Israeli offensive in Gaza
Madam, – There has been widespread international condemnation of Israel’s bombardment and subsequent invasion of Gaza, which has been defined by international lawyers as a violation of the 4th Geneva Convention. No civilians, Israelis or Palestinian, should be subjected to attack, whether from rockets from Gaza or bombs and bullets from Israel. However, while every government has both the right and responsibility to defend its civilian population, we believe that Israel’s violent actions are disproportionate and constitute collective punishment of a civilian population.
We also note that Israeli spokespersons themselves have admitted that prior to Israels killing of six Hamas members in the Nov 4th attack on Gaza, Hamas appears to have abided by its ceasefire agreement with Israel, firing no rockets and trying to prevent other groups from doing so. This begs the question: what is the real reason behind the onslaught?
In addition, we note that during its recent offensive Israel expressly targeted educational institutions, including the Islamic University, the Ministry of Education, the American International School, and three UN schools which were destroyed with massive loss of civilian life. During the illegal sealing off of the Gaza Strip that preceded the current aggression, Israel had prevented numerous Palestinian students from leaving Gaza to avail of Fulbright scholarships to the USA.
We believe that it is time to renew the call made by Irish-based academics in September 2006 for a moratorium on the funding of Israeli academic institutions by national and European cultural and research institutions, and an end to the EU’s practice of treating Israel as a European state for the purposes of awarding grants and contracts. Such a moratorium should continue until Israel ends its repressive policies against Gaza, and abides by UN resolutions (which include the ending of the occupation of all Palestinian territories).
We believe that opposition to such a move based on the principle of academic freedom has lost the last semblance of validity in view of the above-mentioned violations of the right to education enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (art. 26), the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (art. 28) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (art. 14). – Yours, etc,
Madam, – Tony Kinsella argues (January 19th) that Israel’s use of military force, deployed in the past to counter existential threats from enemy states, is not an appropriate measure against groups like Hamas that are “incapable of threatening the actual existence of Israel”. It seems that, for him, threats to that existence are largely imaginary and Israel’s self-defensive action in Gaza is an expression of a dangerous “enemy addiction”.
However, his thesis fails to take account of two realities: the historical context for the Islamist tactic of rocket attacks on Israel and the current geopolitical context of the Iranian strategy to “wipe Israel from the map”.
The radical Arab anti-Israel forces have had to accept that conventional military struggle against Israel has failed.
Israel’s defensive wars of the 1960s and 1970s, and the resulting peace treaties, removed Egypt and Jordan from the arena of confrontation. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the destruction of Saddam Hussein’s military power were further blows to those who sought to eliminate Israel by military means.
While Israel engaged in a peace process, its existential enemies resorted to other methods. Between 1994 and 2004, Hamas and other terrorist organisations killed hundreds of Israelis using suicide bombings of cafes, hotels and shopping malls, thereby derailing the Oslo peace process. When the building of the security fence put an end to these attacks, the radicals had another rethink, this time turning to rockets and mortars.
Mr Kinsella would like to minimise the threat from these by calling them “copies of primitive second World War Soviet rockets”. And, of course, it is true that, by themselves, while they make life intolerable for Israel’s citizens, they pose no threat to its existence.
However, Hamas has extended the quality and range of its rockets. Before the recent ceasefire, it could only occasionally hit targets further into Israel than Sderot, a distance of 6km. Since it ended the ceasefire, and thanks to its own assiduous smuggling of Iranian-supplied Grad rockets, Hamas has been able to hit population centres progressively further from Gaza, most recently Be’ersheva, 40km. away.
If Israel had not taken action, Hamas rockets would before long have reached Tel Aviv, placing millions of Israeli citizens within range.
While this terrorist strategy has unfolded, Iran has been hard at work building a nuclear weapon, even as its president has reiterated Ayatollah Khomeini’s goal of eliminating Israel. It is not difficult to imagine the consequences for Israelis if Iran were to orchestrate a combination of nuclear blackmail with simultaneous rocket barrages from Hamas and its other proxy to the north, Hizbullah, now estimated to possess 10,000 long-range rockets capable of reaching as far south as Tel Aviv.
With large parts of the north and south under attack, life in most of the country would become unsustainable, and Israel’s enemies would be well on the way to achieving their goal. Alongside that is the threat posed by Hamas, as a tool of Iran, to the Palestinian Authority and to the stability of other countries in the region and their efforts for peace.
That is why Israel decided, after eight years of restraint, to assert that it cannot tolerate rocket attacks on its citizens and to respond strongly to Hamas’s abandonment of the ceasefire and resumption of terrorism.
The people of Israel desire nothing more than to live in peace with their neighbours. So far from Israelis looking around for a “replacement enemy”, as Mr Kinsella would have it, it is Israel’s enemies who are constantly looking for a “replacement strategy” for those that have already failed to destroy it. – Yours, etc,