Responding to Four False Claims on Gaza

By: Strategic Israel Engagement

We continue to see a barrage of media — both mainstream and social — that is overwhelmingly critical of Israel following this week’s violence at the Gaza border. Hamas has publicly acknowledged that 50 of the 62 dead were its own operatives, but this hasn’t diminished the outrage unleashed against Israel.

As Barry Shrage wrote earlier this week, Hamas orchestrated a win-win situation for itself. It would win if it succeeded in overwhelming Israeli forces by breaching the Gaza security fence and infiltrating the nearby Israeli communities. It would also win if Israeli forces repelled the attack and ensured a willing media captured images of injured or killed Palestinians.

The media have played directly into Hamas’ hands by jumping to place the burden of blame on Israel for the violence and deaths. In particular, there are four serious claims that I believe need to be addressed (citations for all facts are found in the articles below):

1. The claim: All of the victims were peaceful protesters who posed little to no threat.

In fact: In an interview with Baladna TV, a Palestinian news outlet, Hamas leader Salah al-Bardaweel clearly stated that 50 of the Palestinians killed by the IDF were Hamas operatives. That civilians were killed and injured in the violence is tragic; that Hamas intentionally endangers those civilians for its own ends is horrifying and appalling.

2. The claim: Hamas leaders only called for peaceful protests.

In fact:  The attempts to breach the Gaza fence began this spring as part of a “March of Return.”  The goal was clearly stated by Hamas:  erase the border as a step toward erasing Israel. Hamas leader Yehya Sinwar proclaimed on camera in Arabic, “We will take down the border and we will tear out their hearts from their bodies.” Social media posts from protest organizers called on Palestinians to bring concealed weapons and encouraged them to breach the fence and kill or kidnap Israeli soldiers or civilians.

3. The claim: Israel’s response was disproportionate.

In fact: Israel took numerous steps to protect human life. It repeatedly warned Palestinians not to try to breach the security fence via social media, leaflets dropped from airplanes, and statements to news outlets. Also, the army used non-violent dispersal methods such as water cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets before resorting to live fire. From five and half thousand miles away, we cannot reasonably judge the threat posed by tens of thousands of people amassing on a border, especially when organizers clearly stated the intent (and published maps) to tear down the security fence and storm nearby Israeli communities.

4. The claim: The US embassy move was the catalyst for violence.

In fact: These protests were in fact the culmination of the “March of Return.” They were originally scheduled for May 15, Nakba Day (Arabic for “the catastrophe”), which is marked every year on the anniversary of Israel’s independence. Recognizing the media opportunity presented by the opening of the embassy, Hamas moved their plans forward to coincide with it. Hamas has been clear about its goal: the complete destruction of Israel. The embassy move served only as a useful pretense for violence. 

Below are 10 mainstream news stories that offer important insights into this week’s event.

Who's to blame for the Gaza violence?
By the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board
Hamas incited protesters to dash toward Israeli military positions, likely knowing that many would be killed. Hamas leaders had to know that the carnage would ignite an international backlash against Israel and the US.
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-edit-israel-trump-jerusalem-palestinians-20180514-story.html

Gaza’s miseries have Palestinian authors
By Bret Stephens
There’s a pattern here — harm yourself, blame the other — and it deserves to be highlighted amid the torrent of morally blind, historically illiterate criticism to which Israelis are subjected every time they defend themselves against violent Palestinian attack.
https://nytimes.com/2018/05/16/opinion/gaza-palestinians-protests.html

Falling for Hamas’s split-screen fallacy
By Matti Friedman
Friedman argues that the notion that people died in Gaza because the US moved its embassy to Jerusalem was a correlation Hamas orchestrated and the media fell for.
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/16/opinion/hamas-israel-media-protests.html

Moral clarity in Gaza
By Charles Krauthammer
An important reminder that, just nine years ago, Israel uprooted its settlements, expelled its citizens, withdrew its military, and turned every inch of Gaza over to the Palestinians in the hope that it would set the stage for peace.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/charles-krauthammer-moral-clarity-in-gaza/2014/07/17/0adabe0c-0de4-11e4-8c9a-923ecc0c7d23_story.html

The real dispute driving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
By Yossi Klein Halevi
This conflict isn’t primarily about redressing the Palestinian grievances over the consequences of the events of 1967 — the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza — but of 1948: the creation of Israel. Even if we were to uproot every last settlement and withdraw to the 1967 lines, some Israelis say, it won’t bring us any closer to peace because the real Palestinian grievance is Israel’s existence.
https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/05/israel-palestine-embassy-legitimacy/560291/

Hamas claims 50 of its members died in Monday's clashes in Gaza
By Ian Lee and Salma Abdelaziz
A senior member of Hamas' political bureau said during a TV interview on Wednesday that 50 people killed by Israeli soldiers during clashes in Gaza on Monday were members of Hamas.
https://edition.cnn.com/2018/05/16/middleeast/hamas-members-gaza-deaths/index.html

Hamas’ catastrophe: Terrorists are chiefly to blame for the tragic loss of life in Gaza
By the New York Daily News Editorial Board
What transpired Monday was no Gandhi-inspired protest; it was part of an attempt to spark a long-term violent uprising — and, if possible, to enable terrorists to infiltrate Israel.
http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/hamas-catastrophe-article-1.3989787

Hamas official says 50 members killed this week on Gaza border
By AFP
Most of the 62 Palestinians killed by Israeli fire during border protests and clashes this week were members of the Islamist group.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/afp/article-5736933/Hamas-official-says-50-members-killed-week-Gaza-border.html

Israel has the right and obligation to defend its border with deadly force
By David French
One of the enduring problems in international dialogue about Gaza is that the Palestinian resistance is, quite simply, more vicious and violent — with ultimate eliminationist goals — than well-meaning leftists want or believe it to be.
https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/05/israel-has-right-obligation-defend-border-with-deadly-force/

Hamas says most of protesters killed by Israel in Gaza were members
By Alastair Jamieson
Salah Bardawil, a senior Hamas official, told Palestinian news outlet Baladna TV that 50 out of the 60 who died on Monday were members of his organization, while the rest were civilians.
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/hamas-says-most-protesters-killed-israel-gaza-were-members-n874906