Despite the many conflicts around the world, there seems to be few as emotive, and that garner as much attention, as the Israeli-Palestinian one. And whenever there is a flare up, we see a rush to judgment against Israel before the full facts are known, an uncritical embrace of the Palestinian narrative, and a disregard for context and analysis.
This has been evident once again since the Palestinian Arabs in Gaza embarked over 6 weeks ago on their "Great March of Return", a so-called peaceful march which last Monday resulted in the deaths of 62 of their number. Israel was condemned around much of the world, the Ambassador of Israel to New Zealand called into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and, linking it to the move of the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the Prime Minister commented on "the devastating, one-sided loss of life". She didn't say how many Israeli deaths would have prevented her recrimination.
There are some things that are indisputable facts. One such fact is that Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005, a territory it captured from Egypt when it was attacked by its neighbours in 1967. Another is that in 2007 Hamas took over control in Gaza from Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah following a bloody coup that ended the power sharing arrangement the two groups had since the 2006 elections, the last time elections were held in Gaza.
Since then, Hamas has imposed a tyrannical regime on its people. It has taken millions of dollars of aid received from around the world, New Zealand included, and rather than using it to benefit its people, has prioritised attacking and killing innocent Israelis, investing in weapons, rockets and tunnels burrowing under Israel, and necessitating an Israeli and Egyptian blockade. The only thing preventing a calamity so far has been the Iron Dome and the skill and determination of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
These warmongering actions of Hamas should be no surprise, because its charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the death of all Jews around the world, which includes New Zealand. It has no desire for a peaceful settlement that includes the existence of the State of Israel in any form.
The "protest" on May 14, which was timed to coincide with the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem but was not because of it, saw some 40,000 Gazans amass at the border, in 11 locations. Hamas openly urged Gazans to breach the border and bring knives and guns to massacre as many Israelis as possible. Footage from the IDF shows Gazans doing as instructed, hurling Molotov cocktails, wielding meat cleavers, burning tyres to create a smokescreen, and setting off incendiary devices at the border. There were several gun fights.
Out of the 62 dead, 50 have been confirmed by Hamas as their operatives and a further 3 have been confirmed by Islamic Jihad, another terrorist group, as theirs. That equates to 85 per cent of those killed on that day. The other 15 per cent, assuming they are all civilians, is indeed tragic but the blame lies with Hamas and not Israel, for it is Hamas who forces and pays people to go to the "front line" and take on the IDF.
While the IDF stands at the border protecting its people, Hamas pushes its people towards the border and hides behind them. It does so with the experience-based knowledge that the international community will respond to images of the dead with a knee jerk reaction that excoriates Israel, and indeed, to Hamas' triumph, this is what occurred.
Yet no one has suggested an alternative military strategy against an attempted mass border breach. Tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons and other tools at the IDF's disposal proved ineffective. The final option was to use live ammunition at those posing a real threat to Israeli civilians. The fact that they killed 62 out of 40,000, 53 of whom are confirmed as terrorists, shows they did so with restraint and accuracy.
As with any other country, Israel has the duty and right to protect its borders and sovereignty.
Israel has made painful sacrifices for peace, but should not be expected to sign its own death warrant in doing so.
• Rob Berg is the president of the Zionist Federation of New Zealand.