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Israel's 'self-defense' argument against Hamas holds no water

Israel's ceasefire with Hamas is holding, but unless Israel completely lifts its blockade and includes Hamas in two-state negotiations, renewed rocket attacks from Gaza are likely. Should that happen, Israel would not be justified in arguing self-defense.

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Ban lifted: A truck loaded with building materials drives at the Rafah crossing with Egypt, in the southern Gaza Strip Dec. 30. Israel had banned construction materials for Gaza's private sector after Hamas seized control there in 2007. Op-ed contributor Jerome Slater says that Israel "needs to fully lift its blockade and bring Hamas into the negotiation process" if it wants to permanently stop attacks from Gaza. [An earlier version of this caption was incorrect. See editor's note at the bottom of this article.]

Ibraheem Abu/Reuters

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As part of a November ceasefire agreement with Hamas, Israel has partially lifted its blockade of the Gaza Strip, allowing private construction materials into the region pummeled by Israeli airstrikes. It’s a single, forward step that ends a five-year ban on such materials. But without progress in settling the overall conflict, Palestinian rocket or suicide attacks and heavy Israeli responses will almost surely resume. [An earlier version of this paragraph was incorrect. See editor's note at the bottom of this article.]

If the past is any guide, even those who would criticize such Israeli attacks as “disproportionate” would hasten to add: “Of course, Israel has the right to defend itself.”

Israel, however, is not defending its homeland against unprovoked attack. Rather it is “defending” a nonexistent right to continue its occupation (direct or indirect) and repression of the Palestinians – and that is what provokes Palestinian attacks from Gaza.

The eight days of Israeli bombing and air strikes on Gaza last November were essentially a continuation – though on a much smaller scale – of “Operation Cast Lead,” the three-week Israeli attacks that began in late December 2008. Then as now, Israel and its supporters justified Cast Lead as a legitimate use of force in self-defense to end Hamas’s terrorist attacks on Israel’s civilian population.

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