The latest human tragedy on the Gaza-Israel border – which threatens to spread to the West Bank – has not surprised anyone who is familiar with the occurrences in this area and its rulers.
The violence was planned in detail and choreographed by Hamas. Its leaders did not conceal their intentions to devise a scenario that would generate a high number of civilian casualties on the Palestinian side in order to rescue them from the political and economic dead-end of their movement, which took over the Gaza Strip by brutal force and extreme violence addressed toward their Palestinian rivals over a decade ago.
Yahya Sinwar, the current leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, admitted that the movement’s leadership had failed to govern and enable Gazans to conduct a normal and proper life.
However, he refrained from sharing with the world the fact that he and his colleagues in the Hamas leadership, who enjoy a comfortable life, prefer to turn Gaza into a military fortress while criminally neglecting civil society. Hamas has avoided investing the great resources funneled there to reconstruct the ruins resulting from the military adventure against Israel in 2014.
In the vastly overpopulated Gaza Strip, a high number of casualties is almost always guaranteed in any military conflict that involves citizens. This happened again this time when more than 30,000 civilians were charging the Israeli border fences under the guidance of the Hamas leadership – which was hiding behind them.
There is no doubt that the number of dead and wounded along the Gaza border is a human tragedy. Israel should not ignore this. But it is also clear that these were victims who were deliberately sacrificed by their leaders who sought to lubricate their propaganda machine to discredit Israel.
This is a deliberate strategy conducted by “armies of terrorilla,” which are protected by civilians serving as human shields. It is a preplanned strategy employed by movements like Hamas and Hezbollah in order to stain and disgrace in the eyes of the world the images of democracies that fight them. The images of dead civilians help them disguise their true nature and portray them as defenders of the victims while they use them as pawns.
Israel has the right and, indeed, the moral obligation to prevent infiltration into its territory and protect its towns and population, especially those just a few hundred meters from the border. There is nothing more legitimate and legal that Israel can do than to protect the people living in its sovereign territory – territory recognized in UN resolutions – from attacks by inflamed mobs that would have rushed to Israeli towns as a murderous, uncontrolled herd causing many more casualties if not stopped by Israeli security forces.
The preaching and shock in the international media are accompanied by horrifying images framed under misleading headlines. Such images create a partial reality, ignoring the reality outside the focused frame as well as the wider context.
They do not express the danger inherent in mass demonstrations by civilians, including men, women and young boys and girls, and lead to misunderstandings about the actual danger to human life inherent in “cold” weapons. Behind them are well armed squads with a clear intention to exploit the chaos to shoot, plant bombs or kidnap Israeli soldiers and civilians.
The creation or even reflection of a narrowly presented and framed reality undermines the image of Israel – as precisely planned by Hamas. This is a repetition of the objectives of the Mavi Marmara
flotilla in many ways. It is quite clear that there will soon be a demand for the establishment of an international commission of inquiry into so-called Israeli war crimes.
Yet those in European institutions who criticize Israel almost automatically should examine how their donations to rehabilitate the Gaza Strip have been used to finance and promote the current horror theater on Israel’s southern border instead of being set aside for civilian purposes.
For its part, Israel is required by its high standards to self-examine whether and how it could have acted differently. Could the use of non-lethal means have stopped this preplanned attack? On the face of it, it appears that Israel has no adequate means of stopping a large, incited mob storming its fences and that the use of live ammunition in certain situations is inevitable. However, after succeeding in a relatively short period of time to deal effectively with the Hamas terror-tunnel challenge – which seemed insoluble – it can invest in an effort to develop new operational technologies to confront what we have witnessed in Gaza.
Most probably, Israel will have to deal in the near future with the results of the Hamas move, which might be intended as a launching pad for another military confrontation in the South. In the West Bank, too, one way or another it will have to meet the challenge that comes with the expected departure of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The danger to the stability of the PA lies in the transitional period. There are Palestinian players in the West Bank – first and foremost Hamas - who are waiting for this opportunity to create chaos and then take over the entire Palestinian people.Yoram Schweitzer is an expert on international terrorism and head of the INSS Program on Terrorism and Low Intensity Conflict.