebrate his demise. Tragically, if the past is any indication, they will instead label him as a martyr and use his assassination as an excuse to continue a cycle of violence with Israel.