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Column #1,717
Israel Is Using Excessive Force
By Mike McManus

Israel is using excessive force in its invasion of Gaza. As of Wednesday night, Israel had killed 661 Gaza residents, mostly civilians - compared to only two Israeli civilians killed by Hamas rockets in weeks of bombing.

“We don’t want to see any more civilian deaths,” said President Obama. He sent Secretary of State John Kerry over to work out a cease fire which he was unable to do.

Israel said it would accept a cease fire, but Hamas refused unless various demands are met. Israel responded that its invasion could last days or weeks.

It is true that there have been 32 Israeli military killed – already more than twice the number of its last incursion in 2009, plus perhaps one taken hostage. And there have been more than 2,000 Hamas rockets shot into Israel. However, they are so inaccurate that only two Israelis were killed by them.

One rocket struck a house near Ben Gurion Airport, persuading the FAA to ban U.S. flights, prompting Air France and Lufthansa to follow suit. This was a devastating blow to Israel which depends on tourism – and a victory for Hamas.

Furthermore, dozens of tunnels were dug from the four-mile wide Gaza strip into Israel. Why? Israel charged they could be used by Muslim terrorists to capture Israeli children, for example, and carry them back to Gaza to be used as ransom for cash or to demand release of Hamas prisoners.

Sounds scary, but it never happened. One known instance of tunnel use by Hamas was an incident involving 10 Hamas soldiers who dressed as Israelis, and attacked an Israeli convoy, killing four soldiers. However, all ten Hamas militia were killed by Israelis.

Certainly, Israel has a right to respond – even to invade and blow up those tunnels and to capture Hamas rockets.

However, how can Israel justify heavy bombardment that pummeled the Shejaiya neighborhood with artillery that left it in utter ruins? The Abu Jameh family of 20 members all died when their home was hit. There were 10 days of indiscriminate bombing by artillery, tanks and off-shore ships.

Israel argued the slaughter was necessary by saying the area was the site of rocket launches and a network of tunnels.

Bunk. Why not search each building to find the rockets, and blow up the tunnels one by one, rather than inflict the massive destruction of a neighborhood?

Last week Said Kawasmeh received word from Israel’s military that his two-story house was to be demolished and his large family had 48 hours to leave. Why? Kawasmeh’s son, Marwan, is a key suspect in the kidnapping and brutal killing of three Israeli teenagers. However, Marwan has disappeared.

“I built this house and I own it,” Kawasmeh told the Washington Post. The family’s possessions lay in boxes, shopping bags or were scattered on the ground. “Why do they want to punish me?” he asked plaintively.

By obliterating the houses of relatives of Palestinians who have allegedly harmed Israelis, Israel believes fewer militants will attack Jews. The policy of “punitive demolitions” has displaced thousands of Palestinians over the years. Between 2001 and 2005 alone Israel destroyed 664 houses belonging to suspected Palestinian militants.

In a similar case, Muhammed Abu Aysha, the uncle of Amer Abu Aysha, a suspected terrorist, argued, “Even if he was convicted, the people who live in this house had nothing to do with it. Why should they have to pay the price?

“The three Israelis who killed the Palestinians kids - are their houses going to be destroyed?” he asked. No. Israel’s punitive demolitions only are for Arabs.

Not only is Israel hypocritical, but it seems blind to the inevitable consequences of punitive demolitions – and its destructive bombing of entire neighborhoods. Israeli violence will only radicalize a new generation of Palestinians – new Hamas recruits.

Israel takes pride in warning Palestinians before a bombing to flee. Yet where can they flee? Some 80,000 are already crammed in UN facilities. They can’t leave for the West Bank or Egypt. Israel even bombed the Al Aqsa Hospital, killing four doctors, nurses and patients.

Hamas’ terms for a cease-fire are the same as those the United Nations has repeatedly called for – open border crossings; allow people to work, study and build the economy; release political prisoners. Israel could demand that all tunnels be destroyed.

Israel’s use of excessive force has failed. It is time to stop and give peace a chance.

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