My Word: Fighting fire with fire and staying power

It is hard to believe that had thousands of protesters tried to breach Turkey's border with Syria, for example, they would have been welcomed with small cups of coffee and Turkish delight.

AN IDF soldier runs in a field near Kibbutz Mefalsim, which was set on fire by Palestinians in Gaza on May 14 (photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
AN IDF soldier runs in a field near Kibbutz Mefalsim, which was set on fire by Palestinians in Gaza on May 14
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
It’s the picture of innocence. Young people flying kites, feeling the freedom of the soaring wings high in the sky. But many of the kites were attached to incendiary devices to set property and fields on fire. The Palestinians equipped with wire cutters trying to cross the fence didn’t want to retrieve their kites. They wanted something else entirely. The slogan of the protests that started on March 30 was “The Grand March of Return.”
The 40,000 Palestinians who gathered at the border on May 14 were brought there by Hamas, an organization whose stated goal is the destruction of Israel. It has worked tirelessly digging terror tunnels, stockpiling rockets and diverting funds that should have been spent on alleviating poverty all with the aim of hurting Israel. Snatching soldiers, dead or alive, is a supreme goal. Storming a nearby kibbutz would give it bonus points.
The events of May 14 in which some 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers, 52 of them Hamas members according to the terrorist organization, gave them the PR victory they had been seeking all along. Blood, and plenty of it. Hamas, a local spinoff of the Muslim Brotherhood, doesn’t care whose blood is spilled, that of the Jews and other “infidels” or that of its own members.
And that is the tragedy of the Palestinians: They have been exploited by their own people for 70 years. This is war. Not just physical combat, but psychological warfare. Israel can win the physical battle; the propaganda war is much harder.
Israelis point out that had Hamas not placed the protesters along the border, with their burning tires and incendiary kites, they would not have been shot. It’s the classic case of if Hamas were to lay down its arms there would be peace, if Israel were to lay down its weapons the country would be destroyed.
What do Israelis think of the fact that most of the wounded Palestinians were shot in their legs, a British journalist asked me in a radio interview this week. I realized that whatever I answered would sound callous. Most Israelis prefer that there weren’t such riots in the first place, but if even a mob of 200 out of the 40,000 looks like it is going to storm across the border and into nearby communities, we are happy that there are soldiers courageously putting their lives on the line to stop them. The accusation of a “disproportionate response” is immoral when you consider what it really means: That the world expects – demands, almost – that Israeli soldiers or civilians be killed.
If most protesters have been shot in the legs it’s a good sign, I tried to explain. It shows that far from carrying out an indiscriminate massacre, the soldiers are carrying out orders to do everything to keep the potential infiltrators away from the fence without killing them.
The bloody protests of May 14 can be considered a Palestinian success. They brought the spotlight back onto the world’s only “perpetual refugees,” fostered their status as victims, and came close to ruining a party the other side of the border. From being part of the event marking the 70th anniversary of the “Nakba,” the “catastrophe” of Israel’s creation, the Gaza demonstrations were repackaged as “the embassy riots.”
For a long time, American presidents and other world leaders were afraid to relocate their countries’ embassies to Jerusalem, recognizing it as Israel’s capital, for fear of a wave of terror. Love him or hate him, Donald Trump didn’t give in to the threats. Dire predictions spoke of bloody riots in the Muslim world, in places like Indonesia.
Well, what happened in Indonesia this week was heartbreaking. Among the atrocities that somehow didn’t manage to create international outrage were the ISIS-inspired suicide attacks carried out during Sunday services at three churches in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city. Reuters, citing local officials, reported at least 13 dead and 40 wounded. There was also a string of Islamist attacks on police and security forces.
The perpetrators of the church attacks, whose victims reportedly included a woman who got engaged the previous day, were families who apparently had returned to Indonesia from Syria after the collapse of ISIS. An attack in Surabaya on May 14 was carried out by a family of five on two motorbikes who blew themselves up at the entrance to the police headquarters. The eight-year-old daughter of the terrorists survived and was found wandering around in a daze. She too was a victim. What type of family goes on an outing to blow up churches and police stations? The type that is fired up by the jihadist cult of martyrdom. The type, which like Hamas, pushes women and children into the front lines as cannon fodder and human cannonballs.
The string of Indonesian attacks, like the attacks that left 15 dead in Afghanistan this week, or even the ax attack by a man in Paris for which ISIS took credit last weekend, have nothing to do with the embassy opening. They are part of global jihad.
Hamas intentions are clear from their targets. They have appropriated Leo Rosten’s classic definition of the Yiddish word “chutzpah”: “That quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan.”
“Peaceful protesters” for the third time this month vandalized and set fire to the Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom crossing through which hundreds of trucks a day pass from Israel to Gaza carrying essential supplies and humanitarian aid; they also set fire to a pipeline carrying gas and fuel, and destroyed conveyor belts used to bring in construction material and animal feed. How shrill and how empty are their cries of “humanitarian disaster”!
The UN Security Council, of course, held an emergency session on the Gaza crisis. But the UN is part of the problem. For seven decades, the Palestinians have rejected possible peace agreements and launched war after war. For five generations, they have been made dependent on UNRWA, the UN agency uniquely dedicated to Palestinian “refugees.” Not only has the Palestinian leadership failed its own population but so has the UN and its relief agency.
It doesn’t take much to imagine what would have happened had the thousands of protesters tried to storm Gaza’s other border, the one it shares with Egypt. And although Turkey humiliated and sent Israel’s ambassador home, it is hard to believe that had thousands of protesters tried to breach its border with Syria, for example, they would have been welcomed with small cups of coffee and Turkish delight.
ISRAEL HAD split-screen syndrome this week. Multiple images dominated public awareness: There was the hugely popular embassy opening; the Jerusalem Day celebrations on the 51st anniversary of the reunification of the capital; the Palestinian attacks, and, lastly, the Eurovision mania that swept the country after Israel’s Netta Barzilai won the song contest on May 12.
Netta has talent and a winning personality. She also has luck. Had the contest taken place days after the Palestinian riots ended with such a high death toll and not before it, it’s unlikely she would have garnered the necessary votes.
The singer’s impact was such that even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu imitated her chicken-like arm movements as he walked into the Sunday cabinet meeting.
“Thank you so much for choosing difference,” she told the millions watching her accept the Eurovision trophy.
“We have a reason to be happy, don’t let anybody put your fire out – nobody will put our fire out,” Netta told the thousands who greeted her in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on her return from Lisbon.
Palestinians in Gaza can launch incendiary kites and carry out arson attacks, but their fires are no match for the Israeli enthusiasm for life.
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