Among the many recent articles in the press about the ongoing war here, one item in particular caught my attention.
In a Jerusalem Post interview with residents of Gaza, 27-year-old Ahmed Mansour, wounded in the war, is quoted as saying from his hospital bed: “They even shelled people as they fled their houses. What kind of human beings could do that?” So for the benefit of Ahmed, let me tell you what kind of human beings we are, even though you will probably never see this piece.
Since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, 11,000 rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza, and prior this week, only once, in 2012, did Israel respond by going into Gaza to try to eliminate the sources of those rockets. Ahmed, you would never see that level of restraint on the part of any country in the world whose sovereignty was being attacked by a neighbor, regardless of the complaints that neighbor had about the relationship between the two political entities. As a case in point, Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula earlier this year after just days of angst and without being threatened militarily. So that’s the kind of country we are – a Jewish country with Jewish values and a desire not to inflict civilian casualties.
And when, from July 7 to July 17, 1,539 rockets were launched from Gaza, we still did not invade. Rather, we attempted to take out the sources of the rockets via aerial attack. But first, our military telephoned and texted the residents of Gaza who were within the target areas with warnings to leave.
Before the attacks themselves, we detonated a small charge on the roof of the targeted building to underscore the seriousness of the warning. It was only then that we attacked locations that your government was using as missile launching sites. So that’s the kind of country we are – a Jewish country with Jewish values and a desire not to inflict civilian casualties.
Last week we thought we saw light at the end of the tunnel – not the tunnels your government has built as a method of infiltration into Israel, but the tunnel of conflict. Through the efforts of the Egyptian government, the UN and others, a cease-fire proposal was put on the table which our government immediately accepted and your government rejected, calling it, in the words of one of your leaders, comfortably ensconced in the safety of Lebanon, “a joke.”
Had the cease-fire been accepted, you would not have been wounded and perhaps, just perhaps, we could have met together in Cairo and figured out a way to improve both our lives. We accepted the proposal because we value human life above all. So that’s the kind of country we are – a Jewish country with Jewish values and a desire not to inflict civilian casualties.
Finally, when it became painfully obvious to all of us living here and being driven to seek shelter from your Hamas rocket fire multiple times a day, we knew we had no choice but to put our young men, our sons, fathers, brothers, uncles and cousins, in harm’s way by launching a ground incursion into Gaza to destroy the system of tunnels your government had built in order to attack us. Of course, as is our custom, before we did that we once again warned your people to leave their homes in the area of the planned invasion in order to minimize casualties, while your government told your friends and family to remain.
Our question of you should be: What kind of government has so little respect for the value of human life that it urges you to remain in place in spite of the warnings of our military command to the contrary? As for us, we place a high enough value on every human life, including yours, to minimize the potential casualties that eventuate from a ground invasion. So that’s the kind of country we are – a Jewish country with Jewish values and a desire not to inflict civilian casualties.
Ahmed, your life is not one that any of us would like to experience. You are residing in a living hell created by your own leadership for their own political purposes without regard to your welfare. Even sadder is the fact that the shots are being called by people sitting far away from the conflict whose own lives and those of their families are clearly not in danger. The question you raise should be directed at your own government, a government that chooses to let you live in squalor and poverty while creating a political crisis with us that makes us sacrifice our best and brightest in battle.
As Cicero said in his first oration against Cataline, “O tempora o mores” – “Oh what times! Oh what customs!” And shame on the government of Gaza for making you suffer and forcing us to inflict death and destruction on your land.
The author is a 30-year resident of Jerusalem, president of Atid EDI Ltd., an economic development consulting firm and past national president of the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel.