Widgets Magazine


Stanford activists are complicit in Gaza violence

It is a widely accepted truth that military leaders, dating back centuries, have sometimes viewed it in their best interests to have their own state harmed. In its most deliberate form, this is carried out by a false flag attack, where a state will pose as a foreign entity and attack its own citizens. Other times, a state will promote a foreign attack and/or have advanced knowledge of an attack and do little, if anything, to protect its citizenry. These attacks not only serve to unify a country behind a cause, but can also be used to create foreign sympathizers and allies; this latter purpose is especially relevant in an age of global interconnectedness through digital media.

How does this military philosophy apply to the violence in Gaza? Approximately one hundred Palestinian civilians died during the weeklong Operation Pillar of Defense, mainly as a result of Israeli airstrikes. On the other side, four Israeli civilians died as a result of Hamas rocket fire. Many in the foreign media were quick to label this disparity as evidence of an injustice committed by Israel. The numbers, however, do not tell the entire story. Israel’s civilian death toll is relatively low due to an unparalleled effort to protect its citizenry. Hamas, however, deliberately risks the lives of Palestinians. Not only did Hamas provoke the Israeli attacks by firing hundreds of rockets per year into southern Israel — they also placed Palestinian civilians directly in harm’s way; rockets were fired from, and presumably stored in, densely populated areas. When the Israeli military targeted these stockpiles and the militants associated with them, civilian casualties necessarily resulted.

Much of the media, however, will have you believe that the civilian casualties are solely the responsibility of Israel and its closest allies. On the surface, this appears true. Israeli missiles, after all, are directly responsible for these deaths. Ending the analysis there, however, is a mistake. Not only did the Israeli military attempt to warn Palestinian civilians in advance of strikes — after all, civilian casualties only serve to worsen Israel’s image abroad — but Hamas deliberately puts Palestinians in danger and it should be held accountable for that.

Yet as long as members of the media continue to place the blame on Israel for civilian casualties, why should Hamas act any differently? The more Palestinians killed — the more photographs of dead Palestinian children displayed prominently by the foreign media — the more support Hamas receives and thus the more likely they are to continue their reckless tactics.

Two recent opinion pieces by Stanford students fit under this category of one-sided journalism: “Stanford, we are complicit in Gaza violence,” published by my colleague Kristian Davis Bailey ‘14 on the Stanford Daily blog, and a similar piece on the activist blog Stanford Static written by “students concerned about the siege on Gaza.” As the authors of the Static piece write, “given the death of many Palestinian civilians and our complicity in this violence as Stanford students, we have a responsibility to do something about it.”

Indeed, Stanford students are complicit, and we do have a responsibility to act. But not just in the way that Bailey and the Static activists envision. Rather, certain Stanford students are complicit in the violence by solely blaming Israel for civilian casualties that are as much a result of Hamas’ actions as those of Israel. Such endorsements of Hamas only ensure that their general disregard for Palestinian lives will continue. Our responsibility, then, is to look beyond the civilian casualty numbers and ask why those casualties occur.

I am not saying Israel is perfect. It is not. But even if you believe Hamas’ end is just, their means are most definitely not; they not only indiscriminately fire rockets into Israeli population centers, but needlessly risk Palestinian lives by firing these rockets from heavily populated areas. If you are in favor of protecting innocent lives, you should not tolerate either. Yet the aforementioned Stanford pieces, and similar ones published throughout the international media, do nothing to stop the violence — they only encourage it.


About Adam Johnson

Adam is a senior from Illinois. He is majoring in Biomechanical Engineering, although his intellectual interests span dozens of departments. This is his second year writing for the Daily (you may remember him from his work last year on the Editorial Board). Outside of writing, Adam enjoys acting, skiing, making music, and thrift-store shopping.
  • a shame

    The irony is that your opening on the self-interest of state self-harm is only appropriate upon switching the proper nouns. It is a wonderful explanation of Israel’s “self-defense” strategy. Their November 8 invasion of Gaza provoked the same rockets Israel would later “defend” itself against. Israel then ruptured a de facto truce in their assassination of their own subcontractor in Gaza, Jabari, as well as preempting the ceasefire Jabari had been formulating, in order to provoke the rocket attacks that would retroactively justify its siege on Gaza.

    In order to blame Hamas for the Israeli massacre this week you had to link to the IDF blog for “proof”. I challenge you to find evidence for the claim that Hamas deliberately tries its hardest to fire rockets amidst civilians. This may be news to you, but Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, with 1.5 million people crammed into 150 square miles and no way to get out. There is nowhere in Gaza for Hamas to fire or store rockets that would not be densely populated. Just like there is nowhere in Gaza Israel can attack without incurring a massacre of civilians. Hamas is the government of Gaza, they are responsible for all of its infrastructure, including its hospitals and schools, so Israel’s “warnings” before an attack to civilians to avoid being near “Hamas operatives or facilities” is tantamount to warning civilians to avoid their own infrastructure. Israel knows that their warnings are impossible to heed because Gazans have nowhere to go.

    If you want to redirect blame towards Hamas, then you first need to redirect blame towards its most important supporter: Israel. Not only did Israel support them by originally cultivating Hamas as a counterweight to PLO, in order to avoid negotiating with those inconvenient secular nationalists, but Israel also supported them by violating the terms of the Oslo accords, expanding its settlements and tightening its occupation, leaving a helpless population with few choices. Hamas was democratically elected in 2006 because they were the only party that were committed to resistance. Since then, Israel has supported Hamas by maintaining a criminal blockade on Gaza that has created such a humanitarian crisis that the UN claims Gaza will “not be livable” by 2020.

    Only when Israel ends its occupation will resistance no longer be necessary. And yet resistance to its occupation and blockade is retroactively used by Israel to further entrench that occupation, delay the peace process, and enact collective punishment. This is the more significant sense in which the state of Israel inflicts minor self-harm in order to “unify the country behind war” and “create foreign sympathizers and allies”. The tiny number of resistance rocket attacks that hit their target (only 3 this year) are a small price for Israel to pay in order to avoid being held accountable for its settler-colonial expansion and denial of equal rights for all those under its control. Shame on your efforts to absolve Israel from this cynical calculus.

  • This is ballsy, sir and I applaud you

  • History and Geography Lesson

    If you want more examples of Hamas contributing to the demise of the Palestinians, also see a recently Published Stanford daily Op-Ed: http://www.stanforddaily.com/2012/11/27/op-ed-israel-hamas-and-the-value-of-a-human-life/

    Hamas shot at trucks coming to bring food and medical aid!! Explain that one.

    And in response to your assertion that “Their November 8 invasion of Gaza provoked the same rockets Israel would later “defend” itself against.”

    Over 13,000 rockets have been fired into Israel since 2001, that’s an average of 3 a day for 11 years. If you think that the conflict began on November 8th, 2012 then you are fooling yourself.

  • History and Geography Lesson 2

    And before 2001, Palestinian terrorist attacks have been launched
    against Israel since Israel was created by the United Nations in 1948.
    The Fedayeen terrorists launched attacks from Jordan, Syria and Egypt
    well before there was any “occupation” back in the 40’s 50’s and 60’s.


    Terrorism against Israeli civilians been going on for a long time. And any
    country in the world would defend itself (much more harshly than Israel
    has) if it were faced with the same threats…

    See this map that
    compares the state of Israel and the San Francisco Bay area and think
    about how you would respond if rockets were raining down on Stanford’s


  • Well said

    Well said! The casualty count is not a fair metric to judge the conflict by. How about the 75% of Israeli children in Sderot who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and can’t sleep at night, or the fact that Israeli teens can’t listen to music while driving their cars or walking to school because they might not hear the missile warning siren.

    The same fear exists for children in Gaza as well, but as you said, if Hamas didn’t place rockets near schools… if Hamas didn’t have rockets at all… Why does Hamas need rockets??? They don’t do anything but kill civilians!

    Terrorism, bombs and rockets have been the modus operandi of the Palestinian leadership for over 60 years, how bout try not terrorism and see what happens??

  • Just a thought
  • Thank you

    Thank you for a well-considered & factual, and not sensationalist, take on the conflict!!

  • Another thank you!

    Thank you for saying it well Adam!

  • sam1am

    Mr. Johnson – I applaud you courage to speak the truth in face of mounting vilification of Israel by
    the lying hypocrites. No matter what Israel does or doesn’t, it will never sit well with the bleeding heart socialists who flock US and Europe campuses under the pretense of human right activists. They
    are nothing but anti-Israel/anti-Jews masquerading as benevolent caring persons.