The sanctity of the soaring Qassam
By Amira Hass, 00:56 23.03.11
The Hamas authorities once again forgot that the neighbor/occupier to its east is crazy. Fact: Over Shabbat, Hamas’ military wing fired more than 50 mortar shells at Israel. Or perhaps it didn’t forget: Perhaps it merely thought the Palestinian people in Gaza were ready for another high-tech Israeli onslaught, for another Israel Defense Forces video game in which children playing on a roof are identified as lookouts and sentenced to death.
In this testosterone-rich competition, there will always be more checkmarks on the Israeli side. But Israel is clever enough to act like the threatened party and to hide its deadly performances. Who cares that the “appropriate Zionist response” to 50 mortar shells, which sowed fear but did not kill, was the killing of two 16-year-olds? Imad Faraj Allah and Qassam Abu Uteiwi, from the Nuseirat refugee camp, were the people killed by Israel’s retaliatory bombing later that evening – not “two terrorists,” as our media obediently said, parroting the commanders’ dictation.
Those 50 mortars were the “appropriate Hamas response” to the death of two members of its military wing, Iz al-Din al-Qassam, in an Israeli airstrike. That teaches us that armed men are worth more than boys: The response to the teenagers’ death was a lone Qassam rocket.
Nor did the dialogue of testosterone end there. Tuesday morning, we learned of another Israeli assault that wounded some 20 Palestinians, including children. Due to lack of space, we won’t detail what came in between or what came before. But what will come next is frightening.
In the binary thinking of those who oppose the Israeli occupation (Palestinians, Israelis and foreigners ), public criticism of the tactics used in the struggle of an occupied and dispossessed people is taboo. It is as if criticism would create symmetry between the attacker and the attacked. To a large extent, this taboo has been broken with regard to the Palestinian Authority: Many opponents of the occupation have no qualms about portraying the PA as a collaborator, or at least as the captive of its senior officials’ private interests. But when it comes to Hamas’ use of arms, silence falls. As if there were sanctity in the Qassam soaring high into the sky, only to fall amid the clamor of Israeli propaganda.
The Goldstone report – so widely reviled by Israelis, but endorsed by the Palestinians – actually did force Palestinian human rights organizations to accept the application of the term “crime” to Palestinian rocket launches at Israel’s civilian population, both before and during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2009. In other words, it forced them to distinguish between the Palestinians’ right to defend themselves (albeit unsuccessfully ) by force of arms against Israeli military assaults and their lack of right to put on an act of being an army, one that targets civilians, and thus provide Israel with more ammunition for its victim show. But this distinction is not in use for whatever doesn’t appear in Goldstone’s report.
Though they didn’t denounce those 50 mortars, Palestinians who are not Hamas supporters did give them a political interpretation. This wasn’t “the attacked party’s right to respond” (or, more accurately, the fly’s right to play Ping-Pong with the elephant ), but a clear message to young Palestinians, reinforced by the brutal suppression of their demonstrations: You aren’t in Cairo or Tunis, so stop pestering us with theories about a smart popular struggle in our emirate.
But the neighbor/occupier to the east is crazy. It’s wrong to provide it with pretexts that would enable it to once again put Gaza’s children and old people through an ordeal like Cast Lead, or even one half as bad.
So for all those who demonstrated in support of the Gazans when they were trapped under Israeli fire, all those planners of past and future flotillas, this is your moment to raise your voices and say clearly: The Qassams merely feed Israel’s madness. It is not the Qassams that will ensure the Palestinians, both in and out of Gaza, a life of dignity. It is not the Qassams that will topple the Israeli walls around the world’s largest prison camp.