The Hamas rockets matter too: a reply to Owen Jones

Yes, some of those obstacles are found on the Israeli side. But the rocket threat from Hamas is a huge obstacle, too.

Yes, some of those obstacles are found on the Israeli side. But the rocket threat from Hamas is a huge obstacle, too

Owen Jones’s claim (‘Israel under renewed Hamas attack’, says the BBC. More balance is needed’, Guardian, 9 July) that the Hamas rocket threat against Israeli civilians is no more serious than a child spitting at Mike Tyson is still reverberating. ‘Wall Street Journal emphasizes Hamas rocket capabilities; Guardian compares fight to Mike Tyson punching a toddler’ runs one angry Times of Israel headline.

Actually, there was much to cheer in Owen’s article about the conflict in Gaza: his reminder that every human life is precious and of equal value; his clear statement that “there is no defence for Hamas firing rockets into civilian areas” – brave, given the one-sided anti-Israel animus on some parts of the hard left these days – and his admonishment (to some) that “the fear among ordinary Israelis should not be ignored or belittled”.

Owen and I both stand for the democratic solution: ‘two states for two peoples’; a viable Palestine alongside a secure Israel.

But Owen was wrong to claim the Hamas rockets being fired at Israeli civilians are not a genuine threat. Wrong to liken them to ‘a child spitting at Mike Tyson’. And wrong to think there is no justification for Israel to use force to stop such ‘shitty rockets’.

Reading Owen’s article I was reminded of what about David Grossman told last week’s Haaretz peace conference in Tel Aviv. (By the way, the hundreds of participants were sent running for cover by incoming rocket fire.) The Israeli novelist, long-time critic of the occupation, and the father who lost his son in the Second Lebanon War in 2006, said we must have hope not despair if we are to achieve peace, but not just any kind of hope. We need that kind of hope “that does not disregard the many dangers and obstacles” to peace, but sees them plain.

Owen, I think, disregarded one major obstacle to peace when he breezily dismissed the Hamas missile threat as an inconvenience, like being gobbed at in the street by a child.

Tell that to the relatives of Aharon Smadga, Itzik Amsalem, and Mira Sharf (who was pregnant), three Israelis who were killed by a direct hit which devastated their house in the Israeli town of Kiryat Malahi in 2012.

In fact, the rockets flying into Israel areincreasinglypotent – Fajr-5, R160 and M-302 – and their range is growing.

Yes, back in 2008 Israel faced an arsenal of 5,000 rockets, mostly crude, home-made Qassam rockets fired over the border onto the people of Sderot. But then Hamas (and Palestinian Islamic Jihad) acquired more powerful Grads and Qassams. Then came Iranian-supplied Fajr 5 missiles that are more accurate and able to set off sirens in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. (Israel destroyed most of those in Operation Pillar of Defence in 2012).

On 9 July Hamas rockets reached as far as Zichron Ya’akov in Israel’s north, around 100 miles from Gaza, representing the longest range strike recorded.

No child spitting at you in the street can kill you. Or even terrify you. These rockets do both.

In 2009, Human Rights Watch, no supporter of the State of Israel, condemned the rocket attacks as war crimes. Speaking in 2009, Fred Abrahams, Senior Emergencies Researcher at Human Rights Watch said: “Since 2001, rocket attacks from Gaza have killed 15 Israeli civilians.”

Over 4,000 Sderot residents are suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic-stress disorder (PTSD) whilst one third of Sderot children, ages 13 to 18, have trauma-related learning disorders.

Hamas do not think their rockets are ‘shitty’. The Islamist group bragged on 8 July that “For the first time, the (Ezzedine al-) Qassam Brigades strike Haifa with an R160 rocket, and strike Jerusalem with four M75 rockets and Tel Aviv with four M75 rockets.”

The M-302 rockets are similar to those found onboard the Klos-c, a vessel intercepted by the IDF on March 5, on which was an Iranian shipment of advanced weaponry, including 40 M-302 rockets with a range of 160 kilometres, intended for terrorist organisations operating in the Gaza Strip.

That there have been few Israeli causalities is not for want of trying by Hamas. It’s Charter commits it to the ‘obliteration’ of Israel in the name of Islam and the murder of Jews as Jews. The absence of fatalities is due to the seven Iron Dome batteries deployed throughout Israel that have blocked 90 percent of all incoming rockets headed to populated areas.

Comparing the rocket threat to the irritation of being spat at by a child is pretty close to the belittling of ordinary Israelis that Owen objects to.

Yes, of course there is no military solution to the conflict. For that we need trust, mutual recognition, compromise, negotiation and a final status agreement based on two states for two peoples. But if we are to restore the kind of chastened and clear-eyed hope that David Grossman calls for, then we must face up to the obstacles to peace.

Yes, some of those obstacles are found on the Israeli side. But the rocket threat from Hamas is a huge obstacle, too. It does no one any good to dismiss it so breezily.

Alan Johnson is the editor of Fathom – For a deeper understanding of Israel and the region

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81 Responses to “The Hamas rockets matter too: a reply to Owen Jones”

  1. Chris Baldwin

    As far as I’m concerned, everything the Palestinians do is Israel’s fault. The occupation is at the root of everything.

    All Israel needs to do is leave the West Bank and East Jerusalem and stop blockading Gaza.

    They could do it, but they won’t because they’re only interested in power, not peace (the Israeli politicians that is, not necessarily all the population).

  2. Chris Cunliffe

    Seeing as you already most likely have your own Talmud and just need a refresher ill post the chapters but you will have to look them up yourself , im not going to do the work for you ….

    These sections have some very good reading on the value of gentiles.

    Zohar, Vayshlah 177b

    Schulchan Aruch, Choszen Hamiszpat, 348

    Choshen Ha’mishpat 425:50

    And these have some good info on the property rights of gentiles.

    Shabbath 89a

    Avodah Zarah 22a-b

  3. Leon Wolfeson

    Let’s see…

    *Chosen as in “congratulations you’re volunteered”.
    *Gross Mistranslation. It has nothing to do with non-Jews at all.
    (Also, Choshen Mishpat is a collection of Halakh, of course, and not in the Talmud at all)
    * Ah, a discussion of why people like you are essentially an intractable issue – people will always hate Jews.
    * You’re claiming to be a member of a corrupt, idol-worshiping society with few morals? Thanks for that.


    Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 359:1
    Talmud Chullin 94a

    You believe what you want because of your bias, no more. And the Talmud

  4. Chris Cunliffe

    So at least I am making some progress … First I was a elders of zion reading anti-Semite which was proven wrong , then I was a mis quoting Talmud self hating jew anti semite which was wrong and now I am a badly translated Talmud quoting self hating jewish anti-Semite (hard to get out in a single breath) …. And by the way , I don’t hate jews at all , much of my family are jews and they still consider me a jew though I am an atheist and haven’t been to the synagogue in 25 years , I just don’t think ones faith or religion should be used as a basis for subjugating a people . ,

  5. Leon Wolfeson

    So you conflate different people together. Right.

    No, you’re simply quoting from anti-Jewish sources – the incorrect reference there shows where you really got your “source” from, and it’s not the Talmud (it’s a staple of anti-Jewish websites), as you try and distract from the issue.

    You don’t hate, right, you just detest, blah blah. You made the completely unfounded claim that Jews viewed people of people as “value” based on their faith…I think you were simply projecting.

  6. J&K

    Jews Get the hell out because you have occupied this territory ileagaly. You have deprived palestinians of everyt basic right and you espect that they sing your names . This will not going to happen unless The Israel give palestinians equal rights to live

  7. J&K

    Listen pamelalevene you people have invaded this land illegally so you don’t have any right to dictate your view on Palestinian . If you want peace then ask your leaders or even protest on killing of innocent Palestinians.

  8. Leon Wolfeson

    Ah yes, get the “hell out” of Britain, blah blah.
    And you’re for a “right” to bombard Jews with rockets.

    Keep up the anti-Semitism.

  9. J&K

    Minorities living in Britain or Us have not captured Govs or captured land Illegally so think before you speak

  10. Leon Wolfeson

    Which makes your position against Jews here even more egregious.

    Your political minority is certainly trying, though!

  11. Alan

    Knowledge is truth but you demonstrate only ignorance. Israel founded by UN in 1948, immediately attacked by armies of Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt with help from other Arab countries. End result, all Arab armies beaten and ask for cease-fire. From then until 1967 the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza were occupied by Jordan and Egypt. During that time no-one demanded independence and statehood for these territories.
    Until 1967 Israel endured constant attacks from the West Bank and Gaza. In 1967, the Arab states again decided to destroy Israel “The Six Day War” which ended in Israel occupying the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Israel offered to withdraw in return for peace and the normalisation of relations. The Arab nations held a conference (The Khartoum Conference) and gave the three ‘No’s. No negotiations, No recognition, No peace.
    Then again in 1973 the Arab nations had another go and were again defeated. Subsequently, Jordan and Egypt signed peace agreements with Israel but all other Arab nations are still technically at war with the Jewish state.
    Israel withdrew from Gaza in the hope that the Arabs would accept this as a peace offering but the reply was, and is, a rocket barrage aimed at Israeli civilians. Little loss of life due, not to the rockets being itsy bitsy things but because every Israeli home, school and place of work has a bomb shelter and the success of the Iron Dome system.
    Golda Meier summed up the situation when she said, “If the Arabs would lay down their arms, there would be no war; if the Israelis laid down their arms there would be no Israel”.

  12. Alan

    How interesting. Now put your money where your mouth is and let us have details of the Talmudic teaching to which you refer.

  13. Alan

    All right, then let us have chapter and verse.

  14. Alan

    Have to look them up ourselves? What a cop-out when you’ve been caught red-handed with your fingers in the till!

  15. Leon Wolfeson

    How does allowing more arms shipments to Hamas, for example, help?

  16. J&K

    Please read the history then make decisions on my position. You were kicked out of europe and you made settlements here

  17. J&K

    Who is minority ? You have killed hundreds of innocent Palestinians. You people have made illegal settlements and all the land you have occupied is illegal

  18. Leon Wolfeson

    No, I have not. I am not a right wing warmonger, and I don’t support the settlers.

    You are calling for destroying Israel, and I’m sure as many of it’s people as you can get your hands on.

    Your far right political minority are simply hostile to Jews.

  19. Leon Wolfeson

    I know plenty about the history of the far right and it’s violence, and what you’d like to repeat today, as you ignore history and try again to get Jews…same old, sadly.

  20. J&K

    Israelians have bombed innocen palestinians . The illegal settlements are the root cause of all this war AND I am and many other are not hostile to Jews . The philosphy of Jews is that every every non jew is killable and you are saying that I am anti JEW ??

  21. Leon Wolfeson

    Yes yes, you’re not hostile, you’re genocidal. I get it.

    It’s obvious what your agenda is when you spout off about “Jews” (as if we all think the same) share *your* beliefs about entire peoples being “killable”, it’s standard far right propaganda. And shows your Ubermensch/Untermensch thinking.

    Keep saying Israel needs to be wiped out, blah blah….it’s trolling on your part. That you pretend to care about the Palestinians is pretty pathetic, mind you.

  22. J&K

    You want genocide of non jews it is as simple as that . Killing 2500 innocent palestinians in 13 years while only 13 jews died in this period speaks of jew mindset

  23. J&K

    You only know that every person who speaks for palestinians is a anti jew. Who wants JEW Genocide once more ?? I don’t want it .
    Just free palestinian land and we all will be happy.

  24. Leon Wolfeson

    No, unlike you I don’t blame entire peoples based on bigotry. That’s your schtick.

    And right, purge Jews, who you don’t even see as Human, yada yada…sigh.

  25. Leon Wolfeson

    No, I am not a genocidal loon like you. Of course you see terrorists are innocent because they’re “just” after Jews, yada yada. And how dare the Isralie missile shield works. How dare we not line up to be slaughtered, etc.

    Then you spew crap about Jews, showing you’re just after Jews and Israel’s just an excuse.

    You, personally, are a far-right anti-Semite. No collectivism involved, unlike your thinking.

  26. Lance Dyer

    Of course Hamas rockets matter but why are they being fired? The long standing grievances of Palestine have not and are not being addressed.By their actions, last with the John Kerry peace talks, Israel has continually shown it has no real desire for peace – what happens meanwhile; the blockade of Gaza continues, restrictions of goods and services are imposed on Palestinians and the destruction of their infrastructure, and in the W Bank and elsewhere illegal settlements are being built by Israeli settlements, in breach of UN Resolutions and International Law so the land belonging to Palestine is being taken from them>
    Until Israel behaves in a decent way and genuinely wants peace it is to blame for the current situation where Palestinians have no alternative to fight to maintain their land.
    Israel seems to be a classic case of the abused becoming the abuser – it has proved over the years -that it will use brute force to achieve it’s aims of pushing Palestinians from their land.

  27. Marc Letford

    I started reading the comments and had to re-check the url. This has exactly the same tone of comments as the daily mail. slightly better use of English but .. Wow. I do find the gushing of socialists over a religious/ethnic run country rather strange but the in-fighting is re-assuringly left wing. Go Team!!

  28. JoeDM

    And Hamas use woment and children as their human shield.

  29. Dolly Smith

    In 13 years of Hamas rocket fire 40 Israelis have been killed.
    A ‘huge obstacle’ for the tens of thousands of Gazans killed in response certainly, but for Israel the 40 dead are grist for the mill. This is a state that has a policy ( the Hannibal Directive ) of sacrificing its own people for the greater Zionist good.

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