March 2, 2008 - The recent events in Gaza are indeed tragic.
Yesterday over 40 Palestinians died during an Israeli strike in northern Gaza, and the toll is rising. About half were armed members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Unfortunately, the casualties included civilians, some of them children.
And it was all unnecessary.
There will be a great outcry against "Israeli aggression," but the fact is, it could all have easily been prevented. All that was needed was for Palestinian terrorists to stop their rocket attacks on southern Israel. But instead they escalated those attacks, to the most dangerous levels yet.
All that was needed was for the international community to stop giving the Palestinians a free pass on their indiscriminate aggression and "collective punishment" of the Israeli south. But that did not happen.
The Palestinian rocket war has been waging ever since Israel completely withdrew from Gaza in August 2005. The world had been clamoring to "end the occupation," and now the occupation of Gaza was over. This should have become a milestone in the process for peace. Instead Palestinians used it as an opportunity to launch a war against the Israeli south in an effort to make that region uninhabitable. Under other circumstances such behavior would be called "ethnic cleansing."
During this period Palestinians fired over 2,000 rockets from Gaza into southern Israel, killing at least seven in Sderot alone, four of them children, and wounding many more. The numbers by themselves fail to tell how the lives of the people of Sderot, the Palestinians' most frequent target, have been turned to sheer terror. Families and young children are traumatized. Many Sderot residents have lost their businesses, and unemployment has sharply increased. There have been months during which, on average, the Palestinians fired one rocket into Israel every three hours. When a rocket approaches, people have only 15 seconds to run for cover. It is hard to imagine normal life continuing under such conditions, and in fact one fifth of the city's population has fled. This is what the Palestinians want: an Israeli withdrawal not only from Palestinian territories but from Israel as well.
And now the Palestinians have stepped up their game. When Hamas breached the Egyptian border, terrorists brought back Iranian-made Katyusha-style rockets, together with antitank missiles and concrete for building fortifications. They fired at least eight Katyushas against Ashkelon, and at least a dozen rockets landed in or near the city, including a qassam rocket near Barzilai Hospital. While Sderot may be on its way to becoming a ghost town thanks to the Palestinian cleansing operation, Ashkelon is a major coastal city of 120,000. Several Israelis were wounded, including two children, when a shopping center, a residence, and other areas were hit. Several more were treated for shock.
Quite a few of the Palestinian casualties were victims of Palestinian terrorists. Hamas claimed that one six-year-old girl was killed by an Israeli strike on Beit Hanun, but residents nearby said the real cause of her death was a Palestinian rocket that fell short and landed near her house. A baby and two teenagers were hit when another Palestinian rocket misfired. It appears such incidents are not infrequent. According to Israeli officials, as many as half of the Palestinian rockets fall inside Gaza, menacing the Palestinian population.
"We are living in the middle of the battle zone" said Rami Muhammad Ali, 21, of Jabaliya. "We wanted to flee the house, but we’ve been trapped since last night. Rockets and missiles are whistling by all the time, and the building has been shaken by mines the Palestinians are setting off against the Israeli soldiers."
Hamas terrorists do this deliberately. They stage their attacks from residential areas, showing complete disregard for the lives of their own people and a cynical willingness to use them as pawns for propaganda. Who gets the blame when Palestinian civilians die? Israel. So why should Hamas care? Hamas is, after all, the government elected by the Palestinian people.
Last Friday Omar Dardouna, 14, was out playing with his friends when an Israeli strike aimed at terrorists who were launching rockets killed him. Said the distraught father: "I couldn’t identify the body of my son. It was very hard until I found the head of my son. I’m against these rockets, but I am afraid. What can I do? If I protest they will hit me, they will kill me."
A woman at Omar's funeral said: "Everyone is afraid now. Where is Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas], where is [Gaza Prime Minister] Haniya? Come and protect us."
Where is Abbas? Where is Haniya?
Haniya can't come and protect you. He is too busy allowing his men to fire at Israel from your neighborhood. As for Abbas, the so-called "moderate," here is what Abbas has to say: "We tell the world: watch and judge what’s happening, and judge who is committing international terrorism." And chief Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qureia said this: "What is happening in Gaza is a massacre of civilians, women and children, a collective killing, genocide. We can't bear what the Israelis are doing, and what the Israelis are doing doesn't [give] the peace process any credibility."
What "credibility" do these men have, to complain about "terrorism" and "genocide" when their people have been shelling Israeli cities for the past two and a half years? Israel has exercised remarkable restraint, putting up with aggression that no other country would ever have tolerated. Even the United States decimated an entire country out of fear of what might happen. In Israel it is already happening; yet Israelis are expected to do nothing.
Israel can no longer afford to do nothing. The Palestinians are now using more powerful rockets, with longer range. It may not be long before they acquire the ability to do massive damage. Already a Hamas legislator, Fathi Hamad, is urging Hamas to develop rockets that can strike Tel Aviv. It has to stop now, before it sets off a conflagration that may consume the entire region. If the Palestinians succeed in igniting the big tinder box, it will not be only they and the Israelis but the entire world who will suffer.
The Israelis are doing the best they can under impossible circumstances. They are trying to target only sites used for launching rockets. But since Hamas has the deliberate policy of placing these sites in civilian areas, civilian casualties are inevitable. Israel has been forced to choose between risking these casualties or allowing the destruction of its own southern cities. Forcing Israel to make this choice is a deep moral stain on the Palestinian people. It is a crime not only against Israel but against the Palestinian people as well.
According to Israeli spokesman David Baker, "We have over 200,000 Israelis in range of Palestinian rockets. We cannot allow this to go on. These rocket attacks on Israelis are sheer terror, designed to kill or maim as many Israelis as possible." If the attacks do not stop, then by no stretch of the imagination can the Palestinian people be considered ready for peace or even seriously interested in it.
The only way they will stop is if the world finally stops giving the Palestinians a free pass and calls the Palestinian game for what it is. There would be no Israeli strikes if there were no Palestinian aggression. The Palestinians cannot whine about the peace process while continuing to shell Israeli civilians on a daily basis. Yet the world indulges them. So many people believe the myth that the Palestinians are victims, that they are underdogs, that they have no incentive to change their behavior or take any responsibility for their actions. Why should they, when every UN resolution favors their cause, when only Israel and the increasingly isolated United States dare to criticize them openly? When even in the United States many on the political left raise the Palestinian banner?
Those who defend the Palestinians uncritically are enablers of murder. Not just the murder of Israelis, about whom they clearly could hardly care less, but the murder of the Palestinian victims of the Palestinian terrorists. The uncritical Palestinian partisans also share responsibility for the blood of the Palestinians who die in Israeli strikes intended to stop the aggression against Israeli cities. Israel cannot let this go on, while the Palestinians fire more powerful rockets deeper into its territory. These attacks are the only reason for the Israeli strikes. Those who support the Palestinian "resistance" are aiding the provocation that makes these strikes necessary. Unless they temper their support with strong and unequivocal criticism of Palestinian aggression, all their sympathy for the Palestinian people is nothing more than crocodile tears.
The hypocrisy of the left is astounding. They shout, "End the occupation now!" but when Israel did end the occupation of Gaza, they accused Israel of unilateralism. They cry out against racism, but they treat the Palestinians with a paternalistic racism that considers them so primitive they cannot be held responsible for what they do. After all, I have been told, you can't expect the Palestinians to change, they grew up with an anti-Israel narrative. Israelis are expected to change. Israelis who have lived for years under the threat of Arab aggression and Palestinian terrorism are expected to change and to forgive and even to apologize. But Palestinians are not expected to change. They are not even expected to stop broadcasting children's TV programs that fill their children's minds with racist hatred. No wonder the Palestinians keep calling themselves victims and claim to be helpless while they pump Israeli population centers full of rockets and bombs.
When Israel pulled out of Gaza, the world waited to see what the Palestinians would make of it, as a prelude to their having a full state including the West Bank. The first thing the Palestinians did was smash all the greenhouses the settlers had built, instead of using them to aid their economy. Then they turned Gaza into a mini-terror state, launching a war against Israel that continues to this day. And now they wonder why life in Gaza is so wretched, when it could have flourished. To those who say we should not isolate Hamas: Hamas isolated itself, with its aggression not only against Israel but also against other Palestinians. When the aggression will stop, the isolation will stop. But the aggression will never stop as long as Palestinian extremists continue to enjoy support from their self-righteous cheering section, which has chapters all over the world and in many universities and trade unions.
There are tragic Palestinian victims of this war: those few - and nobody knows how many - who want the rockets to stop but who are afraid to speak out. Unfortunately, there are not enough of them to make a difference. Too many support Hamas, or even if they have lost faith in Hamas, they still support Israel's destruction. Tens of thousands of Gazans came out to protest Israel's efforts to stop the rocket attacks. If half that many Gazans protested the rocket attacks themselves, even Hamas would have to listen.
The Palestinians have much to answer for, but no one is making them do it. They have been given virtual carte blanche to pursue their own genocidal "resistance," while their supporters treat them like poor lost children. Those who do are enabling murder, murder of innocents on both sides. If they don't care about Israelis, let them at least care about the Palestinians, whose pain they claim to feel so deeply.
Associated Press. "Palestinians Threaten to Call Off Talks." Jerusalem Post, March 1, 2008.
Associated Press and Jerusalem Post Staff. "Abbas: IDF Action Worse Than Holocaust." Jerusalem Post, March 1, 2008.
Associated Press and Jerusalem Post Staff. "47 Palestinians Killed During Ongoing IDF Raids in Gaza Strip." Jerusalem Post, March 1, 2008.
Erlanger, Steven. "Hamas and Israel Toughen Stances." New York Times, March 1, 2008.
Erlanger, Steven. "Israel Takes Gaza Fight to Next Level in a Day of Strikes." New York Times, March 2, 2008.
Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Israel Intelligence Heritage and Commemoration Center. "News of the Israeli-Palestinian Confrontation: February 19-26, 2008."
Jerusalem Post Staff. "Six Civilians Wounded in Southern Israel." Jerusalem Post, March 1, 2008.
Sderot Media Center.
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