I hate the fact that so many Palestinian protestors have been killed or wounded in recent weeks. And I'm not saying that Israel has done everything right in the conflict. But for Hamas, this is the only way to defeat Israel. The strategy is as cynical as it is simple.
Hamas cannot possibly defeat Israel militarily. It can inflict pain and terror on a limited basis, but nothing more. Israel would crush Hamas in a matter of weeks or even days in an all-out war.
Hamas can only win the propaganda war, the war of public opinion. But how does it do this as a terrorist organization? Again, the strategy is simple.
Hamas sends waves of young men to defy Israeli orders. The IDF soldiers kill and wound the Hamas-provoked protestors. The media follows Hamas's script, reporting Israel's atrocities to the world. Then the nations of the world condemn Israel for "ethnic cleansing" and "genocide." The more Palestinians corpses and casualties, the greater the success.
Aaron Klein has pointed out that, "Hamas, desperate over its increasingly precarious situation in Gaza and eager to please Iranian paymasters, has escalated the premeditated, openly violent campaign aimed at breaching the Israel-Gaza border and attacking nearby Israeli communities.
"This," he writes, "while the news media hypes Hamas-provided casualty counts and portrays the Gaza rioters as peaceful protesters frustrated that there is no Palestinian state and angry that the U.S. moved its embassy to Jerusalem. In doing so, the news media are actually advancing Hamas's cause."
Writing in England, Melanie Phillips explains that, "The people who caused these deaths are the Hamas themselves. But the people at whose door these dead Arabs should also be laid are the BBC and those in the rest of the British and other media who have acted their part in the script the Hamas has written: to cause as many Gazans to lose their lives as possible, the younger the better, so that the western media will portray Israel as wanton and disproportionate killers."
She is absolutely right.
Hamas leaders carefully arranged a two-month protest campaign to culminate on May 15, the day of "Al-Nakba," literally, "the disaster," which is the Palestinian description of the founding of modern Israel. But with the moving of our embassy on May 14, the climactic protest was moved up one day.
According to one report of these well-organized "protests," there are tents behind the main crowds for prayer and for food. There, the young men say their final prayers before attempting to breech the security zone and break down the fence. They are ready to become shahids, martyrs, for their cause. They expect to die.
"Hamas members, unarmed but clearly directing some of the young men, are in the crowd. They watch for an area of burning tires and protesters where the protesters have managed to get close to the fence or breach the first line of barbed wire. Some of these professional activists are on motorcycles and they may come and go or drive along the line of protests or observe them from a high point. When they sense that a breach can be made they gather together groups of young men, men who have prepared beforehand for the assault. Like some kind of First World War charge of death, the young men then rush as a group toward the fence."
And in the event that any of these young men made it into Israeli territory, there would be one goal only: kill and destroy. Yet today, these same young men are the innocent victims. And Israel, in the words of Turkey's President Erdogan, is a "terror state" committing acts of "genocide." Just the way Hamas scripted it!
Speaking of the May 14 protests, Phillips wrote, "For the media to portray this as a protest – moreover an unarmed protest – is to perpetrate a lie that is beyond wicked. Those 55 dead Arabs, and however many more will be sacrificed tomorrow and the next day as cannon fodder on the basis that the western media will report this as "unarmed protest", are therefore being killed for the BBC and other media who have been dutifully playing their role in this infernal propaganda charade."
A Christian colleague living in Bethlehem had this to say, writing to me privately on the 15th: "After Israel said it would target Hamas leaders for assassination if riots did not disperse, they suddenly did just that. But with an estimated 60 rioter deaths yesterday, Hamas has found cause to rejoice. It successfully offered human sacrifices on the altars of political gain."
It is the only way for Hamas to win its war with Israel.
These, then, are good sacrifices to make, as grisly as it sounds. After all, this is Hamas. This is radical Islam. What else can you expect?
And so, while I grieve over each of these deaths and do not whitewash all of Israel's actions (Israel has her share of internal critics, too), I will put the blame for this tragedy where it belongs: at the feet of the leadership of Hamas.
In all of our reporting and commenting, let's keep our story straight.