Children in Israel today, as rockets hit nearby
* Slate magazine: “Israel, unlike Hamas, isn’t trying to kill civilians. It’s taking pains to spare them.”
* Slate: “According to many critics, Israel is slaughtering civilians in Gaza. It’s ‘purposefully wiping out entire families,’ says an Arab member of Israel’s parliament. ‘It’s committing ‘genocide – the murder of entire families,’ says Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority. The charges are false. By the standards of war, Israel’s efforts to spare civilians have been exemplary. Israel didn’t choose this fight. Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the terrorist organizations that dominate Gaza, did.”
* The New Republic: “The glaring factual flaws in the New York Times editorial, ‘Four Horrific Killings,’ are astounding.”
* Jewish groups call on U.S. and EU leaders to condemn Palestinian President Abbas’s remarks comparing Gaza to Auschwitz
* Al-Aqsa TV reports: Hamas spokesman encourages Gazans to serve as human shields: “It’s been proven effective”
* Associated Press: Egyptians watching World Cup Games at Cairo cafes on Israeli TV say, in relation to the future World Cup: “I hate Qatar more than Israel. I don’t think Israel is harming us as much as Qatar.”
You can see these and other items that are not in these dispatches if you “like” this page: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia.
* There are other dispatches this week on the ongoing Hamas-Israel conflict which can be read here.
1. What Israeli schoolchildren sing to deal with rocket attacks
2. Wave of pro-Nazi tweets in response to Germany’s world cup victory over Brazil
3. Jewish teenage girl pepper sprayed in Paris
4. Calls on U.S. and EU to condemn Abbas remarks comparing Gaza to Auschwitz
5. UN Report: Most Gazan civilians injured chose to ignore Israeli warnings
6. Al-Aqsa TV: Hamas spokesman encourages Gazans to serve as human shields: “It’s been proven effective”
7. Ugly cartoons in The Guardian and The Independent
8. Can you imagine Obama speaking like this about Israel?
9. “The New York Times’ editorial on Israel was a sloppy hack job” (The New Republic, July 9, 2014)
10. “Israel, unlike Hamas, isn’t trying to kill civilians” (Slate, July 9, 2014)
11. “World Cup entangled with Mideast conflicts” (Associated Press, July 9, 2014)
12. “Israel has a new weapon against Hamas: International Indifference” (The Atlantic, July 9, 2014)
[All notes below by Tom Gross]
WHAT ISRAELI SCHOOLCHILDREN SING TO DEAL WITH ROCKET ATTACKS
The song below was composed by a teacher of art therapy in southern Israel to help schoolchildren deal with the fear and trauma of having just 15 seconds to run for their lives when the Color Red siren goes off.
In recent months, it has since been taught to thousands of schoolchildren within firing range of Gaza’s rockets.
It is certainly different to the songs and poems that Palestinian children are taught to sing calling for the murder of Jews and Israelis. (See previous dispatches on this list for examples of such songs.)
It is, of course, tragic that children at such a young age have to learn such a song, but there is a beauty about it nonetheless.
WAVE OF PRO-NAZI TWEETS IN RESPONSE TO GERMANY’S WORLD CUP VICTORY OVER BRAZIL
According to news reports, in the 24 hours following Germany’s 7-1 victory over Brazil in the World Cup semi-finals on Tuesday, over 95,000 tweets included the word “Nazi” or “Nazis” – mostly in praise of Nazism. For example, a member of parliament in Malaysian tweeted “Well done… bravo… LONG LIVE HITLER.” The tweets have appeared in many languages.
“The Nazi references on social media in response to Germany’s victory are insulting to the German team and demeaning to Holocaust survivors and victims,” said Abraham Foxman, the Director of the New York-based Anti-Defamation League, and himself a Holocaust survivor. “These tweets falsely and irresponsibly identify current, democratic Germany with the horrific past of the country, which the present German government and people have denounced and rejected. Germany has done so much to atone for its past, and to have this happen now is terribly hurtful,” added Foxman, who is also a longtime subscriber to this list.
JEWISH TEENAGE GIRL PEPPER SPRAYED IN PARIS
In the latest in a growing line of anti-Semitic assaults in France over the past few months, a 17-year-old Jewish girl was attacked on Tuesday at the Place du Colonel-Fabien in Paris.
According to the French National Bureau of Vigilance against Anti-Semitism (BNVCA), the attacker grabbed the victim by the jaw and sprayed pepper spray in her face while making anti-Semitic remarks. She described the attacker as a young man of North African origin.
The BNVCA warned this week that inflammatory anti-Israel diatribes in the French media and on the internet was stirring up anti-Semitism in the country.
CALLS ON U.S. AND EU TO CONDEMN ABBAS REMARKS COMPARING GAZA TO AUSCHWITZ
American Jewish groups have called on American and European leaders to unequivocally denounce remarks made yesterday by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who referred to Israel’s military offensive in Gaza as “genocide” and added about it “Shall we recall Auschwitz?”
Israeli leaders and others have long called on the EU to make it clear to Abbas that his repeated use of anti-Semitic language, and his promotion of anti-Semitism in the official Palestinian media, is unacceptable.
UN REPORT: MOST GAZAN CIVILIANS INJURED CHOSE TO IGNORE ISRAELI WARNINGS
For what is believed to be the first time, the UN has acknowledged that Israel is on every occasion giving advance warning about missile strikes on Hamas command and control centers. As the video in yesterday’s dispatch showed, civilians have in spite of this, at the urging of Hamas, deliberately gone to many of those sites to act as human shields, and as a result, Israel has then refrained from striking them.
(The UN does, however, still refer to Gaza as “Occupied Palestinian Territory” almost a decade after Israel’s ending of the occupation. It is now occupied by Hamas.)
“... In most cases, prior to the attacks, residents have been warned to leave, either via phone calls by the Israel military or by the firing of warning missiles.”
Occupied Palestinian Territory: Hostilities in Gaza and Israel Situation Report (as of 9 July 2014, 1500 hrs)
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
AL-AQSA TV: HAMAS SPOKESMAN ENCOURAGES GAZANS TO SERVE AS HUMAN SHIELDS: “IT’S BEEN PROVEN EFFECTIVE”
In an interview on Al-Aqsa TV on July 8, 2014, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri made the following remarks:
Interviewer: “Are people still going up to the rooftops?”
Ayad Abu Rida (Reporter): “Witnesses told us that there is a large gathering, and people are still going to the Kawari family house, in order to prevent the Zionist occupation’s warplanes from targeting it.”
Interviewer: “What is your comment about this? People are reverting to the (human-shield) method, which proved very successful in the days of martyr Nizar Riyan…”
Sami Abu Zuhri: “This attests to the character of our noble, Jihad-fighting people, who defend their rights and their homes with their bare chests and their blood. The policy of people confronting the Israeli warplanes with their bare chests in order to protect their homes has proven effective against the occupation. Also, this policy reflects the character of our brave, courageous people. We in Hamas call upon our people to adopt this policy, in order to protect the Palestinian homes.”
You can view the clip here:
UGLY CARTOONS IN THE GUARDIAN AND THE INDEPENDENT
The Guardian and The Independent, two British left-wing newspapers that have been accused by many of allowing anti-Semitism to creep into their coverage of the Mideast, have both run vile cartoons in the past two days.
I have decided not to reproduce the cartoons here, or to link to them.
CAN YOU IMAGINE OBAMA SPEAKING LIKE THIS ABOUT ISRAEL?
The French President, the Canadian, the Australian, even the British prime minister, have all made quite strongly pro-Israel remarks in recent days.
In this video from Canada, one can see how this contrasts with President Obama’s very lukewarm and unsympathetic approach to Israel under attack.
I attach four articles below.
An increasing number of leftists have indicated that they are becoming fed up with the New York Times editorial page’s constant demeaning of the Jewish state, and its sloppy use of facts to do so. One of them is the author of the first article below.
I am not sure I would entirely agree with the author of the third article below (“Israel has a new weapon against Hamas: International Indifference”). If the conflict drags on, I suspect there may be increased international pressure on Israel.
A cynic might say that there is less international concern this time round because Israel is being hit harder – including rockets fired yesterday at the Dimona nuclear reactor and at Ben-Gurion airport – which were successfully intercepted by the Israeli missile defense Iron Dome system.
-- Tom Gross
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIALS “BIZARRE AND UNHELPFUL”
The New York Times’s Editorial on Israel Was a Sloppy Hack Job
By Yishai Schwartz
The New Republic
July 9, 2014
In the last few years, I have had a slew of conversations where I found myself defending the New York Times’ Middle East coverage to outraged members of the Jewish community. All too often, supporters of Israel are convinced that the paper of record has it in for Israel. But the Times’ Jerusalem reporters have a notoriously difficult job, one in which every word and phrase is parsed by tens of thousands of partisans just waiting to pounce. For the most part, the reporters do a very good job, providing both accuracy and perspective. And most of the vitriol they receive comes from a place of partisan hackery rather than nuanced criticism.
I take the deteriorating situation in the Middle East very seriously, and just yesterday I wrote about some disturbing trends in Israeli society. But it’s precisely because of the high quality of the Times’ Middle East news coverage that the glaring factual flaws in yesterday’s editorial, “Four Horrific Killings,” are so astounding. I spotted three:
1. The editorial chides Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his “days of near silence” after the brutal murder of Palestinian teenager Muhammad Abu Khdeir. Callous silence from the prime minister in the face of a brutal murder would certainly be inexcusable. But the Times itself was already reporting Netanyahu’s condemnation of the killing as an “abominable murder” and pledge to find and prosecute the murderers on the day of the killing. (The editorial now includes a correction on this point.)
2. The editorial quite reasonably criticizes “some Israelis” for giving in “to their worst prejudices” with racial incitement. But in cataloguing specific examples, the editorial lists Netanyahu’s supposedly incendiary reference to a classic Hebrew poem of lament alongside mentions of hoodlums yelling “death to the Arabs” and a blogger’s post glorifying hatred of Arabs. The poem Netanyahu referenced is worth a read, but it’s not remotely objectionable. In fact, Bialik’s “The Slaughter” is an outpouring of anger against God, and the very phrase quoted by Netanyahu explicitly rejects the possibility of human revenge. In fact, the line before the one quoted in the Times reads, “And cursed be the man who says: Avenge!” Bialik may be the most famous poet of modern Hebrew, so even if the Times editorial board had no idea what Netanyahu was saying – rest assured that most of his audience did.
3. The editorial references the grieving Hussein Abu Khdeir’s “gestures of compassion and understanding” as a source of hope. This strikes me as a bit odd the day after Mr. Abu Khdeir took to Israeli television to say a number of deplorable things, including suggesting to the grandfather of one of the three recently murdered Israeli teens that “Maybe a Jew, one of your own, murdered them.”
That’s the hard data. Now what are we to make of this not insignificant collection of errors and misrepresentations?
The most plausible explanation for the first two errors strikes me as relatively simple: The Times editorial board doesn’t like Bibi Netanyahu. The authors’ preexisting narrative was that Netanyahu was an obstacle to peace, a source of tension and callous toward Israel’s Arab citizens. And in a fit of overconfidence, the authors didn’t bother to consult carefully with their own reporters and experts to make sure they had their facts right. But you don’t have to like Netanyahu – or even find his brand of politics remotely appealing – to realize that this editorial crossed the line from opinion to hatchet job. Of course, the Times’ general feelings about Netanyahu may or may not be justified, but the Times should know better than to gloss the facts to fit the narrative.
The third misrepresentation is a bit more complicated. But my best guess is that this last error was motivated by an exaggerated zeal to create a clean narrative of parallel Israeli and Palestinian descents into violence. After all, the point of the editorial – as best as I could make out – was to call on “leaders on both sides to try and calm the volatile emotions that once again threaten both peoples” (emphasis added). And the entire editorial is structured so as to present Israeli and Palestinian struggles with extremism in carefully constructed parallel. A mourning Israeli family’s gestures of compassion – phone calls of comfort to the Abu Khdeirs, loud declarations that all murders are equivalent, and hushing of calls to vengeance – needed a Palestinian parallel. And the Times fudged things a bit to make Mr. Abu Khdeir fit the bill.
Now, pleading for calm from all sides and critiquing incendiary rhetoric in both Israeli and Palestinian societies are certainly worthy goals for a Times editorial. But things get hairy when an editorial adopts a deliberately comparative perspective. In an attempt to be even-handed, the authors start stuffing facts into parallel tracks, even when they don’t fit. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas hesitated before condemning the murders of the Israeli teens – so Netanyahu must have as well. The family of murdered teen Naftali Frankel has showed remarkable grace and compassion – so the family of Abu Khdeir must have as well. Because without that parallelism, the neat narrative of two societies drowning in equivalent quicksands of mutual hatred and lawlessness breaks down.
The desire to equate and compare, to measure Palestinian pathologies against Israeli pathologies, is both bizarre and unhelpful. How does it help either society to weigh their racism and violence one against the other? It is unseemly – and complacent – when Netanyahu pats Israel on the back for having fewer terrorists than the Palestinians, for its comparative superiority in condemning and prosecuting domestic terrorism. But it is both unseemly and irresponsible when the Times plays with the facts in order to play similar comparative games in advancing a narrative of precise equivalence.
Of course, despite the fudging of these particular facts, the Times’ preexisting narratives of a racist Netanyahu and parallel Israeli and Palestinian descents into violence might still be accurate (though from what I’ve read and seen, I don’t think it is). But one thing should not be open to dispute: In the midst of one of the most complicated and heated conflicts in the world, the Times editorial board cannot afford to be sloppy with the facts.
“ISRAEL, UNLIKE HAMAS, ISN’T TRYING TO KILL CIVILIANS”
The Gaza Rules
Israel, unlike Hamas, isn’t trying to kill civilians. It’s taking pains to spare them.
By William Saletan
July 9, 2014
According to many critics, Israel is slaughtering civilians in Gaza. It’s “purposefully wiping out entire families,” says an Arab member of Israel’s parliament. It’s committing “genocide – the murder of entire families,” says Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority. Iran says Israel has committed “massacres against the defenseless Palestinians.”
The charges are false. By the standards of war, Israel’s efforts to spare civilians have been exemplary.
Israel didn’t choose this fight. Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the terrorist organizations that dominate Gaza, claim that Israel provoked the conflict by arresting Hamas members in the West Bank. But arrests in one territory don’t justify aerial bombardment from another. Israel didn’t hit Gaza until terrorists had fired more than 150 rockets into Israel and had rejected a cease-fire.
Some of the pictures that purport to show devastation from the Israeli strikes are fakes borrowed from other wars. As of Wednesday afternoon, the death count ranged from 30 to 50 or more, depending on where you mark the onset of the conflict. Every death is tragic, and the longer the assault goes on, the higher the toll will go. Still, given that Israel has launched more than 500 airstrikes, you’d have to conclude that either Israel is failing miserably to kill people or, more plausibly, it’s largely trying not to kill them.
Israel’s defense minister admits his forces have targeted “terrorists’ houses” as well as “arms, terror infrastructures, command systems, Hamas institutions, [and] regime buildings.” The houses belong to Hamas military leaders. An Israeli official boasts that “there's not a single Hamas brigade commander that has a home to go back to.” Israel’s legal rationale for targeting these homes is that they were “terror command centers” involved in rocket fire or other “terror activity.” But while Israel has tried to kill commanders in their cars (and has succeeded), it has avoided unannounced strikes on their homes.
The last time Israel targeted buildings in Gaza, a year and a half ago, it used leaflets and phone calls to warn residents to get out beforehand. It also fired flares or low-impact mortars (known as a “knock on the roof”) to signal impending strikes. Human rights groups didn’t accept these measures as protection from legal responsibility, but they did hail them as progress. Israel claims to be applying the same measures today. Hamas and other Palestinian sources confirm that the Israeli military has issued phone warnings to families in the targeted homes.
The worst civilian death toll – seven, at the latest count – occurred in a strike on the Khan Yunis home of a terrorist commander. Hamas calls it a “massacre against women and children.” But residents say the family got both a warning call and a knock on the roof. An Israeli security official says Israeli forces didn’t fire their missile until the family had left the house. The official didn’t understand why some members of the family, and apparently their neighbors, went back inside. The residents say they were trying to “form a human shield.”
Human shields are a difficult problem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Hamas is responsible for civilian deaths in Gaza, because it deliberately sets up rocket launchers and military infrastructure in civilian areas. That excuse is too broad. The low death rate in this week’s airstrikes – and the explanations from Israeli officials as to how the casualty rate has been minimized – show that it’s possible to degrade Hamas’ military assets without killing hundreds of people.
The Khan Yunis scenario is different. There, the human shield was voluntary. According to Ha’aretz, an Israeli officer insisted on Wednesday morning that if other civilians followed this example – responding to prestrike warnings by going onto the roofs to form human shields – Israel wouldn’t be deterred. Maybe the officer was bluffing. But what if this scenario happens again? And what if the would-be martyrs appear on the roof while Israel still has time to avert the strike, which wasn’t the case in Khan Yunis? Would their deaths be homicide? Would they be suicide?
That’s a tough call. But anyone concerned about the deliberate targeting of civilians in this conflict should first look at Hamas. The rocket fire from Gaza into Israel began well before the Israeli assault on Gaza. Initially, the rockets were Islamic Jihad’s idea. But in the last few days, Hamas has joined in with gusto, claiming credit for missiles fired at several Israeli cities, including Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa.
Apologists for Hamas argue that its weapons are less precise than Israel’s, so collateral damage is inevitable. That won’t wash. Hamas now has longer-range missiles, known as M-302s or R-160s, that are more precise than its clumsy old Grad rockets. It has been firing the new missiles at cities anyway. Hamas has also flatly rejected the principle of sparing civilians. According to a Hamas spokesman, “All Israelis have now become legitimate targets.”
I’ve criticized Israel for demolishing the West Bank homes of suspected Arab terrorists. That policy is indefensible.* But in the Gaza war, it’s clear that Israel has gone to great lengths to minimize civilian deaths. The same can’t be said of Hamas.
(*Tom Gross adds: Whether or not you agree with it, and on balance I don’t, this policy is defensible. The families of Palestinian suicide bombers and other terrorists are paid vast amounts of money by the Palestinian Authority for carrying out their attacks. In destroying the terrorist’s home, Israel is trying to find an economic disincentive to balance this – and indeed many Palestinians have admitted it works, and made them think twice about carrying out attacks. So, according to many, this policy save lives.)
“BACK IN THE WEST BANK, PALESTINIANS FLIPPED ONTO HEBREW-LANGUAGE CHANNELS TO WATCH THE WORLD CUP, DESPITE ESCALATING VIOLENCE IN GAZA”
World Cup entangled with Mideast conflicts
By Barbara Surk
July 9, 2014
BEIRUT (AP) - With the World Cup in faraway Brazil coming at a time of unprecedented sectarian violence and soaring tension in the Middle East, some Arab football fans have been reduced to watching matches in secret or even – and this is where it gets complicated - on a TV channel owned by Israel.
Since the World Cup kicked off three weeks ago, Sunni Muslim extremists have seized territory in Iraq and Syria and declared an Islamic state. Lebanon has been hit by a spate of suicide bombings. Israelis and Palestinians were pushed to full conflict after the murders of four teenagers. Egypt’s political divide grew wider as hundreds of people charged with supporting the ousted Muslim Brotherhood group were convicted of terrorism-related crimes - including three journalists for Qatar-owned Al-Jazeera network.
Many accuse the Doha-based network of editorial bias in favor of the now banned Islamic group in Egypt and of Sunni insurgents fighting Shiite-dominated governments in Syria and Iraq.
Qatar’s media conglomerate owns broadcasting rights to the World Cup in the Middle East, charging viewers from $110 to $320 for a three-month subscription that includes the 64 World Cup matches - a tournament that should have been a welcome escape for millions of football fans.
Most fans can’t afford to pay for the satellite broadcasts of the World Cup, which was previously shown around the region on state free-to-air channels. Some Egyptians refuse to subscribe to Qatar’s channel for political reasons.
Watching a recent match in a cafe in downtown Cairo, 21-year-old student Mohammed Mostafa said his family is boycotting Al-Jazeera and instead tunes in to an Israeli channel that has been broadcasting the World Cup for free, with commentary in Hebrew – a foreign language to most Arabs.
“My parents refuse to give money to the Brotherhood,” Mostafa explained.
That kind of attitude has outraged officials in Egypt, where state media has lashed out at Israel by saying it has opportunistically barged into the Arab broadcasting market.
“Israeli media penetration into the Arab community is more devastating than its missiles,” said Mohammed Shabana, the director of Egypt’s Sports Writers Association. But he also criticized Qatar, saying the oil-rich Gulf state should have dismantled Israel’s plot to win over Egyptian fans, and offered a subsidized deal to the Cairo government that would air the World Cup to its citizens for free.
Israel “is our biggest enemy,” Shabana said. “If the only way (to avoid Israel’s channel) is to give money to Qatar, then we should do it.”
For Raaouf Sobhy, a cafe owner in Cairo’s upscale Heliopolis district, choosing which channel to watch was a simple decision.
“I hate Qatar more than Israel,” Sobhy said. “I don’t think Israel is harming us as much as Qatar.”
In south Lebanon near the frontier with Israel, some turn on the Israeli broadcast, even though Israeli TV channels have been banned since 2000 when Israel withdrew its troops following 18 years of occupation. Israel’s arch enemy, the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, dominates south Lebanon and its fighters have fought on the Syrian government side. Qatar is not popular there, though, because of its support for Sunni rebels in Syria.
In the village of Ein Ibil, a man watching the Israeli channel with Hebrew – a language he does not understand – commentary blasting away said he neither cares about the ban nor the country broadcasting it to him.
“I just want to watch the game,” he said on condition of anonymity for fear of harassment. “You don’t need subtitles to watch football.”
Israel welcomed viewers in neighboring countries, saying it was part of the Jewish state’s diplomatic outreach to the Arab World.
Ofir Gendelman, a spokesman for the Arabic Media in the Israeli Prime Minister’s office, posted on his official Facebook page a dictionary of Hebrew soccer terms translated into Arabic.
“Reactions were mixed, but a lot of people appreciated the gesture,” Gendelman said. “I do find it fascinating that millions of Arab viewers are now watching the World Cup on Israeli TV while learning soccer terminology in Hebrew.”
Few would dare tune into an Israeli channel in Syria, where Israel remains the primary enemy despite a raging civil war which pits predominantly Sunni Muslim rebels against the forces of President Bashar Assad, who belongs to a sect in Shiite Islam. As residents of the capital enjoyed a temporary lull in mortar attacks during the World Cup, fans seem to ignore the fact that Qatar – a country on top of Assad’s black list for supporting the opposition – owns the tournament broadcasting rights that were obtained in Syria by two private companies.
There has been no World Cup viewing in public in Raqqa, a city in eastern Syria under control of a Sunni extremist group that considers most TV stations to be heretic, an opposition activist, who goes by the name Abu Ali, said in an interview over Skype. At home, the activist said, some have watched World Cup matches on a Turkish channel.
In the Iraqi capital Baghdad, fans have shunned cafes as a World Cup viewing option. Cafes have become favorite targets for Sunni extremists of the armed group that has declared an Islamic state in northern Iraq and in eastern Syria as it advances to Baghdad, the seat of the Shiite-dominated government.
Back in the West Bank, Palestinians flipped onto Hebrew-language channels to watch the World Cup, despite escalating violence in Gaza.
Hudaifa Srour, who lives in the West Bank village of Naalin, said most people don’t care what language the commentators are speaking.
“Our people are eager to escape the political problems, so even those who are not interested in sports, watch the World Cup,” Srour said.
Associated Press writers Mariam Rizk in Cairo, Yousur Alhlou in Jerusalem, Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, Sinan Salaheddin in Baghdad, Zeina Karam in Beirut and Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, contributed to this report.
Tom Gross adds: I reported on Lebanese watching the World Cup on Israeli TV in this dispatch: Iranians and Israelis enjoy World Cup love-in (& U.S. Soccer Guide) (July 2, 2014)
“GENERALLY THE WORLD DOESN’T SHOW ANY PARTICULAR INTEREST”
Israel has a new weapon against Hamas: International Indifference
July 9, 2014
As it seems to be embarking on its third war with Hamas in less than six years, Israel faces a foe that has lost most of its key allies and the attention of the international community.
The outrage that accompanied last week’s discovery of the bodies of three kidnapped Israelis and a suspected revenge attack in which a Palestinian teenager was kidnapped and murdered has dissipated, even as the violence that followed has escalated. On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced yet another expansion of the Israel Defense Forces’ ongoing operation in Gaza. Here was a similar declaration yesterday:
Ordinarily, this moment would be accompanied by a cascade of international opprobrium from Palestinian supporters, demands for restraint, and perhaps calls from Israel’s own allies to rein in its forces. Yet even as the death toll in Gaza grows from the Israeli campaign – Israel has reportedly struck 400 targets in Gaza since yesterday morning from the sea and the air – there has been relative quiet about the battle. Hamas continues to fires its rockets, hundreds of them, deeper into Israeli territory than ever before, but the normally raucous international chorus has barely made a peep so far.
In an interview with the Times of Israel, a senior Israeli official said as much:
The international community is totally disinterested. Yes, there were a few press releases from [UK Foreign Secretary] William Hague and a few others, but generally the world doesn’t show any particular interest in this.”
There are many reasons for this seemingly peculiar insouciance. Here are a few:
THE WAR-WRECKED REGION
Officials and diplomats are exhausted, spread thin, and focused on seemingly bigger problems, as Syria’s civil war grinds on and ISIS continues marauding across Iraq.
A GROUNDHOG DAY SYNDROME
It’s surreal to think that just nine weeks ago the deadline for Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to produce an outline for a comprehensive peace agreement passed, fruitlessly, and the American-brokered peace process collapsed. Now Israel and Hamas are battling for the third time in less than six years, in a conflict that more or less resembles the two previous ones.
THE ISOLATION OF HAMAS
In late 2012, the last time Israel and Hamas had more than just their conventional exchange of fire, the landscape looked much different. Hamas had an ally in Egypt President Mohamed Morsi, who hailed from the more sympathetic Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt even mediated the ceasefire that ended that round of hostilities between Israel and Hamas. With Morsi deposed and with military ruler pushing to keep Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood at the margins, Hamas doesn’t have a neighbor to turn to. Moreover, Egypt actually seems disinterested in getting involved at all.
Hamas has also lost Iran’s patronage, with whom it split last year over Hamas’ criticism of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and his attacks on Sunni Muslims in the Syrian civil war. Iran remains as one of Assad’s few friends.
In other words, while Qatar and Turkey remain in Hamas’ corner, so long as the group continues to fire rockets into Israeli civilian centers, the Israeli counterattack, which comes with a qualitative military edge, will seem warranted. For the time being, everyone else has lost the interest, energy, or willingness to do anything.
Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, has now lost the ability to govern, control the other rocket-firing terrorist groups in Gaza, easily replenish its weapons, pay salaries, and keep the electricity on. One could argue that this escalation is, in part, about Hamas seeking to assert itself again, in the only way it can. Or perhaps, as Zvi Bar’el suggests, it could even strengthen Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Of course, this could all change in an instant given the volatility of the situation. But for now, the calm is particularly eerie, even as a war rages around it.