Critics of the Jewish state claim that the IDF has used excessive force in containing the demonstrations at the Israel-Gaza border; defenders point to the armed men interspersed among the protestors, some of whom have attempted to breach the security fence. To Christopher Caldwell, the demonstrations are in themselves a threat to Israel’s sovereignty:
No matter how “innocent” or powerless these thousands are, they are marching to renegotiate the border. No matter who manages to breach the border, whether it be a seven-year-old girl or a crippled man in an electric buggy, Hamas will be the beneficiary of the principle of breachability thereby established. . . . Issam Hammad, [the] founder of the [Gaza] march committee, . . . envisions a political pilgrimage that will grow until millions of Palestinians from neighboring countries somehow gravitate toward the Gaza Strip. “We’ll give the order, and everyone will rush them at the same time,” Hammad said. Part of what Israelis and Palestinians were fighting over on March 31 was whether this [strategy] would prove effective—and whether it would prove risk-free—before Hammad’s promised millions showed up.
Al Jazeera, Human Rights Watch, and the Israeli newspaper Haaretz treated the encounter as if it were a matter of two individuals meeting on a street, insisting that the “protesters posed no threat to Israeli soldiers positioned across the border.” But the issue is not whether soldiers are threatened. It is whether the border is threatened, whether it is legitimate, and therefore whether the country it defines is legitimate.
This is not a question that can be opened up to an “independent investigation.” It is not a question that can be decided on considerations of “proportionality,” as if it were a joust. The New York Times, in an editorial highly critical of the IDF, admitted that the Palestinians at times have been “feckless at pursuing peace.” Perhaps, rather, they’re effective at pursuing hostility. The Palestinians are not out protesting because they’re incompetent peacemakers or bad people. They are protesting because they believe the land behind the border they are facing has been stolen. They are making that case the only way they can. The IDF is rebutting it the only way it can.