A Palestinian wears an 'Anonymous' mask and holds a Palestinian flag during protests in Gaza.
(photo credit: MOHAMMED SALEM/ REUTERS)
The Palestinians of Gaza are three weeks into a six-week campaign, the #GazaReturnMarch, that is expected to build up to May 15, or Nakba Day, the day Palestinians mark the establishment of the State of Israel, and their dispersal, chosen or forced, throughout the region.
The main motif of the campaign is the right to march to the lands lost 70 years ago, and as one journalist said, the mixture of participants in the events so far include disenchanted, unemployed young men that wouldn’t know what to do if they crossed the fence but also Hamas’ armed wing, Izzadin Kassam terrorists, that want to attack the IDF along the border fence.
The underlying message, missed by most of the media coverage so far, is the wish to trample the border and extinguish hope for a two-state solution. Beyond the immediate security consequences, this is a main reason for concern, exemplified by one image of a Nazi swastika pitched up alongside the Palestinian flag.
There have been many images of the wounded and killed, and of rocks being hurled, as well as some firebombs and shooting.
Every life lost is a tragedy, and while the IDF went to extensive lengths to convey the message of the dangers of storming the fence, the IDF used live ammunition as a last resort, in a controlled manner to limit casualties, and specifically targeting the lower extremities of violent rioters. Hundreds of people storming into the Israeli communities adjacent to the fence would have most definitely been more lethal. Nevertheless, the deaths must be investigated, and lessons will be learned. This past weekend we experienced less violence on the border fence, which explains the reduction in casualties.
The reality in Gaza today is one of despair, a desperation that is a result of the bad decisions Hamas’ leaders have made. This is one reason for people coming to protest. But for almost 11 years now Hamas has ruled Gaza with an iron fist. That iron fist was chosen by the Palestinian people – but they chose the Islamists over the corrupt Fatah. Since 2007’s violent coup by Hamas, there have been wars, rockets, tunnels and death. Too many deaths.
The Palestinian leaders in Gaza must put their people first. Not push them to the front lines. What we’ve seen over the past two weeks has been a sacrifice of the people of Gaza; it was mostly peaceful, but has ended up in a riot on the front lines, with over 20 Palestinians dead. These casualties, some of them known terrorists, were futile.
They drew international condemnation, extensive media coverage, humans rights organizations lobbying and protests in Israel and around the world.
But they all seem to miss the fact that Hamas needs the demonstrations. The protests focus the internal frustration of approximately 50% unemployment, intermittent electricity, deteriorating water conditions and very little hope, toward Israel and away from the bad decisions of Hamas leaders.
The demonstrations fuel and refuel the violence; with every death comes a heated funeral, that leads to more conflict. This reality serves Hamas’ genocidal agenda, as detailed in its charter: “Hamas believes that no part of the land of Palestine shall be compromised or conceded, irrespective of the causes, the circumstances and the pressures and no matter how long the occupation lasts. Hamas rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea.”
The violence taking place at the border fence is Israel’s last line of defense. Israel has no natural fortification like the England’s White Cliffs of Dover, instead Israel has created a system of technology, techniques and operational standards to prevent invasion of hostile elements.
Terrorists today have three options to attack Israel. Underground, via tunnels, through the air with rockets and drones, and on the ground, at the fence, with explosive devices, sniper fire, firebombs and the use of human waves. The people that wish to return are not peaceful marchers, they are hostile provocateurs that want Israel to cease to exist. They must be stopped.
While the IDF is doing everything possible to minimize civilian casualties, as it must, in light of the number of fatalities it must do more. However, Israel has an obligation to protect the people living in the immediate vicinity of the border fence. In some locations, like Nahal Oz, it’s a matter of stone’s throw from the fence into homes and schools. Hamas must be held accountable for the poor decisions it has made for its people – Israel can not be expected not to protect its people because Hamas is using its own to violate, attack and storm it.The author, a retired IDF lieutenant colonel, is a strategy and crisis communications consultant. He served for 25 years in the IDF as a spokesperson and a liaison officer to international organizations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.