To: r i spiers
Subject: On Gaza and Sderot
Date: Thu, 24 Jan 2008 22:01:38 +0000
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:
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 sim ilar 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
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 en d 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; see http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/06/09/mideast/. 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 r emember, 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
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" t han
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 obs ervers 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
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 expon ents 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 spo kesmen 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
< BR>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 Correspon dents, and
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 w ill 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 th e rockets were merely a response to the IDF operations and the resultant
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
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
Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the IDF on Th ursday 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
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 Hama s 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.
Jewish Peace News editors:
Sarah Anne Minkin
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