B’Tselem is a well-respected (current Israeli government aside, perhaps) human rights group in Israel. Here it reports on rocket and mortar fire on Israelis by Palestinians from Gaza. Those firing on Israel often do so from heavily populated areas, demonstrating a disregard for Palestinian lives as well as a murderous intent towards Israelis. Rockets and mortars are always illegal, because imprecise.
For southern Israelis there is more danger from missiles since Israel evacuated the Gaza strip. Greens are good at imagining and sympathising with the effects attacks on civilians have on Palestinian politics. It doesn’t take much imagination to work out the political climate which easily arises from indiscriminate attacks on Israeli civilians. While I have nothing but admiration for those who insist on a Israeli narrative other than fear, there’s no ignoring or excusing these Palestinian attacks on Israelis. Their small scale makes them no less a war crime.
Hamas is a religious nationalist organisation – Muslim Palestinians always come first. Its leadership in exile is based in Damascus. So when the forces of Syrian head of state Bashar al-Assad rampaged through the Syrian Palestinian ghetto of Latakia, Hamas’ subsequent poor display of support for al-Assad alienated the ayatollahs who fund it. Intelligence suggests that Iranian military support for Hamas has dried up. There are reports that it has not paid its employees.
All this is troubling in itself, and also because, as Israeli Green Gershon Baskin observes, Hamas is emerging as a relatively moderate force in Gaza. This is the same Hamas which is ideologically committed to Israel’s destruction and is the opposite of a moderate force by measures we in Britain would like to carry on taking for granted – for example, criminal justice, treatment of minority groups, or separation of religious and legal institutions. However, according to Baskin, Hamas is not ordering the missiles fired on Israel at the current time. They’re not calling the shots.
Surprised to find that this post has been received – at least by a few readers – as an apology for Hamas. Perhaps I put something in the wrong terms. Hamas, being religious nationalist, can never be a force for good. But to flesh out the claim above that it is rivalled by even more violent and fundamentalist groups in the strip, let me refer readers to this 2010 Economist piece on Salafist movements in Gaza. Read it and worry.