Column on Israel & Hamas

Israel, Hamas, and I

Tibor R. Machan

When one is bombarded with information about events the history of which
is ancient and so complex that hardly anyone commenting makes sense of
them, it is very tough to judge. That’s how it is with me and the
current upheaval between Israel and Hamas.

The news reports at the beginning said Israel took military action after
hundreds of missiles were being launched at it from Gaza. So to rid the
Gaza strip of the missile launchers, Israel began to target various areas
from which the missiles were being launched, presumably centers where
Hamas had most of its personnel and equipment located. Further reports,
especially on CNN International, observed that Israel’s response to the
initiation of aggression by Hamas was disproportionate to what Hamas did
to Israel. Still, as with most fights, this one had to start with someone
throwing the first punch, as it were, and that seems to have been Hamas
this last time. (Last time Hamas supposedly kidnapped some Israeli
soldiers, another situation that was bizarre from the start.)

The Israelis claim that all they want is for the missile launching to stop
and Hamas spokesmen on CNN say they will only stop of Israel stops its
aggression! But this is confused since Hamas clearly started the
launching of missiles out of the Gaza strip and isn’t even disputing this.
So how could Israel be the aggressor? To aggress is to begin a fight, not
to respond to one being initiated.

As I was watching report after report on CNN, while attending a
conference—and getting no sleep–in Mexico, I noticed that the reporters
of this news network kept repeating the claim, made by Hamas leaders and
others who support Hamas and oppose Israel, that Israel is targeting
innocent civilians. Yet it is nearly impossible to tell who is a civilian
in the Gaza conflict, judging by the footage showing various groups of
young people and adults shooting whatever weapons they have at hand and
throwing rocks in the direction of the border between Israel and the
strip.

Unfortunately the reports fail to include any discussion of how one is to
tell the difference between Hamas civilians and Hamas militia. I have
never seen any footage showing Hamas soldiers, if they exist; Israel,
however, does distinguish between its civilians and its army by way of
their garb.

After about five days of the hostilities CNN’s reporters had some Gaza
government officials on the air and posed some pointed questions about who
is the victim and who the aggressor. It was immediately clear that the
official wanted at all cost to dodge the issue of who had started the
current hostilities. When the CNN reporter asked about Israel officials’
claim about the missiles that had been launched at Israel and to which
Israel was supposedly responding, the spokesman was so obviously evasive
that I couldn’t believe it. Who sent this person to speak for Hamas? He
replied to the CNN reporter by saying “I have always been known as an
opponent of violence.” So what? Why is that an answer to “Israelis say
they are responding to your aggression, so what is your answer to them?”

When one is bombarded with selective, nearly haphazard information about
events around the globe, events that are one’s only source of
understanding who is doing what to whom and how is it all justified, there
is not much one can do but listen very carefully and determine who is
making logical mistakes–who is equivocating, who is being evasive and
vague, who is being clear and answers relevant questions directly, without
obfuscation.

By that criterion I have to say that my provisional assessment of what is
reported from the Middle East leaves me with the impression that Israel is
less responsible for the recent mess than Hamas. That’s as well as I can
do with the immediate information at hand. Maybe more detail, more
history will lead me to alter what I think about the matter but for now I
am pretty sure that Hamas is the bad guy here, while Israel, as so often
in history, is the victim.

As my mother, who lives in Europe and went through the mid-century
disasters there, said to me a while ago, “Why don’t they leave those
people live in peace?” Frankly, I am mystified myself. And it is also
puzzling why so many Western academics seem to get on board with the
anti-Israel stance. No, I don’t call it anti-Semitism because I don’t
know the motivation behind their position. I do know that they nearly
always favor Israel’s enemies and consider America’s official pro-Israel
stance something wrongheaded, based not on considerations of justice but
on the so called influence of the Jewish Lobby.

I don’t care about any lobby. I am only concerned that when fights break
out, those who start them be identified, and that their reasons and
motives be objectively evaluated. That is the only way I personally can
make some bit of sense of these kinds of situations of which I receive
such spotty information unless I become a specialist and for that I would
need to return to school and get a graduate degree in Middle Eastern
studies.

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