Investigating the conflict


Dear Editor,


The article that was published on the front page two weeks ago [“Activist reveals hardships in Gaza”, January 14] made no attempt to offer a holistic view on a complex topic. The students quoted in the article offered evangelical praise of the presentation, yet no critical views were published, making it seem like there is consensus on the arguments being made by Mr. Fear; this is not the case. There are many students on both sides with varying opinions, and it is a perversion to present the situation as one-sided. Further, the article incorrectly associated BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) with Israel when in fact BDS is a movement sternly anti-Israel. The article ended with a critical description of Operation Pillar of Defence, and it is here that I will begin my commentary.

Since 2007, Hamas has been the governing body of the Gaza Strip (a portion of the Palestinian Territories). Hamas defines itself as being in a continuous state of war with Israel. The group refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Hamas’ charter states: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.” Israel, the United States, Canada, the European Union, and Japan classify Hamas as a terrorist organization.

The argument is frequently made that Israel is retaliating against an unarmed faction. In recent years, Hamas has been increasing the size and capabilities of its rocket arsenal, including the Fajr-5 rocket. The Fajr-5 rocket is an Iranian-made missile. It can reach over 60 kilometres, a range that allows it to threaten the lives of over 3.5 million Israelis. Since 2001, more than 12,800 rockets and mortars have landed in Israel. Since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, 8,000 rockets have been fired into Israel.

According to the United Nations Charter, every state has the right to protect its citizens: “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations” (Article 51). On November 14, 2012, Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defence in response to unremitting rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip. The operation had two goals: to cripple terror organizations in the Gaza Strip and to defend Israelis living under fire (more than half a million Israelis have less than 60 seconds to find shelter after a rocket is launched from Gaza into Israel). During the eight days of the operation, the Israel Defence Forces targeted more than 1,500 terror sites across the Gaza Strip.

During Operation Pillar of Defence, Palestinian terrorist groups fired more than 1,506 rockets at Israel. Most of the rockets were launched from within civilian households in Gaza, effectively turning their residents into living human shields.

In order to minimize harm to civilians in Gaza, the IDF delivered thousands of phone calls and text messages to Gaza, warning them of IDF strikes in the area; the IDF dispersed leaflets warning the residents of the Gaza Strip to stay away from Hamas’ and other terror organizations’ operatives and facilities that pose a risk to their safety; the IDF called off airstrikes when pilots spotted civilians; and the IDF has targeted terrorists with pinpoint strikes, minimizing harm to bystanders.

Hamas has done nothing to minimize harm to civilians in Israel.

The number of civilians killed in Gaza during the course of Operation Pillar of Defence cannot be confirmed, but Gaza officials said 133 Palestinians had been killed in the conflict, of which 79 were fighters, 53 were civilians, and one was a policeman (source: The News International). In Israel, five civilians and one soldier were killed by rocket fire, while an additional 240 civilians were injured.

Operation Pillar of Defence (and the Arab-Israeli conflict more generally) is extremely complex, and it is unlikely that a favourable solution will be achieved in the near future. However, what can be achieved is a balanced dissemination of factual knowledge (emphasis on factual) in order to provide the necessary tools for an educated analysis of the situation and not one based on propaganda. It is here that the article fundamentally fails and treats something complex as a mere happening, with all blame being laid on Israel.


Stan Fedun

Fourth-year, political science

  • Paulo Casaca

    It’s really easy and cheap to blame it on the Jews. Gaza is victim of the Islamic fanaticism of Hamas and of good part of the Muslim World that thinks of Palestinians as cannon fodder for the Jihad against infidels, Jews being first in line. My profound solidarity with those Gazan freedom and peace loving citizens being victims of these false friends. I hope conditions will allow courageous and human leaders from both Israel and Gaza to get around a table and discuss how to break the deadlock. My profound distaste for these appeasing Westerners that think they can will get rid of the problem by joining the antisemitic chorus. They learned nothing from history.

    • sanaa

      To speak of anti-semitism in this particular context is redundant because both sides, gazans and israelis, are technically semitic peoples

    • Stan

      Hi Paulo,

      Thank you for taking the time to read my op-ed and to write your opinion. I do not doubt that either side would like anything more than to find a bilateral peaceful solution so that the people of Israel and Palestine can leave peacefully.

      • Stan

        Correction: “…the people of Israel and Palestine can live peacefully.”

    • Leon M.

      Finally, we see some sober thinking in UTM. Mr. Fear’s talk intended to demonize one side and to pink wash the other was to biased to be taken seriously.

      • Luke

        Yes, I think Stan’s article and discussion have been very intellectually open and have invited proper debate, which I as a reader strongly appreciate.

    • Pauline P.

      Dear Paulo and Leon, the Israel v. Palestine conflict really isn’t one of Muslims versus Jews, as so many understand it. And in no way does Mr. Fear present a “blame the Jews” mentality when speaking about the conflict. As Sanaa mentions, Palestinians and Israelis are all semitic peoples technically speaking. But even without this technical definition, there are many Jews from all over the world who oppose the policies and tactics of the state of Israel. Famous among them, Dr. Noam Chomsky at MIT and Norman Finkelstein in NY. There are also many Jewish organizations globally who fight for Palestinian rights, including their right of return. So in future discussions, perhaps try to separate in your mind the definition and concept of a Jew vs. an Israeli. I believe this will help you better understand the situation currently ongoing in the region.

  • utmstudent

    Dear Stan,

    The purpose of the article [“Activist reveals hardships in Gaza”, January 14], was to report the event which UTM hosted. There were various reporters and freelance bloggers present at the event, and indeed the consensus of the attendees was on the side of the humanitarian and freelance reporter, Harry Fear. The floor was open to questions from the community and audience, many of which simply asked for clarification on the status of Gaza and the intentions of the IDF soldiers as their actions were careless (in killing many Palestinian civilians and children). You mention statistics about the amount of artillery fired into Israel, but you fail to mention the amount being fired out of Israel, which has killed many innocents. The conflict between Israel and Palestine is political and humanitarian. Israel took and continues to take more Palestinian land (more than what the UN allotted them), and they continue to kill and harm innocent civilians.

    I’m curious Mr.Fedun, have you even listened to Mr. Harry Fear’s presentation?

    Here is the youtube URL for it:

    • Stan

      Hi utmstudent,

      Thank you for taking the time to read my op-ed and write a critical response. I am aware of the purpose of the original article and do not doubt that consensus was on the side of Mr. Fear. In writing my op-ed I hoped to present an alternative view to the conflict. I should remind you that op-ed articles published in the Medium have a word limit and I could not, even if I attempted to, provide all relevant information without omitting some important data.

      I have watched Mr. Fear’s presentations (at UTM and abroad) and have followed his various social media accounts.

  • Shefa Obaid

    Dear Stan,

    It is no doubt a complex issue that was surely not made to be
    resolved in a 600 word article. It is a cover of an event that took place on
    campus in which everyone was invited to attend, ask questions and seek
    knowledge on the last attack on Gaza from a humanitarian standpoint. Humanitarian meaning that Hamas is a non-negotiable aspect of the issue
    at hand. There is an indigenous population of Palestine being raided by the
    fourth most powerful military of the world and their UN recognized democratically
    elected government has sought to defend itself after Israeli troops invaded
    Palestinian land and assassinated one of
    their leaders involved in peace negotiations, not to mention including helpless
    children simply playing soccer on the street. It seems as though you would like
    to paint this as an equal battle when it is clearly not and the numbers (even
    the ones you provide) prove otherwise. There is an illegal siege on Gaza in
    which even its international waters are blocked by Israeli forces and fishermen
    are shot for just trying to make a living in their own sea. I remind you that
    Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. If the armed resistance,
    Hamas, shoots any of their flimsy rockets from any place, it is not likely to
    avoid any citizens because their artillery has been compared to “fireworks” to
    the IDF. While Israel on the other hand, with one of the best technologically
    advanced armies in the world, uses drone strikes that can see the colour of a
    person’s shirt to bomb whole families with innocent civilians. Also a reminder,
    Canada was one of the few countries opposed to Palestine recognized as a state
    at the UN. Which is not surprising seeing that they are oppressing their own indigenous
    population and participating in colonialism. Open-minded views of the conflict
    which assess the humanitarian aspect of things and which do not seek to
    dehumanize citizens down to merely politics, will change the world and perhaps
    result in a lasting in the region. I encourage you to visit Gaza to see Israeli
    apartheid in action, perhaps then we will learn to write better articles.

    • Stan

      Hi Shefa,

      Thank you for taking the time to read my op-ed and write an argumentative response. Your insights are valuable and are important in helping me shape my understanding of the conflict. It is without a doubt not a simple conflict, but one where perspective plays a very important role.

  • futm