Mitchell Bard is Wrong On Israel, and Wrong on Hamas

http://www.populistamerica.com/images/gaza-woman.jpg

"We have no solution, you shall continue to live like
dogs, and whoever wishes may leave, and we will see where this process
leads."
Moshe Dayan, former Israeli Minister of Defense speaking about Palestinians in the occupied territories.

A friend sent me Huff Post blogger Mitchell Bard's recent blog post on the Israeli
invasion of Gaza to ask me what I thought about his stance. The post
titled: 'Hamas Is Responsible for the Civilian Casualties in Gaza',
was particularly provocative given the images on network TV of Israel
brutalizing the Gaza strip. Hoping to be enlightened by a thoughtful
article explaining his rationale, I found myself disappointed by a one
sided diatribe devoid of any historical context or balanced
perspective.

Bard's piece made a series of assertions which I will deal with one by one.

1. Hamas started the conflict after firing rockets into Israel

Hamas did not start this conflict. Here's an extensive time line of events, making clear that Israel broke the ceasefire, not Hamas. Israel, contrary to popular opinion, also never left the Gaza strip
and still controls taxation, the sea, air and land borders. If China
had the same control over the United States, would Bard understand if
Americans wanted to defend itself? After all, the U.S went to war with
Great Britain over taxation, something Bard no doubt supports in
retrospect.

2. Hamas wanted Israel to attack Gaza to boost its popularity and damage its reputation internationally.

Bard offers no evidence for the assertion that Hamas wanted its own
people killed, other than it is his opinion. According to serious
analysts Hamas miscalculated Israel's response
rather than provoked it. They do of course, bear responsibility, but
evidence is required before accusations like this are thrown around.

3. Hamas is at fault for civilian casualties as it uses
"mosques, schools, private residences and even hospitals as locations
to manufacture, store and launch weapons at Israel and hide its
leaders."

Israel cannot bomb schools and hospitals just because it believes Hamas may be hiding there. It is a direct violation of international law, and therefore constitutes a war crime.

4. "Hamas's stated intention is the destruction of Israel"

There are certain elements of Hamas that want to see the destruction of Israel, just like there are extreme Zionists
who believe Palestine belongs to Jews. You can't brand an entire
organization in a certain light just because it is convenient to you.
Here is Khalid Mish'al, head of the Hamas political bureau in an
article in the Guardian:

Our message to the Israelis is this: we do not fight you
because you belong to a certain faith or culture. Jews have lived in
the Muslim world for 13 centuries in peace and harmony; they are in our
religion "the people of the book" who have a covenant from God and His
Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him) to be respected and protected.
Our conflict with you is not religious but political. We have no
problem with Jews who have not attacked us – our problem is with those
who came to our land, imposed themselves on us by force, destroyed our
society and banished our people.

We shall never recognise the right of any power to rob us of our
land and deny us our national rights. We shall never recognise the
legitimacy of a Zionist state created on our soil in order to atone for
somebody else's sins or solve somebody else's problem. But if you are
willing to accept the principle of a long-term truce, we are prepared
to negotiate the terms. Hamas is extending a hand of peace to those who
are truly interested in a peace based on justice.

Also, a question for Bard: Can you find another example in
international law where one country was forced to accept the right of
another country to exist? Was Mexico forced to recognize the United
States right to exist after it took its land? Where Native Americans
forced to accept the right of the United States to exist after it
killed most of their people and took their country? Of course not, they
simply dealt with the reality and moved on, just as some in Hamas are
willing to do (ie a long term truce) rather than admit humiliating
terms of defeat. There were many members of the ANC in South Africa who
wanted whites to leave South Africa, and this was used by the Apartheid
Government to dismiss it as a terrorist organization, just as
apologists for Israeli state crimes are doing with Hamas. The only way
towards peace is an acknowledgment that Hamas is a legitimate political
entity and MUST be negotiated with, just as the Apartheid Government
negotiated with the ANC.


5. Israel is "the only Democratic country in the immediate region" and
had been systematically attacked by Arab countries since its inception.

Stating that Israel is "the only democratic country in the immediate
region" in one sentence then in another saying, "the Palestinian
people, given a free choice in elections, voted Hamas into power,"
requires no rebuttal. Israel is the only democracy in the region
because Bard wants it to be. Yes, Arab countries have attacked Israel
since its inception, but Arabs view the creation of Israel as an attack
on them. It just depends on your point of view.

6. Israel "Seized the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 not out of
imperialistic aggression, but as a means of defending itself from its
neighbors."

Regardless of whether Israel seized the West Bank and Gaza out of
imperial aggression or self-defense, acquisition of land through war is
explicitly forbidden under the Geneva Conventions, and a direct violation of international law.

7. If a "right of return" were granted, Israel would immediately cease to be as a Jewish, secular democratic state".

I don't think Bard really understands what he is saying here, as the
sentence contradicts itself on many levels. Being a 'Jewish, secular
state' is a contradiction in terms. Judaism is a religion, so a Jewish
state is therefore a religious one. Also, Israel's refusal to give the
800,000 dispossessed Palestinians the right of return is a huge thorn
in its side when claiming to be a democracy. Under international law,
dispossessed people are entitled to return to
their land, so if Israel was a functioning democratic nation that
followed international law, the majority of it's citizens would be
Arab, and they would have the right to vote. Bard might not like the
outcome, but then that is what we call democracy.

8. "Israel has showed remarkable restraint and proportionality,
evidenced by the fact that an overwhelming majority of the Palestinian
casualties have not been civilians. The world should be lauding Israel
for its efforts to minimize civilian casualties."

Israel has just bombed two U.N schools in the Gaza strip, and have thus far killed over 700 people,
220 of them children. The 'remarkable restraint and proportionality'
Israel had shown is over 100-1 in terms of the Palestinian to Israeli
death toll, on top of many millions of dollars in structural damage.
Bard may laud Israel for this, but the majority of the world does not.

9. "Since the Palestinian people elected Hamas to power, they have
themselves to blame for the damage done to them by their leaders."

Just because Palestinians voted for Hamas does not give Israel the
right to kill them. Collective punishment is explicitly illegal under
international law. Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states:

No protected person may be punished for an offense he
or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise
all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.

George Bush illegally invaded Iraq, committing the supreme war crime
of preemptive aggression. I don't believe Americans should be punished
for his actions, even though they voted for him. Bard omits to mention
international law or any historical context because if he did, his case
would fall apart.

A grievous crime was committed against Palestinians when their land
was forcefully taken from them in 1948. They had committed no crimes
against Jews, and were not consulted when their land was given away.
European nations had systematically slaughtered Jews for centuries,
then laid the burden on the Palestinians, a fact that the West would
rather forget. The Palestinians will never get their land back, just as
Native Americans won't get theirs. But at least we can acknowledge what
has happened to them, and work seriously for a lasting solution. The
Palestinians are an oppressed people, and to blame them for their own
predicament is simply inexcusable.

The Hebrew poet Aharon Shabtai once wrote:

And when it's all over,
My dear, dear reader,

On which benches will we have to sit,

Those of us who shouted 'Death to the Arabs!'

And those who claimed they 'didn't know'?

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photo from http://www.populistamerica.com/images/gaza-woman.jpg

  • kd

    The truth hurts doesn’t it Myles?
    That’s okay, you go back and keep watching CNN for your ‘news’. That bias, one-sided, propaganda they spout that has a lot of people brainwashed.

  • Myles Johnson

    I’d have to say that, as a journalist with a BA in Politics, you are about as qualified to comment on military strategy, international law, and Middle East history as the guy who pours my coffee at Starbucks. Isn’t there a 500 pound pumpkin at a county fair somewhere you should be reporting on?

  • SC

    Laszlo, congrats that you watched the movie ‘300’ but the fact that you call Gaza a “male dominated Spartan culture” (in actual Sparta women held a lot of power; it was the most gender equal of the Greek city-states) was the least of your many errors. Before making comments you should probably know something about what you’re talking about (or at least just look it up on wikipedia).
    For example, your “rebuttal” (if it can be called that) of point 6, stating that since Israel was not in violation of international law because it didn’t conquer any part of an existing country is just ignorant. The West Bank was a part of Jordan and Gaza was a part of Egypt until it was conquered in 1967. Though they were planning on making it part of a future Palestinian state, if you need the exact way of how Israel broke international law, there it is.
    I’m not going to rebut all of your points, because some are inane enough to not require rebuttal, any intelligent person could read it and easily know it’s false. I will say though, that your response to point 3 is completely ridiculous. Israel may sometimes warn entire neighborhoods that they will be bombed, but they take little to no care about making sure that the buildings they target are unoccupied, even though the IDF may claim they do. For example, UN workers in Zeitoun found that the IDF moved a hundred civilians, many women and children, into a house, telling them it was safe. They later shelled that same house, despite having its coordinates, and killed more than 30 women/children, without warning. (unlike you, I’ll actually give you a legitimate source for the information I’m giving: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7819937.stm) UN workers have also revealed countless incidents of IDF firing upon civilians and media that they know the positions of, with no proof of any militant fire coming from the area.
    If Israel actually was paying concern for civilian life, why would they restrict reporters from access to the strip? Sorry to say, but its not this writer who is spewing propaganda, Israel is the one attempting to control what press coverage of the war there is.
    Next time do some research and read the news before regurgitating the false claims of the Israeli military.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p010536bb76a4970b Laszlo

    There are two typos in my response.
    Item 4. 5th line from the top: the word “was” should be changed to “want”.
    Item 5a. 3rd line from bottom: the word “neighborhood” is missing after the word “their”

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p010536bb76a4970b Laszlo

    Pure propaganda. Talk about one-sided diatribes. You seems to have a PHD in that.
    1. “Hamas did not start this conflict.”
    Not true. There is plenty of evidence (and I would be glad to oblige) to show that Hamas bears at least just as much responsibility for starting it as Israel does.
    2. “Bard offers no evidence for the assertion that Hamas wanted its own people killed…”
    He may not but there is plenty of “evidence” for anyone who cares to look at the obvious. Allowing people to be used or to use themselves as human shields when they KNOW they will be killed, not building bomb shelters when they know there will be bombing, these are but a few things that demonstrates that Hamas “wants” its own people killed.
    3. “Israel cannot bomb schools and hospitals just because it believes Hamas may be hiding there.” Bard’s main point was not simply about hiding the Hamas military. So you are distorting things — as he also referred to the manufacture, storage and launch of weapons.
    Usually, Israel bombs them when they are fairly certain that they are being used for military purposes such as weapons cache’s,plus they warn people to leave in advance, then bombs them. Just because a structure is built as a mosque, used as such, and then is used as a weapons storage or launch depot or a military gathering place should not make it immune from military action simply because it WAS used for its original purpose.
    4. “You can’t brand an entire organization in a certain light just because it is convenient to you.”
    Well when the covenant of the entire organization calls for the destruction of Israel and when the organization repeatedly defines Israel itself as Palestinian territory, it is ludicrous to claim that only parts of the organization was to see Israel destroyed. SO if Hamas wants to ensure Israel’s destruction, and will only live with it for tactical purposes until the destructive opportunity comes, it seems like this gives Israel little choice.
    5a.”Stating that Israel is ‘the only democratic country in the immediate region’ in one sentence then in another saying, ‘the Palestinian people, given a free choice in elections, voted Hamas into power,’ requires no rebuttal.”
    Yes it does. Ignoring the point that Gaza is not a country, the writer should know that there’s more to democracy than fair elections. Democracy is more than majority rule as it includes an enforceable constitution that protects individual and minority rights, where all citizens are equal before the law. Any objective observer of Hamas’s behavior after it humiliated, beat up and then murdered PA supporters, smashed weddings or ignored Gazians pleas to stop military exercises in their knows that there are minimal minority constitutional rights in Gaza, essentially only the rights that Hamas militarists decide to provide.
    5b. “Yes, Arab countries have attacked Israel since its inception, but Arabs view the creation of Israel as an attack on them. It just depends on your point of view.”
    Yes agreed thanks for making the point you denied above. The EXTREMIST Arab point of view is that Israel’s creation and therefore existence itself is an attack on them.
    6. Re acquisition of land being illegal under the Geneva convention, I do not know, but if it is, it probably has something to do with the definition of the borders of a country or nation state. So just which nation state’s land did Israel acquire through war? Certainly not Hamas’ or the PA’s . Or even Palestine as there never has been such nation state.
    7. There are many debatable issues in your 7th point: re the nature of Israel as a secular state: Jews are both a religion and a nationality or race; Israel is certainly a zillion times more secular than any Islamist state or wanna-be state like Hamas-ruled Gaza. Re the refugees’ right of return: there were hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees too. Maybe they have the right to return to lands in current Palestine? Also, there are complex issues like which descendants of these refugees should be allowed to return and who was responsible for them leaving in the first place (not only Jews I take it but also Arab states). You have oversimplified as propagandists always do I am sorry to say.
    8. Proportionality? This argument has a fatal flaw: it says simply the stronger force should deliberately weaken itself in order to ensure equal casualties on both sides. Absurd. Civilian casualties: who is a civilian in Gaza? How can anyone tell? is a women who cries death to Israel and takes up a gun to shoot at Israeli soldiers a civilian? no they are counted in the number of women killed. Is the child who is say 12 years old who is allowed and encouraged takes up the gun or to help with military action by adults a civilian? When you militarize a society like Hamas has, how many real civilians are left? Civilians are being killed. No question. Is that good? No it is agonizingly awful if we live by civilized moral and cultural standards. Does Hamas care? BY their actions, they do not seem to care at all. The culture they have promoted glorifies militarism, violence and suicide and encourages (and even celebrates) civilian death.
    9.”Just because Palestinians voted for Hamas does not give Israel the right to kill them.” Of course not. No one, not Bard, not the Israelis, not me nor any civilized person or ideology would ever claim that. What Israel is doing is not collective punishment. If in protecting and regulating your borders from incursions by Hamas and other terrorist groups, or if in going after Hamas in Gaza, you are hurting others, I would say that if anyone is handing out collective punishment, it is Hamas on its own people. It is indeed a matter of perspective.
    Hamas’ men don’t give a wit about the needs of Palestinians. Most of them care more about their own needs and define their needs as the needs of their women and their children. And of course most of them have their women and children so cowed by the machismo of the traditional household that they become like the slave who loves his master, like the battered wife who cannot leave her husband, caught and trapped in a society and sealed borders manufactured by extremists who have managed to alienate everyone except some extremist groups and states. Hamas cares more about it’s ideological/religious interpretation of Palestinians needs. Essentially it cares only about its own survival and the male dominated Spartan culture that it is nurturing.

  • actuallyproisrael

    Apparently, Erastus doesn’t read the Op-Ed pages of the Wall Street Journal, if this post is indeed “is the worst, most shameful piece of crap [he’s/she’s] ever seen.” Really now. Hot-headed attacks on one aspect of the post, even if correct and valid, are hardly a good way to make a point, and absolutly doesn’t address the other valid points made. But, of course, the point about Hamas made by Erastus is overstated, to be generous. Hamas has language in its charter. So what? It could also have language that every Palestinian will get a puppy for Christmas (yes, I realize they don’t celebrate Christmas). It isn’t any more likely to happen than the destruction of the most pwoerful military in the region, which, incidentally, has the unwaivering support of the most powerful military force in the history of the planet. There hasn’t been a credible, real, existential threat to Israel in decades. Israel’s behavior towards the Plaestinians, however, is undeniable evidence of its intent to brutalize, occupy, and expand into rightful Plaestinian territory. Until Isreal accepts its portion of the culpability for the suffering of the Palestinian people (shared with Hamas), the dream I share with many the world over will never come true: the will be no peace, and no safe and secure Israel.

  • SC

    Thank you so much for writing this article. Here at least is an intelligent voice making a rational analysis of the situation, instead of the usual hateful dialogue spewed by people on all sides of the conflict.
    And Erastus, you can’t cite “being Jewish” as an excuse to silence critics of Israel. The state of Israel is different than the religion of Judiasm (and it does many things explicitly forbidden by Judiasm), and criticism of the practices of the state of Israel are not anti-semitic any more than putting a woman murderer in jail is sexist. The criticism is not of the Jewishness (or femininity), but of the war crimes, human rights abuses, etc (or the murder). It’s your kind of blind rationale that impedes the formation of peace.

  • Erastus

    This is the worst, most shameful piece of crap I’ve ever seen.
    Hamas’ charter expressly states:”Israel will rise and will remain erect until Islam eliminates it as it had eliminated its predecessors. The Islamic World is burning. It is incumbent upon each one of us to pour some water, little as it may be, with a view of extinguishing as much of the fire as he can, without awaiting action by the others.”
    Or this: “For Zionist scheming has no end, and after Palestine they will covet expansion from the Nile to the Euphrates.” Really? How about just being able to live a normal, peaceful life without rockets falling into your country on a daily basis?
    “Only when they have completed digesting the area on which they will have laid their hand, they will look forward to more expansion, etc. Their scheme has been laid out in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and their present [conduct] is the best proof of what is said there.”
    So there they quote a fringe, freaky document that is used as evidence by anti-Semites the world over, and yet it has been proven over and over again to be false.
    Wrong on that point.
    Being Jewish also means being part of a people. It’s both a religion and an ethnic group. Though you claim Bard doesn’t get that, it’s clear YOU don’t get something pretty fundamental.