The memories are etched in my mind: the unease, the looks of silent terror. The fear was palpable, unconvincingly shielded behind the guise of outward bravado. This is the reality of the city of Sderot, located less than a mile from Gaza, a city that I visited this past summer.
Over the past eight years, Sderot has been bombarded by close to 7,000 Qassam rockets that fall indiscriminately on streets, houses, hospitals, and schools. I walked through the streets of Sderot, where every bus stop has been turned into a makeshift bomb shelter. I witnessed a school with overhanging cement reinforcement covering half of the building due to the inability to pay for shelter over the entire structure. When the Code Red sirens sound indicating that residents have 15 seconds to reach a bomb shelter, all of the schoolchildren are forced to leave their studies and run to the side of the building that has been reinforced.
These rockets are the work of Hamas, and they are the reason why kindergarten children in Sderot grow up singing songs to remind them to run to the shelter when the sirens sound. While they sing songs that could potentially save their lives, Gazan children are also taught to sing about killing Jews and Americans. This is why I fail to see how individuals profess to be defending the human rights of Gazans while failing to understand Hamas for what it truly is – a hateful, self-interested, and genocidal terrorist organization.
Hamas’ violent rhetoric is evident in the founding principles of its Charter. The Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement openly states in its 1988 preface: “Israel will exist and continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.” It explicitly calls for the genocide of the Jewish people, stating in Article 7: “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”
In Article 8, Hamas’s Slogan proclaims, “Jihad is its path, and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes.” As a result, the lives of civilian men, women, and children are seen as mere instruments in the hands of a murderous regime that would sooner see Palestinian children become “martyrs” than doctors, lawyers, or teachers. They would rather pour funds into Qassam rockets than agriculture, infrastructure, and basic human provisions. Rather than improving their hospitals following Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, Hamas leaders chose to construct an underground lair beneath the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Gaza’s largest hospital, built by Israel in order to improve the living conditions of Gaza residents. Terrorism is not Hamas’s last resort, but its primary tactic.
The adage goes that democracy ensures that the people get the government they deserve. In the case of the civilian residents of Gaza, I find it difficult to agree. Gazans do not deserve a government that values death above life, one that teaches Palestinian children to hate and kill their neighbours. Both the children of Gaza and of Sderot deserve better. Hamas’s stated goals are clear, including the destruction of Israel and the eradication of the Jewish people. Golda Meir’s words ring true, a rallying cry for Israeli morality: “We can forgive you for killing our children, but we can never forgive you for making us kill your children. We will only have peace when you love your children more than you hate ours.”
Adam Plotkin is a U3 Honours Sociology student. Send your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.