Violence in the Gaza Strip


Published: January 29, 2009

At the end of December 2008, renewed Israeli-Palestinian violence broke out in the Gaza Strip. Hamas militants launched barrages of morters and rockets into Israel, and the Israeli Defense Force responded with a military campaign in Gaza which they said would cripple Hamas’s leadership and eliminate those firing the rockets. There were casualties on both sides.

POINT: Does Protecting Its Citizens Make Israel a Monster?

By Helen Lee, Staff Writer

In the most recent stint in the ongoing conflict between Gaza and Israel, Israel has received criticism for its “disproportionate use of force” against Hamas and Gaza. The popular sentiment, in America especially, is that Palestine is the poor victim of monster Israel.

However, Hamas, now the leading Palestinian political force, is a party that is internationally regarded as a terrorist organization. Hamas has maintained a policy of aggressive dismissal towards Israel: not only do they refuse to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist, but since 2001 they have launched thousands of Qassam rockets and mortar shells into Israeli civil areas each year. These rockets were not fired into governmental or military areas with some risk of civilian casualty, but into predominantly civilian areas with the sole purpose of terrorizing and injuring civilians.

By September 2007, Israel would be antagonized no more and declared Gaza “hostile territory.” This declaration entailed a blockade on the Gaza strip, with cuts in supply of fuel and electricity. Israel argues that it has no obligation to aid a hostile territory beyond basic humanitarian needs (food, water, medical supplies). The purposes of the blockade were to hold Hamas accountable for its actions and to pressure Hamas into ending the attacks and acknowledging Israel’s right to exist.

In spite of the economically crippling blockade, on Dec. 24, 2008, only five days after the expiration of a six-month cease-fire, Hamas once again began launching mortar shells and rockets into Israeli civil areas, covering a frighteningly broad range. After fair warning, the attacks continued, and Israel responded with force. When Hamas stubbornly refused to agree to Israel’s very reasonable conditions, they became fully responsible for the fate of the Palestinian people.

Is Israel the monster here? To call Israel’s response “disproportionate” is ridiculous: terrorists don’t care about “proportionate” use of force. These rockets fired by Hamas pose a legitimate risk and have killed and severely injured Israeli civilians, but their primary purpose is to terrorize. Terrorism violates us on the deepest level: it infiltrates our lives, turning our hopes into fears and our dreams into nightmares. Even those not immediately injured by terrorism feel its effects on a psychological level. The effects of Hamas’s terrorist attacks go beyond the cities, towns, villages and families of the victims.

Part of the role of government is to protect its citizens, and that is exactly what Israel is doing. Is Hamas doing that for the Palestinians who democratically elected them? It certainly seems not: they have even admitted to using women and children as human shields. If Hamas actually cared that Palestinians are dying as a result of this conflict, they would agree to recognize Israel and accept past agreements. But they are terrorists who only care about revenge and war. They don’t want peaceful negotiations; they don’t even really want the Gaza strip. They want destruction, and they will not rest until they get it. How can anyone get through to such an unreasonable group except by use of “disproportionate force”? I say: keep it up, Israel.


COUNTERPOINT: Civilian Suffering Is Unacceptable

By Kelsey Butler, Layout Co-Editor

No one should have to live a life of fear, but no innocent should have her life snatched away, either. Though I completely agree with Helen Lee’s point that Israeli citizens should not be terrorized, I also truly believe that no Palestinian should have to watch her child die because of senseless attacks from another government.

According to U.N. sources, more than a third of those civilians killed in Israel’s recent attacks were children. After stumbling upon a heart-wrenching video of a Palestinian doctor whose daughters were killed by an Israeli attack, it became clear to me that the Palestinian death tolls we hear on the news aren’t just numbers—each one represents a family destroyed.

Any attacks on civilians should be considered war crimes, and the facts don’t lie: during Israel’s recent attacks on Palestine, over 900 civilians have died, and thousands more have been injured. Further, Israel’s blockade of the Gaza strip has led to problems of sanitation, unemployment and malnutrition. These issues will only further the poor quality of life in the region.

The Israeli shelling of the United Nations headquarters in Gaza resulted in the loss of millions of dollars worth of aid to residents of Gaza who depend on these supplies to survive. The attacks led to the destruction of a hospital and the injury of several journalists who were in the region covering the conflict. It was the one of the first times Israeli forces attacked a crowded neighborhood, sending residents fleeing for safety. United Nations officials have spoken out on the incident and have deemed it “unacceptable” and “unbearable.” How many different ways do the lives of Palestinian people have to be threatened and destroyed for it to be recognized that Israel is, in fact, acting like a monster?

Because of Israel’s control of access to the Gaza Strip, as well as the air space and coastal waters, it is still considered to be an occupying power in the region. Under the Geneva Convention, this means that Israel is responsible for the welfare of the civilians living in this area. By murdering thousands and preventing the import of necessities to the area, Israel is acting in direct conflict with its legal responsibilities. Shouldn’t there be some moral responsibility to avoid the slaughter of innocent civilians for political agendas?

No matter what the antagonization, violence has never been and will never be the answer. Israel’s recent decision to declare a cease-fire in Gaza is a positive step in the direction of healing on both sides. Thousands of people’s lives have been affected on either side of the conflict. Isn’t it about time that everyone involved stop acting like monsters, take off the masks and start talking like humans?