ELIAV BELOTSERCOVSKY: In war truth is always the first casualty
‘Experts’ claim to know what is going on in the Israel-Hamas conflict without knowing the facts
In SA, as in many other countries around the world, people are inclined to despair over the conflagration in the Middle East, confused by the claims and counterclaims, “experts” who contradict each other and vocal, often ignorant, statements by politicians who seem to think the louder they shout the more valid their opinion.
Loudest of all is the insistence that Israel is somehow to blame. Even though it was Israel that was attacked in a most brutal way by Hamas on October 7 and lost 1,400 men, women and children; Israel that is still suffering daily barrages of missiles targeting civilians; Israel that has 239 citizens being held hostage in Gaza. Even when it is proved beyond doubt that it was a Hamas missile that killed people in the Gaza hospital, there are those who continue to blame the Jewish state.
For those who wish to know the truth it is a long and windy road that requires concentrating on these facts:
- The current war is not between Israel and the Palestinian people. It is a war between Israel and Hamas. Israel is not at war with the Palestinian people. Until October 7 Israel provided about 10% of Gaza’s water needs and 50% its electricity needs. It also provided Gazans with 20,000 Israeli work permits each day. Before Covid, on average 8,000 to 10,000 trucks laden with goods would enter Gaza every month from Israel. During that period Israel provided medical treatment to about 15,000 patients a year who could not get treatment in Gaza. The barbaric attack by Hamas has stopped all of that.
- Israel is not in Gaza. It withdrew from the Gaza strip completely in 2005 and does not control any Gazan land. It has no aspirations whatsoever to return to Gaza or to control it in any way. It was Hamas that took control of Gaza in 2007 in a violent takeover of power. Since then there have been no elections, no political parties are allowed, and there is no freedom of speech, no rule of law. Only the rule of Hamas. There are no “two sides” to this conflict. Those who try to offer mediation are missing the point. Hamas is a reincarnation of Isis and Al-Qaeda. The Hamas charter clearly declares that its aim is to destroy Israel. And for those who had any doubts the events of October 7 demonstrated its intentions clearly, the inhumanity and savagery of the terrorists documented by the Hamas perpetrators themselves. Whole families were murdered, babies shot in their cradles, women violated and paraded naked on the streets of Gaza, children killed in front of their parents and parents in front of their children. Even Isis did not reach this level of cruelty. There is and can be no justification for such an attack. And just as there were no two sides to the wars against Isis or Al-Qaeda, there are no two sides to this war, and therefore no place for mediation. The goal is clear — destruction of Hamas and the liberation of the people of Gaza from the Hamas dictatorship, and the people of Israel from the threat that such a murderous and savage attack will ever happen again.
- Israel has often been accused of blockading Gaza. This claim makes no sense since Gaza also has a border with Egypt, over which Israel has no control. Not only has Israel not blockaded or controlled the strip, it withdrew completely from Gaza and tried to live in peace with its people. But Hamas will never agree to peace with Israel, and states this openly.
- Israel is trying to alleviate the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Humanitarian aid continues, and trucks with supplies enter Gaza daily. The water supply from Israel was reconnected, but the electricity supply could not be reinstalled as nine of the 10 power lines that were providing electricity from Israel were destroyed by Hamas missiles. There have also been accusations that Israel is preventing fuel from entering Gaza and therefore endangering the work of medical personnel. Yet Hamas has a stockpile of hundreds of thousands of litres of fuel. In addition, it fires hundreds of missiles into Israel every day indiscriminately, targeting civilians in all major Israeli cities, towns and villages. Each missile launch site requires tremendous amounts of fuel, and there are many sites. Hamas has fuel for launching missiles but not for hospitals.
- Hamas is holding 239 Israeli hostages in Gaza — old people, some of whom are Holocaust survivors, young men and women, children separated from their parents, and even babies, the youngest of whom is just nine months old. They are held in darkness in Hamas tunnels under Gaza, with no access to the Red Cross or any UN humanitarian organisation. Strangely, the international organisations that are omnipresent in Gaza don’t display much interest in the plight of the hostages. Nobody takes care of them, nobody knows their condition or whether they receive any food or medicines. It is just another indication of the cruel and inhumane nature of Hamas.
- The international community has provided billions of dollars to Gaza — from 2014 to 2020 the UN alone invested $4.5bn. And yet 30% of the population lives below the poverty line, and there is close to 60% youth unemployment. Where has all this money gone? It was used by Hamas to dig hundreds of kilometres of tunnels under Gaza to hide state-of-the-art missile factories and stockpile sophisticated weapons of war. Photographs even emerged recently of Hamas operatives digging up water pipes to turn them into rockets. Hamas is stealing the aid intended for the Palestinian people, and the UN agencies know this.
- The suffering of the people of Gaza was not caused by Israel, it was brought upon them by Hamas. The attack on Israel was unprovoked. Israel had to respond otherwise Hamas would have attacked again and again. Hamas is operating in the midst of a civilian population, with the top echelon of terrorists based in a bunker under Shifa Hospital, the main hospital of Gaza. They know Israel will not attack hospitals or schools and deliberately place their installations next to these locations. They also prevent civilians from leaving when the Israeli Defence Force warns them to move from areas that will be targeted. Hamas is not interested in the plight of the people of Gaza, it is only interested in slaughtering Israelis, Jews in general, and other innocent people.
The atrocities that were committed by Hamas on October 7 were not politically motivated and had no political justification. It is not a political issue but a question of morality. Failure to condemn this brutal slaughter compromises human values, and once this has taken place such compromises will not be limited to Hamas.
• Belotsercovsky is Israel’s ambassador to SA.