By Emily Gian
A little while ago, some Palestinians in Gaza thought it would be a good idea to start a campaign called “The Great March of Return” where they would come to the border between Israel and Gaza and protest.
They stated that they would do this every Friday leading up to a date in mid-May, corresponding with what they call “Nakba Day”, which they claim to be about dispossession of land but, in reality, it is also about much more – the failure of five Arab armies along with Palestinian Arab fighters to achieve the stated aim in 1948 of a “momentous massacre” of Jews.
The idea of a march of return was always about protesting Israel’s very existence. And it was passed off as a peaceful demonstration which may well have been what some of its organisers intended, but Gaza is controlled by Hamas which certainly had other ideas. The reality was that from the outset, Hamas embedded itself in the crowds and turned protest into a set of violent riots with the aim of breaching Israel’s border and causing harm to Israeli civilians, for all Palestinian refugees to return to what they claimed as their homes, and ultimately to occupy all of Jerusalem and bring an end to Israel as a Jewish state.
Over time, slingshots, Molotov cocktails, threats of an environmental war by burning tyres, flaming kites with swastikas, IED’s, attempts to breach an internationally recognised border and for the last two weeks, they even set fire to their own gas lines and to the crossing at Kerem Shalom where trucks usually bring in much needed humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. Much of the media turned a blind eye to the vision of these events and maintained the charade of peaceful protest and of the IDF indiscriminately firing at unarmed demonstrators.
All of this culminated in the protests of last Monday, where an estimated 40,000 people (much less than the hoped for 100,000 plus) descended to the border with many carrying weapons, grenades, fence cutters and other dangerous objects.
They hurled firebombs and explosive devices, burned tyres and launched flaming objects with the intention of breaking into Israeli villages and harming Israeli security officers. And there were gunfights.
Israel made relentless efforts (again mainly unrecognised in the media) throughout to prevent the masses from violently breaching the border. These included early warnings by leaflets, direct phone calls, on radio and social media, as well as the use of non-lethal means including water cannons, tear gas, smoke grenades and rubber bullets.
While this was going on, the new US Embassy opened in Jerusalem. The media had quite the field day showing the two different “events” on a split screen – Israeli and American leaders celebrating on one side, and the violence on the other. They persisted with a false narrative that the Palestinians were protesting Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and open the Embassy there, rather than the fact that this was a well-prepared campaign that had been months in the making. Hamas knew that by sending masses to the fence, and hiding its armed operatives amongst them, that it would make the maximum impact to the media and, as usual, the willing media lapped it all up.
Some of the worst instances of this slavish adherence to the false narrative of the protesters came by way of vile Op Eds published in the Fairfax media exposed by Honest Reporting. What were the editors thinking?
However, in the past few days, a number of documents and videos have come to light that exposed Hamas and how it manipulated the protesters and their useful tools in the media.
First came a translation from a Hamas Facebook page reposted hundreds of times, in which Palestinian protestors were asked to bring a knife or a gun and conceal it under their clothes. They were also asked that in the event they captured an Israeli civilian or soldier, that they hand them over to resistance forces (read: Hamas terrorists). It was becoming clear that these were not peaceful events but that did not stop countries like Turkey and South Africa, who both recalled their Ambassadors, with a representative from South Africa saying that Gazans were just “taking part in a peaceful protest against the provocative inauguration of the US Embassy in Jerusalem”.
PM Netanyahu dealt with Turkey’s Erdogan when he posted on social media: “The man who has thousands of Turkish troops occupying northern Cyprus and invading Syria will not lecture us as we defend ourselves against an attempted invasion by Hamas. The man who has the blood of countless Kurdish civilians on his hands is the last person who can lecture us on the morals of war.”
There was a video of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar telling the mob around him, “take down [the Israeli] border and tear out their hearts from their bodies.”
Is there a peaceful way to tear a heart out of a body?
Then there was an interview with a senior Hamas official, co-founder and foreign minister, Mahmoud Al-Zahhar telling the interviewer how Hamas uses its weaponry to carry out its aims, saying, “so when we talk about ‘peaceful resistance’, we are deceiving the public”. How much clearer could he be before the mainstream media begins to understand what Israel is dealing with?
Another video emerged of yet another senior Hamas figure that set the record straight on who was killed during Monday’s riots. He said, “50 of the 62 martyrs were Hamas.” Now, when the death toll was announced, of course, the loss of any life is tragic. Nevertheless, it has been revealed that 50 were from Hamas and another three from Islamic Jihad.
Meanwhile, the media was constantly referring to an eight-month old baby, supposedly killed during the protests due to tear gas inhalation. The fury subsided a little when a Gazan doctor revealed that the baby died from an unrelated pre-existing condition. The death of the child was tragic but one wonders why the media failed to ask why people were bringing babies and children to a protest?
And the final video – the pièce de résistance if you will – a Gazan who was apprehended by Israelis forces trying to infiltrate the border telling the IDF exactly how much control Hamas has over the people and how they encouraged women and children to go to the front to capture headlines.
Journalist Matti Friedman, who spent years working as an international correspondent in Israel wrote in a piece that was published in the NY Times where he says he came to respect Hamas “for its keen ability to tell a story”.
He writes, “Hamas understood that Western news outlets wanted a simple story about villains and victims and would stick to that script, whether because of ideological sympathy, coercion or ignorance. The press could be trusted to present dead human beings not as victims of the terrorist group that controls their lives, or of a tragic confluence of events, but of an unwarranted Israeli slaughter. The willingness of reporters to cooperate with that script gave Hamas the incentive to keep using it.
Hamas has actually mapped it right out for the world, but no one is paying attention because they are too busy demonising Israel. It has said:
1. Its intention was to kill Israelis;
2. The riots were not peaceful; and
3. The overwhelming majority of those killed were from Hamas and other terrorist groups.
The violence perpetrated by Hamas was immediately condemned by the United States who said, “There is no justification for the recklessness and cynicism Hamas has shown in urging people to engage in violence that exposes them to terrible risk. As the Secretary of State has said, Israel has a right to defend itself.”
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that while any loss of life is tragic, “Hamas’ conduct is confrontational. They’re seeking to provoke the Israeli Defence Forces.” He continued, “If they’re [Hamas] pushing people to the border in that context, in that conflict zone, you’re basically pushing people into circumstances where they are very likely to be shot at as Israel seeks to defend itself.”
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop issued a statement that “urged Palestinian protesters to refrain from violence and attempting to enter into Israeli territory during the March of Return.” She also stated “We recognise that Israel has legitimate security concerns and needs to protect its population, and we call on Israel to be proportionate in its response and refrain from excessive use of force.”
And there it was – someone mentioned the word “proportionate”. When 40,000 people try to infiltrate a border and some are armed and out to kill civilians on the other side what constitutes a proportionate response? How would a restrained response play out? It is easy to call for restraint and proportion when you are outside of a situation and not in any way affected by the result of such restraint or proportionality.
Do people understand what the word “proportionate” means when it comes to rules of engagement? Would they feel more comfortable if some Israelis died as invaders with murderous intent marched through its border? Would Australia allow this to happen to any group that attempted to invade its own sovereign borders?
Penny Wong, Shadow Foreign Minister released a statement that was even more nonsensical. She said, “Labor urges Israel to show restraint. We support the right for peaceful protest and call on both sides to deescalate tensions.” What peaceful protest? Were we watching the same thing? And a call for both sides to deescalate tensions equates one side with the other which is just shocking when you are talking about people being led by the nose by genocidal maniacs against an army dedicated to protecting its citizens and its borders.
Both sides of Australian politics made sure to reassure the public that Australia will not be following America and moving their Embassy to Jerusalem, even though many had pointed out that in the case of the US Embassy, it is in a part of Jerusalem where sovereignty is not disputed.
The voice of reason, on the matter of Jerusalem recognition was former Australian Ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma who tweeted: “Even if we don’t move Embassy, we should at least consider recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital (w/o prejudice to its final boundaries or potential status as capital of future Palestinian state). Where else do we disagree with a country about where its capital is?”
Sharma was also spot on when he appeared on Sky News and in reference to the protests said, “These protests in Gaza are largely unconnected, strange as it may sound, to the US embassy opening – they were planned a long time ago.”
US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, who remains a voice of reason. When the UN Security Council attempted to pass a resolution condemning Israel she blocked it brilliantly and then said, “This is what is endangering the people of Gaza. Make no mistake: Hamas is pleased with the results from yesterday.
I ask my colleagues here in the Security Council, who among us would accept this type of activity on your border? No one would. No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has. In fact, the records of several countries here today suggest they would be much less restrained.”
The people who live in the region, be they Israeli or Palestinian deserve much better than the outrageous deception of a desperate Hamas and its apologists.
Even CNN which has in the past presented some ridiculously biased reporting is beginning to wake up – do you think Fairfax will ever follow suit?