1. Israel says, “Hamas started the war”
Or “It is all the fault of Hamas, they started it”
Or “Israel is simply responding to the rocket attacks”
Tension between Israel and the Palestinians has existed since even before the UN partition of Palestine in 1947. Both sides can easily point to some previous incident as an act of incitement, so such tit-for-tat accusations lead nowhere.
In the broader context, however, the international community considers Israel the “occupying power,” which makes Israel much more accountable for the violence from a number of perspectives:
- First, Israel could easily de-escalate the situation by ceasing some of its repressive activities in Gaza and the West Bank. Notably, it could cease the blockade of Gaza, or it could cease its “settlement” activity in the West Bank. Such acts would dramatically reduce tensions in a matter of hours.
- Second, Israel could easily de-escalate the situation by ceasing its military occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, and this would, again, immediately reduce the tension. In fact, such an act would likely lead to regional peace within a matter of days or weeks.
- Hamas rocket attacks are a desperate act by a people with little hope. Non-violent Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories is ignored by Israel, or met with violence. International steps to address Israel’s occupation — whether UN resolutions, or international court decisions — are ignored with impunity by Israel. Hamas and other militant Palestinian groups turn to violence because Israel gives them no other avenue of resistance.
2. Israel says, “Hamas’ relentless rocket attacks justify our strong response”
Or “What would you do if someone were shooting rockets at you?”
As mentioned above, both sides frequently point to some previous incident as an act of incitement, so blaming the “start” of the violence on the other is a dead end discussion. Hamas likewise views Israel as the instigator, and points to prior Israeli airstrikes on Gaza as the cause for the current violence.
Regardless of who instigated the current flare up of violence, the violence has been relentless from both sides. The New York Times day-by-day summary on the conflict makes clear that neither side has held back. Hundreds of rockets have been launched into Israel from Gaza, yet a comparable number of targets in Gaza have been struck by Israeli forces.