This is the text, as published in ‘Jerusalem Post’, of the flyer distributed this week by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) warning Gaza residents about tank shelling and urging them to evacuate:
“To the residents of Shuja’iya and Zeitoun: In spite of the ceasefire, Hamas and other terrorist organizations continue to fire rockets. Therefore it is the intention of the IDF to carry out aerial strikes against terror sites and operatives in Shuja’iya and Zeitoun. A high volume of rocket fire at Israel has originated in this area. For your own safety, you are requested to vacate your residence immediately and head towards Gaza City before 08:00 AM on Wednesday, July 16, 2014. The IDF does not want to harm you or your families. The evacuation is for your own safety. You should not return to the premises until further notice. Whoever disregards these instructions and fails to evacuate immediately endangers their own lives, as well as those of their families.”
According to the same source, many residents did not heed the warnings, following instead Hamas’ beckoning to stay put – hence also the high number of casualties following today’s offensive. By contrast, the UN speaks of around 50,000 displaced persons.
Disinformation and propaganda are elements of war – and Israel and the Hamas are no exception. Evacuation flyers regularly thrown at Gaza residents announcing air strikes are part of this machinery. It is doubtful whether they must read the text carefully in order to know they are in danger. Hence, it is valid to raise the question: to whom is the evacuation flyer really addressed? My guess: it is meant for Israeli citizens and the international community. Its real purpose: to appease us and deny blame for the bloodshed.
But bloodshed it remains.
The question as to who was the first to pull the trigger is not relevant. What is relevant is that people are dying on both sides of the border, many of them civilians, the majority Palestinians. The conflict’s flare-up only benefits the extremists of both sides who have been looking for an opportunity to side-track recent attempts to establish a unity transitional government on the Palestinian side, with the participation of Hamas, around the moderate Fatah political agenda. The move has been officially criticized by Israel and all international stakeholders – and yet, as we know from other community conflicts, notably the one in Northern Ireland, peace processes are not neat and tidy, and warring factions do not simply disappear or transform themselves over night. It takes painstaking political dialogue courageously sustained despite provocations.
In the middle of the havoc, Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan came out yesterday to condemn Israel for its barbarity, which he compared to Hitler’s. The comparison is abstruse to even deserve response, one other manipulative move using anti-Semitism to serve domestic politics (given Turkey’s upcoming presidential elections). In fact, a more pertinent comparison would have been with the Turkish invasion of Cyprus 40 years ago to the day.