I find it heartening to see that in recent weeks demonstrations against Israel’s military aggression in Gaza have been held in countries with little history of caring about the issue. Such demonstrations were not only held across the Muslim world, where thy are expected, or in Europe and the US, but also in Japan and South Korea. Even Taiwan, which as far as I know has no history of such protests, has held its own.
After protests on Friday (pictured above), a second, smaller one was held on Tuesday in front of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), where about 70 demonstrators called for an immediate end to US weapons sales to Israel and a complete pullout of Israeli troops from Gaza. Shoes, now a global symbol of resistance, were also lobbed at a poster of an outgoing US president George W. Bush donning the Hitler mustache.
In response, the Israeli representative to Taipei, Raphael Gamzou, justified his government’s actions by saying that Israel had “abided to a policy of restraint in the last eight years while Hamas, a fundamentalist Muslim terrorist group, relentlessly sought to destroy Israel.”
Restraint? I wouldn’t call the killing of more than 1,200 people — about half of whom were civilians — restraint, nor has this been the only instance of “restraint” on Israel’s part in the past eight years. As for Hamas’ “relentless” efforts to “destroy” Israel, while its leadership uses that ill-advised and disgusting rhetoric, the group’s performance defending Gaza in the past three weeks — with 10 Israeli soldiers killed altogether, some by Israeli soldiers — should put at ease those who still believe Hamas has the ability to do so. Note, too, the inevitable addition of “terrorist” by Gamzou.
AIT officials, meanwhile, couldn’t be bothered to come out, but in an e-mail statement, AIT spokesman Thomas Hodges had this to say:
Hamas has held the people of Gaza hostage ever since their illegal coup against the forces of President Mahmoud Abbas, the legitimate president of the Palestinian people. We strongly condemn the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against innocent Israeli civilians and hold Hamas fully responsible for breaking the ceasefire and for the renewal of violence in Gaza.
A few things about Hodges’ comments. First, Hamas did not hold an “illegal coup.” It was elected on Jan. 26, 2006, winning 74 seats (to Fatah’s — Abbas’ party — 45). Secondly, Abbas is no longer a“legitimate” Palestinian president, as his pro-Western, capitulation-leaning party has long been reviled for its corruption, which largely contributed to Hamas’ electoral victory (although to be fair, a government — Hamas — that claims “victory”after more than 1,200 of its own people are killed and the civilian infrastructure destroyed also has no claim to legitimacy). Lastly, while Hodges fully blames Hamas for the bloodbath in Gaza, he gets his facts wrong, as it has been documented that it was Israel — on two occasions (on Nov. 4 and Nov. 17) — that broke the ceasefire.
Sadly, without the necessary caveats, those official comments risk being mistaken for facts and those brave demonstrators (including at least one Jewish expatriate, who asked to remain anonymous) who defied the rain and gathered in front of AIT today will likely be seen as troublemakers, or friends of “terrorist” Hamas. Kudos to them, shame on the officials.