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Myths and Facts
The Gaza Strip

by Mitchell Bard

Israel is responsible for blockading Gaza.
Israel’s blockade of Gaza is collective punishment.
Hamas bombards Israel with rockets to end the “occupation.”
Hamas rockets do minor damage and are no threat to Israel.
Israel indiscriminately attacks Palestinian targets in Gaza.
Hamas protects Palestinian civilians.
Israel denies health care and medical supplies to Gaza.
Israel did nothing to help Palestinians respond to COVID-19.
Israel was guilty of war crimes in its operations in Gaza.
Israel uses disproportionate force.

MYTH

Israel is responsible for blockading Gaza.

FACT

Israel cannot impose a blockade on its own. Egypt controls the southern border of the Gaza Strip. It also maintains the blockade to prevent Hamas from obtaining weapons from Iran and materials it can use to manufacture rockets to fire at Israeli cities. Egypt demolished dozens of homes along its border with Gaza to create a buffer zone to stop smugglers and extremists from crossing in either direction and built a wall to prevent their use of tunnels under the border.1

The Islamic Research Council of Al-Azhar University in Egypt, the voice of Sunni Islam, has publicly supported Egypt’s attempts to destroy the smuggling tunnels between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. “It is one of Egypt’s legitimate rights to place a barrier that prevents the harm from the tunnels under Rafah, which are used to smuggle drugs and other (contraband) that threaten Egypt’s stability,” the Council said. “Those who oppose building this wall are violating the commands of Islamic Law.”2

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas voiced his support of the blockade to U.S. President Barack Obama when they met at the White House on June 9, 2010. Abbas stated that lifting the blockade would give Hamas access to more weaponry.3

The Gaza Strip

Gaza Map

Meanwhile, people, goods, and fuel can enter Egypt through Rafah and the Salah Al-Din crossing. At the border with Israel, the Erez crossing is used for people and the Kerem Shalom for transferring goods and fuel.

In 2021, the UN recorded 179,390 exits and 158,764 entries via the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt and 90,421 exits and 87,015 entries via the Erez crossing between Gaza and Israel. These figures refer only to the movement of people and are additional to the movement of goods and fuels.

Chart, bar chart

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Source: OCHA

In addition, Israel has also complied with—and exceeded—international law by delivering humanitarian supplies it is not required to provide.

Meanwhile, “peace activists” seeking to break the blockade have not spoken out against Hamas terror or the denial of human rights to Palestinians by Hamas officials ruling the Gaza Strip. With the possible exception of Turkey, the international community has not opposed the actions of Israel and Egypt because Hamas has refused to meet the conditions for ending the blockade: halting terror attacks, recognizing Israel’s right to exist, and agreeing to abide by past Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

MYTH

Israel’s blockade of Gaza is collective punishment.

FACT

Critics of Israel’s blockade of Gaza sometimes refer to it as “collective punishment;” however, the term refers to the “imposition of criminal-type penalties to individuals or groups on the basis of another’s guilt.” Israel has done no such thing.

Israel has no obligation to maintain open borders with a hostile territory. The suspension of trade relations or embargoes is a frequent tool of international diplomacy. It has never been regarded as “collective punishment.”4

In 2011, the UN Palmer Committee concluded that Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip is consistent with customary international law, is legitimate due to the security threat posed by Hamas, and does not constitute collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza.

International law requires that Israel permit the passage of food, clothing, and medicines for children under 15, expectant mothers, and maternity cases. If Israel believes Hamas will intercept these goods and the enemy will benefit, even these provisions may be prohibited. Israel also need not provide these supplies; it is obligated only to allow others to transfer provisions.

Furthermore, the law does not prohibit Israel from cutting off fuel supplies and electricity to Gaza, withholding commercial items, or sealing its border. Israel is also not obligated to provide minimum supplies to prevent a “humanitarian crisis.”

MYTH

Hamas bombards Israel with rockets to end the “occupation.”

FACT

“The Palestinians are only resisting occupation” is a favorite talking point of apologists for Palestinian terrorism, and Hamas’ rocket attacks on Israel’s civilian population are no exception. This fallacy was proven when Israel evacuated all troops and civilians from Gaza in 2005 and was rewarded with increased terrorism instead of peace. Still, Palestinians and their advocates maintain that “the occupation” is the primary motivation for terrorism against Israel.

Unlike Mahmoud Abbas, who makes moderate statements when he wants to win public relations points and extreme ones when speaking to his constituents, the message of Hamas is unequivocal and consistent. As stated in the organization’s covenant, the Islamic Resistance Movement “strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine” and “there is no solution for the Palestinian question except through jihad.”

The head of the Hamas political bureau, Khaled Meshal, spoke plainly during a 2012 rally in Gaza:

Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the south to the north. There will be no concession on any inch of the land...We will never recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation, and therefore there is no legitimacy for Israel.5

While Israelis lament the loss of innocent Palestinian lives, Hamas rejoices whenever Israelis are murdered. For example, on July 13, 2014, Hamas released a music video celebrating the bombing of an Israeli school bus that killed 16-year-old Daniel Viflic.6

This is not the behavior of resistance fighters grudgingly forced to take up arms in defense of their homes and families but a culture of martyrdom in which killing the enemy’s children is praised and admired.

Palestinian Christians in the territories live under similar conditions, and yet they do not engage in terrorism or call for Israel’s destruction. This is also true of many other suffering peoples living in far more difficult circumstances than the Palestinians. The intentional murder of civilians is a horrendous abuse of human rights and a war crime; Palestinians are the only people who believe terrorism is a legitimate tactic.

If Hamas were interested in ending the “occupation,” it would join rather than oppose peace negotiations. Peace, however, has never been the goal of Hamas. The group’s true objective is expressed in the title of a book written by the political adviser to then-Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas: “The End of the Jewish State: Just a Matter of Time.”

MYTH

Hamas rockets do minor damage and are no threat to Israel.

FACT

Since 2000, terrorists from inside Gaza have fired more than 18,000 Kassam rockets, GRAD missiles, and mortars into Israel since Israel unilaterally withdrew from the area in 2005. These weapons have killed at least 40 Israeli civilians, injured hundreds more, and inflicted heavy damage on schools, synagogues, residential homes, and hospitals.

Like the Nazi rocket attacks on London during the Blitz, the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad barrages terrorize all the people within their range. That area has grown as the rockets have become more advanced. All of southern Israel, home to roughly one million Israelis, is in range. Places such as Sderot and Kfar Azza are so close that residents have mere seconds to find shelter after hearing the warning siren, keeping them in a near-constant state of fear and anxiety. In May 2021, rockets reached Jerusalem and the outskirts of Tel Aviv. Schools and businesses are forced to close when bombardments grow intense, and citizens evacuate the area.

If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that. I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.

—Barack Obama7

While apologists for Hamas have downplayed the severity of the thousands of rockets and mortars fired into Israel because of the relatively low number of casualties, the damage caused is much more severe and widespread than typically reported by the media.

When the red alert indicates an incoming rocket, Israelis have 15 seconds to find shelter. What if you are not near one? How do you get an elderly parent or disabled child to safety in that time?

Imagine how it must be to live under those conditions.

Health officials have reported that many residents must be treated for hearing loss, dizziness, tinnitus, and central auditory processing disorders.8

 

Rocket Attacks Launched From Gaza

MYTH

Israel indiscriminately attacks Palestinian targets in Gaza.

FACT

Casualties of war are unfortunate but inevitable. Israel goes to extraordinary lengths to avoid civilian casualties when responding to terror attacks from Gaza. Soldiers drop warning leaflets, use “roof-knocking” rockets and warning shells to alert civilians in buildings, make phone calls to let Palestinians know an attack is coming, maintain lists of protected sites like UN facilities, and fly drones to search targets for civilians before an airstrike.

Palestinian propagandists learned a long time ago that they need only throw a casualty figure out to the media, and it will be published worldwide as fact. In Gaza, the Hamas-run Health Ministry fabricates the number of civilian casualties, and the information is not verified before being disseminated. Hamas is incentivized to falsify the casualty figures because it knows the death of civilians provokes global outrage and prompts accusations that Israel committed “war crimes.”

During Operation Guardian of the Walls in May 2021, Hamas claimed 248 civilians, including 66 children, were killed by Israel. The Health Ministry does not identify any victims as terrorists or distinguish between civilians killed in Israeli airstrikes and those who died from rockets that misfired or landed inside Gaza. Hamas also counts adolescents as children, some of whom are terrorists.9

Consider that Gaza is often said to be one of the world’s most densely populated places and was hit by approximately 680 rockets fired by Hamas and Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ). How likely is it that a much higher number of casualties were self-inflicted?10

Two sources unsympathetic to Israel presented evidence that contradicted the Hamas figures. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said that 128, not 248, civilians were killed. Defense for Children International – Palestine reported one case where “a homemade rocket fired by a Palestinian armed group fell short and killed eight Palestinians, including two children.”11

The IDF said it killed at least 160 terrorists.12 The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, which meticulously examines the identities of the dead, checked 74 names and found that 16 were killed by misfired rockets, and at least 42 were terrorist operatives. Instead of 74 dead civilians, the number was 16.13

Similarly, in Operation Cast Lead in 2008/9, Israel was accused of killing more than 1,400 Palestinians. The IDF acknowledged 1,166 deaths, 295 civilians, 709 terrorists, and 162 who could not be identified. Israel was disbelieved, but Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hammad later admitted it lost between 600 and 700 men.14

No one disputes that some civilians were killed during the May 2021 fighting. The highest death toll occurred when Israel bombed the tunnels in one neighborhood, and surrounding buildings unexpectedly collapsed.15

While tragic, the number of deaths was remarkably low, considering Israel struck more than 1,500 targets. By comparison, President Obama authorized 542 drone strikes that killed 324 civilians.16

The director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) operations in Gaza, no shill for Israel, acknowledged that the IDF’s attacks were precise and directed at military targets. “They did not hit,” Matthias Schmale said, “with some exceptions, civilian targets.”17 He was subsequently pilloried by Hamas, forced to recant, and withdrawn from Gaza in a case study of the consequences of telling the truth. Fear of similar treatment is one explanation for the bias of journalists reporting from Gaza.

No innocent Palestinians would be in danger if the Palestinian Authority took the long-promised steps to stop terrorism or if the international community, especially the Arab world, pressured Hamas to stop attacking Israel. No civilians would be in danger if Hamas terrorists did not deliberately hide among them. Israel would also have no reason to target those areas if peace-seeking Palestinians prevented the terrorists from living in their midst and firing rockets from their neighborhoods.

MYTH

Hamas protects Palestinian civilians.

FACT

Hamas has been shown to use mosques, hospitals, ambulances, and schools to conceal and transport weapons and as bases and hiding places for its fighters on multiple occasions. Many rockets are also fired from near these normally sacrosanct places to attract Israeli fire in the hope that civilians will be killed. Hamas then offers journalists, whose freedom is otherwise constrained to what the terrorists want them to see, “telegenic victims,” children whenever possible.

No matter how much evidence Israel produces to show the risks Hamas is taking with the lives of the innocent, the media is interested only in the body count. From Hamas’ cynical viewpoint, the higher the civilian death toll, the better.

One story even the media could not ignore was the discovery of 20 rockets hidden in a school run by UNRWA.18 Pretending to have no idea where the missiles could have come from, the agency condemned the “group or groups responsible” without mentioning Hamas.

The story does not end with the discovery of the rockets. UNRWA had to remove them once it became public knowledge that they were on UNRWA property. Rather than destroy the weapons cache, turn it over to Israeli forces, or give them to a neutral institution, they informed “the relevant parties” instead. Thus, UNRWA did know where the rockets came from and returned them to Hamas.19 More projectiles were later found in a second school.20 This did not stop Hamas from continuing to use UNRWA facilities to hide their weapons and tunnels. In December 2022, for example, a tunnel was discovered below an elementary school it operates.21

The UNRWA cases are proof of Israel’s claim that civilian institutions are being used to store weapons and conceal terror tunnels. Additional evidence demonstrates that rockets are fired from positions near these institutions. Using civilians as shields and sites such as schools and hospitals to store and fire weapons are war crimes. The Palestinian Authority leadership and Hamas are responsible for preventing terror and should be held accountable.

MYTH

Israel denies health care and medical supplies to Gaza.

FACT

The health of Palestinians has improved by every measure and is comparable, if not better, than in other Middle Eastern and North African countries. One reason is that Israel provides medical care to tens of thousands of Palestinians yearly. Israel also trains hundreds of Palestinian doctors from Gaza.

Despite Gaza being ruled by an organization dedicated to Israel’s destruction and the threat of terrorist infiltration, about 20,000 Gazans enter Israel each month, mainly for medical treatment. This includes family members of terrorists, such as the daughter of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. His 17-year-old niece was treated at Ichilov Medical Center in Tel Aviv after a bone marrow transplant even as his organization fired rockets at the city.22 The sister of another senior Hamas leader, Mousa Abu Marzouk, was treated in Israel for cancer.23

Israel set up a medical facility just outside the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge and allowed many Palestinians to receive the urgent care they could not have found in Gaza or other parts of the Arab world. This was while Hamas was using the Shifa Hospital (ironically, built by Israel for the safety of the Gazan population) as its military command center to shield its leaders from Israeli attacks.

Amid protests in May 2018, Israel sent trucks loaded with medical supplies, food, and diapers to Gaza. Palestinian officials allowed the delivery of medical supplies but sent back 14 trucks full of food and diapers.24

Fewer Gazans were allowed into Israel during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. However, tens of thousands of Palestinians were admitted to Israel for medical treatment. Israel provided therapeutics, such as medications for cancer and renal insufficiency.25 In the first quarter of 2022, Israel approved more than 6,000 patient permit applications; nearly one-third were for children under 18.26

Israel allows Palestinians to enter for medical treatment at the risk of admitting terrorists. In 2005, for example, Wafa Samir Ibrahim Bas was arrested attempting to smuggle an explosives belt through the Erez crossing. Bas had been admitted on humanitarian grounds to Soroka Medical Center in Beer Sheva several months earlier for treatment of massive burns she received in a cooking accident.27

Meanwhile, Gazans are suffering because of a power play by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who imposed restrictions on Gaza, including halting the supply of medicine and medical equipment to hospitals. In July 2017, for example, the Gaza Strip’s Ministry of Health warned that the lives of some 2,500 Palestinian patients were “in danger” because the PA stopped the transfer of patients from Gaza for treatment abroad.28 In 2019, the PA halted medical referrals for Palestinians to Israeli hospitals and objected to an American plan to build a hospital in northern Gaza. The PA said the project was an Israeli plot to prevent establishing a Palestinian state and exacerbate friction with Hamas. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) claimed the new hospital was “an Israeli intelligence base.”29

Journalist Bassam Tawil notes, “Abbas, like the rest of the Arab leaders, wants the Gaza Strip to be Israel’s problem alone. Abbas is undoubtedly looking forward to a day when he can hold Israel fully responsible for the coronavirus outbreak in the Gaza Strip.” Tawil added, “He is also likely waiting for the UN and many in the international community to join him in blaming Israel and Jews for the spread of the pandemic among his people while ignoring his responsibility for the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.”30

MYTH

Israel did nothing to help Palestinians respond to COVID-19.

FACT

Israel has done a great deal to help the Palestinians contain the coronavirus outbreak that began when 19 people in Bethlehem tested positive for the disease. Israel quickly provided 250 coronavirus test kits to the Palestinian Authority and began joint training sessions for Israeli and Palestinian medical personnel to study the virus, the protection of medical personnel, and the testing of patients suspected of being virus carriers. The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) also provided Israeli health ministry guidelines on prevention and protection from the virus on its website and Arabic language social media pages.

“We will continue working to help the Palestinian authorities curb the spread of the virus, both as an Israeli interest and for humanitarian reasons,” said Israeli Civil Administration Health Coordinator Dalia Basa. “We will expand medical training to Palestinian personnel as much as possible, as well as the transfer of medical equipment to the Palestinian healthcare system.”31

In a tweet, COGAT said on March 7, 2020: “Public health in Israel and the Palestinian territories is always our top priority and particularly at this time. We are making every effort, in collaboration with all the relevant parties, to protect the health and wellbeing of the region’s residents.”32

This also applies to Gaza, where the Palestinian Health Ministry confirmed the receipt of test kits and medical equipment from Israel requested by medical personnel in Gaza. “Handling the coronavirus outbreak takes precedence over any political consideration, and without help from Israel, Gaza would be in a tough situation in the case of an outbreak,” said a ministry official.33

COGAT delivered coronavirus test kits and protective medical gear to Gaza and coordinated the transfer of tons of disinfectant material from Israeli plants to Palestinian plants. The materials included chlorine and hydrogen peroxide, used for disinfection, preservation of hygiene, and sanitation.34

Israel also provided a loan to the Palestinian Authority to help avert an economic and humanitarian crisis.35 In addition, COVID-19 tests from Palestinians were sent to laboratories at Israel’s Sheba Hospital, which also trained medical staff from Gaza. Other medical workers received training at the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon.36

Even before the crisis, Israel was training Palestinian medical workers. In January 2020, five nurses from the Gaza Strip and 11 from the West Bank were invited to Israel for four days of medical training conducted by Israeli physicians. “I am very happy for the chance to attend this advanced trauma course. In Gaza, we have a lot of problems, and Israel can teach us,” Akram Abu Salah, a nurse from the Gaza Strip, told the Jerusalem Post. “It’s different than I thought. The people are very nice. You have Jews and Palestinians working together. It minimizes the gaps between us.”37

Such cooperation is counter to the anti-normalization campaign of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (BDS); however, An-Najah University epidemiologist Zaher Nazzal said, “Whenever there’s a crisis that affects the people’s health, collaboration should be possible.”38

The fact that Israel provides life-saving medical care to Palestinians makes little difference to propagandists who have made outrageous claims that, for example, the virus is “Israel’s new weapon” and that it is being deliberately transmitted to Palestinians in Israeli prisons.39

Critics who blame the blockade of Gaza for preventing supplies from reaching Palestinians neglect that Egypt controls one border and that nothing prevented medical supplies from being transferred to Gaza from Egypt. Hamas made it more difficult when it briefly shut down the Rafah pedestrian crossing into Egypt in March 2020; shortly after that, the Egyptian Red Crescent delivered medical supplies and humanitarian aid.40

In May 2020, the Palestinian Authority refused to accept 14 tons of medical supplies to fight the COVID-19 pandemic because it was delivered by the United Arab Emirates Etihad Airways through Israel and “constitutes a cover for normalization.”41

The decision did not hurt Israel or deter the UAE from improving ties with Israel. It did, however, increase the risk to Palestinians of becoming infected and possibly dying of the coronavirus and angered the emirates. UAE political analyst Majed al-Raeesi tweeted: “Aid in the form of tons of medical supplies is not important. If the assistance was in the form of money/dollars, it wouldn’t have been rejected. May God help ordinary Palestinians against the thieves of the Palestinian Authority.”42

MYTH

Israel was guilty of war crimes in its operations in Gaza.

FACT

The Goldstone Commission was created to investigate alleged war crimes during the conflict between Israel and Hamas during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in December 2008/January 2009. No one was surprised when the Commission issued a report highly critical of Israel, given that it was created by the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), an organization long ago discredited for its obsessive and biased focus on Israel, and that one of the Commission members, Christine Chinkin, had previously accused Israel of war crimes.43

The four-person panel, led by Judge Richard Goldstone, based virtually all of its 575-page report on unverified accounts by Palestinians and NGOs. The Goldstone Commission fixated on Israel’s incursion into Gaza while failing to adequately address the provocation – three years of Hamas rocket bombardment of Israeli towns and villages – that led to the Israeli operation.

When interviewing Gazans, the Commission was chaperoned by Hamas officials.44 Hence, it was not surprising that investigators made little effort to investigate Hamas’s activities before or during Operation Cast Lead. It was equally unremarkable for the commission to report then that it found no evidence that Hamas fired rockets from civilian homes, that terrorists hid among the civilian population, fired mortars, anti-tank missiles, and machine guns into Palestinian villages when IDF forces were in proximity, or that they seized and booby-trapped civilian homes to ambush IDF soldiers. The report refers to Hamas “police” as civilians, absolving them of terrorist rocket attacks against Israeli civilians and their illegal actions in Gaza during the conflict.45 This directly contradicts the ample photos, videos, and reports by journalists depicting Hamas militants participating in these illegal activities.46

Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, said the report was “deeply flawed” and “we did not see evidence that the Israeli government intentionally targeted civilians.”47

Colonel Richard Kemp, former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, testified to the Goldstone committee in 2009, “The IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.”48

In 2011, Goldstone wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that his original mandate was “skewed against Israel” and retracted his accusations that Israel intentionally targeted civilians and was guilty of war crimes. Goldstone acknowledged that “civilians were not intentionally targeted [by Israel] as a matter of policy” and that in the aftermath of having thousands of rockets and missiles fired at its cities, Israel had the “right and obligation to defend itself and its citizens against such attacks.”49

Goldstone excoriated Hamas for failing to investigate any of the war crimes accusations. By contrast, Goldstone acknowledged that Israel has “dedicated significant resources to investigate” misconduct allegations.

Renouncing his report did not stem the tide of anti-Israel propaganda based on its mendacious claims.

The HRC issued another report following the 2014 Gaza conflict, suggesting that Israel and Hamas may have committed war crimes. Given the HRC’s historical bias against Israel, it was not surprising that the investigators equated the firefighters of the IDF with the Hamas arsonists.

The independent High-Level International Military Group, comprised of 11 top generals and former diplomats, came to an entirely different conclusion. The group, led by former Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, General Klaus Naumann, found that “Israeli forces acted proportionately as required by the laws of armed conflict and often went beyond the required legal principles of proportionality, necessity, and discrimination.” In some cases, their report said, “Israel’s scrupulous adherence to the laws of war cost Israeli soldiers’ and civilians’ lives.”

The generals did not dispute that the Palestinians suffered a high number of civilian casualties and acknowledged that some were “caused by error and misjudgment;” however, they concluded that “the majority of deaths were the tragic inevitability of defending against an enemy that deliberately carries out attacks from within the civilian population.”50

Colonel Kemp told the UN Commission, “the IDF took exceptional measures to adhere to the Laws of Armed Conflict and to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza.” He also criticized those who suggested that Israel make greater efforts to minimize civilian casualties in because none of them knew how to do this. “I conclude that this was because Israel was taking all feasible steps.”51

In addition to these investigations, two American legal experts also examined Israel’s conduct. Michael Schmitt and John Merriam lecture on the law of armed conflict at the US Naval War College, and Schmitt also advises on the topic at NATO, Harvard, and Exeter. They concluded that Israel’s “approach to targeting is consistent with the law and, in many cases, worthy of emulation.”52

According to the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, “Israel went to extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage and civilian casualties.” He was so impressed with Israel’s conduct of the war that he sent a team to Israel to study Israel’s strategies, including lessons about how to limit civilian casualties.53

By contrast, Kemp said, Hamas defied the Laws of Armed Conflict by “deliberately targeting the Israeli civilian population, using their own civilian population as human shields and seeking to entice the IDF to take military action that would kill large numbers of Gaza civilians for their own propaganda purposes. There was and is no accountability or investigation of any allegations against Hamas and other extremist groups in Gaza.”54

Yet another HRC Commission of Inquiry condemned Israel and ignored Palestinian terrorism a year after Operation Guardian of the Walls. The State Department said it “represents a one-sided, biased approach that does nothing to advance the prospects for peace” and is “a continuation of a longstanding pattern of unfairly singling out Israel.”55

The United States and 20 other countries, including Israel, signed a statement that acknowledged that no country is above scrutiny and accountability but also said: “We continue to believe that this long-standing disproportionate scrutiny [of Israel] should end and that the council should address all human-rights concerns, regardless of country, in an even-handed manner.”56

Israel does not need outsiders to tell it how to defend itself or how to investigate the actions of its military. The people of Israel expect their soldiers to uphold the highest moral standards and demand that misconduct allegations be promptly and thoroughly probed even when the results may be embarrassing. The wars in Gaza were no exception.

“I am not aware of any nation that has conducted more comprehensive or resolute investigations into its military activities than Israel during and following the 2014 Gaza conflict,” Col. Kemp testified.57

Israel examined various charges and acted against soldiers who misbehaved. They will continue to do so without intervention by parties with political agendas who start with the premise that Israelis are guilty and then set out to prove it.

MYTH

Israel uses disproportionate force.

FACT

Israel is routinely pilloried for using “disproportionate force” in response to terrorist attacks. Critics never put themselves in Israel’s shoes. Author and peace activist Amos Oz made the point in an interview about Israel’s response to Hamas rocket attacks in 2014’s Operation Protective Edge:

What would you do if your neighbor across the street sits down on the balcony, puts his little boy on his lap, and starts shooting machine gun fire into your nursery?
What would you do if your neighbor across the street digs a tunnel from his nursery to your nursery in order to blow up your home or in order to kidnap your family?58

The question he left unasked is: What would you consider a proportionate response to those attacks?

It is easy to condemn Israel from afar, but imagine if terrorists fired thousands of rockets at Washington, London, Paris, Berlin, or any other city. What would the governments do? Would the targets of those rockets demand their governments respond – but only if they could do so without killing civilians?

It’s not just hypothetical. In reaction to an attempt to assassinate President Bush in 1993, the U.S. launched 23 cruise missiles at Iraq’s intelligence headquarters and hit a civilian neighborhood. Colin Powell later said this was an “appropriate, proportional” response.59 After 9/11, the United States used overwhelming force in the war in Iraq, and though civilians were not targeted, thousands were killed.60 There was no discussion of the need for proportionality.

The IDF Ethics Code mandates that, whenever possible, soldiers must warn non-combatants that they are in an area where it is dangerous to stay. During its operations in Gaza, the IDF employed a variety of unprecedented efforts to minimize injury to non-combatants, including warning leaflets, phone calls, and non-lethal warning fire. If Israel were not seeking to avoid civilian casualties or, as some charge, targeting them, the number of deaths would be in the thousands, if not the tens of thousands.

Is there another army in the world that warns people to leave an area they intend to attack even though it gives up the element of surprise and allows the terrorists to escape with the civilians? How many other militaries order their pilots to abort bombing missions if civilians are detected in the area?

Proportionality is not simply a numerical comparison. “That comparatively few Israelis have been killed by the unlawful rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza,” Judge Richard Goldstone explained, “in no way minimizes their criminality.”61

Article 51 of the United Nations Charter reserves the right to self-defense against armed attacks to every nation. “The claim that Israel has violated the principle of proportionality – by killing more Hamas terrorists than the number of Israeli civilians killed by Hamas rockets – is absurd,” according to legal scholar Alan Dershowitz. “First, there is no legal equivalence between the deliberate killing of innocent civilians and the deliberate killing of Hamas combatants. Under the laws of war, any number of combatants can be killed to prevent killing even one innocent civilian. Second, proportionality is not measured by the number of civilians actually killed, but rather by the risk posed.”62

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs adds:

Under the Geneva Conventions, as well as customary international law, if a military objective, such as a missile launcher or weapons stockpile, is placed in the heart of a civilian area, it does not cease being a lawful military objective. The primary responsibility for civilian causalities arising from the “shielding” lies with the party that deliberately placed civilians at risk.

No innocent Palestinian would be in the line of fire if terrorists did not attack Israel and deliberately hide among them. The people know Hamas is building tunnels under their houses and storing weapons in residential neighborhoods, mosques, and schools. They know rockets are launched from populated areas. Why don’t they object to being used as human shields?

Click photos to enlarge

Israel’s army is fallible. As a democracy, when Israeli soldiers make mistakes in battle, they are called to account for those errors. When non-combatants are injured or killed, investigations are launched, the Israeli public debates the military’s actions, and punishments are imposed if courts find soldiers guilty of a crime.


1 “Egypt Demolishes Sinai Homes for Gaza Border Buffer,” BBC, (October 29, 2014); “Egypt Demolishes 1,020 Rafah Homes for Gaza Buffer Zone,” Maan News Agency, (March 19, 2015).

2 “Leading Egypt Clerics Back Gaza Tunnel Barrier: Report,” Agence France Presse, (January 1, 2010).

3 Barak Ravid, “Abbas to Obama: I’m Against Lifting The Gaza Naval Blockade,” Haaretz, (June 13, 2010).

4 Abraham Bell, “International Law and Gaza: The Assault on Israel’s Right to Self-Defense,” JCPA, (January 28, 2008); “Is Israel Bound by International Law to Supply Utilities, Goods, and Services to Gaza?” JCPA, (February 28, 2008).

5 Steven Erlanger, “Leader Celebrates Founding of Hamas With Defiant Speech,” New York Times, (December 8, 2012).

6 “Hamas celebrates missile attack that murdered 16-year-old in 2011,” Palestinian Media Watch, (July 15, 2014).

7 Ewen MacAskill, “Obama adviser aligns with White House in criticism of rocket attacks on Israel,” The Guardian, (December 28, 2008).

8 Anav Silverman, “Sderot - a return to normalcy?” Ynet, (February 22, 2010).

9 Adam Rasgon and Iyad Abuheweila, “Gaza Militant Group Says 17-Year-Old Killed by Airstrike Was a Member,” New York Times, (May 30, 2021).

10 Arshad Mohammed, Jonathan Saul, John Irish, and Parisa Hafezi, “Israel’s Gaza challenge: stopping metal tubes turning into rockets,” Reuters, (May 23, 2021).

11 “Response to the escalation in the oPt,” Situation Report No. 1, OCHA, (May 21-27, 2021); “Nine children killed in Gaza Strip as violence escalates,” Defense for Children International – Palestine, (May 11, 2021).

12 Anna Ahronheim, “Israel says 160 terrorists killed in Gaza since beginning of operation,” Jerusalem Post, (May 18, 2021).

14 “Hamas Admits 600-700 of Its Men Were Killed in Cast Lead,” Haaretz, (November 9, 2010).

15 Bill Bostock, “Israel said it didn’t mean to kill 42 civilians in Gaza on Sunday, saying it attacked a series of militant tunnels that caused people’s homes to collapse,” Business Insider, (May 17, 2021); Paul Adams, “Gaza-Israel conflict: Israel defends strategy as death toll mounts,” BBC, (May 18, 2021).

16 Micah Zenko, “Obama’s Final Drone Strike Data,” Council on Foreign Relations, (January 20, 2017).

17 Amira Hass, “Following Backlash, UNRWA Director Apologizes for Saying Israeli Army Rarely Attacked Civilians,” Haaretz, (May 26, 2021).

18 “UNRWA Discovers 20 Rockets Hidden in Gaza School; Claims Incident Was ‘First of its Kind in Gaza,” Algemeiner, (July 17, 2014); UNRWA Strongly Condemns Placement of Rockets in School,” UNRWA, (July 17, 2014).

19 Raphael Ahren, “UN agency handed rockets back to Hamas, Israel says,” Times of Israel, (July 20, 2014).

20 “UNRWA Condemns Placement of Rockets, For a Second Time, in One of Its Schools,” UNRWA, (July 22, 2014).

21 “UNRWA Finds Underground Tunnel Below Gaza Elementary School,” Haaretz, (November 30, 2022).

22 Nidal al-Mughrabi, “With healthcare faltering in Gaza, care in Israel is sought after,” Reuters, (April 6, 2017); Ido Efrati, “Hamas Leader’s Daughter Received Medical Treatment in Israel,” Haaretz, (October 19, 2014); Marissa Newman, “Hamas leader’s daughter receives medical care in Israel,” Times of Israel, (October 19, 2014); “Hamas chief’s niece has been hospitalized in Israel for over a month — report,” Times of Israel, (May 27, 2021).

23 Nati Gabbay, “Senior Hamas official Marzouk’s sister hospitalized in Israel,” Jerusalem Post, (November 3, 2014).

24 Judah Ari Gross, “Israel reopens Gaza crossing, but Palestinians turn back some trucks,”Times of Israel, (May 15, 2018).

25 “Despite the coronavirus: Patients arrive through the Erez Crossing for life-saving treatments,” Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories, (September 30, 2020).

26 “Health Access,” Monthly Report, World Health Organization, (January 2022).

27 Uri Dan, “Undie-Cover Bomber – Woman Thwarted Near Israeli Hosp,” New York Post, (June 21, 2005).

28 “Gaza: 2,500 patients ‘in danger’ with no access to medical care,” Middle East Monitor, (July 5, 2017); Adam Rasgon, “PA has not sent medical shipments to Gaza for over three months,” Jerusalem Post, (June 15, 2017); “Palestinian Authority slashes permits for sick Gazans: WHO,” AFP, (August 9, 2017).

29 “Ministry of Health stops transfers to Israel: We will undertake to find alternatives,” WAFA, (March 26, 2019).

30 Bassam Tawil, “Coronavirus: Why Palestinian Leaders Are Not Helping Gaza to Combat It,” Gatestone Institute, (April 1, 2020); Baruch Yedid, “US-Backed Hospital in Gaza is a Plot Against the Palestinian Authority,” Jewish Press, (December 2, 2019).

31 “Joint Israeli & Palestinian medical teams work to prevent further spread of Coronavirus,” COGAT, (March 5, 2020).

32 @cogatonline, (March 7, 2020).

33 Daniel Siryoti, “Why is the Gaza Strip calm these days? Hamas knows the answer,” Israel Hayom, (March 10, 2020).

34 Celia Jean, “COGAT coordinates the delivery of more coronavirus equipment into Gaza,” Jerusalem Post, (March 21, 2020); @cogatonline.

35 Tovah Lazaroff, “Israel loans PA money, FM warns against Palestinian COVID-19 crisis,” Jerusalem Post, (April 17, 2020).

36 “Amid coronavirus pandemic, Gaza medics trained by Israeli teams – report,” Times of Israel, (April 11, 2020).

37 Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman, “Gaza nurses train in Israel: ‘We speak of health, not politics,’” Jerusalem Post, (January 3, 2020).

38 Joshua Mitnick, “‘Something human:’ Mideast fight against virus elicits rare unity,” Christian Science Monitor, (March 11, 2020).

39 Nan Jacques Zilberdik, “PA Coronavirus-libel intensifies: Israel “is deliberately transmitting the virus to the prisoners,” Palestinian Media Watch, (March 30, 2021).

40 Adam Rasgon, Hamas-run Gaza government shuts Egypt crossing to travelers amid virus crisis,” Times of Israel, (March 15, 2020); “Egyptian medical supplies delivered to Gaza after Covid-19 detected,” Egypt Today, (March 26, 2020).

41 Dion Nissenbaum, “U.A.E. Flies Coronavirus Aid for Palestinians in First Known Commercial Flight to Israel,” Wall Street Journal, (May 19, 2020); “Palestinian Authority rejects UAE aid sent via Israeli airport,” Al Jazeera, (May 21, 2020).

42 Khaled Abu Toameh, “UAE activists rail against Palestinians for rejecting medical supplies,” Jerusalem Post, (May 23, 2020).

43 Nile Gardiner, “The U.N.’s Anti-Israel Crusade Continues,” The Heritage Foundation, (September 22, 2009).

44 “Initial Response to Report of the Fact Finding Mission on Gaza,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, (September 24, 2009).

Ibid.

46 Jonathan D. Halevi, “Analysis: Blocking the Truth Behind the Gaza War,” Jerusalem Post, (September 21, 2009).

47 Gabe Kahn, “US’ Rice Wants Goldstone Gone,” Arutz Sheva, (April 6, 2011).

48 Colonel Richard Kemp, “Goldstone Gaza Report,” UN Watch, (October 16, 2009).

49 Richard Goldstone, “Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and War Crimes,” Washington Post, (April 1, 2011).

50 “Top world generals: No Israeli war crimes in Gaza,” Israel Today, (June 15, 2015); Tovah Lazaroff, “Ex-Generals, Diplomats, absolve Israel of war crimes,” Jerusalem Post, (June 13, 2015).

51 Colonel Richard Kemp, “Submission To The United Nations Independent Commission Of Inquiry On The 2014 Gaza Conflict,” Colonel Richard Kemp, (February 20, 2015).

52 “Top world generals: No Israeli war crimes in Gaza,” Israel Today, (June 15, 2015);

53 David Bernstein, “Joint Chiefs Chairman Dempsey undermines Obama administration criticism of Israeli actions in Gaza,” Washington Post, (November 10, 2014).

54 Kemp, (February 20, 2015).

55 “The UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry on the Situation in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza,” Press Statement, U.S. Department of State, (June 7, 2022).

56 Mike Wagenheim, “21 countries defend Israel against UN Commission of Inquiry, scathing first report,” JNS, (June 14, 2022).

57 Kemp, (February 20, 2015).

58 “Oz: ‘Lose-lose situation for Israel,’” Deutsche Welle, (July 30, 2014).

59 John Lancaster and Barton Gellman, “U.S. Calls Baghdad Raid A Qualified Success,” Washington Post, (June 28, 1993).

60 “Iraq War,” Encyclopedia Britannica, (March 2, 2021).

61 Richard Goldstone, “Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and War Crimes,” Washington Post, (April 1, 2011).

62 Alan M. Dershowitz, “Israel’s Policy Is Perfectly ‘Proportionate,’” Wall Street Journal, (January 2, 2009).