November 13, 2006 - Last Wednesday, in an effort to stop the rockets launched from Gaza into Israeli cities, misdirected Israeli artillery fire hit a civilian area. At least 18 people were killed, including eight children. Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz ordered an immediate halt to artillery attacks in Gaza.
These civilian deaths are the last thing Israel could have wanted. They were not intentional. The Israeli army explained they were the consequence of a technical failure in the artillery's radar system. Israel has apologized for the tragic incident.
The Palestinians ignored the apology, and continued firing rockets at civilian targets in Sderot and Ashkelon.
In Jerusalem hundreds of Palestinian youths gathered near the site of the Temple and threw rocks at Israeli policemen. More violent demonstrations took place in East Jerusalem and Hebron. Thousands took to the streets in Gaza and called for more bloodshed. Nizar Rayan, a Hamas leader, addressed the crowd:
''We are going to fight against the so-called Israel. We are going to launch our rockets, our martyrs are going to sacrifice their lives in the depths of our occupied land. They will strike in Jaffa, in Haifa, inside Ashdod. The battle will continue. The rifle is not going to be set down. All of us are martyrs in waiting. Revenge is coming.''
Islamic Jihad issued a statement joining Hamas in its violent outcry:
''Martyrdom is coming. The response will not take long, because the time is ready for punishment, and the time is ready for revenge.''
Children were let out of school to join the demonstrations as mosques blared angry speeches at the crowd. Dozens of those children threw stones and bottles and tried to attack a European Union mission building in Gaza City.
Deaths of innocent people, especially children, are horrible and should be regretted and mourned, and everything possible should be done to prevent similar occurrences in the future.
But does anyone notice the great irony here?
The Palestinians express tremendous moral outrage at civilian deaths, while trying to inflict as many civilian deaths as they can by firing increasing numbers of rockets at Israeli cities.
Israel does not set out to harm civilians and does not target them. The Israelis were firing at the source of the rockets hitting Israeli towns. Usually they can aim their weapons with precision. Occasionally something will go wrong, and since the Palestinians intentionally base their rocket operations near civilian areas, innocent people are bound to be hurt.
What is Israel to do? Allow its own civilians to be attacked with impunity?
There is one foolproof way to stop these accidental Palestinian civilian casualties: the Palestinians must stop firing rockets at Israeli cities.
The Palestinians say they are ready for a hudna, a "cease-fire," yet even Israel's complete withdrawal from Gaza was followed by increasing Palestinian rocket attacks.
If Palestinians do not like their civilians killed, why do they intentionally kill Israeli civilians? Why do those who rise up in moral outrage against accidental Palestinian civilian deaths appear to take no notice of intentional Israeli civilian deaths?
Israel does not want to kill innocent people. In the words of one Israeli Army veteran: "After serving in IDF Artillery, I can only say that this is every gunner's nightmare scenario: killing innocent men, women and children." Yet as we have seen and heard in official statements, mosque sermons, and TV and radio broadcasts, the Palestinians demand the blood of the innocent, and even claim it as their right. Somehow the Palestinians have convinced the world that they are victims, and they receive a free pass to murder without censure.
The Palestinians are not victims. They have the power to prevent these tragedies. That power lies in a simple respect for human life. Stop the killing of innocents. Become a true partner for peace. Use Israel's withdrawal from Gaza to build a society, not to destroy the society of one's neighbor. Give up the self-righteous justification of the deliberate killing of ordinary people in the name of God.
Associated Press. "Israeli Shells Kill 18 Palestinians in Gaza." New York Times, November 8, 2006.
Linde, Steve. "A Gunner's Nightmare." Jerusalem Post, November 8, 2006.
Brannon, Josh. "IDF: Error Caused Beit Hanun Tragedy." Jerusalem Post, November 10, 2006.
Peace with Realism