Gaza – The Road Not Yet Traveled

August 10, 2014 1:44 pm 11 comments
The IDF uncovered a 14-meter tunnel shaft hidden in a basement prayer room of a mosque in Gaza. Photo: Screenshot / IDF.

The IDF uncovered a 14-meter tunnel shaft hidden in a basement prayer room of a mosque in Gaza. Photo: Screenshot / IDF.

The notion that truth is the first casualty of war has found expression in the ongoing fog of the current Israel-Hamas conflict – where truth is obscured or masked by oft-repeated clichés such as “cycle of violence,” false moral equivalences, or unconscionable allegations of Israeli “genocide.” If we want to prevent further tragedies in this conflict – let alone frame the basis for its resolution – then we have to go behind the daily headlines that cloud if not corrupt understanding, probe the real root causes of conflict, and finally travel the road not yet taken to its just resolution.

While the deliberate – and indiscriminate – bombardment of Israeli civilians, and the threat of abductions and mass killings from the terror tunnels, have been the trigger for this latest war, there is a longer and underlying proximate cause: the Hamas Terrorist War of Attrition against Israel since 2000.

Simply put, from 2000 to 2004, Hamas suicide bombers murdered over 1,000 Israelis – wounding some 3,000 – in a horrific and sustained terrorist assault that was defeated in part by the Israeli “Operation Defensive Shield” in 2002, and in part by the building of a security barrier, which dramatically reduced penetration by Hamas suicide bombers. In 2005, with the Hamas terrorist onslaught defeated, Israel moved to unilaterally disengage from Gaza. Accordingly, Israel withdrew all its soldiers and citizens, uprooted all its settlements and synagogues, but left behind 3,000 operating greenhouses and related agricultural assets, the whole as the basis for industrial and agricultural growth and development in Gaza.

How did Hamas respond? They destroyed the greenhouses, brutalized the Fatah opposition, effectively instituted a theocratic dictatorship in 2007, repressed its own people, and began the launching of more than 14,000 rockets and missiles targeting Israeli population centers. In effect, then, Hamas squandered the opportunity offered by Israel to live in peace, to utilize the industrial and agricultural assets, to engage in state-building; rather, Hamas preferred to divert resources for the building of a terrorist infrastructure that would punish its own people while threatening Israel.

In effect, then, this is the third Israel-Hamas war since the 2005 disengagement, with each prior truce or ceasefire only providing a basis and incipient trigger for the next war. In this latest conflagration, Hamas has repeatedly repudiated, yet again, a series of ceasefires arrangements and “humanitarian” pauses – while launching more than 3,000 rockets and missiles in the last month alone.

But while these unceasing terror attacks – and ongoing threats – have once again forced Israel to take action in self-defense and to target the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza, this ongoing proximate trigger does not tell the whole story. Rather, it is a symptom, or proxy, for the root cause – the unwillingness of Hamas to recognize Israel’s existence within any boundaries. And more: the public call in the Hamas Charter – and in its declarations – for the destruction of Israel and the killing of Jews wherever they may be.

Let there be no mistake about it, Hamas is a unique – and evil – manifestation of genocidal Antisemitism. These are not words that I use lightly or easily, but there are no other words to describe the toxic convergence of the advocacy by Hamas of the most horrific of crimes – namely genocide – anchored in the most enduring of hatreds – namely antisemitism – with state-orchestrated terrorism as the instrumentality to pursue these goals.

UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon said that one must seek the “root cause” of the Israel-Hamas conflict so as to enable us to resolve it. However politically incorrect it may be to say so, this culture of hatred – this genocidal antisemitism –is the root cause and has fueled the ongoing Hamas terrorist war of attrition.

Accordingly, what is so necessary now is not another ceasefire or humanitarian pause, but a ceasefire that is enduring and comprehensive, that will put an end to the Hamas Terrorist War of Attrition that has targeted Israel’s population and engulfed its own, and that will be protective of both Israeli and Palestinian civilians, as President Obama and other leaders have called for. Such a ceasefire will hopefully be the basis for an Israeli-Palestinian peace, anchored in two states for two peoples living side by side in peace and security. This will require traveling on the road not yet taken – an agreed upon, and guaranteed, set of international, legal, diplomatic, political, security, economic, and humanitarian undertakings and initiatives as follows:

  1. A comprehensive – and enduring – ceasefire framework not only to halt but to end hostilities must be put in place. For such a ceasefire to endure, the casus belli that triggered these latest hostilities – that has underpinned the Hamas War of Attrition – must be addressed and redressed. Simply put, Hamas must cease and desist from its policy and practice of targeting Israeli civilians and terrorizing Israeli civilian populations.
  2. The ceasefire must be accompanied by massive humanitarian and medical relief, the delivery of some of which has thus far been hindered by Hamas itself, as with Hamas’ refusal to allow Gazans to avail themselves of an Israeli field hospital. Clearly, after the tragic death and destruction, there must be mandated and comprehensive international humanitarian assistance.
  3. Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other terrorist militias must be disarmed, as called for by EU Foreign Ministers, as a sine qua non for the cessation of hostilities.
  4. The Hamas military infrastructure – and related military and terrorist assets – rockets, missiles, launchers, mortars, munitions, and the like must be dismantled.
  5. There must be a complete closure – and destruction – of the Hamas terror tunnels – the standing instrument of terror and incipient mass murder. Indeed, captured Hamas battle plans reveal that Hamas was planning a mass terror attack during the Jewish New Year that would have threatened the lives of thousands. Even during the latest ceasefire, Hamas continued to threaten to deploy these terror tunnels.
  6. An end must be put to the Hamas capacity to manufacture rockets and other military assets. Simply put, there must be a supervised monitoring of the importation of building materials – like cement and steel – that have been used for the manufacture of weapons and tunnels, rather than the building of hospitals, schools, and mosques for which they were intended.
  7. The prohibition of the transfer or smuggling of weapons, like those advanced missiles from Iran, which both Hamas and Iran have boasted about, and with which Iran has threatened to re-supply Hamas in recent days. As senior Iranian official Mohsen Rezaei said this week “Palestinian resistance missiles are the blessing of Iran’s transfer of technology.”
  8. A robust international stabilization and protection force – with the necessary mandate, mission, and numbers – should be deployed to ensure that the ceasefire is respected; that Hamas and other terrorist militias are disarmed; that the military terrorist infrastructure is dismantled; that the terror tunnels are closed and destroyed – the whole to protect against the targeting of Israeli civilians and the use of Palestinian civilians as human shields. Indeed, while Israel has been forced to use weapons to protect civilians, Hamas has been using its captive civilian population to protect its weapons.
  9. This international protection force must also be empowered to secure a total interdiction of the transfer, import, or smuggling of weapons into Gaza – which is what triggered the blockade of Gaza in the first place after Hamas assumed power in 2007.
  10. An international framework – one of the most important initiatives of the road not yet travelled – will be necessary to secure and maintain the demilitarization of Gaza, while supervising the entry of people and goods into Gaza.
  11. The deployment of this international protection force – and the demilitarization of Gaza – can provide a basis for the reciprocal opening of border-crossings, the commensurate easing of the blockades, and the development of a Gaza sea port. Indeed, the movement of people, goods, commerce, trade, development, and evolving economic prosperity were precisely what was contemplated – and was clearly possible – when Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. There was then no occupation, no blockade, no Israeli presence – only the potential for Gaza to freely develop and help usher in a nascent peace with Israel and self-determination for its people.
  12. In particular, the dismantling of Hamas’ extensive military and terrorist infrastructure – which is embedded amongst Gaza’s civilian population – and the demilitarization of Gaza – can ultimately lead to a “Marshall Plan” for Gaza with the ultimate goal of securing economic growth, development, and a sustainable peace.
  13. With order restored, an international governing authority – possibly led by the PA, but including European, American, Canadian, and Egyptian representation – should be the mandated trusteeship authority for Gaza. This can serve as a state-building authority that can be the basis for the emergence of a peaceful, rights-protecting, Rule of Law Gaza that can ultimately travel the road not yet taken to a peaceful and democratic Palestinian State.
  14. The direct financing of Hamas which was put to military and terrorist purposes must end. The internationally mandated authority should ensure that banks in China, Turkey, and Qatar do not continue to finance Hamas, and that governments such as Qatar and Iran do not finance Hamas’ war crimes.
  15. A crucial point oft ignored: Palestinian society in Gaza must be freed from the cynical and oppressive culture of hate and incitement. This not only constitutes a standing threat to Israel, but undermines the development of authentic Palestinian self-determination, as in the cruel deployment of Palestinian child labour in the terror tunnels. No peaceful solution will be possible if massive resources continue to be poured into state-controlled media, mosques, refugee camps, training camps, and educational systems that serve the sole purpose of demonizing Israel and the Jewish people, and inciting to war against them.

Indeed, Hamas’ militant rejectionism of Israel’s right to exist –its public call for Israel’s destruction and the killing of Jews wherever they may be – have threatened the safety and security not only of Israelis but of Palestinians too. Regrettably, the Gazan people’s desire – and right – to live in peace and security cannot be realized so long as Hamas continues to hold its own people hostage, and to pursue a strategy of terror and incitement. Indeed, this war in Gaza is not only one of self-defense for the Israeli people, but should lead to the  securing of the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people, who deserve better than to be held hostage by a terrorist regime.

These initiatives, undertakings, and objectives are the road not yet taken. Admittedly, all this may be difficult to secure. But the time has come – indeed it is long past time – to realize that if we want to protect the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians, these initiatives and undertakings must become the road we travel now.

Irwin Cotler is a Member of the Canadian Parliament and a former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. He has written extensively on the pursuit of peace in the Middle-East.

11 Comments

  • Why you are wrong about the international protection force:

    There are 3 major reasons why the introduction of an international protection force is bad news for Jews and bad news for Israel.

    1) The Palestinians will take action to draw these forces into hot zones. If violence grows in Jerusalem and the West Bank, these same forces will be called upon to move to these areas as well. Once in these areas, attacks against them will be carried out. In some of these attacks, Israel and Jews will be blamed. In some cases Jews will be involved. In other cases Palestinians will insure that Jews are blamed attacks carried out by Muslims. Serious tension will result between Israel and these forces. Israel will be left with no friends and Israel cannot allow itself to be forced down this path.
    2) The strategy of the Palestinians is to take the Old City in Jerusalem away from Israel. As violence grows in Jerusalem, and this will be by design, these forces will be offered up to take control of the Old City and act as a buffer. This will be phase 1 in their plan to take direct control.
    3) After a period of sustained losses, just as we saw UNIFIL collapse in Lebanon, just as we saw the Iraqi forces run from ISIS, so will this force follow suit.

    Do not support the introduction of a so called protection force! Not in Gaza and not anywhere else. Supporting such action is short sighted. Jews and Israel, cannot rely on anyone else but themselves, for their own protection and safeguarding Jewish interests.

  • WHY WE ARE LOSING THIS WAR — FURTHERMORE DOES WINNING THIS WAR MEAN WE LACK COMPASSION?
    I suggest that on the first night of Operation Protective Edge if we had attacked with everything we had and killed 10,000 Gazans and Hamasniks, the war would have been over that day. And if it wasn’t on day one, it would have been over on day two when we killed another 10 thousands. Or on day three….
    At that point everyone of our enemies would have known that we mean business and would have learned what their fate would be if they dared to attack us. But today our enemies know that if they attack us we will simply bleed.
    If anyone says we lack compassion, ask yourself whether you are prepared to see the destruction of the Jewish people once more in your lifetime? If you have compassion, I beg you to reserve it for us who want nothing more than to live in peace, then for societies that glorify war and our death.
    The more important question is not whether we lack compassion but for whom do we have it?

  • deborah lurya

    IT IS FAR BETTER TO BE FEARED AND RESPECTED,THEN HELD IN CONTEMPT AND HATED
    I know this sounds sick but I want Hamas to break the ceasefire and force Bibi to face reality- there will never be peace in this region for Israel if there is a power vacuum, and if we cowtow to our “betters” i.e. Obamalek, EU, UN, Turkey, and Qatar, and of course the countless threats of being brought before the ICC.
    We must set the pace and demonstrate to the world that we are not going away, and that we will not be diminished by any power that has a charter or goal to destroy our state. We must demonstrate our love for our own people and the wonderful gift that was given to us by Hashem.
    We must stand above the world and show them the right way. Yes, we must shed light on the darkness that is now clouding the world’s morality and judgment.
    We are a peaceful people but we have been provoked beyond belief, and must now use a different strategy. We cannot any longer pretend that we are incapable of ruthlessness. We must use ruthless abandon now in order to protect our nation and our people from a planned annihilation. The world has displayed its utmost contempt for us- therefore, let us not worry any longer about their friendship or acceptance, or alliance- there is none. Just look around, see the anti-Semitic demonstrations in the EU and even US.
    Let them instead fear us and respect us for being principled and loyal to our own.
    Shalom
    PS I M NOT A WAR MONGER, I LOST A LOVED ONE IN 73 AND HAVE A CHILD ON THE LINE AS A SOLDIER. BUT SOMETIMES ONE HAS TO GIVE IT UP TO GET IT.

  • Dr. Cotler described well the whole cituation, nevertheless, I just hope those in control, will give an open EAR & EYE to Dr. Cotler point of view. My honest opinion, there will never be peace with the preditors, as much as there will never be peace with ivels, we must always be alert for their malicious actions; we must stand tall and be prepared to defend ourselves against terrorist, they will never stop their acts of violence, they are hunting JEWS all over the world. They just killed a RABBA IN MIAMI. What & who is next? The USA is in japardy so is our lives. We must pray every minutes for the destructions of all terrorist, pray with me, AMEN!

  • TOMMCPARTLAND

    FOR EVERY CHILD OR ADULT WHO DIES IN THESE CONFLICTS I OFFER A PRAYER OF LOVE.
    I THINK OF THOSE WHO HAVE LOST LOVED ONES…THE PAIN THEY MUST BE SUFFERING
    BOTH SIDES SAYING THEY ARE FIGHTING FOR A CAUSE……IS ANY CAUSE WORTHWHILE WHEN CHILDREN ARE SLAUGHTERED?
    SOMEHOW THE HATRED OF MANY YEARS HAS TO BE CHANGED INTO LOVE

  • Dr. Cotler’s solution will not be feasible until either Hamas is removed from power or it radically transforms its goals.

    Removal from power depends on there being a force able and willing to take the casualties necessary to do so. Neither NATO nor the UN will be that force, so who does that leave? Probably just the IDF, but Israel will do it only if the international community is prepared to allow it.

    Changing its goals is most likely not even on the table. If Hamas abandons the goal of genocide against the Jews its rationale for existence evaporates, and there will doubtless be a more violent, Islamist group, maybe ISIS, ready to fill the vacuum.

    I wish I were more optimistic about the prospects for Dr. Cotler’s suggestions.

  • Zsuzsi Stekel

    May I add the dismantling of UNWRA which is adding to the problem by teaching hatred in its school and hs been collaborating with Hamas by allowing its schools hospitals and clinics to be safe havens for Hamas leaders and storage for missiles
    UNWRA is not needed as there are no longer any refugees in Gaza they should be free citiczens of the region

  • Sonia Willats

    Well said. I have also felt that only an INTERNATIONAL FORCE COMMITTED TO PEACE could bring peace to Gaza; likewise Syria… Lebanon is also victim to the dominance of aggressive Islam that doesn’t want peace. Israel is not unique in suffering from this; though she is singled out by Obama, the EU, the United Nations etc.

    Until the “West” and the “United Nations” return to previously held values, they will continue to dialogue with and support terrorism mini-armies, and terrorist regimes e.g. Iran… and there will not be the will to maintain peace in Gaza etc. etc. Instead they will hand back the weapons to Hamas and stand by whilst Hamas (or whichever head of the hydra is currently in power) and allow them to continue their relentless march to destroy the little that remains of the free world, of which Israel is the only symbol in the Middle East.

    Surely, if the West maintains its current trajectory, it will fall to radical forces by refusing to identify them and call them what they are. This political-correctness is disarming the world from recognising the enemy and standing against it.

  • Great article,very clear concise writing. If only ?
    Centuries of history would lead us to the conclusion that the peoples who live in this region cannot live peacefully alongside their neighbors. They seem to want to find a reason to fight. They are by their very existence warmongering peoples. I find it very difficult to understand having been born into a virtual peaceful world and living in New Zealand. The whole of the Middle East seems to fractured by Sectarian, Religious, Tribal, factions where each loves to hate, war is a reality, it gives purpose to the current outlook. Hate Muslins, hate Christians, Hate Zionists, ie. give us a reason and we will fight.??
    If only they could find a magic solution, a ray of sunshine, that would have all the Arab world come together as one and live in peace with each other and the rest of the world!
    Isn’t religion the primary cause of all these problems?
    Please will someone tell me, what actual visible benefit is any religion giving to people throughout the world?
    In conclusion, I thoroughly recommend Irwin Cotler’s writings on the Middle East, he has a very great understanding of all the factors involved.

  • Dr. Cotler outlines in a clear and non sectarian way, a route for solving this conflict. The question is; is the world really ready to do so? Or will they continue playing the palestian card as a way to keep the UN burocracy employed?

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