Hamas the real villain in attacks on friends and foe
A pro-Israel supporter waves an Israeli flag as he gathers with others in Times Square to celebrate the ceasefire agreement. Photo: Reuters
Now the terms of a ceasefire have been agreed upon, Israel hopes this means the rockets from the Gaza Strip will stop, despite the fact rockets have already been fired into Israel from Gaza since the ceasefire came into effect.
But, when a ceasefire was negotiated between Israel and Hamas in 2009, it did not bring an end to rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza. In fact, even before this conflict hundreds of rockets were launched at southern Israel this year alone, disrupting and terrifying the lives of Israelis who had to flee to bomb shelters on a regular basis.
According to the Israeli Defence Force, 12,000 rockets have been fired into Israel in 12 years.
That is why Australia's bipartisan support for Israel's right to defend itself from rocket attacks should be commended by all who value peace and security. Australia's principled stance was also the position taken by the US, Britain, Canada, and the European Union, among others.
Yet in Seumas Milne's article ''Palestinians have the right to self defence'' (22/11) he dismisses Israel's right to defend itself, claiming that ''an examination of the sequence of events over the past month shows that Israel played the decisive role in the military escalation''.
However contrary to Milne's analysis, the escalation did not begin in the past month but after months of increasing rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel including a period of intense attacks from Gaza in late October. Many in southern Israel cried out for the Israeli government to respond, and it did so ultimately with ''Operation Pillar of Defence'', with the sole objective of making the rockets stop.
When considering the conflict, it is important to understand that both Israelis and Palestinians are victims of Hamas. If Hamas did not fire or allow other terrorists to fire rockets into Israel, there would be no Israeli military operations in Gaza, with all that this means for Gaza's civilian residents.
Hamas is an Islamist organisation armed by Iran and recognised as a terrorist organisation by many Western states. The Hamas charter is centred around demands for the destruction of Israel and rampant anti-Semitism.
Despite Milne's claim that Gaza is occupied, Hamas admits that it is not. Israel withdrew all settlements and military personnel from Gaza in 2005.
Hamas is very clear - its problem with Israel has nothing to do with borders or ''occupation'' rather it is dedicated to violently ''resisting'' Israel's right to exist in any borders. And its main method of doing so amounts to what is unequivocally a war crime, firing unguided rockets indiscriminately at Israeli civilian towns, villages and cities.
Meanwhile, Hamas continues to terrorise its own people, as a Human Rights Watch report revealed, documenting patterns since late December 2008 of ''arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture, maimings by shooting, and extrajudicial executions by alleged members of Hamas security forces.''
This week Hamas' military wing claimed responsibility for the public execution without legal process of at least six Palestinian suspected ''collaborators''.
A nation state's fundamental duty is the protection of its citizens. Israel made a concerted effort to aim only at terrorists and Hamas leaders, an act of self-defence according to Article 51 of the United Nations charter.
The Israeli army makes tens of thousands of phone calls to Gaza residents to warn them of specific military operations likely to affect their neighbourhoods and dropped flyers throughout the Gaza Strip calling for people to distance themselves from known terrorists, weapons stores and launching sites.
Sadly, most of these are in civilian areas, another war crime by Hamas, which makes it difficult for Israel to avoid civilian casualties despite its best efforts and the precision of its weapons. Reportedly, Israel hit more than 1500 military targets in Gaza during the week-long campaign, making every effort to avoid civilian casualties.
For Israel, every Palestinian civilian death is a tragedy. In contrast, for Hamas, every Israeli civilian death is reason for celebration. Hamas fires rockets into Israel indiscriminately, seeing every Israeli citizen as a legitimate target.
Hamas recently called for relaunching of suicide bombing in Israel and praised Wednesday's bus bomb in Tel Aviv that injured 21 Israelis, three critically.
While it is true that only a long-term agreed peace between Israel and the Palestinians will bring genuine security to both sides, sadly, that peace is now not on offer by the Palestinian leadership. The Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, refuses to negotiate with Israel, preferring unilateral actions, and Hamas was never interested in negotiating for peace only, at best, a ''temporary truce''.
In the meantime, one hopes this latest ceasefire will bring quiet and provide an environment that will enable the relaunch of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians to finally establish a two-state outcome and a lasting peace.
Sharyn Mittelman is a policy analyst at the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council.