So to regain international influence, and to score points against the Palestinian Authority in Palestinian opinion, Hamas has been sponsoring mass demonstrations along the border called the “Great March of Return” since late March.
While for propaganda purposes Hamas says the march involves only “peaceful protest”, Monday’s events involved several shooting attacks on Israeli forces. There were also numerous pipe bombs and improvised explosive devices placed along the Gaza fence, several grenade attacks, kites with incendiary devices that set at least 23 fires inside Israel, and uncounted Molotov cocktail, slingshot and giant catapult attacks on Israel soldiers.
Given all these circumstances, Israeli forces were always going to have to use significant force to prevent breaches of the border fence and protect nearby communities. There were reportedly at least 12 major breakthrough attempts on Monday.
These breakthrough efforts were an attempted invasion. Hamas leaders repeatedly said the goal of the “march” was to eliminate the Gaza border with Israel, allow Palestinians to return to homes inside Israel their ancestors had lost when Israel was created in 1948, and eliminate Israel.
Those who say Israel should have found non-lethal means to counter the invasion attempts – and Israeli forces extensively employed tear gas, rubber bullets, warning shots and other riot-control measures before resorting to live fire – frankly cannot offer any plausible way this could have worked, given that large unarmed masses were interspersed with the armed, and many of the armed were concealing their weapons.
Moreover, it now seems likely most of those killed were Hamas activists or militants. Hamas official Salah Bardawil, in an interview with the Palestinian Baladna news outlet, said: “In the last rounds of confrontations, if 62 people were martyred, 50 of the martyrs were Hamas and 12 from the people.”
So 60 Palestinians are dead, but Hamas attained its goal. It garnered international attention to the Palestinian cause and to itself, put itself at the forefront of Palestinian debate, and got Israel condemned internationally. The dead Palestinians are martyrs to Hamas’ continued destructive rule over Gaza.
Yet some, like Brendan Ciaran Browne in his article in The Age, “World must call out Israel over law breaches”, think we should reward Hamas for its cynical tactics.
He blames the international development sector for encouraging Palestinians to develop “resilience”, rather than “holding Israel accountable for its multiple breaches of international law and its involvement in the destruction of Palestinian society”.
Like many others, Browne fails to seriously consider the role of Hamas. The group is inciting and paying its young women and men to put themselves in the firing line as human shields or commit violent acts on the border. It is preventing its citizens from having such basic services as power and fuel, and is siphoning international aid to build rockets and terror tunnels. It is not only refusing to recognise Israel, but attempting to sabotage any efforts to return to the negotiations.
It is wilful blindness to react to recent events by rewarding this leadership that is making a better life for Palestinian impossible – acting as a rubber stamp for whatever they do and blaming Israel alone for all lack of progress towards real peace, no matter how destructive and counter-productive the policies of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Such a stance does the Palestinian people – who deserve better – no favours.
Dr Tzvi Fleischer is editor of the Australia/Israel Review at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), and has a PhD in International Politics from Monash University.
Morning & Afternoon Newsletter