Rattling the Cage: Clueless in Gaza

The war Israel is fighting with Gaza is the most one-sided war on earth.

larry derfner 88 (photo credit: )
larry derfner 88
(photo credit: )
We have to change the way we think about Gaza, we have to change the way we act, we have to stop bashing Gazans around as mindlessly and automatically as we do. Israel's war with Gaza has to be the most one-sided war on earth, and it is causing tremendous unnecessary suffering to people there, it's putting Israeli soldiers and civilians in unnecessary danger, and it is leading Israel toward a big, bloody invasion that will get a lot of people on both sides killed for nothing. I don't think we can make peace with Hamas now in the sense of dividing the land, signing a peace treaty and saying "no more war, no more bloodshed" - Hamas's current demands are way too high. But I am convinced we can calm things down a lot more than we've been inclined to do. We can also stop punishing Gaza's civilian population and lift the land, sea and air siege we've imposed on the Strip, which is flat-out immoral. In our actions toward Gaza, we're not nearly as innocent as we think we are, nor as clever, and this has to change. For five months we had a cease-fire that was pretty good for all concerned, and then it came apart two weeks ago. IDF soldiers crossed into the Strip to blow up a "ticking tunnel" near the border - one that the Palestinians were going to use very soon to kidnap Israeli soldiers, according to Israeli intelligence. Our troops killed about a half-dozen Palestinian gunmen in the shoot-out, the Kassams started flying, and here we are. Since that clash on November 4, at least 17 Palestinian terrorists have been killed and the siege on Gaza has been tightened; on our side, about 200 rockets and mortars have struck as far away as Ashkelon, causing a few minor injuries and a great deal of fear and rage. SO WHO is to blame for breaking the cease-fire and setting this chain reaction in motion - the Palestinians who built the tunnel or the Israelis who invaded Gaza to destroy it? Here's what Nahum Barnea, Israel's most prominent journalist, wrote this week in Yediot Aharonot: "In front of the microphones, Israeli officials placed all the blame on Hamas. Privately, some of them took a different view. They talked about the excessive zeal of IDF commanders and an excessively deep incursion into Gazan territory by our forces, in violation of the unspoken rules of the cease-fire. According to this view, Hamas didn't initiate the renewal of the fighting - it was responding to Israeli actions." I can't say that the IDF was definitely wrong to go in and blow up that tunnel; after the snatching of Gilad Schalit, it's impossible to just wave away intelligence like that and let the diggers keep on digging. But we have to understand that the IDF didn't invade Gaza and kill several Palestinian guerrillas in response to a kidnapping, but rather in response to the possibility of a kidnapping. That's quite a brazen move on Israel's part; we shouldn't have acted so shocked and outraged that the Palestinians started firing Kassams and mortars in return. We could have at least restrained our response, which might have ended the fighting sooner. For instance, a few days after the IDF blew up that tunnel, Israeli soldiers killed four armed Palestinians approaching the border. Around here, that's called an Israeli act of self-defense. But those armed Palestinians were on Gazan territory; if four Israeli soldiers approached the border and were killed by Palestinians, what would we call it? We'd call it murder, aggression, and we'd kill scores or hundreds of Gazans in revenge. And how else did we respond when the Kassams started flying? We stopped trucks bringing food, medicine, fuel and other supplies into Gaza, except for on one day when we let the trucks through. What is the point of this? Why are we punishing civilians? I thought we only went after terrorists. THIS ISN'T weakening Hamas or Islamic Jihad, it's not turning the Gazan population against them, it's not curbing terrorism. The siege does absolutely nothing to enhance Israeli security and probably harms it by creating more terrorists. And the most galling thing is that as far as Israel is concerned, there is no siege on Gaza at all. There's no humanitarian crisis there - it's all bluff, it's all "Pallywood." The Palestinians lie, the UN lies, the human rights organizations lie. The Palestinians are doing fine - we see to that. Anybody who says we're deliberately making innocent children suffer is an anti-Semite. Is that so? If there's no siege and the Palestinian civilian population isn't suffering, then let's wave all the trucks through. And if we won't do that, which we won't, then let's have the minimal honesty to admit why - because our throttling of the flow of supplies into Gaza is logically causing those 1.5 million people to suffer. And why are we blockading Gaza's Mediterranean coast? To stop delivery of weapons? They're smuggling in tons of weapons anyway through the tunnels from Egypt. And besides - doesn't Israel import weapons? If anybody tried to blockade our access to the sea because we were using it to import weapons, we'd consider it an act of aggression, a casus belli. That's exactly what we did when Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran, which blockaded the port of Eilat, two weeks before the Six Day War. It's one thing to say we won't tolerate an enemy using armed force against us, it's another to say we won't tolerate an enemy having armed force at all. We shouldn't expect the Palestinians to agree that in this neighborhood, Israel has the exclusive right to military power. That's setting the bar for peace a little too high. Israel has enemies all over the Middle East, and they all import as much weaponry as they want, much more than Hamas has acquired or is likely to acquire by land, sea or air. What keeps these enemies at bay is that whatever they've got, Israel has much, much more of it, and there's nothing on the horizon that's going to change that basic fact of Middle Eastern life. SO WHAT we should do about Gaza is finally, genuinely, end the occupation. Let the people there come and go by sea and air like people do in a free country. Let the trucks go through Israel into Gaza with no more than normal inspection. As for Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the other terrorist groups - we are beating the living hell out of them. Maybe they're more afraid of us than we are of them. Maybe if we keep in mind the stark imbalance of power in our favor, we can go back to the cease-fire and avoid the "big operation" everyone's predicting. And if we remember that we are holding over 10,000 Palestinian prisoners, it may even become easier to get Gilad Shalit back. I repeat: The war Israel is fighting with Gaza is the most one-sided war on earth. If the point is to end it, or at least begin to end it, the ball is not in Hamas's court - it's in ours.