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A response to “The empty spaces in Gaza” article

There is currently a piece of Israeli propaganda doing the rounds on social media. This blog post is a brief response to the article.

There is currently a piece of Israeli propaganda doing the rounds on social media. This blog post is a brief response to the article.

The article really poses two questions, both with an underlying accusation that the Palestinians are largely to blame for the high death count and that the UN is purposely sheltering Palestinians in heavily built up areas for political purposes. The two questions are:

  1. Why does Hamas fire rockets and build tunnels only from built up areas?
  2. Why do the UN shelter Palestinian civilians in the middle of built up areas from which Hamas is firing? Why do they not use sparsely populated areas?

Let’s look at the first question…

Why does Hamas fire rockets and build tunnels only from built up areas?

Firstly, you’ll never hear me defend the rocket attacks by Hamas. A Palestianian life is not worth more than an Israeli life, and vice versa. But there is no hypocrisy involved in defending the Palestianians and not supporting Hamas. They are two different sets of people, with a very small minority (probably less than 0.1%) that could be described as both. However the assertion that Hamas only fire rockets from built up areas is wrong. Even the IDF in their own propaganda material say the exact opposite. The headline in the image below is “Hamas Fires Rockets from Everywhere in Gaza”. The red dots symbolise the rocket launch sites.

Hamas fires rockets from everywhere in Gaza

They are definitely not all fired from built up areas, but from across the Gaza Strip, and indeed (although this picture does not show it) from across Gaza.

The key point to understand is not how many rockets Hamas fire, but why do they fire them and how many lives do they take?

They fire them because Israel continues to build settlements in areas that the UN designated was to be Palestinian land. No analogy does this conflict justice, but let’s look at something vaguely similar.

In 1982 Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands and built settlements on the island, moving Argentinian nationals onto the island. The British sailed thousands of miles and threw all it’s military might at Argentina to remove them from their land. Gaza is doing the same, but doesn’t have a navy, air-force or a standing army. But it can fire rockets across into Israel to repel their advances. However it’s the equivalent of David and Goliath in terms of impact.

Secondly, how many lives do these rockets take and is Israel’s reaction proportionate?

Since January 2014 Hamas have fired just over 3,000 rockets at Israel. Due to Israel’s defence shield and the fact that most of these rockets have poor ranges and targeting systems, just 6 Israeli’s have been killed and 34 injured. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still horrific for those families who have suffered as a result of these rockets. And I don’t believe for a second most Jews want the war to continue. In fact, from reading the book ‘Once an Arafat Man’ by Tass Saada, a former PLO terrorist, he writes that many of the Jews were good friends with the Palestinians, living side by side in peace before the state of Israel was created. But the retaliation by Israel for these 6 deaths has been the deaths of 1,123 Palestinians and injuring almost 8,000 Palestinians including women and children. This is disproportionate, criminal (in my view), and bullying behaviour from a country that has the third most expensive military in the world.

On to the second question…

Why do the UN shelter Palestinian civilians in the middle of built up areas from where Hamas is firing? Why do they not use sparsely populated areas?

There are 27 refugee camps in Gaza, of which only 8 are in the Gaza strip, and only 2 are in the heavily populated and built up area of Gaza City.

The articles makes out that the Palestinians have made no effort to move away from where the violence is occurring but over 1 million people have left Gaza City and moved into the refugee camps outside of the city in less populated areas. Not only have they moved out of the city but they have evacuated the country in huge numbers. 500,000 Palestinians have moved into 13 refugee camps in Syria. Ten refugee camps exist in Lebanon sheltering another 500,000 people. And over 2 million have had to flee to Jordan spread across 10 refugee camps. The suggestion that the UN is sheltering Palestinians only in Gaza City in heavily built up areas is ridiculous.

But even if you wanted to make the point that still 1.8 million reside in Gaza City where the Israeli’s focus their campaign of killing and violence, you’d be missing the point to ask the question “Why don’t they leave?” The whole point is that this is their homeland. Their territory. The Israeli’s have slowly eroded sovereign Palestinian territory since 1948, driving people out of their homes at gunpoint and giving their homes to Israeli families instead. These brave people who still, despite the awful violence, stay in the city should be honoured, not have their integrity questioned as to whether it is their own stupid fault that they are contributing to the death toll that is being inflicted upon them!

In conclusion it’s easy to read an article like that and think, these are great questions to ask. But perhaps it’s prudent to take the time to look up the answers, and understand the situation, before forwarding Israeli propaganda that only seeks to cause division, support for their war, and the continued killing of innocent people.


Main photo by Ahmed Abu Hameeda on Unsplash

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