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Gaza: FAQ – 1 January 2009

Israel and Gaza – Frequently asked questions

It’s summer break here, and at a time when we would normally be enjoying the cricket, the Boxing Day sales and new year’s barbeques, our attention is taken by the intense confrontation taking place in Gaza.

The first question we’re hearing is:

What can we do?

Be an advocate. Advocacy is not the sole purview of the community leadership, or hard core news junkies. Advocacy for Israel at this time is the responsibility of all of us.

Advocacy means that you keep across the situation, from a variety of reliable sources. Read, watch and understand the context of the situations as they arise. Remember that the media loves an emotionally wrenching story and blood sells more papers than communities embattled and bombarded over seven years. So whilst there have been, and will no doubt continue to be, tragic stories of the deaths of Palestinian civilians, keep the context in mind.

Armed with knowledge, you will be able to be an advocate for Israel:
• At the water cooler – when you get back to work, no doubt your colleagues will want to know what you think. While you’re still on break, the same will apply in social situations. Don’t avoid the conversations, know your facts and engage with confidence.
• How often do you feel frustrated when you hear radio broadcasts and talkbacks? Being an advocate means being prepared and ready to pick up the phone and make your key points rationally and clearly.
• Writing letters to the editor of the mainstream media is a great way to make a point which will be read by the masses. You don’t have to be a brilliant writer, just express a key point clearly, preferably with a bit of a “bite” and you may be published. Don’t be discouraged if your letter is not printed though, try again the next day or with another paper.

Keeping up to date

If you are not already subscribed to the Zionist Council of Victoria’s Advocacy Alert bulletins, click here to subscribe. These bulletins give you a concise summary of the situation, linking you to current and reliable on line articles and analyses on the situation.

There is a plethora of information out there – Israeli press in English – such as Jerusalem Post ( ), Ha’aretz ( Ynet ( among many.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs site is a great resource (

The Zionist Council of Victoria’s website ( has a section on Israel Advocacy, including tips for letter writing, where to send your letters to, and in the Ani Zioni section, lists of resources and useful websites.

Questions about Operation Cast Lead

Why did Israel start this war?

Israel did not start this war.

This war was started by Palestinian terrorists, who in 2008 alone have launched over 3000 missiles from Gaza into Israel, targeting civilian centres.

In June 08, a temporary calm was brokered by Egypt. This so called truce had a six month expiry date. Despite the “truce”, rockets continued to be fired across the Israeli border, sending the people of Sderot and other southern Israeli towns running several times daily to bomb shelters.

On December 19 2008, the truce expired. Israel wanted to continue it, and Egypt was prepared to broker its renewal. Hamas rejected this and commenced increased bombardment of Israeli towns and villages.

Israel has a responsibility and an obligation to protect and defend her citizens. No other country would allow such provocation without a response.

Ultimately, Israel has engaged in this war to show Hamas that continued attacks on Israeli citizens can’t and won’t be tolerated.

Israel wants peace. Israel wants to see the creation of a sustainable and flourishing Palestinian state alongside it, with peaceful borders, hence it withdrew totally and completely from Gaza in 2005. When the Palestinians cease attacks and commit to negotiation, peace in the region will be that much closer.

Click here to view the website of Palestinian Media Watch, which has great resources and articles on this topic.

Why did Hamas send rockets into Israel, knowing full well that ultimately Israel would respond?

Hamas has a very clear objective – to annihilate the state of Israel. It’s in their charter. Hamas is a proscribed terrorist organisation, and their actions are designed to continually terrorise the Israeli civilian population and keep them under constant threat.

Hamas has had an unrelenting strategy of launching missiles from Gaza into Israeli population centres since 2001. Over a quarter of a million Israelis live in terror and fear of the next attack. The fact that the 8200 missiles launched have not killed or injured more people is because:
(a) Israel has taken responsibility for the safety of her citizens and ensured that bomb shelters were built and detection and evacuation procedures are in place; and
(b) The inaccuracy of the Palestinian missiles.

Click here for a summary of missile hits into Israel from Gaza since 2001.

Yet the damage caused by these attacks has been terrible. Dozens have been killed and hundreds injured. Communities have been destroyed. Sirens sound off day and night, requiring everyone to run to the shelters within 15 seconds.

Hamas well knew that escalating these attacks would provoke a response from Israel. They anticipated the media’s response, and the likelihood of media picking up on inevitable instances of civilian fatalities and casualties. They maximise the possibilities by locating military targets and operations within their own civilian centres, putting their own people at grave risk.

Why are there so many Palestinian deaths and so few Israeli deaths?

Israel has scrupulously and meticulously targeted military and strategic locations in Gaza. Even the UNRWA has estimated that of the 360 Palestinian deaths, 51 are civilian and over 310 are Hamas militants (terrorists).

The unfortunate consequence of any war is the inevitable loss of innocent lives.

Israel has attempted to limit such fatalities by:
(a) Specifically targeting military sites;
(b) Telephoning and flyer dropping to warn civilians to leave their homes, where they are located close to Hamas targets, even though this detracts from strategic surprise elements;

Hamas, on the other hand, has a defined strategy of placing its installations amongst civilian population centres, putting its own people at grave risk. As was written in the Boston Globe on 30/12:

“In direct contravention of international law, Hamas uses Palestinian civilians as human shields, utilizing homes, schools and community centers as launching pads, content in the knowledge that if innocent Palestinian civilians are caught in the cross-fire, it will be Israel that is criticized. This amounts to a sort of Daily Double of human rights violations: the use of innocent Palestinians as human shields for the infliction of violence upon innocent Israelis.”

While Israel regrets the loss of innocent lives and does everything possible to limit it, Hamas specifically targets civilians in Israel.

During the eight years of sustained attacks by Hamas, Israel has built shelters for the people in the south, fortified community, school and kindergarten buildings and ensured that people know the procedures when the “code red” siren sounds.
Conversely, Hamas has built tunnels for smuggling weapons, developed its weapons infrastructure and built its weapons stores within civilian population centres.

Why is Israel’s response so disproportionate?

Yesterday’s Australian (31/12) ran an article which goes a way to explaining what disproportionate is – or is not. Here’s an excerpt:

“LET’S have a pointless discussion about Gaza and begin it by talking about whether Israel’s bombing is “disproportionate”.
To illustrate the meaninglessness of such a debate, let us attempt to agree what “proportionate” would look like.

Would it be best if Israel were to manufacture a thousand or so wildly inaccurate missiles and then fire them off in the general direction of Gaza City?

There is a chance, though, that since Gaza is more densely packed than Israel, casualties might be much the same as they are now, so although the ordnance would be proportionate, the deaths would not.

Of course, if one of Gaza’s rockets did manage to hit an Israeli nursery school at the wrong time (or the right time, depending on how you look at it), then the proportionality issue would be solved in one explosion. Would you be happy then? “ (From “Sound and Fury… and it still signifies nothing” David Aaronovitch, The Australian; 31/12/08).

Since when is war a mathematical equation? The basic objective of any warring party is to inflict maximal damage on the enemy while minimizing its own casualties. Was there anything proportional about the US war in Iraq? Or about Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait for that matter? Or about Russia’s recent war against Georgia? Israel is doing exactly what any other country has done in the past. This is how war works.

Would a British citizen complain that “too few” British soldiers are being killed in Iraq? Probably not.

And on a more elementary note: Palestinian military inferiority is not an indication of moral superiority. Palestinian insistence on resorting to violence despite this military weakness is an indication of poor judgment perhaps – yet it is by no means an indication of moral virtue. Being militarily weak does not make the Palestinians right.

Is there a relationship between Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran?
Yes – a resounding yes.

They share a dedication to Israel’s destruction – Hezbollah’s Nasrallah and Iran’s Ahmadinejad have notoriously declared their goal to wipe Israel off the map.
Hamas belongs to the school of extremist elements espousing violence, such as Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, the World Jihad, and others. This is manifested in instructions to carry out terror, training and drills, smuggling means of warfare, supplying monies, etc. In an interview with the Sunday Times published on March 9, 2008, a Hamas official related, “The Iranian Revolutionary Guards have been training Hamas operatives in Tehran ever since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip…in field warfare tactics and weaponry. The operatives come into the Strip with skills they have acquired in advanced technologies, rocket firing, setting off charges, sharpshooting and other tactics similar to those used by Hezbollah.”

For more information: visit the Zionist Council of Victoria’s website