The Humanitarian Pause -- Again
When I was a little kid, my brother, of blessed memory, who was six years older than me, took inordinate pleasure giving me what were then called “Noogies.” He was unmerciful and unrelenting in his “Noogie” attacks on my head. I would beg him to stop and he would say “ No”.
I would ask him, beg him, really to stop, “Just for a little while”
And after a bit more Noogiing, if he was feeling merciful, after a while, he would stop.
Looking back on it, that is what I would call, in retrospect a “Humanitarian Pause.” I was suffering, asked him to stop, and for a while he would.
It didn’t mean the unending war between older and younger sibling had ended. It was a pause, asked for and granted and honored.
We didn’t need the UN or the EU or any other international body to monitor it. I asked for mercy and he gave it. He would say something like “I’ll count to thirty” and for those thirty seconds, The Humanitarian Pause was in effect and sacrosanct.
Thus when I next heard the phrase over a half century later, in 2009, to be exact, Hamas once again claimed the mantle of victimhood while carrying out unceasing rocket attacks against Israel. Their people were suffering genocide, they shouted to one and all, and their amen corner of sympathizers, apologists, enablers , and many people who simply saw suffering, and without understanding the context joined the chorus and said, “ Yes, end the suffering now.” Never mind that all that Hamas had to do to end the suffering was to stop trying to kill us. That fact seemed, and seems until this day, too difficult to grasp for some.
“We need medicine,” they cried plaintively, “And baby formula, and food and water and blankets. We are dying! They are murdering us! This is genocide. They are doing to the Palestinians worse than what the Nazis did to the Jews!"
Let us just put a pin in that part for a moment, shall we? If the Nazis had treated the Jews the way Israel treats the Palestinians, there would be six million more Jews in the world today, and all their descendants. The total number of Palestinians killed by Israel since 2000, is, by most estimates, somewhere between six and eight thousand people. That includes the figures from the second Intifada, the 2009, 2012 and present conflict combined.
That’s not genocide. That’s less than have been killed in Syria, in the last several months. But people only seem to care about Moslem Arabs being killed when it is in a war with Jews. Then it’s genocide.
To get back to 2009, Hamas, claiming that Israel was committing innumerable war crimes and was also depriving them of humanitarian aid. Thus the idea of “A Humanitarian Pause” was born.
Every day between 1:00 and 3:00 pm, if I recall correctly, Israel would unilaterally cease fire, and open the border crossing at Kerem Shalom, in order to allow hundreds of truck loads of humanitarian aide to flow unhindered into Gaza to relieve the suffering of the civilian population.
And every afternoon at 1:00 PM Hamas would begin shelling the Kerem Shalom Crossing with mortar fire and rocket attacks, to prevent the transfer of humanitarian aid to their own people, in order to say that the Jews were withholding humanitarian aid!
I told that to an unbelieving BBC crew and offered to take them there so they could witness it first hand. But first I told them to make sure they had their running shoes on because mortars give no warning. They just fall and explode and if you’re in the wrong place they kill you. I brought them down at 12:30 and they set up their cameras, ready to film the convoy of trucks on the Israeli side of the border as they crossed into Gaza. I pointed out the bomb shelter to them. They scoffed knowingly. Precisely at 1:00 Israel ceased its fire, opened the Kerem Shalom crossing and as the first of the trucks began moving forward, Hamas launched a mortar and rocket attack against the crossing point. I pointed to the shelter and they took off running. Fastest Brits I have seen since watching Chariots of Fire.
Later when I went into Gaza myself, the paratroopers I was with were stopped by a Palestinian farmer. “Why don’t you kill them all?” he demanded.
“Hamas!” he said. He pointed to a field from which Hamas launched dozens of rocket attacks against Israel. The field had once been his, he said, He grew sunflowers, and it supported his family with honor. Hamas came and took it over and now it only sprouted rockets.” How do I feed my children with rockets?” he demanded.
Through a translator I asked about the humanitarian aid, because some of it had gotten through each day despite the shellings. He told us that Hamas took all the goods, jacked up the prices, and then sold the goods to the populace.
So Saturday night during the current unpleasantness, at the urging of the UN Israel extended by four hours what was supposed to be a twelve hour “Humanitarian Pause” for the feast of Id al Fatir, the end of Ramadan, and to allow people to stock up on goods. Hamas rejected the extension and opened up with a rocket and mortar barrage. Despite that, at the urging of the international community, Israel agreed to extend the Humanitarian Pause for another 24 hours. Israel would not fire a single shot, but would continue blowing up the terrorist tunnels during the next 24 hours, in order to provide a period of relief for the civilian population.
Hamas answered that gesture with another series of rocket and mortar attacks.
A number of those mortar rounds fell in the civilian farming community where I had spent Shabbat. In a previous article I described Rachel and Menashe, who had opened their home up to the soldiers as had the entire village because those soldiers, they knew, “would and well may, lay down their lives,” in order to protect them.
And last night that is exactly what happened to one of the boys who only two days ago celebrated the Sabbath with us. A mortar round landed, seriously wounding two of those soldiers who were there protecting that farming village.
I was notified a few hours ago that one of them died of his wounds Sunday morning. His name not yet been released as far as I know. We had celebrated the Peace of Sabbath only two days ago.
May his memory be a blessing.
Dan Gordon is a Captain in the IDF (Res)