Does Israel Have Any Options Left, Other Than Retaliation?

For the last few days, since the beginning of the Israeli military operations in Gaza, media – both print and television – has been riddled with scores of pictures of Palestinian kids, grievously injured in the air attacks by Israeli Defense Forces, or IDF. And every time I have seen those pictures, I have felt revulsion towards the blitzkrieg that has been launched by Israel to take the fangs out of Hamas. Yet, ironically, when I tried to think a little deeper about it, I was left wondering why the global media has not put forward the pictures of even Israeli kids who have got killed, injured or hit with impunity in the past due to a barrage of rockets and missiles, and even suicide attacks, that Hamas has made a habit of targeting on Israel.

In hindsight, if one looks at the happenings in Gaza in isolation, it goes without saying that every newly initiated observer would easily term Israel a bloodthirsty chauvinist country that knows nothing more than just blowing apart probably anything in the vicinity of Israel under the pretext of a terror threat. But having said that, one has to necessarily also look at it from the perspective of what this tiny nation has gone through since its inception; for then, the desperation of Israel to keep an edge over its adversaries might not seem that irrational. Right from the time Israel was formed, there has been a single-minded agenda to see its decimation in the quickest time possible. It was as if destroying every Jew and annihilation the Jewish state was the only way to attain salvation... something that has its footmarks in the 26/11 Mumbai carnage and the siege at Nariman House as well.

History is testimonial to the fact that within days of the formation of the State of Israel, it was attacked by six neighbouring states – namely Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. This war, which later came to be known as the Israeli War of Independence, lasted for more than a year – probably no other country ever received a better welcome during its formation than what Israel got. This war was followed by the Sinai War in 1956, the Six Day War of 1967, War of Attrition in the late 1960s – in which Israel had to fight against Egypt and Palestine Liberation Organization – followed by the Yom Kippur War of 1973, in which Egypt and Syria spearheaded the war against Israel. This was followed by the First Lebanon War of 1982 and the second one in 2006. In each of the wars, the attention of the global media came on that region significantly only when Israel was hitting back and not particularly when Israel was getting hit. In each of the full scale wars that happened in the Middle East, the Arabs were defeated by the Israelis; and realizing this, the tactics of Middle East changed to low intensity conflicts through terror attacks. Can anybody forget what happened in Munich in 1972 when a considerable part of the Israeli contingent for the Munich Olympics was shot dead by Palestinian terrorists? In fact, living in the midst of terror attacks has become part and parcel of the life of an Israeli. More than a hundred of such suicide attacks have occurred in Israel since the 1993 Declaration of Principles; and the threat level all the time is to such an extent that Israel’s national carrier, El Al’s passenger planes are equipped with anti-missile systems and flares to thwart any rocket or missile attack.

The Arab world also has to take a considerable part of the blame for using organizations like Hamas to wage this low intensity conflict and using the Palestine cause as the perfect excuse to continue it. Surprisingly, for all the blame that Israel perennially takes for its actions in West Bank and Gaza, it is again Israel that has to take care of the Palestinians in terms of basic supply of food, essential medicines and electricity. While a significant part of Hamas funding comes from Arab donors, none in the Arab world have come forward and taken over the responsibility of the Palestinian civilians – the Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East has gone on record in front of the Council of Ministers of the League of Arab States two years ago to show how Arab donations accounted for less than 2% of their basic fund requirements.

If the crisis of perennial terror threats from Hamas, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Al Qaida were not enough, the open declarations of the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad to wipe Israel out with nuclear weapons has only helped in complicating the matters even more in recent times. Even though India has had perennial problems with Pakistan, one has to accept that things could have been far worse if Pakistan were to have openly threatened our annihilation with the use of the nuclear option.

No war can be justified, whether by Israel or by Hamas. Yet, unfortunately, for Israel this time, the tirade is against those terrorists who hide in the localities of urban areas and use women and children as shields to continue their war against Israel. Hamas – whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel – would not dare to challenge IDF for an open confrontation but would always hit and run away in the crowd, the very reason why there is so much civilian casualty in the first place; because if the terrorists have to be killed, there would invariably be collateral damage. But to presume one-sidedly that Israel loves to undertake such attacks with merriment, would surely be being too harsh on those who have already faced near annihilation during the Holocaust and are trying to avoid a repeat of the same.

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