by Brianna Smith | Israel destroys buildings but misses mark.
Quite simply, the invasion of the Gaza Strip was a mistake. Israel has completed none of its objectives, despite what it claims; Hamas has not accepted the ceasefire, and says it will continue to fire rockets into Israel, as it has for the last eight years. At the same time, the tactics the Israelis used did not drive the civilian population against Hamas. Rather, Palestinians now have more grievances against Israel than ever before. After three weeks of war, over 1,300 Palestinians are dead, a third of them children. Basic services have been almost completely destroyed, the industrial district of an already failing economy flattened. Though Israel should try to protect its population, punishing the whole of the Gaza Strip for Hamas rockets, which have killed 28 people, will solve nothing. In a time when Israel needs to gain acceptance in the international community and among Palestinians it is only burning bridges.
Even before the offensive began last month, Israel had been repeatedly accused of human rights violations for their blockade of Gaza. Israel controls almost all of the Strip’s borders, including the air and the sea, and, since the 2007 election of Hamas to lead the local government, has prevented any commerce and drastically limited the amount of foreign aid available. Even after the damage done to Gaza, restrictions have only slightly lessened, with far less aid allowed through than is needed. Before the fighting, half of Gazans were dependant on UN food aid to survive. Currently, with humanitarian aid still limited and the economy in shambles, the blockade continues to devastate the region.
Though the offensive has ended, basic services, damaged in the fighting, are failing: sewage spews into the streets from broken pipe-lines, two-thirds of Palestinians go without power, and a third lack running water. Medical care is no better, with 5,000 injured having nothing to look forward to but overwhelmed and scarred hospitals. Two hospitals were shelled so badly that they had to cease operation, while the rest rely on generators and dwindling medical supplies to treat the masses that come to them. Few smaller clinics remain standing. Whole blocks of buildings in industrial areas have been completely flattened by a combination of Israeli missiles and bulldozers, and over 4,000 private homes were destroyed. Damage to the Gaza Strip from the offensive will cost billions of dollars to repair. Israel claims to be allowing more aid, especially regarding the electricity outage, but fails to meet the standards set by its own Supreme Court, sending less than half of the fuel mandated by that body, and less than a third needed to run the power plant the Gaza Strip depends on.
The already poor economy now has to face a complete loss of manufacturing capabilities. Worse, as the only university in Gaza has been destroyed and Israel will not allow students to leave the country to study abroad, there can be no hope of reinvigorating the economy with new ideas and expertise. People now destitute and homeless, will not reject Hamas, but embrace it. Hamas may, as Israelis hoped, be blamed for firing the rockets that sparked the offensive, but even so, there is nothing else to do, nowhere else to go. Completely sealed in, prevented by Israeli tanks and ships from leaving, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip can only turn further in on themselves.
Israel may consider the offensive a success in terms of casualties; only 13 Israelis, a hundredth of the Palestinian casualties, died. But despite the many dead, Hamas has survived. Most victims were civilians: Three generations of women were shot down at close range while the grandmother waved a white flag. The mother and two of her daughters died, while the final daughter, only four, and the grandmother survive with multiple bullet wounds. A Palestinian obstetrician who often worked in Israel and who acted as a war correspondent for the Israeli media during the offensive lost three of his daughters and a niece when Israeli troops shelled his home. Two more children were seriously injured. That doctor was once a friend to Israel underlies the often-indiscriminate nature of violence in the Gaza strip.
Israel is also accused of having used many tactics that maximized, rather than minimized, the civilian casualties. Illegal white phosphorous was fired into Gaza with little direction, three of the shells hitting UN headquarters and destroying aid supplies. In addition, the definition of combatant was so ill-defined as to be useless; one military spokesman declared that “anything affiliated with Hamas is a legitimate target.” As Hamas is still the democratically elected government of the Gaza Strip, this gave Israel a justification for bombing anything, from industrial sites to the University to police stations to government buildings. The education ministry and the parliament building were extensively targeted and almost completely destroyed by Israeli shells. Even clear military targets were bombed with more force than could possibly be required, killing civilians and destroying homes for blocks around.
Israel, by collectively punishing the people of the Gaza Strip, has provided no disincentives to interact with Hamas. If Palestinians are to die no matter what their affiliation, most will support those who promise to protect them, to resist against those who killed their families. While the rocket fire into Israel demanded response, the deaths of 1,300 Palestinians in three weeks are incomparable to the deaths of 28 Israelis in eight years. This war will only haunt Israel in the future.
Ms. Smith is a freshman who has not yet declared a major.