Monday, December 29, 2008

The Qassam rockets myths

I warned you months ago: the magic word is 'Sderot'. Any amount of barbarism can be justified by the frankly risible rocket attacks on southern Israel. The Israeli propaganda line, repeated with dogged fanaticism by its apologists everywhere, is that Israel performed an immense act of goodness in withdrawing its colonies from Gaza, and the native ingrates actually responded by sending a spray of Qassam rockets aloft in celebration. To add insult to injury, the bleeders even used former 'settlement' buildings to launch the rockets from. Such beliefs have to be encouraged to justify such outrageous proposals as the levelling of Gaza. Before this gets out of hand and people start using the rockets to justify some sort of "holocaust", let us at least bear the facts in mind for a while.

The Qassam rockets were being used as one component of an array of military tactics deployed by Gazan groups before the pull-out, the Gush Katif colonies being the prominent target. This was a response to a wave of violence and expulsions in which, for example, 13,350 residents of Rafah had their homes and life belongings destroyed in the year preceding the withdrawal, courtesy of Israeli tanks and Caterpillar bulldozers. Parts of Gaza came to resemble Grozny. The Israelis frequently attacked ambulances, at one point using the argument that UNRWA had allowed Qassam rockets to be loaded on board one such vehicle (this turned out to be a lie, but it is still repeated on many a media outlet and website). The vast majority of casualties from their use date back to the period of formal colonialism. After the withdrawal, the rate at which these were used diminished dramatically. Their use has spiked in response to serial atrocities against Palestinians, such as the slaughter of the Ghaliya family on the Gaza beach, (in which Hamas broke an eighteen month unilateral ceasefire).

There were few such rockets fired during the six-month ceasefire, even though Israel didn't respect its terms, but their use was increased again as Israel broke the truce on November 4th (burn that date into your brain and remember it next time someone tells you that those nasty Hamas thugs wouldn't renew the ceasefire). Now, there are legitimate arguments about both the efficacy and ethics of using such weapons. To my mind, they have very little going for them as a tactic of resistance. But the apparently widespread belief that Qassam rockets are the vindictive and jubilant response of sneering Palestinian jihadists to Israeli mushiness is not justified by any evidence. In fact, if the aim were truly to end Qassam rocket fire, the logical option would to be engage in a unilateral ceasefire and invite Hamas to enter into a process of dialogue. But that brings us to another myth, the myth of Hamas rejectionism, which is for another post.