One would have thought residents of Sderot and the surrounding area would be in full support of the Israeli government and Ehud Olmert. Apparently not as the following articles from Jewish Voice for Peace indicate. In Hebron too there is a former Israeli soldier conducting a tour pointing out the suffering of Palestinians at Israels hands. It’s the distant lobby of those living overseas who have no actual connection with Israel, but who are affected by sentiment and the all powerful Zionist lobby which support Israeli government policy, a lobby against which no presidential candidate dare utter a sound. Among American leaders ex President Jimmy Carter alone raises a voice.
Source: Jewish Voice for Peace:
What follows is a combined post about Gaza and Sderot from three JPN editors: Rela Mazali, Sarah Anne Minkin and Lincoln Shlensky.
Sarah Anne writes:
Thoughts and feelings and questions about Sderot are always present when we talk about Gaza. As we JPN editors have reported about the tightening of the siege on Gaza, a number of readers have written to ask us – some with great urgency – to respond to the ongoing, intensive rocket attacks targeting Sderot, the town inside of Israel close to the Gaza border.
In a response to a reader, Rela writes:
Thank you for following Jewish Peace News and for sending us your comment..
In my view, the main accusation of one-sidedness should be directed to Israel. The balance of power between Israel and the Palestinians (and even more pronouncedly Israel and the Gaza Strip) is and has been for years vastly asymmetrical. Israel could end (or radically reduce) Palestinian attacks against its civilian population rather swiftly and simply by conceding the land, water, infrastructure and other resources, freedom of movement and other collective and individual human rights that it has been denying the Palestinians for decades. Instead it persists in withholding these, employing them for what it perceives to be its own benefit, meanwhile holding its own citizens hostage and cynically using their plight to justify its disproportionate and criminal use of force.
I am nearing sixty, Israeli-and-Jewish-born and have lived in Israel almost all my life. Many thousands of Israelis share these or very similar views. We too are sick and tired of watching government after government in Israel trash Israeli society—education, health care, welfare, social justice—sacrificing both the young (through the military) and the dispossessed weak, in order to feed and maintain a militarized, expansionist elite, and doing so with the full, undiscerning support and indeed encouragement of most of organized Jewry in the US.
While there are various players in the matrix of power, it is my view that the people of Sderot, like the people of Gaza, are being used and abused by Israel, first and foremost.
I would simply add that, notwithstanding our views regarding the assymmetry of the “matrix of power,” as Rela puts it, we obviously condemn all attacks by either side on civilians as illegal and immoral.
Sarah Anne again:
Israel’s escalation of military assaults will not bring peace or security to Sderot. The ongoing barrage of military might on Gaza – the regular bombings and shelling that have killed scores and wounded hundreds over the past few weeks – and the tightening of the siege on the entire (civilian and other) population, including the hermetic closure of this week that preceded the dramatic border crossing – represent a total failure of Israeli leadership. Ha’aretz reporters report (on 1/18, see the third article, below) that the IDF is preparing a ground offensive in addition to the air and sea attacks and, most importantly, is opposed to a ceasefire. That is a military position offered by people who develop their mind- and skill-set in the military. That is not – and is not supposed to be – the political position of the country’s leaders; the civilian government is supposed to operate in conjunction with the military, not subservient to it. Where are the leaders in Israel who are
proposing the one thing that can put an end to the rocket fire: a political agreement through which Hamas becomes invested in ending attacks on Israel?
(And for anyone groaning as you read that, it might be important to remember that not only is Hamas the democratically elected leadership in Gaza – and thus the address for making deals – but they are also the only group that held their own truce with Israel for 16 months, in spite of Israel’s ongoing attacks in Gaza. This was (and could be) an important precedent to be seized upon by political leaders who want to end the violence.)
Rela writes that the Israeli government is cynically holding the people of Sderot hostage. In this article from Ynet (the first article, below), Sderot resident and civil society worker Eeki Elner says something similar.. He says that Sderot and its surrounds are close to collapse, that they have no trust in their leaders, that 1/5 of the population has already left the town, and yet, they keep hearing Olmert offer “unfounded” compliments about the residents’ “resilience and determination.” The people of Sderot are suffering enormously, especially in this past week as the number of qassam attacks have dramatically increased. And yet the Israeli government operates on the claim that the only way to end the qassams is to force Gazans to suffer.
Where will the continued escalation end? The siege of Gaza has led to 1.5 million Gazans spending this cold January mostly without electricity, without heat, many without running water, with the sewage and medical systems, among others, on the verge of collapse. The inhumanity itself should be enough for thinking and feeling people to object outright. But the strategic failure of the ongoing escalation must also be recognized.
In her new column (the second article, below), Amira Hass writes that Israelis don’t remember, don’t see, don’t understand the moral and strategic bankruptcy of the escalation policy. Escalation always brings escalation: the lethal fire Israel used on stone throwers in the early days of the second Intifada led to the qassams; the deadly attacks on Gaza in the past few weeks have led to the new barrage of qassams on Sderot; and to what might these days of siege lead?
These are horrible and painful days. We who can have to demand an end to Israel’s irresponsibility towards its own population, its exploitation of its own soldiers, and, especially, its criminal strangling of the Palestinians in Gaza.
Sarah Anne Minkin
Sderot close to collapse
Israeli leaders fail to grasp gravity of situation in Gaza-region communities
Just like many other Sderot residents, at the beginning of the week I woke up to a reality that appeared to exist in a fantasy world, where any connection to reality is frowned upon. While displaying elation that made me question his hearing and comprehension, Ehud Olmert shared his impression from his visit to Gaza-region communities with cabinet ministers.
“This time, I found a different atmosphere,” Olmert told the ministers. “I saw impressive determination and resilience, and heard fewer complaints and plenty of appreciation for the military operations carried out in Gaza.”
Despite the temptation to investigate where Olmert’s baseless words come from, I prefer to leave this question to medical and psychological experts. After all, his meeting with residents only resulted in complaints, and not even one positive word about the government or army.
This time around, Olmert chose to meet with residents of Gaza-region kibbutzim and moshavim, who until now were portrayed in the media as “different” than Sderot residents: They’re not complaining, they’re not protesting, and they’re perceived as having greater stamina. Yet it was actually a member of Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha who told the prime minister: “You came to hug us, to stroke us, and rub our back – but someone is morally bankrupt around here…the last straw will come at the end, and then our back will break.”
At a time where it is clearer than ever that the residents of Sderot and Gaza-region communities are close to collapse, while the prime minister reports hearing other “voices” for some reason, it is impossible to refrain from comparing Sderot’s situation to the state of the nation. Ever since I moved to Sderot, it has been clear to me that the town constitutes a microcosm of Israel’s leadership crisis. Everything that happens in Sderot reflects what is going on across the country – an inability to address existential threats and the government’s and decision-makers’ indifference towards us.
To our leadership it appears that we are talking about a local, distant problem at some remote border town. The daily drama and unbearable life are not met by a comprehensive thinking effort on the government’s part. The community crisis, the departure rate (more than one fifth of Sderot residents already left it during the “Qassam years”!), the collapse of the education system and municipal services, and the solitude we have been sentenced to here are apparently hidden from the view of decision makers, headed by the prime minister.
Zionist vision’s collapse
The threat on Sderot is a strategic one, not a local one. The ongoing grinding of residents, who serve as extras in the game of “Gazan roulette,” as Minister Avi Dichter referred to it, will eventually bring about the town’s total collapse. Residents here no longer believe in a temporary “escape” to the occasional vacation. Sharp-eyed observers must have noticed the small number of residents who took advantage of Gaydamak’s initiative to send local youth on a Jerusalem vacation. This was more than a clear sign that relief efforts are no longer desired and do not help.
The collapse of Sderot would mark the Zionist vision’s collapse. It constitutes the collapse of what is left of the trust in our national leaders. It would be the collapse of our hope and faith in our right to cling to our land. The fact that terror groups fired at an Israeli town, which is not a settlement and is not subjected to diplomatic talks, put the government’s ability to protect its citizens to the test.
Olmert unfounded remarks regarding resilience and determination are nothing more than a spit in the face of area residents. Relying on their patience, which is about to expire, and ignoring the reality in which they live shows more than anything else that the prime minister does not have the slightest idea – only a comprehensive security and social solution will save the town from total collapse.
Eeki Elner is the director of the Center for Leadership in Sderot
They neither see nor remember
By Amira Hass
The security establishment was quick on Monday to boast of the success of its tactic of escalation against Gaza: Look, the number of Qassams declined. By the time these lines are published, the security establishment may spin another logical axiom: Since we renewed the supply of diesel fuel on a one-time basis, the Palestinians have gone back to firing Qassams. The conclusion: Continue the escalation. The logic of escalation is the middle name of the current defense minister, Ehud Barak, and many Israelis are adopting it.
Barak was prime minister in September 2000, when the Israel Defense Forces responded with escalation to popular demonstrations against the Israeli occupier and to the throwing of stones: lethal fire against civilians, among them many children. Not surprisingly, the Palestinians did not understand the lesson and turned to escalation tactics of their own. That is how we reached the point where we are now – homemade rockets of all kinds, which become even developed, the more Israel escalates its punishment measures in response to them.
Books, articles and one or two films have have already discussed, albeit tardily, the foolishness of the tactic of escalation. But that does not matter to those who support the application of more and more pressure on the 1.5 million residents of the Strip. This shows that they – like their defense minister and the rest of the political leadership – are suffering from four failings: amnesia, shortsightedness, disorientation and learning disabilities.
Amnesia allows exponents of this position to ponder the ostensibly welcome results of the escalation for a period of time ranging from days to months. Israelis forget the deadly Israeli attack that preceded the last Qassam barrage. And because they do not connect today’s Qassams to those killed at the beginning of the intifada, that is, to the steps of escalation that the army took seven years ago, they cannot imagine what the result will be of the interruption to the water supply due to the power cuts; the collapse of the sewerage system; the insult inherent in dealing only with food and the cold. Because of amnesia, Israelis do not think about the future: about the Palestinian, all-Muslim, all-Arab attitudes and positions that are being formulated at this very moment, which will end up shattering any temporary calm.
The shortsightedness of those who support escalation allows them to watch television broadcasts from Gaza – of children crying and spokesmen pleading or raging – and feel these are signs that the current escalation is working. They do not see beyond the screen. They do not see the mutual help, the resourcefulness and the humor people are showing, the stubborness and the political and popular pressure on their Egyptian neighbor.
Disorientation causes supporters of escalation to believe that Gaza is really a separate geographic and demographic region, that it does not not belong, that the fate of its inhabitants means nothing to Palestinians in other areas. Disorientation causes Israelis to relate to the Green Line and treat it as sacred only when Palestinians cross it and strike at them. They forget that they – that is, we Israelis – are crossing the Green Line at any given moment: with settlements and gunfire and separate roads, shelling and bombardment and military orders. And this began long before any Palestinians learned how to manufacture Qassams.
It all connects to learning disabilities. The escalation, its proponents are convinced, will lead to popular pressure on the Hamas government. But the Palestinians do not forget that various forms of siege and closure, economic attrition, land expropriation and foot-dragging in negotiations, are testimony to the failure of the Palestinian Authority and its elected president, Mahmoud Abbas, much more than they are to the failure of Hamas.
Those who champion escalation ignore the fact that hermetic closure of all crossings into Gaza reminds the world what it loves to forget: Israel is the occupier. The aggressor. The learning disabled and the short-sighted do not see the moral – and not just security – bankruptcy of the escalation policy. Others will do that in their place.
Hamas policy: Escalation to force Israel into cease-fire in Gaza
By Amos Harel, Avi Issacharoff and Yuval Azoulay, Haaretz Correspondents, and News Agencies
Palestinians fired some 40 Qassam rockets and two mortar shells at the western Negev on Thursday, lightly wounding two Israelis and causing several others to be treated for shock. Palestinians said they believe this escalation is part of a new Hamas policy aimed at forcing Israel into a cease-fire.
Also on Thursday, Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip killed at least five Palestinians, including a senior operative of the Popular Resistance Committees and his wife.
The current escalation began on Tuesday, when the Israel Defense Forces killed 19 Palestinians, mostly armed Hamas operatives. Since then, Palestinians have fired more than 130 rockets and dozens of mortar shells at Israel.
Hamas was responsible for most of Thursday’s launches, and senior IDF officers believe that unless the situation calms down soon, Israel will have to further escalate its military operations.
But Palestinian sources predicted that Hamas would continue the rocket barrages, in an attempt to force Israel to agree to a cease-fire. Hamas, they said, believes that its previous, lower level of rocket and mortar fire allowed the IDF to operate freely in Gaza without Israel paying a serious price.
Moreover, Hamas believes that Israel wants to avoid a major ground operation in Gaza, and therefore, it will have no choice but to call a truce if heavy rocket fire on southern Israel continues. Hamas is currently refraining from firing rockets on Ashkelon lest that reverse Israel’s opposition to a major incursion, the sources added.
However, Hamas officials declined to confirm that the recent escalation represents a new policy. Both organization spokesman Ismail Radwan and Ahmed Yusuf, who is Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh’s political advisor, insisted that the rockets were merely a response to the IDF operations and the resultant Palestinian casualties.
The IDF currently opposes a cease-fire, arguing that continued military pressure on Hamas will enable Israel to achieve a truce on better terms.
On orders from the government, the IDF is currently refraining from ground operations, focusing instead on aerial assaults. In one such strike on Thursday, Raed Abu el-Foul, a senior PRC operative, and his wife were killed by a missile fired at their car. Two other Palestinians were wounded, Palestinian officials said.
Later, another air strike on a car in Gaza killed an Islamic Jihad operative along with a mother and child who were riding in a donkey cart nearby, Palestinian sources said. A second Islamic Jihad man was critically wounded. The IDF said it had targeted the militants shortly after they fired rockets at Israel.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the IDF on Thursday to more forward with planning a large-scale ground operation in Gaza, but stressed that no such operation has yet been authorized. Barak’s office noted that the army has been planning such an operation for the past several months, so as to be ready for any contingency.
Barak also decided to tighten economic sanctions on Gaza’s Hamas government – inter alia, by reducing the amount of fuel allowed into the Strip. In addition, cargo trucks bringing humanitarian supplies into Gaza will undergo stricter inspections, due in part to the fact that two such trucks were recently found to be carrying material that could be used to make Qassam rockets.
In addition, Barak said that the IDF would “deepen” its military operations against the rocket-launching crews. “It won’t be simple, it won’t happen this weekend, but we will stop the rocket fire on Sderot,” he said, speaking during a tour of the South
Barrages prove Hamas able to stockpile missiles
The barrage of rockets fired at Israel from Gaza this week confirms intelligence assessments that Hamas has upgraded its rocket capabilities over the past few months. The fact it could fire 130 rockets in less than three days proves it has overcome the technical hurdles involved in stockpiling them.
Until a few months ago, Hamas was unable to store Qassam rockets for more than a few weeks, because their launch capability would degrade. Now that this barrier has evidently been overcome, the organization can manufacture and store thousands of rockets, which it can unleash in any future clash with Israel.
Hamas is also thought to have significant numbers of longer-range rockets capable of hitting Ashkelon. It has thus far used such rockets very sparingly, but if its conflict with Israel escalates, that might change.
The organization has also upgraded its launching capabilities: Some of the rockets that hit Israel this week were fired by remote control from buried launchers, which makes it hard for Israeli forces to attack the launch crews. Hezbollah used this tactic extensively during the Second Lebanon War.