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Operation Cast Lead: Four Years On

This is a guest post from Stephen Hoffman, the campaigns officer for The Zionist Federation 

The 27th December 2012, the fourth Anniversary of Operation Cast Lead will take place. For the anti-Israel brigade who treat Israel as the devil incarnate, whether it is in the printed press, on the radio or TV, it presents an opportunity to present Israel as bloodthirsty war criminals who like nothing better then killing Palestinians. These people are completely deluded and what they say should be taken with a pinch of salt and it is my intention in this blog to show why.

The anniversary of Operation Cast Lead is a reminder about the threat to its existence Israel faces from those who seek to destroy it. Israel may look strong, but is surrounded by enemies who wish to throw it into the sea – from non-state terrorist actors such as Hamas and Hezbollah, to states like Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, who act as if Israel’s very existence is an abomination.

Israel, after severe provocation, launched Operation Cast Lead to protect over 1 million citizens living in southern Israel, who had come under constant rocket fire between 2000-2008 from Hamas-governed Gaza. Whilst, thanks to rocket shelters, not many Israelis died, children bore psychological scars, whilst many left, unable to deal with the constant rocket fire. No national government would accept this intolerable situation, especially as the main job of any government is to protect the security of its inhabitants. Israel had shown great restraint from 2000-2008 when nearly 12,000 rockets and mortar shells were fired at southern Israel from Gaza. This well-intentioned restraint had not achieved anything. This was mainly down to Hamas, whose raison d’etre is to destroy Israel. Due to this, they seemed intent on turning Gaza into a terrorist paradise.

Israel launched Operation Cast Lead after realising that it could not allow a situation to continue that was directly threatening its citizens. The stated purpose of Operation Cast Lead was to target the hubs of terrorism where the missiles into Israel were coming from, and to significantly retard the ability of those trying to attack Israel. In this it seemed to be successful, with the highly respected Mossad saying that thanks to Operation Cast Lead, rocket fire, though not stopping, had reduced significantly in numbers.

However, during Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s image took a battering, especially in the media. The perception was that Israel had deliberately killed many Palestinian civilians thereby acting disproportionately. However, this was far from the truth. Israel tried its best to avoid civilian casualties, as its quarrel was not with the Palestinian people, but with Hamas, who were directly responsible for the rocket attacks as they occurred on territory that they governed in Gaza. Hamas hid in civilian areas and used civilians as human shields, whilst attempting to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible. In doing so they committed a double war crime. This also showed that Hamas saw both Israeli and Palestinian life as cheap. In doing this, they were directly responsible for the deaths of Palestinians and the terrible plight of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Contrastingly, the Israeli Air Force distributed over 2.5 million warning leaflets over areas marked as terror facilities, announcing upcoming strikes. Advance warnings, in the form of news broadcasts and approximately 165,000 phone calls, were made to residents of those buildings urging them to leave, prior to any military action. Israel didn’t have to do this, but they were committed to doing all they could to avoid Palestinian civilian deaths, which was made impossible by the actions of Hamas.

Israel lives in a hostile neighbourhood, having to continually fight for its existence.  Operation Cast Lead also showed definitively that Hamas is like a leopard that won’t change its spots. It remains a vile antisemitic terrorist organisation committed to Israel’s destruction. Those who naively think that Hamas is interested in peace should remember that Operation Cast Lead was a response to Hamas turning Gaza into a terrorist’s playground. Let’s remember four years on that Israel still thrives in a hostile environment, despite its existence and right to defend itself being continually challenged. In this environment, it is important as friends of Israel to stand with it.