Tragedy On Gaza Beach

File:Flickr - Israel Defense Forces - Eight Qassam Launchers in Gaza.jpgThe deaths of seven Palestinian civilians on a beach in Gaza on 9 June was a human tragedy irrespective of one’s views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.At the time of writing, the IDF is still investigating the circumstances behind the event, ruling out any involvement by the Israeli Navy or Air Force, despite many in the international media rushing to conclusions in the immediate aftermath of the terrible incident.

For example, despite suggestions that a single artillery shell was responsible, the Guardian claimed: “a barrage of Israeli artillery shells rained down on a busy Gaza beach…”, while the Independent, without waiting for confirmation or otherwise, attributed the incident to “Israeli naval gunboats”.

In fact, while the most likely explanation is a single stray artillery shell, the possibility of a Qassam missile fired from Gaza itself has not yet been discounted and has been made more difficult to ascertain due to Palestinian refusals to cooperate with Israeli investigators.

As emotions run high, it is likely that Israel will come in for heavy criticism in the media from those genuinely horrified by recent events and those who do not need an excuse to accuse Israel of “war crimes” or to attack its morality and very existence.

Many of HonestReporting’s most vehement critics accuse us of being a mouthpiece and cheerleader for Israeli policies. Criticism of Israeli policies in a reasonable and informed manner is legitimate and something that Israelis themselves do on a regular basis, as is the norm in a healthy democracy. Israel is certainly not infallible and makes mistakes – just as all other states have the capacity to do when confronted with the dilemmas that Israel faces in trying to protect its population from terrorist attacks.

What we do, however, call for is that Israel is treated by the same standards as any other country in the world and not singled out for special treatment at the hands of those who prefer to ignore genocide and human rights abuses in places such as Darfur, Tibet and any number of Arab states in the Mideast.

NO MORAL EQUIVALENCE

When examining the circumstances behind the Gaza beach incident, it is worth looking at the wider context. An editorial in the Jerusalem Post excellently summarizes the Israeli situation:

“Firstly, Israel, while confronting an enemy publicly committed to maximizing civilian fatalities, seeks relentlessly to minimize such casualties even as it defends itself. Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists deliberately aim to kill and maim civilians, both in disputed and purportedly non-disputed Israeli-controlled territory, and show little concern for any “collateral” damage such attacks may inflict on their own people. Israel, in absolute contrast, acts concertedly to thwart the terrorists, not to attack the civilians from whose residential areas the terror cells despicably operate.

Secondly, in times of war and conflict, accidents happen. Israel is properly investigating Friday’s incident; it genuinely wants to understand what happened to ensure that, if the IDF was responsible, lessons are learned and appropriate preventative steps taken.

Thirdly, and of crucial importance in understanding our often bloody reality, it is a simple and undeniable fact, and one that should go without saying but evidently must be repeated, that Israel would have no interest in, nor any need to be firing artillery shells or any other weaponry into the Gaza Strip were sovereign Israeli territory not coming under incessant attack from Gaza.”

SderotkidsIndeed, as Qassams have rained down on Sderot and other areas of the Negev, striking residential buildings and schools, it is only due to immense luck that Israel has not already suffered multiple deaths and injuries as a result of such attacks. In the latest missile attacks, carried out by Hamas, an Israeli suffered critical injuries as a Qassam struck a school campus. These attacks, despite their potential for mass casualties, are described by the BBC’s Simon Wilson as “mainly symbolic”.

While the IDF has not taken responsibility for the Palestinian deaths until the conclusion of an inquiry, Israel has offered assistance to the Palestinians, including evacuating the wounded to Israeli hospitals, where a number are now being treated.

As Palestinians have continued to encourage or turn a blind eye to terrorist attacks and murders of Israeli civilians, while celebrating the culture of “martyrdom”, Israel genuinely values human life and deeply regrets the deaths of Palestinian civilians.

Israeli PM Ehud Olmert has stressed that “The IDF is the most moral army in the world… It does not and never has made a policy of targeting civilians.” Whatever the outcome of the Israeli inquiry into this tragic event, these words will remain true.

HonestReporting calls on its subscribers to be vigilant in the face of attacks in the media on the morality of the IDF and the State of Israel itself.

(Image of Qassam via WikimediaCommons/IDF)

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