GAZA is Israel's punching bag. Israel can always invent a reason to launch its aggression against this strip of densely populated land hardly 141 square miles in area. Blaming it on Hamas men, who have been denying any involvement in the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers last June, Israel has been carrying out raids into Gaza to punish innocent Palestinians.
Though the Israeli boys' kidnapping and murder mystery could not be cracked as yet, a Palestinian boy has been kidnapped and burnt to death. What can the Palestinians in Gaza do but protest in anger against this barbaric revenge killing? But revenge against whom? And what can the Hamas, which runs the administration in Gaza, do in the face of attacks against its people by Israeli planes, artillery and missiles? They have their unguided crude rockets that they fire into Israel in response to attacks by sophisticated Israeli war machine. And with the Iron Dome anti-missile system in place to protect Israeli airspace, the Hamas rockets are nothing but ineffective pieces of metal that have no devastating impact on Israeli targets. Small wonder, during the last few days the hundreds of Hamas rockets that Israel claims to have rained down on their cities could neither hit a target nor cause a single death. But Israeli bombardments have destroyed homes, and killed more than 159 people, 77% of whom are civilians, according UN calculation.
From the recent utterances of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it appears Israel is planning another full-scale war against the 1.8 million citizens of Gaza with the involvement of land forces. The reasons for this new incursion are not clear, at least not from the incidents of the immediate past weeks. And Israel has also not linked this invasion to the killing of its teenage boys. Though they did not admit it to have any causal connection, from the sequence of events one can still find a chain -- abduction and murder of Israeli boys, indiscriminate Israeli raids in Gaza to apprehend or punish suspected culprits among Hamas men (terrorists to the Israelis), retaliatory Hamas rockets and now fully-fledged Israeli invasion into Gaza. A valid (!) ground for a full-scale war, indeed!
Can those make a serious case for waging a war? If they are not credible reasons, then there must be one that will become clear soon. In the present scheme of Israeli war hawks, the abduction and murder of Israeli boys -- although no one still knows who did it -- provided the excuse to provoke Hamas to dare them by firing their ineffective rockets.
The Israelis are fully aware of the present predicament of Hamas. They are in a state of isolation in the aftermath of civil wars raging in Iraq and Syria and the overthrow of the Morsi government in Egypt. The traditional sources of finance and military supply that Hamas used to receive from Syria and Iran have dwindled simply because Hamas is composed of Sunni Islamist militants. The present regime led by Abdul Fattah al-Sisi in Egypt, on the other hand, is suspicious of Hamas for his (Sisi's) predecessor Mohammed Morsi and his party Muslim Brotherhood's link with Hamas. Is it not then the opportune moment for Israel to destroy Hamas, the resistance backbone of the Palestinians in Gaza, once and for all?
But Hamas is not simply a terrorist organisation as Israel and many Western governments would like to believe. It is possible to destroy a terrorist organisation using a superior force like military. But is it true of Hamas, which enjoys widespread support among the 1.8 million Gazans? Should one then brand all these Gazans as terrorists since they voted for Hamas?
Israel has started this unnecessary war in Gaza at a moment when, for the sake of Palestinian unity (between Hamas and Fatah) and for establishing a Palestinian state within 1967 borders, this militant Palestinian organisation was even ready to improve relations with Israel and end all hostilities against it. Israeli leaders from their hawkish mindset only believe in the military way of achieving political goals. At least, right wing Likud Party chairman and present Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu believes in that kind of solution. But he and his fellow leaders must have known from history that there is no military solution to a problem that has wider ethnic, social and political dimensions. The history of the Jewish people itself bears the best testimony to it. Have they not survived despite thousands of years of persecution?
So, it won't be possible to destroy the will of the Palestinian people by any military means. Israel's carrying on a campaign in the name of destroying what it terms 'Hamas terrorists' and their capacity for producing and firing rockets is killing innocent civilians in scores and terrorising the entire population of Gaza. And this experience is nothing new with the Gazans. Does Israel mean to kill all the Palestinians in Gaza? That is a preposterous proposition.
The US and its allies in Europe have expressed concern about rising civilian casualties, including women and children, in Gaza as a result of Israeli attacks. But in the same breath, they are also being sympathetic about Israel's so-called right to defend itself. Israel defending against whom -- against the defenseless Gaza people and the rag-tag Hamas outfit?
They must prevail upon Israel to stop this senseless, unequal war and persuade it to pursue the path of constructive political engagement with the Palestinans in Gaza and the West Bank for lasting peace in the Middle East.
The writer is Editor, Life & Science, The Daily Star.