Preventing tragedies

Anyone who seriously cares about the deaths of civilians must ask themselves, what will stop them?

beit hanun funeral 298.8 (photo credit: AP)
beit hanun funeral 298.8
(photo credit: AP)
The pictures of bloody Palestinian children being carried out from their homes in Beit Hanun, killed and wounded by errant Israeli artillery shells, are difficult to bear. To Israelis, as well as to all those hoping for peace in the region around the world, the deaths of civilians are tragic. Anyone who seriously cares about such deaths must ask themselves, what will stop them? This question can be easily answered by a review of recent events. Fifteen months ago, Israel withdrew completely from the Gaza Strip, including bulldozing every Israeli settlement and even uprooting Jewish cemeteries. From then on, all the Palestinians had to do in order to never see another Israeli in Gaza and to build a future state in peace was just that: build, rather than attack Israel. Instead, Palestinian groups, including Hamas after its election by the Palestinian people, decided to attack Israel with hundreds of missiles aimed at civilian areas. Since the beginning of the year, over 300 rockets have been fired from the area of Beit Hanun alone into Israel by Palestinian terror groups - with the support of the Hamas leadership. Yesterday, the UN Security Council met to discuss a resolution introduced by Qatar condemning Israel for the deaths in Beit Hanun. The international concern and anger at these deaths is understandable, but the question must be asked: Why did the Security Council not meet to condemn the firing of hundreds of Kassam missiles aimed deliberately to kill Israeli civilians? Though the international community approaches this matter with no small amount of cynicism, it is clear to all who is responsible for the fighting in Gaza. It remains the case today, as it did after Israel withdrew completely from Gaza in August 2005, that all the Palestinians need to do to end Israel's military operations is to stop attacking Israel. It is equally clear that the killing of civilians that Israel has mistakenly done and apologized for, the Palestinian leadership has deliberately initiated and proudly promises to continue in the future. Under these circumstances, it is a shame that no nation will stand up in the Security Council and offer an alternative to the shameless resolution proposed by the Arab bloc. Such an alternative resolution would condemn the unprovoked shelling of Israeli civilians with the support of the Palestinian Authority, recognize Israel's right to self-defense, and regret the loss of civilian lives on both sides that have resulted from Palestinian aggression. The introduction of such a resolution, even if it were not voted upon, could send a powerful signal to Arab states and to the Palestinians that the era of shouting indignantly, "it all started when he hit me back," is over. If such a resolution actually passed, it could do more to deter Palestinian aggression and therefore save Palestinian and Israeli lives than the dozens of anti-Israel statements that the UN has habitually passed. Why not attack Israel, after all, if Israel will ultimately be blamed for being attacked? It should go without saying that the Quartet should not, as a result of this incident, lift or lessen the financial and diplomat isolation it has imposed on the Hamas leadership. For a long time, the international community and, it must be admitted, Israel, have taught the Palestinians that terrorism works. It should not be surprising that such a policy has not succeeded in ending terrorism. The alternative is to demonstrate to the Palestinians that attacking Israel will only produce further diplomatic isolation, rather than sympathy for the Palestinian cause. That cause, the Palestinians must demonstrate, is to build a peaceful democratic state, not to condemn their own people to endless suffering in futile war with Israel. The claims of the Arab states to support the former are revealed as empty by their actions: encouraging Palestinian aggression through lopsided condemnations of Israel, and failing to block the flow of weapons to radical forces such as Hamas and Hizbullah. The Quartet, rather than at best refusing to participate in such ploys, should condemn them, propose a constructive alternative and demand that Arab states do their part to promote peace.