So far it''s a mini-escalation in the south. As I begin this, some 60 rockets or mortars have been sent toward Israel in the last couple of days, several Israelis have been injured, one seriously. Twelve Gazans have been killed, including some ranking members of a fringe group sometimes allied with Hamas, sometimes working independently to attack Israel and perhaps to provoke something more heroic.


Each side blames the other for starting it. Israel''s principal contribution to the escalation was the targeted killing of a factional leader said to be planning an attack within Israel.


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In reality, the whole thing began whenever you want to begin reckoning-- a century ago, or when Israeli officials tired of the occasional firing of rockets and mortars that keep the cities and smaller settlements in the south in perpetual tension.


The numbers of rockets, injuries, and deaths may change before I finish this piece, or before it''s read by those who decide not to delete yet another note from this troubling place.


It may be signifant that this is occurring in the shadow of the much bigger story surrounding Iran. Could this be the prologue to a massive Israeli operation meant to destroy the thousands of the weapons smuggled into Gaza since the collapse of regimes in Libya and Egypt? Perhaps to clear part of the threat against Israel in anticipation of an eventual attack against Iran?


More likely Israel will stop short of an onslaught, as it has done numerous times in the past. Despite one of my more rabid readers who writes that Israel treats Palestinians like animals, the reality is much different.


Israel''s policy is primarily one of restraint. While it has the military capacity to destroy the stockpiles of weapons aimed at it from Gaza and Lebanon, and to produce the collatoral damage of civilian casualties that would be justified by those stockpiles being located in residential areas, Israel tolerates the problems of its own civilians who are kept tense, with occasional casualties, forced to remain in their homes or close to shelters, with the cancellation of school and other activities on account of periodic attacks.


The problem in recent years has been largely in the south. Hizbollah seems to exercise greater control over violence in Lebanon than Hamas does in Gaza. Hizbollah may be more sensitive than Hamas to what Israel has threatened against the national economy of a country it aspires to control.


Why is Israel restrained? And what can trigger a sizable operation that many governments will define as an overreaction?


These are issues that remain within the fog of ambiguity, and provide the opportunity for unrestrained speculation.


Are the reasons for the restraint Jewish values, and the concern of Israeli officials for human life?


Our detractors, if any of them read this, may already be screaming in anger or rolling on the floor in laughter.


Are the reasons Israel''s concern for international condemnation, sanctions, the loss of overseas investments and sales, or the loss of support from the United States and other respectable democracies?


Ideologues will answer those questions more quickly than anyone likely to ponder the possibilities and admit a lack of certainty.


My anti-Israel correspondent does not distinguish between Israel''s treatment of Arabs within Israel or over the borders into the areas controlled by Palestine.


"Israel tends to think of the Palestinians as animals, or at least treat them like animals. They certainly aren''t treated as equal human beings compared to Jews, whether in Israel or in the West Bank. . . . in 2012 Arabs in Israel face more institutional barriers than blacks or other minorities in the US."
The data do not support those claims.


Figures from Israel''s Central Bureau of Statistics and the US Bureau of the Census indicate that income levels of Israeli Arabs and African-Americans both are about 60 percent of Jews or Whites.


Israel''s compulsory and universal health insurance produces a situation where the longevity of its minority Arab population is 76.8 years for males and 81 years for females (compared with 80.4 and 83.7 years for Jewish males and females), while that of White Americans was only 75.9 years for males and 80.8 years for females. Black Americans'' life expectancy was 70.9 years for males and 77.4 years for females.
www.cbs.gov.il/statistical/arabju.pdf US Statistical Abstract 2012, Tables 104 and 697; Statistical Abstract of Israel 2011, Table 3.24


With Israel''s minority living longer than America''s majority population, it is time to rephrase the question of who is treating who as animals.


A personal story may be relevant.


During the first intifada that began in 1987, our younger children were still in primary school. Among the dangers were Arabs attacking Jews with knives at bus stops or along the sidewalks. Insofar as French Hill is only 200 meters from Isaweea and we share the streets and sidewalks, bank, post office, stores, and bus stops with Arabs from that neighborhood, we urged our children to respect Arabs, but to be careful. If they found themselves walking in front of an Arab, it would be best to pause, and let the Arab pass in front of them.


The children were only 8 and 9. Insofar as their nursury school teacher had spoken about the Holocaust in language appropriate to three- and four-year olds, and they had put on gas masks and carried them to school at the ages of 7 and 8, we felt they were ready for our urging of caution along with respect.





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