Photo: European External Action Service, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Attack against Israel

The Palestinian people shall liberate its land with blood, with martyrs, with women, and with children. Wie shall never relinquish the land of our fathers and of our forefathers… We shall come and take down that [border] fence with the fingernails of our children!

Hamas Al-Aqsa TV

This statement by a member of the Al-Sawarka clan was aired on the Hamas Al-Aqsa TV channel on March 29th, the day before the bloody uprisings began.

They shove their women and children into war

Even before the organized protests began, Hamas repeatedly attacked Israel with rockets from above and through tunnels from below. Three terrorists, armed with hand grenades and knives, entered Israeli territory through twenty miles of tunnels before being stopped by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). The incident was hardly mentioned in the European media.

Before 30,000 gathered at the Israeli border on Friday, March 30th, to kick off the “Great Return March”, Israeli officials had repeatedly warned the Palestinians to keep away from the security fence during the protests. Warnings were distributed via social media and leaflets dropped from airplanes. Despite all warnings, Hamas fighters burned tires at the border, set booby traps, attacked Israeli border troops with incendiary devices and stones, and tried to breach the border. The Israeli army responded with caution and restraint. Otherwise such a provocation, such an outbreak of violence, would have claimed many more lives than the 17 terrorists killed by the Israelis.

The “Great Return March” on the 70th anniversary of the “Nakba”, when about 600,000 Arabs left the territory of present-day Israel, is part of a new Hamas strategy. Realizing they can’t win militarily, Hamas leaders have initiated a propaganda war in an attempt to isolate Israel internationally.

The cynical calculation: the more images of dead and wounded, the greater the political damage to the enemy. And because images of dead women and children are most effective, they are shoved up front. An IDF soldier picked up a 7-year-old girl trying to breach the border fence and sent her back to her parents. As in any war with Israel, the “heroes of the Palestinian struggle for freedom” hide behind their families. But this time, not to protect themselves at schools and hospitals from where rockets are fired, but rather to provoke as many of their own casualties as possible for the propaganda campaign.

That strategy is likely to be met with relatively low approval among the general population. When the protests began, which are to extend into the middle of May, only about a third of the 100,000 expected participants appeared, and only a relatively small part of them took part in violence. Just one day after the deadly clashes on Friday, only a few hundred Palestinians made their way into the tent camps along the border. Nevertheless, there is a high probability that the situation could escalate. During the 45-day campaign, mass marches are to take place weekly at the border.

“Homecoming or Third World War”

Issam Hammad, one of the movement’s initiators and co-chairman of the International Committee for the “Great Return March”, makes no effort to disguise the intentions of the marches:

»On May 15, millions of Palestinians from Israel’s neighboring countries will march towards the Gaza border to cross it. In an interview with the German newspaper Die Welt, Hammad says: ›I only need three bread rolls and a bottle of water to return home. Either we live there or we die on the way.‹ … He is ›completely indifferent‹ to any negotiated treaty. A treaty would only deal with the territories ›conquered by Israel in 1967, but with none of the refugees from historic Palestine. We’re tired of suffering; we want to return home.‹ … Hammad expects millions to take part in the march in May: ›We will give the order to march, and everyone will start at the same time. For 70 years Israel has kept us in a pressure cooker. Now the game is finally over. Either Israel will let us return home or the Third World War begins.‹«

One can’t be more blunt in calling for the destruction of Israel. Allowing millions of hostile Arabs into its territory would be tantamount to a national suicide of the Jewish state. The Times of Israel sums it up: “The Palestinians demand this right not only for those of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who are still alive — a figure estimated in the low tens of thousands — but also for their descendants, who number in the millions. No Israeli government would ever be likely to accept this demand, since it would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish-majority state. Israel’s position is that Palestinian refugees and their descendants would become citizens of a Palestinian state at the culmination of the peace process, just as Jews who fled or were forced out of Middle Eastern countries by hostile governments became citizens of Israel.”

Israel will therefore not allow its borders to be breached or Hamas to provoke new incidents, but will, if necessary, intervene within Gaza and take action against those behind the attacks.

Is the plan working?

Hamas’ political plans may work. Although their corrupt leadership is losing support at home, and allied Sunni brother states are putting pressure on Hamas behind the scenes to find a political solution, Hamas does have powerful international allies.

Because of the civil war in Syria, Shiite Iran is de facto on Israel’s border, and despite all religious differences they also support Sunni Hamas. A Syria-Iran-Russia-Turkey axis has proved its worth in Syria and is now emerging victorious in this conflict. The Sunni states in the Arab peninsula fear Iran’s expanding hegemony, which will soon be a nuclear power if they’re not stopped, which is why countries such as Saudi Arabia are obviously making efforts to intensify their relations with the USA and to further improve those with Israel. The labyrinthine interests could escalate into a confrontation not only between Israel and its immediate enemies, but ultimately also between the USA and Russia. With Turkey’s NATO membership, such a conflict would be difficult to reconcile with the constellation in Syria, especially since Erdogan has now taken a clear position in describing Israel as an “occupier” and even as a “terrorist state”. Such words are uttered by the likes of Erdogan, who throws members of the domestic opposition into prison and wages war against the Kurds.

Europe has an open ear for Israel’s delegitimization. After the attack on Israel’s borders, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, made a statement that leaves little doubt as to which side she favors:

»At least 16 Palestinians were killed yesterday by Israeli Security Forces using live ammunition during clashes and demonstrations inside Gaza near the border with Israel. Hundreds were also injured as tens of thousands demonstrated inside Gaza near the border fence. The EU mourns the loss of life. Our thoughts are with the families of the victims. The use of live ammunition should, in particular, be part of an independent and transparent investigation. While Israel has the right to protect its borders, the use of force must be proportionate at all times. Freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are fundamental rights that must be respected. (…) The EU reiterates its calls for an end to the closure of Gaza and a full opening of the crossing points, while addressing Israel’s legitimate security concerns.«

No, Mrs Mogherini, I do not mourn for a second the lives of terrorists. My thoughts are not with people who shove their children into battle with armed troops with intent to produce martyrs. And “tearing down the border fence with the fingernails of our children” to drive the Jews back into the sea has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with freedom of expression or freedom of assembly. Please address your demand for a complete opening of the border crossings to the Egyptian government, which may have its security concerns.

Barely four airline hours distant from you, Mrs. Moherini, a small country is fighting terrorists to maintain its democracy. There is no equidistance in this conflict. If you can’t see that, you haven’t understood anything of the spirit on which the European Union was founded.

Translation by William Wires

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Über den Autor / die Autorin

Thomas M. Eppinger

Thomas Eppinger ist davon überzeugt, dass alle Menschen mit unveräußerlichen Rechten geboren sind, zu denen das Recht auf Leben, Freiheit und das Streben nach Glück gehören. Daraus ergab sich alles andere, auch diese Website.
Der Publizist ist 1961 in Vöcklabruck geboren, lebt heute in Graz und arbeitet in Wien als Lead Editor bei »Der Pragmaticus«. Davor leitete er den unabhängigen Nahost-Thinktank Mena-Watch.