IDF soldiers patrol near Gaza 370.
(photo credit: Reuters/Amir Cohen)
Gaza-based terrorists believed to be from Islamic Jihad triggered the latest
round of escalation in the South. They fired an antitank missile at an IDF jeep
conducting a routine patrol on Saturday on the Israeli side of the border with
Gaza Strip near Kibbutz Nahal Oz. One of the four Givati Brigade soldiers riding
in the jeep was wounded seriously.
Since this unprovoked attack, well
over a hundred mortar shells and rockets have been fired at civilian centers in
Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gan Yavne, Netivot, Sderot and elsewhere in the South.
Hundreds of thousands of residents – men, women and children – live in constant
fear of being struck down by a rocket or a mortar shell.
This is not the
first time terrorists in Hamas-controlled Gaza have launched attacks purposely
targeting Israeli civilians. Residents of the South are no strangers to mortar
shells and Kassam and Grad rockets fired from neighboring Gaza. Since the
beginning of the year about 1,000 rockets have been fired at cities and towns in
However, the latest round of escalation has convinced many –
including senior members of the present government and the military
establishment – that Israel must restore deterrence by ratcheting up its
response to Palestinian belligerence.
The State of Israel – like any
other sovereign state – has a moral obligation to protect its citizens from
terrorist aggression. In fact, the responsibility to protect – or R2P – happens
to be a 2005 UN initiative adopted in the wake of the massacres in Rwanda and
based on the principle that sovereignty is not just a right it is a
responsibility. If Israel fails to do everything in its power to provide
residents in the South with protection from radical Islam-inspired terrorism, it
is behaving negligently. The international community would then have an
obligation to step in to ensure that Israelis are provided with protection from
terrorists operating in Hamas-controlled Gaza.
Unfortunately, too many in
the international community not only do nothing to stop terrorists operating in
Gaza from targeting innocent Israeli civilians, they also refuse to recognize
Israel’s basic right to protect its citizens. Israel’s legitimate military
operations – launched to fight back at terrorist attacks emanating from Gaza –
are spuriously portrayed as acts of unprovoked aggression. An egregious example
of this tendency in international forums to morally delegitimize Israel’s right
to self-defense is the Goldstone Report. Richard Goldstone and the other members
of the fact-finding mission appointed by the UN Human Rights Council after
Operation Cast Lead baselessly accused Israel’s military of intentionally
targeting Palestinian civilians in Gaza Strip. Months after the report was
published and the damage to Israel’s image was done, Goldstone – in an op-ed
that appeared in The Washington Post – admitted that “civilians were not
intentionally targeted [by Israel] as a matter of policy.” Israel does
everything in its power – including employing the most advanced technologies –
to prevent civilian deaths in Gaza. But when Hamas and other terrorist
organizations purposely disguise themselves as civilians, position themselves
and their arms in population centers and use civilians as human shields,
civilians are liable to be injured or killed. Too often these unfortunate and
unintentional deaths are falsely portrayed as “war crimes,” not just by Hamas
and other terrorist organization but also by purportedly “objective” human
rights NGOs and UN-appointed bodies like the Goldstone fact-finding
Israel might be on the brink of launching another military
operation in Gaza aimed at restoring deterrence and protecting the residents of
the South from the terrorists of Gaza. Before such an operation is launched – if
it is launched at all – Israel should make an effort to explain itself to the
World opinion might be stacked against Israel,
but we must not give up hope.
Those in the international community with a
modicum of intellectual honesty will acknowledge that if the Palestinians living
in Gaza were to abandon violence and reconcile themselves to Israel’s existence,
then the conflict would end immediately.