‘Ethical Code of the Hunter’: Not Applicable To Gaza
My husband comes from a family of hunters- in past years my father in law and I argued on the merits of hunting and the rules that guide him. I have learned through our exchanges that hunters abide by an ethical code that calls on them to use their skills responsibly and requires them to allow their prey a fair chance to escape. Mind you these guidelines relate to killing animals- but what about human beings? What about the children of Gaza do they have a fair chance to escape Israel’s Operation Pillar of Cloud (Pillar of Defense) military onslaught?
Gaza is home of more than 1.7 million Palestinians. The median population age in Gaza is 17 years and according to the CIA World Fact Book 44% of Gaza are children under the age of 14– meaning the vast majority of the Gaza population are young children. Gaza is twice the size of Washington, DC and it is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Many families living in Gaza are Palestinian refugees who prior to 1948 were the farmers, business owners and residents of nearby towns and seaside cities now controlled by Israel. While the majority of Gaza residents are Muslim, a sizable Palestinian Christian community also lives in Gaza. Hamas has ruled the Gaza Strip after winning parliamentary elections in 2006. It is important to note that in the early 70’s Israel founded and funded Hamas to divide the secular Palestinian Liberation Organization and dilute Palestinians’ secular and national affinity.
Since 2006, Israel dominates Gaza’s sea, land and air – even rationing the daily caloric intake of the entire population. Isolated, fenced and seiged with meager resources and limited access to essential supplies, its residents are vulnerable to any form of organized military attack. Small mediocre military power if interested can easily pummel the entire Gaza Strip with little effort; never mind a military state that is generously funded by US taxpayers who since inception is preparing for war. Is it fair for one of the world’s best-outfitted armies to bomb Gaza by sea and air while its residents are sieged from all sides?
Undeniably some Palestinian groups within Gaza are armed and no matter how feeble and ill equipped they are- they still attempt to challenge Israel’s military forces and continue to test and bait Israel. After every Israeli military operation they improve their home made Qassam rocket capabilities and occasionally they have managed to smuggle more sophisticated rockets- but the bulk of their rockets are locally made and assembled. They use their rockets to respond to Israel’s border incursions, or object to Israel’s extrajudicial killing of one of their leaders. While extrajudicial killing is shunned and denounced by the international community and is illegal according to international and human rights law, it is a routine Israeli practice that is regularly performed and executed by Israel’s IDF soldiers who later become its generals and leaders.
Understandably the people of Gaza are frustrated with Israel’s cruel siege, its occupation policies and ill treatment of all Palestinians- farmer, fisherman, priest, laymen, young and old. They are also aware of the oddity and disparity between the IDF and Gaza’s rag tag militants. Gaza militant groups argue with those who object to their tactics by suggesting that for more than 6 years they have lived under Israel’s stifling siege without relief. They also point to the unsuccessful efforts of West Bank and East Jerusalem Palestinians who peacefully and non violently protest Israel’s occupation and expansion policies yet continue to struggle under Israel’s brutal military rule.
Despite Qassam’s rockets crude, poor accuracy and limited range these rockets have managed to cause physical damage to nearby Israeli towns, killing and harming innocent Israelis. Ironically most of the Qassam rockets land on militants’ former hometowns and orchards. Absurdly and tragically as if calling for their Israeli neighbors to recognize the pain and loss they have endured.
When rockets fired by Gaza militants are too close for comfort Israeli citizens can choose to leave to safer cities. Some can opt to leave the country by boat or plane until hostilities subside, or a truce takes hold. Those who choose to remain at home rely on Israel’s sophisticated system of underground bunkers, emergency shelters, Israel’s Iron Dome System, color-coded alerts and sirens to protect them from harm. In addition, thanks to our generous grants and military funding we helped Israel expand the capacity and capabilities of its IDF soldiers; and the development of its large fleet of technologically modified US-built aircrafts and Iron Dome batteries that intercept and detonate Qassam rockets in mid air.
Unfortunately Gaza’s children do not have access to any such protections. Neither are the majority of the people of Gaza who are not involved with Gaza’s militant groups. They are barred from leaving Gaza by sea or land courtesy of Israel’s IDF soldiers, drones, planes and naval fleet.
Prime Minister Netanyahu stated that Israel must defend its citizens- an argument he shares with the militants of Gaza who also claim to be defenders of their people. While most agree that Israel should defend its people, but will Israel address its 45-year occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, its six year long senseless Gaza blockade and its obsessive need to control Palestinian’s every movement? What are Israel’s reasons for clinging so dearly to their policy of occupation and wars? Are the natural gas reserves off the shores of Gaza, Israel’s hidden rationale for maintaining control of Gaza? Is the occupation more economically profitable than peace for Israel?
Israel’s demonstrated lack of interest in peaceful and diplomatic negotiations and policy of “muscular” confrontation lead many Palestinians to conclude that their occupation and siege are more lucrative than peace. In fact according to experts Israel’s large military escapades yield millions in contracts for Israel’s security and defense companies. Not surprisingly as soon as Israel began its aerial attack on Gaza it also launched a titillating online marketing campaign showcasing IDF’s military kills and capacities. Employing IDF twitter and social media accounts, using bolgs, news feeds outfitted with interactive buttons to share and spread content online- a sort of “Shock and Awe” social media frenzy.
While the IDF is clearly attempting to control the war narrative with their news feeds they are also promoting Israel’s military sales. They remotely display Israel’s technological skills and hardware for militaristic countries to admire and purchase. The IDF first employed these marketing tools in 2006, and since then have improved and expanded their use with considerable and measurable success. After Israel’s 2006 war with Hezbollah they secured more than $271 million in military contracts. Israel similarly marketed their 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead with on line feeds and their military sales surged with an unprecedented $7.2 billion. In 2010 Israel was ranked as one of the top four military exporters in the world. But that does not mean that all Israeli citizens agree with their governments’ military approach some have publicly voiced their objection to Israel’s military attacks on Gaza.
Israel’s Pillar of Cloud Operation will certainly produce an upsurge of military contracts and Israel’s weapon manufacturing sector will grow and thrive. Meanwhile, Israel will leave behind a thick trail of blood and countless of dead Palestinians– including innocent young children plucked by Israel’s “surgical” bombs. Israel’s planes and pilots will exact a heavy price as they did during Operation Cast Lead decimating Gaza’s landscape, destroying and demolishing buildings, schools, hospitals, houses of worships and homes forcing many to again live in tents during the winter.
Soon after the rubble rests Israel cement merchants will be busy selling their products to the besieged Gazan’s to rebuild their homes and institutions. So will young Palestinian tunnel smugglers, who will compete with Israeli merchants by offering the less expensive Egyptian cement. Interestingly, in the 1930’s and 1940’s young Jewish smugglers also built extensive tunnels around Europe’s Jewish Ghettos. Poor and starving Jewish ghetto dwellers were also encircled with walls and fences; barred and restricted from free travel; and their provisions were also calibrated and measured. Like Gaza’s tunnel smugglers they also sold smuggled goods and stashed weapons inside their walled communities defying the Gendarmerie, the Blue Police, the S.S and the Transferstelle who shot, killed and maimed them. Today Jews and Israelis laud these courageous souls as heroes willing to sacrifice their life for their Jewish community. Gaza’s young Palestinian smugglers also suffer a similar fate, many are shot by Israel’s snipers or die under the rubble of their destroyed tunnels courtesy of Israel’s drones and IDF bombs- they are also viewed as common criminals and terrorists by the authorities that sanction and administer their siege. Israelis have yet to realize that they are mirroring their horrific historical experiences on the Palestinians.
Israelis defend their actions by projecting much ill to the Palestinians while ignoring to reflect on their 45 years occupation policy and its consequences. Since 1967 they have operated under one guiding policy rhuberic with little measurable success. Israeli leaders have negated the Oslo Accords of 1993 by refusing to fulfill its fundamental and key provision that call on Israel to withdraw its troops from the Palestinian Occupied Territories by 1998, they have refused to engage in constructive and productive negotiations with the Palestinians. They have demonstrated that they will only tolerate complete control and dominance of all Palestinians living under their rule; and are determined to expand their illegal Israeli settlements beyond the Green Line in spite of international protest and public condemnations. As difficult as it is for Palestinians living under the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and their constant horrific struggle with Israel’s expanding profitable settlement enterprises, its foreboding illegal Separation Wall and labyrinth of stifling check points and harassing IDF soldiers; Israel’ control of Gaza is far more cruel and exasperating.
Wars have a life of their own and will exact a price on victor and loser. The death of one Israeli or Palestinian innocent child is too much for the sane to carry and children on both sides will suffer the trauma of a war they did not cause. Israel’s recent “aerial precision” assaults killed an 11 month old baby, and another was executed in the midst of a soccer field full of children playing while their parents were watching on the sideline- killing 2 children. Is this the best way to defend Israel? Never mind “who” started it first- Israel’s response legitimate or otherwise has to be measured considering its military might and absolute control of Gaza. And no matter how Israel justifies its actions or earns from its wars and occupation- its future prosperity cannot continue to be sustained by its military operations and occupation of the Palestinian people.
Once these military escapades and confrontational policies lose their luster; Israelis will begin an authentic evaluation of their government’s military policies and their impact on their own young soldiers, society at large and their Palestinian neighbors; and they will begin planning and advocating for the peace both peoples desire. And then their leaders will refrain from using contrived and inappropriate Biblical terms for their deadly military operations; and instead launch civil campaigns to build the homes they destroyed and plant the olives they uprooted and appropriately and fittingly name them “Tzedekah” and “Rahamim“- to restore the moral compass and sanity of the soldiers who executed and articulated Israel’s destructive policies- that equally scared its victims and victors.
An American Palestinian living in Washington D.C. Mai is an educational researcher, writer and speaker. She earned a Doctor of Education from Howard University, School of Education, Educational leadership and Policy program. In that capacity she has researched and published several articles related to educational policy and the state of education in the District of Columbia. As a United Nations consultant, she assisted in developing short and long-term strategies for Birzeit University in the Israeli Occupied West Bank. She developed the fundraising document "Creating a World of Possibilities & Building a Future of Hope", and produced a Johns Hopkins University Documentary "Arab Women Speak Out". Mai hosted and produced "Spotlight on Education" a local television program that addressed District of Columbia school policies, social and economic issues that impact school aged children, families, teachers and administrators . Mai founded American Palestinian Women's Association, and has organized humanitarian relief programs to aid Palestinians as well as homeless women and children in the Washington, DC area. She serves on the executive boards of several non-profit organizations.