Israel Institute of New Zealand director, Dr David Cumin, is calling on the New Zealand Government to follow the example of other liberal democracies and condemn recent Hamas rocket attacks against civilians in central Israel.
The attacks took place last week, on civilian targets including a home which was completely destroyed. Seven people were injured in the attacks, including two babies. This tops off a year of sustained violence against Israel.
“More than 2000 violent incidents, against Israel, have emanated from the Gaza Strip since border riots, orchestrated by Hamas, erupted a year ago. These are the latest incidents in a 12-month campaign known as ‘The Great March of Return’ which has included weekly violent riots, Molotov cocktails, and shootings”.
“According to Hamas leadership – the purpose of the riots is to ‘tear out their [Israeli] hearts from their bodies”.
Dr Cumin says that, despite this, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) response to the attacks has been measured and responsible.
“Hamas orchestrated bus-loads of people at the border – including children – to act as a shield against those committing violence. In contrast, IDF responds with great restraint; warns of attacks, and only uses live fire if absolutely necessary”.
The riots this weekend marked the first anniversary of Hamas’ “Great March of Return”. Palestinian sources reported that two militants were killed by IDF fire and 316 wounded. Dr Cumin says he is glad the violence wasn’t quite as bad as expected.
“There were still attempts to breach the border and IEDs used but not nearly as much violence as the IDF was expecting. That means that Israeli citizens and the human shields Hamas was using were in less danger, which was a relief to hear.”
However, less violence is still violence. Dr Cumin says that a review published last week found that Palestinians launched 1,233 rockets from Gaza, hurled 94 explosive devices and 600 Molotov cocktails across the security fence and committed 152 acts of arson against Israeli forces.
“These numbers are mind-boggling and at least each rocket constitutes a war crime as they deliberately target civilian populations. More than 17 democratic nations have spoken against the terror yet New Zealand is conspicuously silent.”
Dr Cumin says that the escalation in violence appears to be designed to distract international attention from the growing uprising against Hamas taking place in Gaza. Since March 11, under the slogan “Bidna Naish” (We want to live), Palestinian Gazans, many of them young, have set up meetings across the strip and have taken to the streets to protest the constantly rising costs of living, unemployment and taxes. Without mentioning Hamas by name, the protesters call for “the administration” to enable them to “live with dignity”, in some cases also setting tyres on fire.
“Hamas has responded by violently stopping these protests against their rule and targeting their own Gazan citizens. Palestinian security forces have been using methods of repression including live fire and torture”.
“Reports from Palestinian sources also claim that as many as 24 journalists have been arrested by Hamas security forces to prevent them from covering the protests”
The UN has condemned the Hamas treatment of protesters and journalists, with Nickolay Mladenov, the UN envoy for Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, saying, ‘I strongly condemn the campaign of arrests and violence used by Hamas security forces against protesters, including women and children… I am particularly alarmed by the brutal beating of journalists and staff from the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) and the raiding of homes’.
“Yet despite this orchestrated year of violence by Hamas, the use of children as human shields, and now, violent acts of repression against their own citizens – the New Zealand Government has remained silent. The double standard and moral vacuum is stunning in its hypocrisy”.
Dr Cumin says that the Government must urgently stand with other nations which have already condemned Hamas to restore credibility to what will otherwise be seen as a ‘selective’ foreign policy’.