My opinion, by Steve Lieblich*, 27 January 2009:
Well-meaning Australians should be wary of supporting local groups purportedly assisting victims of the recent conflict in Gaza. If the “aid” assists the Hamas terrorist regime there, it will have the opposite of the intended effect, because it will prolong the conflict and the suffering of innocent civilians on both sides.
Hamas is a criminal terrorist organisation whose charter openly calls for the destruction of a sovereign nation and genocide of the Jews. It is willing and eager to transform its own constituents into martyrs to promote these goals, while exploiting their death and suffering for propaganda purposes.
The Hamas tactic is to cause as many civilian casualties as possible amongst its own population, by bombarding from schools and densely populated areas to elicit global sympathy and induce outrage directed at Israel, which is the victim of this war crime. However outrage should be directed against Hamas, which is its perpetrator.
Hamas and similar terrorist groups have conducted a campaign of suicide bombings, drive-by shootings, stabbings and rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli civilians since 2000. In that period, over 1,200 Israelis have been killed, 7,000 injured and 900,000 held to ransom and traumatised by this campaign of terrorism. Hamas knew exactly what it was doing when it terrorised Israeli children from behind its own children.
Although Hamas was initially elected, it then took control of Gaza by force in a bloody coup, murdering over 100 of its political opponents. During and after the recent Israeli operation Hamas continued this brutal reign by torturing and executing Fatah members in the Gaza Strip. Nineteen Palestinians were murdered and more than 60 others were shot in the legs. Musa Abu Marzouk, a top Hamas official in Syria, confirmed that his movement had executed “collaborators” during the war.
Claims that the Palestinian terrorism is a form of “resistance” to Israel’s blockade of Gaza and occupation of the West Bank are patently false. The blockade of Gaza, which Israel vacated entirely in 2005, was instituted only after Hamas’s bloody coup, to prevent it from threatening Israel. If Hamas were to accede to international calls to recognise Israel, renounce violence and accept prior agreements with the Palestinian Authority, there would be no blockade. Furthermore, Palestinian terrorism commenced long before the “occupation” of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, and even before the establishment of the State of Israel.
The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) took great care, as always, to act in accordance with the highest humanitarian norms and did its utmost, including holding fire on confirmed military targets, to prevent harming civilians. It distributed flyers and used the local media and telephone network to warn civilians of impending operations in their area. The IDF also acted to provide for the humanitarian needs of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip during the fighting. There have been allegations of IDF war crimes, but no substantiated cases. If any of the allegations are found to be true, they would be very rare exceptions and will be dealt with under law.
However perpetration of war crimes is Hamas’s everyday mode of operation. Hamas deliberately targets civilians and uses its own civilians as shields. Hamas kidnapped Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit from Israeli sovereign territory, and for over 2 years has refused to release information, allow humanitarian access, or treat him in accordance with accepted norms for military prisoners.
Concerned Australians should call for Hamas to renounce terrorism and join civilised society. Providing any support that may in effect assist the Hamas regime will only encourage more terrorism and violence, and thereby prolong the death and suffering on both sides of the conflict.
*Steve Lieblich is a member of the national editorial board of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, and Director of Public Affairs of the Jewish Community Council of Western Australia.