IINZ Director Dr David Cumin was interviewed on Radio Live today. Hear the interview or read the transcript below.
Introduction: It has been a bloody day in Gaza in the deadliest day since the war of 2014. Israeli troops have killed 55 people and wounded thousands. Benjamin Netanyahu has said the Israeli Military was acting in self-defence.
Q. Do you agree that this was self-defence?
Dr. Cumin: Absolutely, the ruling party of Gaza is Hamas, a recognised terrorist organisation with explicit aims to destroy Israel and kill all the Jews – that’s the reason for six week long riots at the border.
Q. But how do you know that there were actions today which meant that self defence resulted in deaths? In other words, did they need to pull the triggers of guns and did there need to be bullets in there?
Dr. Cumin: If you look at the last six weeks of riots at the border, you will see explosives being used and tyres being burnt to cover up militant terrorists trying to cross the border, breach the border and kill Israelis. The IDF is protecting the citizens that are just on the other side of the border in the same way they have been stopping the terror attacks and destroying the terror tunnels that Hamas has been building.
Q. Do you think it was a provocative move for the US to open the embassy in Jerusalem?
Dr. Cumin: I think we have to separate out the embassy move and the riots on the border with Gaza they are two somewhat separate incidents.
Dr Cumin: The riots on the border from the leadership of Hamas have been orchestrated in order to breach the border and destroy Israel. They are not connected to the embassy move even if some of our politicians would like that to be true, it is not the case.These have been going on for 6 weeks. And the rhetoric form the Hamas leadership that has been orchestrating these riots has been explicit in their intent to destroy Israel without mentioning the embassy move. The embassy move itself is something that has been bi-partisan supported by US government for decades and I don’t see any reason why Israel shouldn’t be allowed to name its capital.
Q. One reason Some people might say that the embassy shouldn’t be there is that sovereignty over Jerusalem is disputed. The international community doesn’t see that as the domain of Israel.
Dr. Cumin: That’s ignoring the fact that West Jerusalem is not disputed. It has the same status as Tel Aviv as far as where the borders are drawn and I find it quite hypocritical that the Palestinians are allowed to have an embassy from Sweden and a special consulate from the US in East Jerusalem, but apparently Israel is not allowed to claim West Jerusalem. Doesn’t that seem hypocritical to you?
Q. Do you think that, while you say that this violence is not specifically about the opening of the embassy, surely you must accept that it made things worse?
Dr Cumin: I think what we’ve seen over the last 70 years really has been any excuse for violence on the Palestinian side and any excuse not to sit down and negotiate a solution to the conflict. The embassy could very well be just another excuse and certainly from the Fatah leader’s rhetoric its an excuse for yet another day of rage, but when violence is your first option and as your introductory clip showed, they see dying as the ‘only way’, I think there needs to be condemnation of that and strong leadership shown. And currently we haven’t seen that, we’ve only seen condemnation of Israel.
Q. Do you think Israel’s response was proportionate to what the protestors were doing?
Dr. Cumin: From an international law perspective it probably was, because international law doesn’t count the numbers of bodies on each side to weigh proportionality. It looks at the strategic threat and when you see what has been going on for the past 6 weeks and previously with misslies, terror tunnels and Hamas militant terrorists trying to breach Israel’s border, Israel is responsible to keep Israelis safe. And they are doing that.
Q. UN has condemned level of fatalities and said the killings are shocking.
Dr. Cumin: War is shocking and there are deaths in war, everyone wants there to be peace except for Hamas and their terror organisation and the Fatah leadership who are committed to destroying Israel
Q. What do think of Jacinda Ardern’s comments today, in relation to this, that it was ‘shocking’ and that the US move to open the embassy was, in a sense, a provocation, that it added fuel to the fire?
Dr. Cumin: The US move to move the embassy, as I said, is a decades’ long bi-partisan supported piece of legislation, that is now being enacted – it is to move the embassy to West Jerusalem which has the same status as Tel Aviv. If you deny West Jerusalem as being part of Israel then you don’t see Israel as being allowed to exist any form. That’s a real problem if that’s what Jacinda is talking about. I find it hypocritical that the Palestinians are allowed to have a Swedish Embassy in East Jerusalem and a special US consulate in East Jerusalem and yet Israel is not allowed to claim West Jerusalem as its capital.