Western discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is painfully lacking a broader and necessary context. This is especially true of David Axelrod’s Dec. 4 letter to the editor, “Die-ins embolden extremists at Gazans’ expense.” In it, he put forward the preposterous notion that putting the reality of civilian casualties on display somehow puts more at risk. Even without the necessary context, this claim is absurd on its face.
The author’s argument is that graphically displaying the reality of civilian deaths endangers further civilians because it might embolden Hamas to provoke Israel, but the premise of this argument is that Hamas is responsible for Israel’s actions. This premise is utterly false. If one takes this premise to its logical conclusion, any form of sympathy toward Palestinians emboldens Hamas and is thus somehow responsible for whatever disproportionate reaction Israel chooses to make.
Simply put: When Israel steps beyond self-defense and disproportionately targets civilians, only Israel is responsible. This does indeed feed Hamas’ narrative: namely, that Israel is committing war crimes. Acknowledging this reality and sharing it, contrary to the author’s claim, does a public service in that it raises awareness in the hopes that Israel may one day face justice. Thanks to Palestine’s new recognition before the United Nations and the International Code Council, justice before the ICC may become more than just a hope.
Of course, the necessary context here is that Israel is not ultimately acting in self-defense. While 1947-48 is a good starting point for understanding this, one need only look to 2006 in order to dismantle Axelrod’s assumption that Hamas doesn’t negotiate. In spite of U.S. and Israeli attempts to destabilize and overthrow them, Hamas offered a truce with Israel but was only met with attacks that killed 660 Palestinians in that year alone.
Skipping ahead, one can see that the most recent flare-up began when the Israeli Defense Forces crossed the border Nov. 8 and murdered Ahmed Younis Khader Abu Daqqa, a 13-year-old who was playing football when he was killed. While the rationale given was a hidden weapons cache, no evidence of this has been presented. The conflict was further set off by Israel’s targeted killing of Hamas’ negotiator and second-in-command Ahmed al-Jabari. According to Gershon Baskin, the negotiator for Gilad Shalit’s release, Jabari was ready for a long-term cease-fire and had received the draft proposal the day he was killed. To suggest this is simply a case of innocent Israel defending itself from terrorists is at odds with reality. Israel doesn’t fear Hamas. They fear peace with the Palestinians who had the temerity to elect a party Israel doesn’t like.
To paraphrase Noam Chomsky: When you’re occupying someone else’s land, you can’t call it self-defense. The U.N. has declared that it is the right of those under occupation to resist and fight for their independence and their human rights. If your land was being occupied, attacked and denied essential living requirements, would you fight back?