Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Gaza Massacre (5) Right to Self Defence

Many western politicians are claiming that Israel has a “Right to Self Defence”. Unfortunately, this claim is not true. Israel does not have an absolute right to self-defence against Palestinian attacks.

When a nation uses military power to occupy territory beyond its borders, it does not have a right of self-defence against the people of the territory it has occupied when it uses military power to escape the occupation. When a nation uses military power to establish an economic blockade over a territory beyond its borders, it does not have a right of self-defence against the people of that territory who use military force to break the blockade.

The rights are the other way around. The people whose territory has been occupied have a right to use military force to push the occupying military power out of their territory. Likewise, the people living in the territory that has been subjected to an economic blockade have the right to use military force to break out.

During the Second World War, when Nazi Germany had occupied France, the French Resistance did some fairly nasty stuff to try and push the Germans out of France. Although they sometimes harmed civilians who had collaborated with the German occupiers, no one would suggest that the actions of the French Resistance were illegal. Rather, they are perceived as the heroes of the war. No one would complain that the Germans had a right to self-defence against the attacks of the French Resistance.

The same principle applies to the people of Gaza. They have the right to use military force against the Israeli military forces that initially occupied their territory and have now established an economic blockade around their territory. They are just doing what the French Resistance did to the German Nazis. (In a way, as the quasi-government of Gaza, Hamas would be remiss if it did not use military force to liberate the Palestinian people.

This is what the Palestinians did on 7 October 2023. Gaza militants attacked the Israeli military forces that were enforcing the economic blade on Gaza (Israel is an “occupying power” by its own definition). The Israelis were caught sleeping, and the Palestinian fighters gained control of at least a dozen bases on the border in Israel.

The Hamas fighters took prisoners of war from among the Israeli forces who were seriously defeated in this battle. This is what has happened in most recent wars. It is far better to take prisoners and swap them for other prisoners than to slaughter all the defeated soldiers (as Israel sometimes seems to be doing in Gaza).

A problem with the attack was that many civilians got caught up in the battle, but no one thinks much about why this happened. The reason is that Israel has a practice of building kibbutz or townships close to its military bases near the border. It has done this near Gaza and close to the border with Lebanon and Syria. They do this to provide a more homely place for their military forces to live (but it also turns the civilians into human shields). Placing civilians close to the line of contact in a war zone is irresponsible.

When the Palestinian forces attacked early in the morning, many of the Israeli soldiers enforcing the blockade on Gaza were sleeping in the kibbutz or township where they lived. Therefore, when the Israeli forces were defeated, many soldiers were wearing civilian clothes or nightwear and were not easily identifiable, so many civilians got caught up as prisoners of war with the Israeli soldiers who were defeated (they have all now been released).

The Israeli reaction to the defeat was slow and violent. The majority of the deaths on 7 October were Israeli military personnel. Many of the civilian victims were killed by Israeli helicopters and tanks. This is why it was so difficult to identify the victims. Tank commanders have admitted firing shells into houses occupied by Gazan fighters and civilians. Pilots have admitted that 28 Israeli helicopters were firing 30-millimeter cannon mortars indiscriminately without any intelligence to guide them destroying many cars and houses. The hundreds of burnt-out cars shown on television with occupants burnt beyond recognition were probably hit by these helicopters. The portable weapons carried by the militia from Gaza were not powerful enough to do such terrible damage.

Due to embarrassment, the Israeli government has refused to investigate what really happened on 7 October, so we do not know how many Israeli civilians were killed by panicked Israeli forces, but we can assume it was a large number due to the destructive power of their weapons.

The Israeli rock concert was a disaster. Giving the organisers of a rave a permit to hold a concert within a war zone, a few kilometres from the line of contact is totally stupid. When the Palestinian militia arrived early in the morning, the IDF defenders were still asleep, but unfortunately the rave was still going. Many would have been members of the IDF or reservists. Quite a few of these would have been armed with pistols. So when the Palestinian fighters unexpectedly encountered the people at the rave, they fought back as they had been trained to do. Many civilians would have been caught in the crossfire and killed. This is sad, but it is part of the fog of war.

To cover up these disasters, the Israeli government has tried to portray the events as a terrorist attack. However, the account above shows that this is misleading.

Christians should avoid the words terrorism and terrorist because their use is usually hypocritical or manipulative. The problem is that terrorism/terrorist is a slippery word that is usually used for propaganda purposes by governments in an attempt to demonise their enemies. It usually refers to a group of people that we want others to hate. The truth is that war always results in terror.

The United States has labelled numbers of groups as terrorists, yet none of these groups have killed as many civilians as the United States killed during its reckless invasion of Iraq. It refused to keep a record of civilian casualties to avoid embarrassment, but independent observers have come up with figures between 500,000 and a million Iraqi civilians killed. Isn’t that the real terrorism? And it has not been matched by any so-called terrorist groups that people in the United States are encouraged to hate.

Israel is trying to use the “terrorism” word to justify their defensive shambles on 7 October, but I doubt that they will get away with it. Newspapers in Israel are now reporting on the inadequacies of the Israeli response, so I suspect that the truth will eventually come out.

The action on 7 October was not a terrorist act but a cleverly executed military attack by an oppressed people on their oppressors. The real terrorising in this region has been done by the Israeli defence forces. The worst terror has been created by bombing the so-called safe areas that the Israelis insisted that Gazans should flee to.

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