Context is key: It was a riot, not a protest
January 25, 2019
(JNS)—Over the past several weeks, much discussion has been made about the events last spring on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Many have equivocated the actions of violent rioters inspired by Hamas (a terrorist organization) and those of Israel’s soldiers charged with defending the sovereignty of a liberal democracy. This abhorrent argument demonstrates a false moral equivalence and, above all, misses the context of the events.
Last spring, Hamas-inspired rioters gathered on the Gazan side of the border fence with Israel in what was billed as the “Great March of Return.” With such a provocative name, the question bears asking: a return to where?
The answer that much of the media believed is “to their ancestral homelands.” This is a politically correct euphemism for saying: to destroy Israel.
Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar was more explicit: to “tear down their [Israel’s] border and tear out [Israelis’] hearts.” In carrying out this directive, a group of rioters that briefly managed to infiltrate into Israel were brandishing butcher knives and shouting “Jews, we’re coming to slaughter you!”
And therein lies the blunt truth of Hamas: It is driven by a hatred of the Jewish people and seeks the destruction of the Jewish state. In short, it is one of the most anti-Semitic organizations in the world.
This statement is not hyperbole or intended for fear-mongering. It is a recognition of fact, both in word and deed.
In word, Hamas’s charter infamously calls for the destruction of Israel, and its leaders have regularly stated that they “love death as the Jews love life.”
In action, Hamas has turned the Gaza Strip into a launching pad from which to realize its genocidal ambitions. When Israel unilaterally pulled every soldier and civilian out of the Strip in the 2005 disengagement, the Palestinians had the opportunity to govern themselves and prove to Israel and the world that they could exist alongside the Jewish state in peace.
Yet Hamas seized power and increased its rocket attacks against Israel. In response, Israel, as well as Egypt, imposed a naval blockade to prevent the terror organization from acquiring weapons from foreign supporters such as Iran, its primary sponsor. Israel also constructed a fence along the border to protect its civilian communities in the south; Egypt would soon do the same to prevent infiltration from the Sinai Peninsula.
In the more than 10 years it has ruled the Gaza Strip, Hamas has done nothing to improve the lives of the Palestinians under its control. Instead, it has stolen international aid to fund its terrorist agenda, kidnapped Israeli soldiers and civilians, launched thousands of rockets and dug attack tunnels into neighboring Israeli communities, all while using the people of Gaza as human shields.
Which brings us to the riots.
Many try to claim that these were “nonviolent” protests, which is objectively false. Others try to paint the image that these events were another demonstration of Palestinian nationalism—akin to something like a state fair in America—to suggest an innocent, care-free excursion, which is grossly misleading. “Nonviolent” protestors do not carry knives, wire-cutters and improvised firebombs. Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar even said this characterization was intentionally deceptive as the riots were “not a peaceful resistance.”
Is there any clearer indication of intent? When a Hamas official publicly stated that more than 80 percent of the rioters killed in a two-day period were terrorist operatives, it became inexcusable to believe that these riots were peaceful demonstrations. The world could no longer ignore what Israel had known all along: These riots were simply a different tactic of the next battle in Hamas’s ongoing war against Israel and the Jewish people.
When faced with a similar situation—in which tens of thousands of rioters inspired by a terrorist organization rush its border, wielding weapons and proudly proclaiming their intent to kill its civilians—what nation would not take all necessary measures to defend its sovereignty and protect its people?
Maybe those who believe that these were simply protesters would have preferred hundreds of rioters had broken through the fence and massacred innocent Israelis before the Israel Defense Forces took action. If Israel has to choose between saving the lives of Israelis or appeasing morally bankrupt audiences, we will always choose life.
Danny Danon is Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations.