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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: February 25, 2009 @ 10:55 am

    Hamas or IDF: Killing Civilians Is Wrong

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    The Gaza episode is over but the memories remain. Very haunting memories at that. You should read an excellent and very balanced piece from Tom Clonan in today’s Irish Times by clicking here.

    In the interests of balance and impartiality, I am providing a link to Israel’s response here.

    I find what happened in Gaza very difficult to accept. Regular readers of this blog will know that I am very well-disposed to Israel, that I support its right to exist within the 1967 borders and would be completely opposed to terrorist attacks of any kind on the Jewish state.

    I also have some reservations about Amnesty International. But I have to accept the conclusions of this report by the human rights organisation. Quite rightly – and this is highlighted in Clonan’s article – Hamas is condemned for its outrageous rocket attacks on civilians inside the borders of Israel.

    But the Israeli response was totally disproportionate. Clonan writes that the Amnesty report provides “evidence of a systematic and systemic attempt on the part of the general staff of the IDF to terrorise Gaza’s civilian population”. 

     He continues: “The combined arms nature of the protracted Israeli onslaught on an area inhabited by 1.5 million civilians – 48 per cent of whom were children under the age of 15 – on an objective military analysis, appears to provide clear evidence of war crimes on the part of Israel’s general staff.”

    Whether or not these actions constitute war crimes is not something I am qualified to decide. But on a basic human level, how could they do it? I have written before about visiting Gaza, particularly the Jabaliya refugee camp. When you go there you are instantly surrounded by hordes of Palestinian children, friendly, smiling, curious and, like all Palestinians, very welcoming.

    I have children of my own as, I’m sure, do many of those who attacked Gaza and left so many children for dead – quite possibly including some of the children I saw there on my last visit with a photographer colleague who was working with me on news and features for The Irish Times.

    Killing civilians is wrong. Killing children is doubly wrong, no matter what side does it. I have heard the excuses and the rationales but still find myself facing the same question: How could they do it?

    • Sal says:

      You’re right, killing civilians is wrong, but keep in mind Hamas has been, and continues to purposefully target Israelis while the IDF does everything it can to avoid it. The two are not morally equal. You must keep in mind that when you are fighting an enemy you cannot fight them half heartedly. So as Hamas continually rejected peace and continued to fire rockets and there was no alternative, Israel had every right to move in and destroy its enemy. This war was made much more complicated by the fact that Gaza is a very densely populated territory and that Hamas uses civilians as shields.

    • Deaglán says:

      I hear what you’re saying. But I cannot help thinking how would we have felt here in Ireland if, say, the British had bombed West Belfast or the Bogside from the air because these communities were perceived as providing succour and shelter to the IRA. Or even Dublin?

    • Joanna Tuffy T.D. says:

      I too opposed the recent Israel actions in Gaza because of the huge numbers of civilians and children killed, which I was appalled by. It would seem to me that objectively it was probable that the consequences of the actions were that there would be high numbers of civilians and children harmed and killed. I cannot see that an objective has been achieved by the conflict that could justify those deaths and casualties. If there was any wrongdoing perpetrated by the IDF during the conflict they should be held to account. Obviously the same goes for Hamas, but how do you hold to account, through normal legal processes, a terrorist organisation whose position is that Israel be eliminated and Jews be killed?

      There is however a need to try and understand why the overwhelming majority of people in Israel, and political parties of the left, centre and right, supported the action and believed that there was no other choice. There is a need to take into account what the people of Israel have suffered in recent times and in their past, the high numbers of civilian deaths in Israel including up to relatively recently, and the very significant threats to Israel’s security as a state and the safety of its people. I have not seen any article by any Irish newspaper journalist that in any depth looked at the conflict and the issues relevant to the conflict from the point of view of the Israeli people themselves. If there were more consideration of Israel’s predicament I believe there would be a more balanced debate in Ireland. There is a lot of comment in Ireland that is partisan, dismissive of Israeli concerns and that singles out Israel for condemnation in a manner not applied to any other country. A more balanced debate would not preclude condemnation of the recent actions by Israel or any other actions taken by either side in the conflict. But if we really believe a peace process is the way to solve the problem then we need to be as constructive in our engagement with both the Israeli and Palestinian people as possible.

      The other point, and this point was alluded to by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband in a speech in the House of Commons recently, is that Israel in carrying out what they have called a war on terror have by way of example the war on terror that has been waged by the U.S. and Britain. Miliband makes the point in this speech that the term war on terror as a western rallying cry has done more harm than good. The point I would make is that we condemn Israel when it wages its wars but what condemnation in Ireland has there been, for example, of the fact that as part of the U.S. war on terror, that 552 civilians including women and children were killed in Afghanistan in 2008 as a result of air strikes by U.S. and Nato led forces (Irish Times Breaking News report 17 February 2009). Air strikes in that region have continued in recent week under President Obama. There is a lot of hope that Obama will take a different approach to the war on terror by his predecessor but it won’t be a straightforward task for him to do so.


    • Deaglán says:

      I think you will have difficulty finding an Irish journalist or any other Irish person who is not blinded by partisan feeling who will be prepared to justify the killing of so many innocent little children.

    • Joanna Tuffy T.D. says:


      I wasn’t suggesting any journalist would or should be prepared to justify the killing of children. And when I referred to partisan comment I did not mean journalists. Trying to understand the viewpoint of Israelis that led the majority of them to support the recent Israeli Defence Force actions does not mean justifying those actions.

      Just so you are clear on this I was absolutely opposed to the recent Israel actions in Gaza.


    • Deaglán says:

      I accept that there is a need to explore and explain the mindset of the majority of Israeli citizens. But a line has been crossed here. And I worry that we are in the process of being softened-up for something even worse. And that’s not to resile in any way from my condemnation of anti-Israel terrorism.

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