The natural thing to do for a public dissatisfied with its situation — be it political, economic or social — is to protest against its leadership. I have seen this scenario countless times during my postings here in the United States as well as in Israel.
Both countries have effective, vigorous democracies and, in fact, many times such protests have brought about positive change. But in Gaza, which is ruthlessly run by Hamas, a radical Islamic organization, protest against the ruler is impossible.
This is why the recent riots in Gaza, shown on all media channels, are in fact organized by Hamas itself and directed against a sovereign nation which does not control Gaza and which extends its hand in peace: the State of Israel.
The Gaza Strip has been ruled by Hamas since 2007, following a bloody coup in which Hamas activists assassinated Palestinian Authority officials. Since then, Hamas has directed all its energies, resources and goods entering Gaza to achieve its main purpose: developing terrorist infrastructures to harm Israel and its citizens, whatever the cost. Funded by Iran, Hamas teaches its young people to hate Jews and Israel, educates them to become terrorists and exploits them as human shields.
With an Islamist terrorist regime just across the border that believes that its mission is to destroy Israel, it is no wonder that Israeli citizens need constant protection.
Electricity, water and all types of goods are allowed to enter through border-crossing points from Israel to Gaza. Despite the fact that the transfer of essential goods is for the benefit of the Gazan population, Hamas has repeatedly damaged supply infrastructures, and is constantly diverting goods meant for the welfare of Gazans for the benefit of its terror infrastructure.
Hamas keeps the Gaza population on the edge of despair through deteriorating living conditions, inciting them to blame Israel for their troubles, making it easy to manipulate the masses into hating and attacking Israel.
Hamas’ plans were altered when Israel developed technologies to defend itself against rocket and missile fire from Gaza (such as the Iron Dome) and to locate terrorist tunnels, which are now being destroyed one by one. These setbacks, following Hamas defeats in the last few rounds of fighting against Israel, are making it difficult for Hamas to implement its central policy — terrorism against Israel.
Facing a dead-end on the ground, Hamas is turning to the media arena, where blood and casualties are the name of the game. Thus, dead Palestinians are no less a victory for Hamas than dead Israelis, because Hamas knows that this will put international pressure on Israel. Either way, Hamas treats the lives of Gazans as a legitimate tool to achieve its goal of destroying Israel.
In the current campaign, as in the past, Hamas is using innocent civilians, including women and children, in a series of well-organized, very violent demonstrations of tens of thousands of people. The civilians are urged to be in the front lines, with terrorist operatives among them. Hamas has instructed the participants to equip themselves with pistols and knives, to cut the border fences and cross the border, in order to attack and abduct Israelis.
The campaign has been termed by Hamas as “The Great March of Return,” where “Return” refers to every corner of Israel – in other words, the establishment of a Palestinian State not next to Israel, but instead of it.
Israel has made every effort to contain the violent demonstrations while preventing as much as possible any loss of life, asking various countries and international bodies to use their influence on Hamas and employing a wide range of accepted non-lethal means of crowd dispersion. The last resort, used in extreme situations of extreme violent, mass rioting, is live fire.
It is the essential task of the Israeli Defense Forces to defend Israeli citizens from an invasion of hostile masses. If thousands of people bent on violence and destruction were allowed to cross the fence, they would within minutes be inside Israeli villages and towns close to the border, and the loss of life would be much greater than it has been up to now.
No sovereign country in the world can stand back and refrain from protecting its citizens against such a threat.
The tragedy is that the loss of civilian lives and the suffering caused by Hamas to Gazans is totally unnecessary. Israel’s hand has been consistently extended in peace to Gaza, and has just as consistently been answered by Hamas terrorism.
Aviv Ezra is Consul General of Israel to the Midwest, based in Chicago.
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