Israel has done the world the dubious “favor” of providing a textbook example of how a colonial power fuels an insurgency. This is from today’s N.Y. Times:
The Israeli Air Force on Thursday afternoon bombed the house of Nizar Rayyan, a senior Hamas leader, killing him along with his four wives and nine of his children, four of them under the age of 18, Palestinian hospital officials said. An Israeli military spokeswoman, Maj. Avital Leibovich, described Mr. Rayyan as one of the “most extreme” figures of Hamas, which controls Gaza. The military said he had helped plan a deadly suicide bombing in Israel in 2004, had sent his own son on a suicide mission against Jewish settlers in Gaza in 2001 and was advocating renewed suicide missions against Israel in retaliation for the current offensive.
Mr. Rayyan was known in Gaza as a highly influential figure with strong links to the military wing of Hamas, particularly in northern Gaza, where he lived, and as a popular Hamas preacher who openly extolled and championed the idea of martyrdom.
The Israeli military said in a statement that there were many secondary explosions after the air attack, “proving that the house was used for storing weaponry.” It was also used as a communications center, the statement said, and a tunnel that had been dug under the house was used by Hamas operatives.
Most Hamas leaders in Gaza have been in hiding since the Israeli operation began, but Mr. Rayyan was said to have refused to leave his home on ideological grounds. In the past, he had been known to gather supporters to stand on the rooftops of other houses in Gaza that Israel had threatened to strike.
Before I begin discussing this, I want to concede, just for the sake of argument (though I do not know this for a fact and tend to be dubious of many similar claims made by the IDF), that Rayyan may have been the worst terrorist scum facing Israel–that he was a bloodthirsty, cutthroat assassin. Maybe his murder will diminish the number of Israelis he himself would kill in the future. Let us also concede that his death will provide some form of comfort to those Israelis who lost loved ones in previous attacks he engineered.
Given all those concessions, this murder is a morally bankrupt, heinous act nevertheless. It reminds me of the murder of Salah Shehadeh, in which a 2000 lb. bomb levelled an entire Gaza apartment building and killed all the 18 residents of the building who were in it during the strike. Undoubtedly, Dan Halutz, Doron Almog, the officers who planned and executed this act of terror will be confronted with charges before a Hague tribunal for this bombing. There also can be no doubt that Ehud Barak, Gabi Alexander, Ehud Olmert and others will be sought for their role in today’s killings.
It is immoral in the process of killing one wanted man to knowingly wipe out his entire family of thirteen souls. The murder of women and young children cannot justify what Israel has done. This is, as I wrote above, a heinous act. A bestial act, no matter what villainy Rayyan was responsible for. It defies the norms of western civilization. And it is of a piece with Israel’s entire “strategy” if you can call it that in this military offensive. There are no red lines. They’ve all been crossed. Barak is happy for Hamas to see him as a Strangelovian psychopath prepared to go to the ends of the earth to exact revenge for the murder of Israelis. But he doesn’t stop to think that instead, the thousands of Palestinians who will be honored to emulate Rayyan’s act of martyrdom will thirst for their own acts of psychopathic revenge.
For every Rayyan Israel kills, 1,000 will take his place. And they will not only be mere soliders in the conflict. Some of that 1,000 will outdo Rayyan in devising ever greater acts of revenge against Israel for this travesty. So has it been in the past and so will it be till the ends of time or of this conflict, whichever comes first.
Israel is a country, not a terrorist group. Therefore, even if its enemy violates every norm of international law and civilization, Israel must not stoop to the terrorists’ level. When it does, it becomes no better than a terrorist. This is not a new argument. Unfortunately, Israel has forced us to invoke it time and again as it proves that it is little better than the terrorists it faces when it performs such targeted assassinations. And once again I want to make clear that I only know about Rayyan what the IDF claims and that for the sake of argument I’m conceding the terms it is using to describe him.
Finally, if any right wing readers wish to crow about Rayyan’s death–go right ahead. But when 10 or 100 of the next suicide shadeeds dedicate their successful acts of terrorist vengeance to Rayyan’s memory, it will give me absolutely no satisfaction to say this was a chronicle of deaths foretold. You were warned and yet in the pathology of your thought processes you believed that killing one terrorist would bring respite. In fact, it will spawn scores more who will make you pay a severe price in blood.
Once again, lest any of my right wing readers seek to say that this gives me satisfaction in any form, that is a low lie. It gives me no satisfaction to see my own people murdered. Just as gives me no satisfaction to see innocent Gazan women and children murdered simply because they are related to a terrorist and live in his home.
The Gaza operation, and I will cry this to the winds until it ends, is a brutal, cold-blooded, disproportionate attack by Israel on 1.5 million Palestinians who have done nothing more than acquiesce in the rule of Hamas over them. And even if they embraced Hamas wholeheartedly, it cannot justify what Israel has done to them. The attack has not succeeded, will not succeed, and indeed cannot succeed. It was a failure before the first bomb was dropped.
There is only one sane, reasonable resolution of this conflict: Israel must lift the 18 month siege of Gaza and allow the return to normal life. Hamas must end the rocket barrages against Israeli civilians. It is simple, yet at the same time impossible because neither side appears willing to concede.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.