RIGHT OF REPLY
Van Heerden’s defamatory ‘child-killer’ rhetoric plays into hands of extremists
Oscar van Heerden sets out to justify his vilification and supposed culpability of Israel by making unsubstantiated accusations that the Jewish State deliberately targets children with the intention to kill them. This is such an outrageous charge that it should not be difficult for the lay reader to discount such lies and consign such allegations to the rubbish bin where they belong.
The indication of knowledge and credulity in any society is inversely proportional to its intellectual acumen, and when people choose overheated opinions over cold facts, the social order reverts to dangerous imbecility. Too many get used to lying and repeating other people’s lies, either because when it comes to lying, what one should consider is not the plausibility of the fib but greed, fear, prejudice and stupidity of both purveyor and recipient. A lie gives fools what they want to hear and allows them to free themselves from the facts at hand and choose the level of self-delusion that fits their foolishness and moral baseness and/or depravity.
The truth eventually becomes known, often too late. Without truth, there is no justice, and without justice, there can be no peace. Van der Heever is serving those few individuals who hide behind institutions to shield their privileges at the expense of their own populations including children and gullible innocents.
New York Times columnist Bret Stephens writing in the wake of the violence that erupted along the Israel-Gaza border in May last year, said: “There’s a pattern here — harm yourself, blame the other — and it deserves to be highlighted amid the torrent of morally blind, historically illiterate criticism to which Israelis are subjected every time they defend themselves against violent Palestinian attack”. His observation rings just as true today.
Colonel Richard Kemp in London puts the whole issue of Hamas’ attack on Israel in perspective: “The demonstrations are far from peaceful. They are carefully planned and orchestrated military operations intended to break through the border of a sovereign state and commit mass murder in the communities beyond. Imagine the consequences if the IDF failed to stop these crowds breaking through the fence. The nearest Israeli communities are just a few minutes’ dash from the border by armed terrorists intent on mass murder. So the true and malevolent purpose of Hamas’ plan is to incite violence in such a way that the IDF has no choice but to respond with lethal force, [using live ammunition]. This makes Hamas the first government in history to deliberately lure its enemies to kill its own civilian population.”
The media has duly obliged by calling what’s been happening at Gaza’s border with Israel, “unarmed demonstrations.” It was nothing of the kind. This is an attempt by tens of thousands of Arabs to storm the border in order to invade and destroy Israel.
If they do break through, nobody can be in the slightest doubt that they will massacre Israelis. In the words of the Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar: “Tear their hearts out”. This is not empty rhetoric; this is planned design.
Maps and aerial photographs show the proximity of the riots to Israeli communities. There’s no other way to understand these pictures than as a threat against these communities. That is why Israel has built extraordinary defences to protect its most vulnerable citizens who live close to the border. And it is a lie to say, as the media continues falsely to report, that this mob is unarmed.
Time and again, the same gruesome scenario is being allowed to play itself out in the Middle East, where the Palestinian leadership in Gaza provokes lethal confrontations with Israel, ensures that Palestinian civilians are right in the firing line when they occur and finally present themselves to the world as victims when, inevitably, some of the latter become casualties.
Palestinian extremist movements like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have pursued this tactic because, up until now, it has been largely successful. There is no shortage of global pundits quite happy to look the other way when Israel is attacked in this way, only unleashing their supposed moral outrage once Israeli retaliation results in non-combatant deaths and injuries.
Daily Maverick columnist Oscar van Heerden, whose latest offering (Yes, the Israeli problem is complex, but killing children is always wrong, 20 November) is one of them and will surely warm the cockles of every Gaza extremist’s heart.
The deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians has long been a standard tactic by Palestinian extremists, but it goes further than that. In addition, such attacks are routinely carried out from densely populated residential areas with the view of inviting Israel to retaliate and thereby making non-combatant casualties unavoidable. In actuality, extensive precautionary measures taken by the Israeli military, while not avoiding such tragedies altogether, have at least reduced them to justifiable levels. Putting it simply, when civilians are killed by Israeli troops it is, at worst, an operational error; when Palestinians do so, it’s a bulls-eye.
Even that, however, is not the worst of it. When bullets are flying and bombs exploding, one naturally would expect civilians, and especially children, to be kept as far away from the danger zone as possible. In the Palestinian case, the opposite is occurring. Conclusive evidence from neutral, independent sources show how instead women and children are actively encouraged – sometimes, as was the case during last year’s Gaza clashes, even bribed outright – to put themselves in the firing line. For all the accusations of ‘genocide’ they hurl at the hated Jewish state, Palestinian leaders know the Israeli Defence Force will go to great lengths to avoid hitting these human shields in conflict situations, even if it means seriously compromising their own operational efficiency.
While the “human shield strategy” has been effective up until now, there are signs that this is beginning to change. In his report on children and armed conflict issued on 20 June this year, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on “all Palestinian actors to refrain from encouraging children’s participation in violence”. It was a small but hopeful step towards the Palestinian leadership being made more accountable by the international community. Until recently, they have largely been given a blank cheque. The same report further records that last year, 3,062 children were killed or injured in Afghanistan, 1,854 in Syria and over 1,100 in Yemen. This points to the real heart of the problem, which is that increasingly, modern-day wars are urban conflicts fought in built-up residential areas rather than on battlefields safely removed from civilian population centres. How to prevent, or at least keep at a minimum, non-combatant casualties is therefore hardly a challenge incumbent on Israel alone.
Another profoundly disquieting phenomenon that is also, however belatedly, starting to be questioned (even within forums largely hostile to Israel like the UN) is the continual incitement to hatred and violence that pervades Palestinian society, particularly in Hamas-controlled Gaza but even in the supposedly ‘moderate’ Fatah-ruled West Bank. Extreme anti-Israel indoctrination, including the hero-worship of those who carry out terrorist operations against Israelis, is an ever-present theme in the Palestinian education system, media, mosques, literature, songs or theatre and cinema.
Senior Palestinian leaders embrace released prisoners, calling them “national heroes”, and holding public events in their honour. Schools, streets and public squares are renamed in recognition of “martyrs” who have sacrificed their lives in carrying out terrorist attacks. Given this culture, it is hardly to be wondered at that Palestinian children are inspired to take part in angry protest activity, thereby exposing themselves to serious danger when, as so often happens, such clashes result in violence.
In his report, Guterres further called upon Israel to “immediately put in place preventive and protective measures to end the excessive use of force”. While this fails to acknowledge the measures that have already been put in place, it is certainly in order to criticise Israel when these systems fail and urge that they be improved and refined. That being said, there is a vast difference between measured, reasonable criticism of this nature and accusing Israel of targeting children as a matter of deliberate policy, which is what Oscar van Heerden has done. His scandalous assertion that “children are being systematically shot, maimed and killed” by Israel amounts to little more than crass, defamatory propaganda, no matter how much he attempts to disguise it as moral outrage and concern over Palestinian suffering.
As is now fashionable for Israel bashers the world over, Van Heerden also makes sneering references to false cries of “anti-semitism” on the part of his critics, thereby implying, of course, that Jews dishonestly and manipulatively play the anti-Jewish race card in order to silence legitimate condemnation of Israel. My answer to that would be even if he indeed is not motivated by anti-Jewish antipathy, the prejudice he displays towards the nation-state of Israel is so evident and so excessive as to amount to an unacceptable form of bigotry in and of itself. DM
Rodney Mazinter is Vice-Chair, SA Zionist Federation – Cape Council. He writes in his personal capacity.