Tuesday marked the deadliest day since Israel commenced its Cast Lead Operation eleven days prior. After terrorists threw mortar shells at Israeli troops from a UN-run elementary school in Gaza, Israeli soldiers fired back. Booby-trapped bombs planted by Hamas exploded, killing 30 to 40 Palestinians. The UN is calling for an independent investigation of the incident.
Subsequently, Israel agreed to open a humanitarian corridor. Though she had been allowing trucks into Gaza regularly to deliver food and medicine, distribution was difficult. Accordingly, Israel and Hamas refrained from fighting for three hours. During that time, hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets to shop for food, and UN workers distributed goods from incoming trucks.
Many were hopeful that this temporary truce was a sign of a more permanent ceasefire. Indeed, Israel showed signs of open-mindedness to the French-Egyptian proposal. She agreed to accept the cease-fire conditionally based on the establishment of an international mechanism to stop arms smuggling through Gaza tunnels, and a total cessation of terror activity along the border. The US backs this agreement along with Israel's conditions.
After all, Israel's military operation is deterrent in nature. It's designed to cripple Hamas in order to create a secure and rocket-free environment for Israelis living in the south. The operation includes the participation of Israeli tanks, artillery, infantry, the navy, IAF, various security agencies and intelligence. On Saturday, the Israeli cabinet authorized Stage II of the operations, commencing a ground invasion into Gaza. Troops not entering Gaza were lined up along the borders on standby.
Israel could have carpet-bombed Gaza and leveled Hamas, killing all the Palestinians. Instead, she is doing everything possible to minimize Palestinian deaths. She has risked and lost the lives of Israeli soldiers in the process. Additionally, troops are refraining from entering Gaza City due to its high density civilian population.
The weight of international pressure has focused on Israel. However, it is Hamas that refuses to concede to a truce. The deputy head of Hamas' political bureau, Moussa Abu Marzouk, proclaimed that as long as Israel continues her "occupation", Hamas will continue its "resistance". Hamas spokesperson Fawzir Barhoun, insisted that Israeli "aggression must stop, Zionist forces must pull out" and the siege must be lifted. In exchange, Hamas agrees to no actions, but is willing to "talk about other issues including calm and rockets."
As soon as the three hour truce ended, Hamas picked up where it left off, launching numerous rocket attacks across the Gaza border, and firing grad rockets into Beersheba. Israel retaliated. It was only Monday when Israel blew up 40 tunnels which Hamas used to smuggle in weapons and arms, amidst the continuing sounds of heavy firepower. Also struck were Hamas' military storage facilities, rocket launching sites, operations bases, and Hamas leaders. Never-the-less, Hamas gunmen appear motivated and ever-focused. Its political wing has been substantially damaged. However, assessments in the defense community are that Hamas is still capable of launching a "quality" attack onto Israeli civilians. It's just waiting for the right moment.
All the while, in addition to the usual bashing of Israel as "the Zionist entity", and "occupiers", Palestinians are now adding words like "barbarians" "human rights violators" and "war criminals" to their name-calling list.
Libya is still pushing for an official condemnation of Israel. In its statements at the UN Security Council meeting on Tuesday, Libya repeatedly lied, insisting that Israel is the one who violated the ceasefire agreement, and that her aggression was "unprovoked".
Meanwhile, the number of anti-Israel rallies around the globe is increasing. Protestors are not merely decrying the plight of Palestinians, but are carrying venomous signs that read "Nuke Israel" and the like. In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a young Muslim woman wearing a hijab screamed at a pro-Israel demonstrator, (referring to the Nazi concentration camps,) "[G]o back to the oven. You need a big oven. That's what you need."
On Tuesday, Al-Qaeda's number two leader, Al-Zawahiri, openly called for the murder of Jews and Israelis around the world as revenge for Israel's actions. He justified the murder of Jewish children and women, arguing that they should not be spared. It appears that many are taking heed of his words, as anti-semitic attacks heighten in Europe. Jews and synagogues in Sweden, France and Britain have subsequently been under attack.
Aiding the Palestinian cause, the MSM persists in labeling Israeli operations as "disproportionate". It airs extensive footage of Palestinian deaths and injuries, while minimizing Palestinian provocations. However, in order to accurately determine whether or not Israel's actions are "disproportionate", we must analyze the situation in context.
In 2005, the Palestinians demanded the Gaza territory, and Israel relinquished it. The IDF yanked families out of their life long homes, and removed all synagogues and Jewish graveyards. American Jews raised millions of dollars to buy the greenhouses in Gaza, and gave them to the Palestinians as a gift. Israel believed that this would be the beginning of true peace process, and she was willing to exchange land for peace.
What did the Palestinians do with this opportunity? The first thing they did was raise flags with logos along the lines of "Gaza today, the West Bank and Jerusalem tomorrow".
The second thing they did was rename Gaza streets after suicide bombers and martyrs.
The third thing they did was elect the terrorist organization Hamas in landslide elections across the Gaza strip. The Hamas charter, based on the Koran, openly calls for the elimination of Israel. And during the current conflict, Hamas emphasized that it remains steadfast in its determination to wipe Israel off the map.
The fourth thing the Palestinians did, was brainwash their children with hatred and hostility toward Jews and Israel. They feed them a steady diet of praise for suicide bombers, provide geography lessons which delete Israel from the map, give history lessons which omit any mention of the holocaust and the reason for Israel's existence, and show them cartoons which encourage them to become martyrs. They teach their children that Palestinians cannot live in peace until Israel is obliterated.
The fifth thing they did, was to destroy the greenhouses given to them, merely because they were made by Jews. Instead of creating a life for themselves, Hamas in conjunction with Islamic Jihad and others, turned Gaza into a hotbed of terrorism. In the past four years, they have launched thousands of rockets and mortar shells into Israel. They built underground tunnels to smuggle in weapons, and received terrorism training from Iran and other state sponsors. They intentionally target Israeli civilians, including busloads of school children, Jews celebrating religious holidays and customers in pizza parlors. They have killed scores of innocent Israelis. Afterwards, they hold celebrations honoring the suicide bombers who have become martyrs for the cause.
Additionally, many Israeli civilians have been blinded, crippled, or maimed by the attacks. Those not physically injured still suffer from the havoc, disruption and constant fear caused by the incessant rocket launches. As Netanyahu explained in a recent interview, city alarms ring every time rockets are launched. Schools often close down and citizens have 20-30 seconds to get to the nearest bomb shelter. This occurs daily and hourly with increasing frequency. And thanks to longer range rockets being provided by Iran, it's occurring in cities farther and farther from the Gaza border. Reports show that as a result, an entire generation of Israeli children and their parents are exhibiting long-term symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Israel, on the other hand, has gone out of her way not to hit innocent Palestinians. She has allowed ambulances to enter Gaza, and even brings many injured Palestinians to Israeli hospitals for treatment. Because they value all human life, Israelis do not rejoice in Palestinian deaths. They do not teach their children to hate Palestinians or Muslims. Nor do they seek to expand their territory to the whole Arab region or force Muslims to convert to their religion. They are merely trying to survive, violence-free, in the small sliver of land that was voted theirs after World War II. No country in the world would allow the constant firing of rockets into its borders without recriminations.
But the destruction of Israel is a priority for Hamas. It is more important than the quality of Palestinian life, and more important than preserving life itself. Accordingly, they built their training camps and military storage facilities amongst civilian populations, knowing that in order for Israel to defend herself, she would have to kill civilians, further enraging Palestinians.
Mr. Mansour, Palestinian representative to the UN, claims, "yes of course we want to live side by side with Israel ...... with East Jerusalem as our capitol." Translation: they don't really want peace. They know they won't obtain East Jerusalem without a fight. Nor will they be satisfied if they get it. Their standard is one always out of reach. They wanted Gaza. They got it. Now they want the West Bank. If their demand is met, East Jerusalem will be next. And so on until Israel is pushed into the sea with only a Palestinian state remaining. Palestinians want to liberate all "Israel-occupied" territory, and to them, all of Israel is occupied.
Hamas threw hundreds of rockets and missiles over the Gaza border in the last few months during the supposed cease-fire while Israel did nothing to retaliate. When the six months was over, Hamas refused to extend the cease-fire. Instead, it stepped up its rocket attacks. Palestinians failed to put pressure on Hamas to halt the attacks, and presumably agree with Hamas' actions. After all, unlike the 2006 Middle East conflict, where Hezbollah represented a small portion of the Lebanese people and its government, in this case, Hamas is the government. It was elected by the Palestinians throughout the Gaza strip, and represents all of Gaza, not just a small minority.
Even as recently as 2008, Israel released hundreds of Palestinian prisoners jailed on terrorism charges, in order to demonstrate its "good faith." In exchange, Hamas refused to release innocent Israeli prisoners. Instead, Israel received only increased bloodshed. Yet, when Israel closed the gates to defend herself from suicide bombers, Palestinians cried that she was a "human rights abuser".
Is it possible that Israel is just tired of it?
This is not to deny that there is Palestinian suffering. But, let's be honest about what is occurring. A defensive war is not equivalent to an offensive act of aggression. When a nation acts to protect her borders against illegal rocket launches, it's not a war crime. Self-defense against suicide bombers is not genocide or human rights abuse. And, if a government chooses to use its civilians as human shields by burying its weapons facilities and launching sites amidst its own people, then retaliatory military action, despite collateral damage, is not "disproportionate." Israel's response is entirely proportionate to the long-term holy war that has been waged against her by various Palestinian factions over the years.
Israeli actions might look harsh if viewed in a vacuum. But Israel has tolerated the intolerable long enough. "We are fed up with empty gestures", explained Israeli Prime Minister Olmert. Israel cannot and should not accept a ceasefire without concrete measures to ensure the safety and security of southern Israelis. Yet, some demand that Israel do just that, even as Hamas continues to launch rockets into civilian territory with no end in sight.
The key to Palestinian freedom and peace has always been, and remains, in their own hands. But they repeatedly throw away the key. The choice is theirs.