Israel no mere victim in Mideast

Israel is not guilt-free in the long-standing Middle East conflicts.

by Adam Grant

While the waves of opinions on contemporary Middle Eastern affairs continually flood newspapers and online forums, and responses and rebuttals blur into an incomprehensible assortment of facts and opinions, I nonetheless feel obligated to respond to Benjamin RosensteinâÄôs letter in the Oct. 20 issue of The Minnesota Daily, specifically the sections dealing with Israeli military history. Rosenstein writes, âÄúIsrael has never started a war,âÄù a rather vague declaration given the circumstances. Mainly, does Rosenstein mean that the state of Israel has never declared war first, or that Israel has never been the belligerent nation in causing a war? IâÄôd like to approach this topic by looking at the recent Arab-Israeli conflicts. While Israel asserts that its occupation of the Gaza strip ended in 2005, pursuant to its unilateral disengagement plan, this is not the case. Between 2005 and 2007, Israel effectively controlled all airspace, port access, utilities, and good shipments into the strip, allowing only humanitarian deliveries. At the same time, 2,700 rockets from Gaza were fired at Israel, killing four Israeli civilians, while during the same period more than 14,500 rockets were fired from Israel towards Gaza, killing approximately 59 civilians. Following a 2008 âÄòlull,âÄô Israel relaxed blockade measures, and more border crossings were allowed into Gaza. Unfortunately, at the end of 2008, the cease-fire process came to an end. On Dec. 13, Israel announced its intent to renew the cease-fire, followed by HamasâÄô declaration on Dec. 23 that it wished the same. On Dec. 27, 2008, Israel launched a massive air strike against Gaza, saying that rocket strikes the day before, which had been going on intermittently that year, brought the retaliation âÄî a claim which was rejected by the United Nations Human Rights Council. Instead, members of opposition parties in the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, gave their own opinions on the cause of the war. Knesset member Ahmad Tibi said, âÄúThere are those who are counting bodies and at the same time counting Knesset seats. Bodies for votes âÄî this is done primarily by the Labor Party.âÄù At the same time, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who was the head of planning for the Israeli offensive into the Gaza strip, was also the head of the Labor party, a dangerous conflict of interest. Amnesty InternationalâÄôs final tally of the death toll was 1,400, including 300 children. Israel is not a peace-loving nation at the mercy of the international community, neither is it a bellicose state intent on absorbing as much territory as possible âÄî a conclusion that is found in most international conflicts. While there is much more evidence for IsraelâÄôs shared guilt in its history of conflict in the Middle East, including the recent finding of Israeli spying devices placed underground during an earlier conflict with Lebanon against provisions of an international agreement, newspaper space is unfortunately limited. However, what is clear is that Israel has violated international law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a position supported by the UNâÄôs endorsement of the Goldstone report. More important than this, criticisms of Israel are too often equated with anti-Semitism. The policies and actions of the Israeli government are in question, not the right of the Jewish and Palestinian people to live without fear. Finally, to imply that a lack of support for Israel means a lack of support for Jewish people is insulting. Adam Grant University undergraduate student