By Karen Walker and Wayne Tuck
Thursday evening we went to the Fireweed Community Market rather late and noticed a number of chalk slogans on the pavement at the entrance to the market area. They said things like “Free Palestine” and “Stop killing children.” Clearly, we had missed a protest about the conflict in Gaza.
With close friends in Israel, and having visited the country twice in recent years, we take more than a passing interest in the conflict. Like every thinking person, we abhor war and violence, and we fervently wish that the conflict in Gaza were not happening. But it is happening, and we have watched for more than a month as the world, for the most part, has spoken out only to condemn Israel, with just the odd occasional reference to the nature and tactics of the enemy it is fighting and its culpability in the conflict.
We’re sure that those who demonstrated at the market today know that since taking power in Gaza in 2007, Hamas – recognized even in the Arab world as a terrorist jihadist organization – has been steadily building tunnels and launching rockets into Israel for the sole purpose of killing civilians. For the last seven years, Hamas has launched a barrage of rockets at communities, homes, schools, hospitals, businesses, and places of worship of all faiths.
At times, this barrage has been an almost daily occurrence, with little or no media reporting of it outside Israel. Although thankfully there have been few serious injuries and deaths as a direct result of these rockets, many Israeli children have been deeply traumatized by these constant attacks.
Protesters here and elsewhere have surely asked themselves where the money for those tunnels and rockets and rocket launchers has come from. We ask them to imagine what the lives of Gazans would be like if the millions of dollars used to arm Hamas had been used for constructive rather than destructive purposes.
What if, instead of focusing its efforts and resources on its primary goal of annihilating the state of Israel (a goal that is clearly stated in its charter), Hamas had worked to help Gazans live more productive and prosperous lives? Would there be a blockade of Gaza if its government were building schools, hospitals, businesses, and homes, rather than tunnels and rocket launch sites?
The protesters must know that Hamas is not interested in a “two-state” solution; it wants Israel off the map and the Jews of the world exterminated. In its schools and television broadcasts, Hamas teaches and fosters hatred of Israel and of all Jews. Generations of children are being raised with these beliefs deeply ingrained in them.
Jew hatred and anti-Semitic violence, conflated with the Gaza conflict, are on the rise everywhere, including right here in Canada. Hamas and its fellow jihadists all over the world are not only anti-Israel and anti-Jew, by the way; they are anti-West, anti-Christian, anti-female, and anti-gay. Their hatred and violence won’t stop with Israel and the Jewish people.
Sadly and tragically, the people of Gaza are bound by Hamas’s evil manifesto, whether they agree with it or not. Hamas rules with an iron fist and tolerates absolutely no dissent. Today’s protesters might recall the public executions of dozens of Fatah members and supporters immediately after Hamas assumed power in Gaza in 2007. During the present conflict, Hamas has publicly executed people accused of collaborating with Israel. These executions and numerous threats, backed up by armed might and masked faces, stand as a constant warning to anyone inside Gaza who would dare disagree or refuse to do what they are ordered to do.
The world knows that Hamas fires rockets at civilian targets in Israel from residential areas, schools, mosques, and hospitals inside Gaza. People know that Hamas stores missiles in UN schools (The United Nations Relief and Works Agency itself has reported on this) and launches rockets from close by. Many of these launches have been reported on by journalists who have witnessed them with their own eyes but dared not film them or report on them until they left Gaza. When he was safely out of Hamas territory, a Spanish reporter filed a report just two days ago about rockets being launched from a hotel where he and other journalists were ensconced. He asked, “What was their intent? To provoke Israel to kill us?” Imagine the world’s outrage, and Hamas’s delight, if Israel had returned fire and killed foreign reporters.
It boggles our minds that so many people can so easily ignore these facts. Of course, they say that they are supporting the people of Gaza, not its terrorist government. So do we. Israel’s fight is with the jihadists who are running Gaza, not with the people of Gaza.
Civilian injuries and deaths are a horrible and inevitable consequence of every armed conflict that has ever been or will ever be. But Hamas has taken this tragic reality to a whole new level: Israel is fighting an enemy that uses its own civilians, and especially children and women, as shields and decoys – a reprehensible and cowardly military stratagem that often results in the deaths of those children and women. The world knows about this, but for reasons we cannot fathom, people are willing to overlook it.
Every dead child in Gaza, graphically reported on by the media, is an unspeakable tragedy for a family, but it is a public relations victory for Hamas. The Hamas leadership rubs its hands in glee every time the world hears about more civilian deaths and condemns Israel for them.
Some reports have suggested that many civilian deaths in Gaza have in fact resulted from Hamas’s own actions, but we don’t read or hear about this in the mainstream media. People might also ask themselves why we don’t see photographs or film footage of Hamas militants, but rather only images of civilians. Reporters who have left Gaza have stated that they believed they would have been shot if they had pointed a camera at a Hamas militant.
We would ask the protesters to imagine how different the situation would be if Hamas’s rockets had succeeded in killing the thousands of Israeli families at which they have been launched over the past several years. Would Israel still be the big, bad bully in the Middle East if we were talking about dead Israelis rather than Gazans? Would there have been protests in Whitehorse to show solidarity with Israel?
Finally, we would remind the protesters that right next door in Syria, Bashar al-Assad has bombed, gassed, tortured, and slaughtered 170,000 of his own people – including more than 11,000 children – over the past three years. Where and when was the protest in Whitehorse about that? Where are the protests about the Christian, Yazidi, and other minorities being beheaded, raped, and enslaved by jihadist ISIS militants right now in northern Iraq?
It is the world’s great shame that our response to Arab-on-Arab violence is to wring our hands or to ignore it altogether. But when Israel is involved, the gloves come off.
Karen Walker and Wayne Tuck live in Whitehorse.