Palestinians in a Hamas-organized march on the Israeli border, April 1, 2018.SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images
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Hamas Fails to Breach Israeli Border

Gaza terror group uses civilian shields to protect gunmen and sappers

Liel Leibovitz
April 02, 2018
Palestinians in a Hamas-organized march on the Israeli border, April 1, 2018.SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images

What should we call the violent clashes along Israel’s border with Gaza this weekend, which cost 17 Palestinians—at least five of whom were members of the armed wing of Hamas, according to Hamas—their lives? Much of the press, foreign diplomats, and Senator Bernie Sanders called them “protests.” But is that really the right word for attempts by masses of people organized and incited by a terrorist organization to breach the border of a sovereign country using plastic explosives? No.

While the usual suspects are busy denouncing Israel for war crimes, two facts mustn’t be ignored and cannot be explained away, no matter how critical one is of the Jewish state and its policies.

The first is that Hamas again used innocent civilians, many of them children, in its cynical quest to score propaganda points against Israel. Just as it had murdered at least 160 Palestinian children by forcing them to dig the tunnels used to allow gunmen to infiltrate Israel, and just as it continues to use civilians as human shields to protect its arsenals and rocket factories, the terror organization again put the most vulnerable on the line to further its murderous cause. Israel Defense Forces soldiers facing the violent mob this weekend spotted a seven-year-old girl, prompted by Hamas to run into harm’s way. “When the IDF troops realized it was a girl,” the army spokesperson’s office reported, “they picked her up and made sure that she could get back to her parents safely.” No matter how sympathetic you may be to the Palestinians’ national aspirations, the use of children—or their parents—as human shields to generate favorable imagery is beyond the pale.

Even more telling, however, is the question of what, in the first place, Hamas was hoping to achieve by marching civilians en masse on Israel’s border. Israel no longer occupies even one inch of Gaza. Every Israeli settlement in Gaza was uprooted. Every Israeli settler who ever lived in Gaza—including thousands who were born there—was relocated to Israel, many of them by force. For those who see Israeli settlements as inherent obstacles to peace, Gaza today is proof that they are not. The responsibility for Gaza’s continued suffering lies entirely elsewhere.

Having withdrawn from the strip in 2005, Israel no longer has any territorial claims on Gaza; but Gaza, as this weekend makes painfully clear, still has territorial claims on Israel. In its continuous attacks on their neighbors to the north, and in its most recent efforts to cross into Israel, Hamas has again proven what the organization’s charter so clearly states, namely that its singular goal is the utter and absolute destruction of the Jewish state. It wants all of the land, not peace or coexistence or any other sensible and reasonable goal, which is why any territorial compromise on Israel’s behalf is nothing more than an invitation to the next, even bloodier conflict.

Think that’s Zionist propaganda? Here is the leader of Hamas himself, explaining the point of last week’s protests: The “March of Return,” said Yahya Sinwar, “affirms that our people can’t give up one inch of the land of Palestine. The protests will continue until the Palestinians return to the lands they were expelled from 70 years ago.”

It’s a deeply depressing reality, and it’s likely to exasperate the beautiful souls among us who’d like to see this conflict resolved and who continue to cheer for some sort of magical process that would somehow stop the hostilities. As this weekend so abundantly and painfully proves, that kind of talk is futile.

The only path forward is for the Palestinians to abandon the futility of their ongoing and senseless violence, and come to terms with Israel’s right to exist. Until they do that, we’re likely to see more mindless bloodshed and more pain, all of it the fault of a craven leadership sacrificing its people on the altar of crazed, radical, irredentist hatred.

Liel Leibovitz is editor at large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One.