By Marc Champion
It is something close to a law of nature that the farther away people are from a conflict, the more simplistic their views are regarding its causes and solutions. That could not be more apparent now in Gaza, where Israel’s invasion is drawing howls of outrage from around the world.
That outrage is well deserved. There is no question that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) could and should be doing more to avoid civilian casualties. Yet that the anger of so many is directed only at Israel is disturbing, because there are two armed forces responsible for the deaths of Palestinians in Gaza. The other is Hamas.
Hamas invited the Israeli invasion with the barbarism of its terrorist attack on Oct. 7, and it has been open about how it fully expected Israel to retaliate. Recent reporting by the Washington Post would, if verified, underscore that this was the purpose of its attack, dubbed “Operation al Aqsa Flood,” and that Palestinian deaths were not a bug in that plan, but rather an essential part of it.
“The blood of the women, children and elderly... we are the ones who need this blood, so it awakens within us the revolutionary spirit,’ Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said on Lebanese TV on Oct. 26,’
Yet if you listened to talk radio in the UK over the weekend, you would have heard callers explaining — counter to all evidence — that it was not the Islamist terror group committed to the destruction of Israel that murdered Jewish children in front of their parents, but rather Israeli special forces. When an Iranian man had the temerity to hold up a sign in central London comparing Hamas with the Islamic State because of its actions that day, a group of pro-Palestinian protesters in hoodies attacked him and a woman shouted “death to all the Jews.’’ Posters of abducted Israeli children have been torn down in the UK, as has happened in the US, where a 21-year-old student at Tufts University, near Boston, was arrested last month for posting threats to kill Jews on campus, using the social media handle “Hamas Soldier.’’
These people need to ask themselves why they are so unwilling to criticize an organization that murders innocents on the grounds of race. The answer might not be pretty. The way Hamas carried out its attack and is now fighting the war in Gaza also demonstrates the organization’s utter disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians.
Consider the tunnels. Hamas built hundreds of kilometers of them under Gaza City to create an asymmetric advantage against the IDF’s vast superiority in terms of heavy armor, troop numbers and more. It makes sense as a military strategy, just like preparing the ground by intense aerial bombardment made sense as a military strategy for the Israeli military.
Yet Hamas did not build underground shelters to protect civilians during the war it was preparing to fight. There have been no reports of civilians offered shelter in the tunnels ahead of Israel’s ground invasion.
Then there is Hamas’ use of human shields, even beyond the 240-plus hostages it seized on Oct. 7. According to the IDF, Hamas has its headquarters underground, below Gaza’s main al Shifa hospital; locates its rocket launchers next to schools, and generally does its best to make it impossible to target Hamas without also hitting civilians. There is no reason to trust the word of the IDF — this is war and like all militaries at war, their job is to win, not to tell the truth. Nor does Hamas’ use of civilians as human shields excuse the IDF for killing them. However, this is not the first Israeli incursion into Gaza. Journalists from the Guardian encountered Hamas troops within al Shifa in 2014. Groups as Israel-critical as Amnesty International have reported that Hamas used the hospital as a site for the torture and execution of its Palestinian opponents as far back as 2008.
It is worth listening to how some prominent Arab journalists approach Hamas. Earlier this month, Egyptian TV commentator Ibrahim Eissa slammed comments from Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzouk, who said the tunnels were there to protect Hamas fighters from Israeli jets and that it was up to the UN to protect Gaza’s civilians. “Irresponsible” and “disgraceful” were just two of the adjectives Eissa used, noting that Hamas governs Gaza and that the first duty of any government is to protect its people. While Hamas is in its tunnels, “what about the Palestinian children who are targeted by Israeli aggression?’’ Eissa asked.
An Al Arabiya TV anchor was equally scathing in her grilling of Khaled Meshal, another top Hamas official. The nature of Hamas’ actions on Oct. 7 was a declaration of war that inevitably would draw an Israeli counterattack, the anchor said.
“The other factions, the Palestinian Authority and the people of Gaza were not consulted about this,’’ but they now bear the consequences, she said.
She also tried her best to get Meshal to take responsibility for the atrocities committed against Jewish civilians on Oct. 7.
This is not rocket science. Dead Palestinian civilians are an essential part of Hamas’ plan, whose goal was to draw Israel deep into Gaza, create a bloodbath and expand the war by enraging and drawing in new players, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Iran and Israel’s Arab neighbors. Most Arab governments understand fully that Hamas is an equivalent to the Islamic State, offering nothing to Palestinians beyond poverty and death. Yet they are now silent on this because Israel is playing the role that Hamas assigned to it. Tragically, so are too many well-intentioned people in the West.
Marc Champion is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Europe, Russia and the Middle East. He was previously Istanbul bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal. This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has a good reason to avoid a split vote against the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in next month’s presidential election. It has been here before and last time things did not go well. Taiwan had its second direct presidential election in 2000 and the nation’s first ever transition of political power, with the KMT in opposition for the first time. Former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was ushered in with less than 40 percent of the vote, only marginally ahead of James Soong (宋楚瑜), the candidate of the then-newly formed People First Party (PFP), who got almost 37
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate and New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜) has called on his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) counterpart, William Lai (賴清德), to abandon his party’s Taiwanese independence platform. Hou’s remarks follow an article published in the Nov. 30 issue of Foreign Affairs by three US-China relations academics: Bonnie Glaser, Jessica Chen Weiss and Thomas Christensen. They suggested that the US emphasize opposition to any unilateral changes in the “status quo” across the Taiwan Strait, and that if Lai wins the election, he should consider freezing the Taiwanese independence clause. The concept of de jure independence was first
Many news reports about the Israel-Hamas war highlight casualties, deaths, and destruction. Journalists rarely delve into how either society has responded and mobilized to deal with the war. This article provides a brief view of how Israel and Israelis have reacted to the war as individuals, groups, and as a nation. A useful template for Taiwan to prepare for a potential future conflict with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is how Israelis self-organized to deal with this crisis. Prior to the Hamas terrorist attack on Oct. 7, Israelis were even more polarized about public policy than the US or Taiwan.
Following the failure of the proposed “blue-white alliance,” New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi named Broadcasting Corp of China (BCC) chairman Jaw Shaw-kong (趙少康) as his running mate on the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) presidential ticket, while the other prospective half of the alliance, Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Chairman and presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), named TPP Legislator Cynthia Wu (吳欣盈). The result is a three-horse race, which is getting tighter. Hou and Ko are likely to put all their focus on being seen as the top challenger to Vice President William Lai (賴清德), the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) candidate, to