Most of the American news media, nearly all non-American media, and countless pseudo do-gooder “NGOs” (meaning “Nongovernmental Organizations” which claim to be promoting human rights or humanitarians goals) have depicted Israel’s recent counterterrorist operation in Gaza as a “war crime” and aggression against the innocent Arab civilian population of Gaza. Nothing could be further from the truth. Among the most widely reported and believed of the many lies about the Gaza operation that have been assiduously spread by Hamas’s super-efficient and super-sophisticated propaganda machine, and that that have been disseminated as facts all too willingly by a biased and corrupt news media, are the claims that Israel a) started the war in Gaza and b) used vastly “disproportionate” force, and caused vastly disproportionate casualties, in responding to annoying but relatively harmless attacks by Hamas. These “disproportionate force” accusations are not only fallacies; coming from Hamas and its supporters, they are outright lies. Let us scrutinize these falsehoods in detail and compare them to the truth.
The Lie: Israel began the fighting on November 4, 2008, by violating a truce with Hamas with a raid into Gaza that killed several Palestinians.
The truth: Israel’s Gaza operation was an unavoidable response, in self-defense, to eight years of unrelenting rocket and mortar fire at its civilian population, beginning in 2001, carried on by terrorists in Gaza. 7,766 rockets and mortars struck Israel during those eight long years, about a thousand a year, fired by terrorist aggressors in Gaza-- plus numerous other terrorist attacks on its civilians and soldiers within her pre-1967 frontiers (sniper fire, land mines, suicide bombings, direct “ground assaults,” etc.) launched by the Gaza terrorists.
A “lull” or “calm” of sorts (not a cease-fire) was agreed to by Hamas in June 2008. But the rocket and mortar attacks on Israel’s civilian population never really ended. Between June 19, when the “calm” or “lull” was announced by Hamas, and Nov. 3, 2008, 38 rockets and mortars struck Israel. In addition, Hamas exploited the “calm” to build up its arsenal of rockets, and replace its relatively primitive, homemade “Kassam” rockets with far more accurate and longer range missiles imported from Iran and elsewhere, such as the Katyusha and Grad. The Grad missiles can--and have-- reached the suburbs of Israel’s second largest city, Tel Aviv; and placed over 1,000,000 Israelis within range of Hamas fire. Hamas also greatly expanded its complex of smuggling tunnels from Gaza, expanded its terrorist force into an army of over 20,000 men, many of them trained in Iran, constructed an elaborate system of defensive bunkers—and began work on tunnels leading into pre-1967 Israel for offensive operations.
Israel has had experience with these tunnels before. In 2006, Hamas terrorists tunneled into an Israeli military base in pre-1967 Israel and killed several soldiers before they could be stopped.
It was the discovery of one such offensive tunnel being dug in the immediate vicinity of Israel’s pre-1967 border with Gaza that required Israel to conduct a brief, very limited military operation on Nov. 4 of last year in order to close it. Hamas responded with a huge increase in mortar and rocket attacks on Israel. Between Nov. 4 and December 19, 2008, 324 more rocket and mortar shells struck Israel. Then, on December 19, Hamas openly and publicly ended the “calm,” and ignored pleas from Israel, the United States, the European nations, and even Egypt to renew it. Hamas marked its “official” ending of the “calm” by increasing the daily number of rocket and mortar shelling still more, to an average of nine a day. Finally, Israel had no choice but to act.
The Lie: Israel’s use of force in the Gaza operation was vastly “disproportionate” to Hamas’s provocations.
The truth: during the eight years between Hamas’ launch of its first rockets and mortars into Israel in 2001, and the commencement of “Operation Cast Lead,” aimed at stopping the terror attacks, on December 27, 2008, the Israeli people of the Western Negev endured an almost unimaginable hell of terror.
These eight years of sheer hell for the people of Israel’s northwest Negev region began when Hamas first managed to construct rockets and mortars in 2001. But the terror and misery worsened considerably when Israel unwisely withdrew all of its soldiers from Gaza in August 2005, and at the same time forcibly uprooted 8,000 Israeli civilians whose homes and land were in the Gaza area. The belief of Israel’s government that this unilateral withdrawal would bring “peace” by ending the Gaza Arabs’ main grievance, the so-called Israeli “occupation” of Gaza, proved to be hopelessly naive. The assault on the Israelis continued because ending the Israeli “occupation” of the so-called “occupied” post-1967 Palestinian territories was never the true aim of Hamas; destroying Israel and exterminating its Jewish population, and indeed annihilating all the Jews of the world, is its openly proclaimed (in Arabic) aim.
Between 2001 and 2005, the twenty Jewish settlements in the Gaza region and the Israeli Army stationed there had absorbed most of the rocket and mortar fire. While the Gaza “settlers” had suffered a substantial toll in dead and wounded during the long years in which they were besieged and bombarded, they had endured the constant rocketing and mortaring, sudden stabbings by previously peaceful Arab employees, etc., stoically. For them, resettling the land by Jews was a sacred mission, and they never flinched, however great their suffering and danger.
But once Israel withdrew from Gaza, the Hamas and other terrorists shifted their constant rocket and mortar fire, punctuated from time to time with the other types of terror attacks, to Israeli towns and villages (“settlements”) in pre-1967 Israel. The entire population of Israel’s northwestern Negev region was now exposed to the almost daily rocket and mortar attacks, which steadily increased both in number and in the range of the rockets fired over the next three and a half years.
The population of these communities, composed of ordinary civilians from all walks of life, was very vulnerable to the constant stress and fear caused by the daily bombardment. Thousands of people fled the constant barrage, becoming refugees in their own country, and leaving some of the hardest hit southwestern Israeli communities half-deserted. If any people at all were going to stick it out in the Western Negev region, which comprises over a fourth of the habitable land in pre-1967 Israel, the Israeli government simply had to conduct a military operation to eliminate, or at least reduce, the pressure of daily terror attacks on this vulnerable population.
It is true that “only” eighteen Israeli civilians and two soldiers were killed by the rocket and mortar fire during this period; about 480 Israelis, the overwhelming majority of them civilians, were (physically) wounded—including many who were maimed for life. Many other Israelis, as well as a foreign resident, were killed in pre-1967 Israel over the years by other terrorist methods, such as sniper attacks, suicide bombings, tunnel invasions and direct border-crossings in force by the Gaza-based terrorists. While the death count may seem fairly small, the relatively small number of deaths was not a result of lack of effort by Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committees, the Fatah al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade, and the other Gaza terrorist factions. Rather it was the result of Israel’s extremely efficient early warning system when rockets were approaching (although it gives residents of Israeli towns and villages in the western Negev region only ten to fifteen seconds to find cover!), an extensive system of bomb shelters, and extremely efficient emergency medical care services that saved thousands of lives. But the relatively small number of Israeli deaths does not tell the whole story of the damage done by years of Gaza-based terror--the hundreds of physically injured Israelis, many of them maimed for life, or much less the tens of thousands who have required treatment for hysteria, shock, and post-traumatic stress disorder; the hundreds whose homes have been destroyed or heavily damaged by the rocket attacks, the thousands who have been forced to flee their homes to escape the terror; the thousands whose schools, synagogues and places of employment have been damaged or destroyed; the tens of thousands of school days lost by Israeli school children, the businesses that have failed and the industrial plants that have had to close as a result of the constant bombardment—all these must be added to the toll of losses suffered by Israelis that has made life utterly intolerable for the inhabitants of the Western Negev. The government and armed forces of any country in the world would be forced to address such constant aggression and find a way of halting it, even at a steep cost in additional lives lost. No people in the world can be expected to live with this level of stress, fear and misery.