Monday, August 29, 2011
What has happened to Israel?
A view from Ashdod.
Something has gone horribly wrong here in Israel.
How did we ever get to a point in this country where the South, including Beersheba, Sderot, Ashkelon, Kiryat Gat, Kiryat Malachi, Be’er Tuvia, Ofakim, Azrikam, Gan Yavne, Gedera and Ashdod were hit by more than 100 Grad rockets this past weekend? How did we ever get to a point in this country where we put the safety of our citizens at the mercy of international approval – with an Israeli defense official proclaiming on Monday morning that “lack of international support” was a reason that “Israel could not open a larger offensive” against the terrorists in Gaza.
Let me tell you how I think we got here.
We got here by hiding the truth in euphemisms. Since the last “cease-fire” in 2008, the South has been assaulted by over 800 Kassams, mortars and Grads.
How many times have you heard or read in the media, “No injuries or damage reported,” or “The missile landed in an open area,” or “Rockets disturb relative calm in South”? When did we ever get to a point where “relative calm” meant Israeli men, women and children being hit by over 800 missiles – or that missiles being fired at our citizens is a “disturbance”? Would any other country tolerate even a single missile fired at its citizens? A study as far back as 2008 revealed that “between 75 and 94 percent of Sderot children aged 4-18 exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress.” Each time a missile is fired at Israel, there is emotional or physical injury to our citizens.
We got here by accepting the farcical nonsense that the IDF is doing something to stop the rocket fire.
Sure, the government has ostensibly embarked upon a campaign of tit for tat. Hamas fires a rocket at us, and we drop a bomb on them – except that we really don’t drop a bomb on them. We bomb the smuggling tunnels, rocket-making factories, and any empty building the IAF can find. How successful has that been? By the IDF’s own estimate, Hamas has now smuggled in over 10,000 rockets and missiles.
We got here by the IDF’s coming up with every conceivable rationalization not to act at all. Some of the most absurd rationalizations have been the most recent. On August 3, it was reported that two rockets struck the Lachish area. In response, the IAF hit the requisite empty buildings in Gaza. No sooner had this happened, however, than IDF spokesmen quickly excused the rocket attack by rationalizing that “the increase in rocket fire is Hamas’s way to vent its frustration [over] being left out of the Palestinian Authority’s current plans to unilaterally declare statehood at the United Nations in September.”
Does the IDF really believe that Hamas’s continuing assault on innocent children, women and men is a way for its members to “vent their frustration” with their fellow Palestinians? I thought that Hamas simply wanted to see Jews and Israel wiped off the face of the planet. Next we’ll have the IDF blaming Hamas missile attacks on the price of cottage cheese in Beit Hanun.
We got here by the IDF’s being unprepared to do anything. On Saturday night, after a day of unrestricted rocket fire against Israel, causing death and destruction – with more firing on Sunday morning – the IDF did nothing. Instead, we had an army spokesman coming up with the gem that “deterrence must be established before the situation spirals out of control.”
But the IDF has no idea about how to deter anything.
Are we supposed to feel comforted that Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz held security consultations all day this past Saturday “to draw up potential responses and courses of actions?” Where has the IDF staff been for the last three years? Weren’t the events of the weekend completely predictable by your average first-grader? The IDF suddenly seems paralyzed by indecision and beset with passive and failed leadership among its top officers.
We got here by hiding behind technology and letting the IDF hide behind technology. Whatever wondrous results the Iron Dome produces, it is a form of passive protection. We let Hamas and Hezbollah accumulate and fire missiles at us, and we intercept as many as possible. Are lives saved? Undoubtedly. Is the terror lessened? Not at all – as the sirens blare, we run to hide in our bomb shelters or crouch behind walls.
Technology is no substitute for boots on the ground – or a comprehensive, well-planned aerial attack.
We got here by buying into and perpetuating the idiotic notion that every group except Hamas is responsible for the rocket fire emanating from Gaza. Al- Tawhid wal-Jihad, the Popular Resistance Committees, Islamic Jihad, and a hundred other groups: Suddenly all of these are “radical,” but Hamas is not. How nauseating it was to read on Sunday that Hamas was now trying to get Islamic Jihad to stop firing missiles at the South. This is classic good cop-bad cop – with Hamas astonishingly being portrayed as the good cop wanting peace. This nonsense has to stop.
We got here by trying to be politically correct and adopting the thinking of human rights organizations that want us to assume responsibility for the “poor” people of Gaza. Late last month, the army stressed its ongoing efforts to help Palestinian farmers export their produce to European markets. So this is how the IDF now spends its time? How proud we are to say that we drop leaflets and make phone calls in advance of our attacks against terrorists. How morally superior that makes us feel. Yet every time we do this, we help the terrorists escape, ultimately at the bloody expense of our own citizens. No matter how many leaflets we drop and how much we help the Palestinians, our attempts to ingratiate ourselves in the arena of world opinion miserably fail.
Finally, we got here by unilaterally withdrawing from Gaza. Whatever else you want to say, the settlements in northern Gaza were a buffer between the rest of Gaza and Israel, and to have left without having any security guarantees in return was a gross demonstration of weakness.
Let me conclude by telling you what many of us here in the South think should happen, beginning with what we think should never happen. Any thought that Israel should ever retake Gaza is absurd in the extreme. Nevertheless, the situation here in the South cannot stay the same or go back to the way it was before Thursday. Either Israel has to go in on the ground and root out the leaders of Hamas, or Israel must discard its notions of political correctness and relentlessly attack Gazan terrorists from the air and sea. No matter what course we take, the European Union, Arab League and United Nations – and their friends – will condemn Israel for defending Israeli citizens. But it is time for this country to broaden its perspective beyond Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and rally to the defense of its people here in the South.
The writer is a retired faculty member of the University of California-Davis who divides his time between Ashdod and Davis. He blogs at www.israelstreet.org.