The humanitarian case for Israel’s war against Hamas, by Amos Oz and others

Published: 30 January 2009
Briefing Number 232

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Summary: In December 2008 Israel launched a three-week military campaign to reduce the threat posed to Israel by Hamas. This Briefing provides the text of three speeches in support of Israel 's decision to go to war:

- by acclaimed Israeli writer, and icon of the centre-left, Amos Oz

- by 23 year old Sderot law student Liraz Madmony (speaking at the UN Human Rights Council), and

- by Gabriella Shalev, Israel 's Ambassador to the UN, speaking before the UN Security Council

We have selected these three speeches because each is lucid, firm and passionate. Each advocates strongly for Israel 's right of self-defence. And each reminds listeners that Israelis too have human rights.

To go to war to defend citizens against sustained and indiscriminate rocket attacks, which have been launched by a group which is ideologically committed to long-term confrontation, is a humanitarian obligation.

The case for war, by Amos Oz

Amos Oz is a world-renowned Israeli writer. In Israeli political terms he is considered a ‘dove'. During previous wars, for example the first Lebanon war of 1982, Oz was an outspoken critic of the Israeli government. Not so, however, with Israel 's war against Hamas. Here is a short article by Oz in support of the decision to go to war against Hamas, which was published on various websites at the beginning of the war.

Amos Oz: “The systematic bombing of the citizens of Israel 's towns and cities is a war crime and a crime against humanity. The State of Israel must defend its citizens. It is obvious to everyone that the Israeli Government does not wish to enter Gaza …. but the suffering of the citizens surrounding Gaza cannot go on…..

…. The Arab world will rally together around the atrocious sights that Al-Jazeera will air from Gaza , and the world court of public opinion will rush to accuse Israel of war crimes.

This is the same court of public opinion that remains unmoved by the systematic bombing of population centres in Israel . …

…. Hamas' calculation is simple, cynical and evil. If innocent Israelis are killed – good. If innocent Palestinians are killed – even better. Israel must act wisely against this stance, not out of the heat of the moment….”

- For more see , 28 December 2008

Israeli student's speech to the UN Human Rights Council

Liraz Madmony is a 23 year old law student from Sderot in Southern Israel . On 12 January 2009 she addressed a special session of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, which was convened to examine the war between Hamas and Israel , and to debate a resolution condemning Israel . Madmony spoke on behalf of the European Union of Jewish Students, and here is the text of her speech:

Liraz Madmony: Thank you, Mr President

I come from Sderot, the city in Israel that for eight years has been terrorised by 10,000 rockets fired against us from Gaza . [see – Beyond Images]

As a law student, I learned – and I believe – that all human beings have the right to peace and security.

But when I see today's resolution I ask: Why is the United Nations ignoring my suffering? When the terrorists committed these 10,000 violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law, why was the UN silent?

[Firing rockets deliberately and indiscriminately at civilian targets breaches the international law principle that combatants may aim their strikes only at legitimate military targets. Such firing constitutes a war crime – Beyond Images]

Are human rights for some, but not others?

The constant assault on Sderot has destroyed our ability to lead a normal life. The warning before each attack gives us only 15 seconds to run for shelter. Fifteen seconds that will decide, life or death.

Mr President, who will protect our right to life? My family does not have a bomb shelter, so we run to the most protected room, which is the shower.

There is one attack I will never forget. We heard the siren at seven in the morning. We ran to the shower. The rockets fell next to my house. My little brother, who was 14, went to see if anyone needed help. He found a man whose legs were blown off, and a woman blown to pieces.

My youngest brother is six. The rockets have been falling for 8 years. He knows no other reality.

Everyone suffers in Sderot. Fathers and mothers are afraid to go to work, creating poverty. Kids are afraid to go to school. I have missed many of my law classes. My friends are afraid to visit. The streets lie empty.

I dream of the hometown that I remember. When the park near my house was filled with happy families and children playing. When people enjoyed life.

I still dream of peace. It will come when the rulers of Gaza choose humanity over hate, when they stop firing on our children while hiding behind their own.

We refuse to grant victory to the terrorists. We choose to live, staying strong with our faith, family and love of country.

Mr President, who will protect our most basic human rights? My country is now trying its best, and all those who love life and desire peace should pray that they succeed.

Thank you, Mr President

Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations, Gabriella Shalev

On Tuesday 6 January 2009 , Israel 's Ambassador to the UN, Professor Gabriella Shalev, addressed the UN Security Council, as part of its emergency debate on the situation in Gaza . Here are extracts from her speech (published on the website of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs):

Gabriella Shalev: For eight years the citizens of southern Israel have suffered the trauma of almost daily missile attacks from Gaza . More than 8000 rockets and mortar shells have targeted Israeli towns and villages. The residents of these towns have had a bare 15 seconds to hurry, with their children and their elderly, to find cover before rockets land on their houses and schools.

No state would permit such attacks on its citizens. Nor should it.

Israel sought every way to avoid the current conflict. In 2005 Israel removed from Gaza every soldier and civilian, along with their homes, schools and cemeteries. We did this to try to create an opening for peace.

But Hamas is vehemently opposed to negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. Hamas has no interest in making peace with the enemy; for Hamas, peace is the enemy. It was the hope of peace that led us to withdraw from Gaza , and the terrorism of Hamas that compelled us to re-enter.

When Hamas unilaterally announced the end of the Egyptian-brokered ‘calm' and began to wage a new campaign of rocket attacks against Israel's citizens with the weapons which it had smuggled into Gaza during the ‘calm', we could restrain ourselves no longer. With its new Iranian-made missiles, Hamas is now able to reach the cities of Ashdod and Beersheva, placing over one million Israelis in the shadow of its terror.

This is not about a ‘ceasefire' with terrorism or a mutual cessation of hostilities. It is about ensuring the end of terrorism from Gaza , and the end of smuggling weapons into Gaza ; so that there is no longer a need for Israeli defensive operations.

This conflict will not end when terrorism is appeased or accommodated, but when the international community stands determined and united against it.

It is not enough to support peace; we have to confront those who work to destroy it. For this reason, the current military operation is not an obstacle to peace; it is a prerequisite for peace.

Other Beyond Images resources

Beyond Images homepage / All Beyond Images Briefings / Hamas

Beyond Images homepage / All Beyond Images Briefings / Gaza and disengagement