Mitchell Bard is Wrong On Israel, and Wrong on Hamas



“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

Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.