A Difference of Opinion
I don't read only Israeli blogs. I read as much and from as varied a number of sources as I can. One of my favorite people is Mohamed, who is one of the more intellectually curious, charming, intelligent and decent writers in the Middle Eastern circuit of English-language blogs.
Despite my respect for him, and my recognition that he truly does want peace in the Middle East, I am saddened and chagrined to find that like many in the blogosphere, he and I seem to have such diametrically opposite views of what is happening in Gaza, and how it has come to this point, that I don't know that anything I can say can persuade him (or others) to see how many Israelis feel, just as he and many in the Arab world cannot understand how Israel can do what we are doing in Gaza right now.
Some chasms perhaps cannot be bridged except by time.
I was struck by something that he and others have repeatedly written: "Gaza is the most densely populated place on the globe." This has been offered recently as a defense for the Hamas practice of using civilians and civilian infrastructure as shields. Rockets launched from atop schools; rockets siloed in civilian yards; Kassams fired from people's orchards and courtyards; rockets stored by the ton in mosques and under hospitals.
Gaza is NOT the mostly densely populated place on the globe. Not even close:
27,209 people/sq km
24,000 people/sq km
7,445 people/sq km
(385,000 people, 51.8 sq km)
6,352 people/sq km
6,252 people/sq km
5,100 people/sq km
Tel Aviv metro area including suburbs
5,050 people/sq km
(2.3 million people, 453 sq km)
4,900 people/sq km
4,750 people/sq km
4,300 people/sq km
Gaza Strip per CIA projection
4,270 people/sq km
(1,537,269 population July 2008, 360 sq km)
Gaza Strip per George Galloway, a British Palestine-pimp
4,167 people/sq km
(1.5 million people, 360 sq km)
Gaza Strip per Daoud Kuttab, a respected Palestinian academic currently at Princeton
3,822 people/sq km
The numbers for London, Tel Aviv metro area, Moscow, Tokyo/Yokohama and Warsaw are from the City Mayors site.
More distressing to me than this oft-repeated justification for Hamas's actions is other disinformation that seems to have taken on the aspects of Media Gospel.
(1) The people of Gaza are under seige and starving because Israel won't allow humanitarian aid in.
Hardly. According to France 2, hardly a front for the Israeli government, food warehouses are full and just recently the World Food Program informed Israel that it would cease shipment of food to Gaza because the warehouses there are at full capacity, with enough food to last two weeks.
And its not like Israel hasn't tried: during a one-day period alone – Dec. 31– Israel facilitated the transport of 29 truckloads of food, including 15 truckloads of flour, into Gaza. Even while Hamas was firing rockets and mortars into Israeli civilian townships during the fictitious "ceasefire," Israel facilitated the delivery of 2,500 tons (delivered on 93 trucks) of humanitarian aid, medical supplies and medication through the Kerem Shalom cargo terminal. Since the beginning of the offensive into Gaza, about 6,500 tons of aid (179 truckloads) have been transferred into Gaza at the request of the international organizations, the Palestinian Authority and various governments. There have been shipments of humanitarian supplies into Gaza all along. What Israel will NOT ship in are things that can be made into rockets (pipes, chemicals, etc.) There have been interruptions of humanitarian aid--sometimes in response to Hamas rocket fire into Israel proper, and other times when Hamas has ambushed the delivery trucks at the crossings.
(2) Gaza has no medical and other aid supplies to help the injured.
Since Sunday over 330 trucks carrying food, medicine and medical supplies had been allowed into the Gaza Strip despite the daily rocket barrages against Israel. At last check, I think Israel is supplying more medical aid to Gaza than Egypt is--and Egypt has a border with Gaza also, which everyone seems to overlook. Israel has also facilitated the transfer of 10 ambulances and 2,000 blood units to Gaza, and has approved a Palestinian request to allow three Gazans wounded in the fighting into Israel for medical treatment. The Israeli liaison with the Gazan medical personnel stated that the Palestinians told him that there were 2,200 beds available for the wounded in Gaza.
"We asked if they wanted to send us more, and they said they were managing," Moshe Levi said. "In recent years, the hospital system has improved in Gaza, and today there are hospitals in every district in the Strip."
What condition those hospitals are in tonight is problematic, but since Hamas officials are using them as hiding places, the hospitals are probably still operational and safe from attack.
(3) Israel has closed Gaza's borders to force the Palestinians to surrender to Israeli demands.
Most Israelis could care less who runs Gaza as long as Gaza leaves us alone.
Unfortunately, Gaza has embarked on a career of warfare with us that stretches back to at least 1956. Most recently, the warfare heated up with the Al-Aqsa Intifada (known in Israel as the Oslo War, in honor of the fraud called the Oslo Accords).
We didn't close GAZA'S borders -- we closed OUR borders. We share a border with Hamastan--its not like we want the door open so they can pop over to kill us when the urge grabs them.
Why would we not want to open the ground crossings and sea lanes and give them unfettered access to Israel?
Because of this:
Nov 23, 2000 - Sgt. Samar Hussein, 19, of Hurfeish, was killed when Palestinian snipers opened fire at soldiers patrolling the border fence near the Erez Crossing.
Dec 28, 2000 - Capt. Gad Marasha, 30, of Kiryat Arba and Border Police Sgt.-Maj. Yonatan Vermullen, 29, of Ben-Shemen, were killed when called to dismantle a road-side bomb near the Sufa Crossing in the Gaza Strip. The bomb was dismantled, but another bomb exploded, killing both and wounding two other soldiers. The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack.
Nov 26, 2001 - A Palestinian suicide bomber killed himself and lightly wounded two Border Policemen at the Erez Crossing point in the Gaza Strip. The bomber joined Palestinian workers waiting to be cleared for entry into Israel. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.
Apr 12, 2002 - Border policeman St.-Sgt. David Smirnoff, 22, of Ashdod was killed when a Palestinian gunman opened fire near the Erez Crossing, in the Gaza Strip, killing one and injuring another four Israelis. The terrorist killed one and injured three Palestinian workers in the same shooting spree. The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack.
Apr 20, 2002 - Border Policeman St.-Sgt. Uriel Bar-Maimon, 21 of Ashkelon was killed in an exchange of fire near the Erez industrial park in the northern Gaza Strip. Israeli forces pursued the Palestinian gunman and killed him. An explosive belt was found on his body, indicating an intent to commit a suicide bombing inside Israel. The Fatah Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility.
Apr 15, 2003 - Zachar Rahamin Hanukayev, 39, of Sderot and Ahmed Salah Kara, 20, of Shuafat in northern Jerusalem were killed and four Israelis were wounded when a Palestinian terrorist opened fire at the Karni industrial zone crossing in the Gaza Strip. The gunman was killed by security personnel. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.
June 8, 2003 - Four IDF soldiers were killed and four reserve soldiers were wounded when Palestinian terrorists wearing IDF uniforms opened fire on an IDF outpost near the Erez checkpoint and industrial zone in the Gaza Strip. Three terrorists were killed by IDF soldiers. The Fatah Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad issued a joint statement claiming responsibility for the attack.
Jan 14, 2004 - Four Israelis - three soldiers and one civilian - were killed and 10 wounded when a female suicide bomber detonated a bomb at the Erez Crossing in the Gaza Strip, at the Palestinian workers' crossing terminal in the Erez industrial zone, where magnetic entering cards are issued. Hamas and the Fatah Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed joint responsibility for the attack. The terminal was severely damaged, and needed to be rebuilt. As a result, Palestinians were not able to enter the industrial zone for several days.
Feb 26, 2004 - Sgt.-Maj.(res.) Amir Zimmerman, 25, of Kfar Monash was killed and two other soldiers wounded when two Palestinian terrorists opened fire near the Erez Crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel. The terrorists were killed by IDF forces. The Fatah Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack.
March 2004, four terrorists traveling in three vehicles (two of which were rigged with explosives) attempted to kill Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers at the Erez Crossing.
Mar 6, 2004 - Two Palestinian policemen were killed when four terrorists traveling in three vehicles rigged with explosives, including jeeps camouflaged as IDF vehicles attempted to kill Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers at the Erez Crossing. Two of the vehicles exploded on the Palestinian side of the crossing, and four terrorists were killed. There were no IDF casualties. Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the military wing of Fatah all claimed responsibility.
Mar 14, 2004 - Ten people were killed and 16 wounded in a double suicide bombing at Ashdod Port. The terrorists infiltrated into Israel from the Gaza Strip via the Karni Crossing while hidden in a double cell wall installed in a cargo container departing the Gaza Strip to Israel. Hamas and Fatah claimed responsibility for the attack.
Apr 17, 2004 - Border Policeman Sgt. Kfir Ohayon, 20, of Eilat was killed, three others wounded when a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up at the Erez Crossing. Hamas and Fatah claimed joint responsibility for the attack.
In two different incidents, in April 2004 and May 2004, explosive belts used in suicide bombings were found hidden in a consignment of clothes departing the Gaza Strip to the West Bank, and uncovered during the security checks. The belts did not contain metal parts in order to avoid the security checks.
In July 2004, a Palestinian worker who tried to smuggle six hand grenades hidden in a jug with pickles was stopped in the Tufah Crossing, used by Palestinian workers on their way to work in Gush Katif.
In August 2004, a Palestinian terrorist wearing explosive underwear was arrested at the Erez Crossing.
Sept 2004 - A female terrorist sent by the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades infrastructure in the Gaza Strip to carry out a suicide bombing in Israel was arrested after entering Israel for medical treatment in an Israeli hospital.
Dec 7, 2004 - St.-Sgt. Nadav Kudinsky, 20, of Kiryat Gat of the Oketz canine unit was killed by a bomb, along with his dog, when a booby-trapped chicken coup exploded northwest of the Karni Corssing in the Gaza Strip. Four soldiers were wounded in the exchange of fire while evacuating him. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.
Dec 12, 2004 - Five IDF soldiers were killed and five wounded in an attack on an IDF post located near the Rafah terminal post, followed by the infiltration of the post by two terrorists who opened fire and activated another explosive device. Hamas and the Fatah Hawks claimed responsibility for the attack.
Dec 20, 2004 - A Hamas member who entered Israel through the Erez Crossing using medical documents was arrested; he planned carry out a suicide bombing.
Jan 5, 2005 - A Palestinian gunman infiltrated Erez via the Palestinian tunnel that leads to the Israeli terminal, activated an explosive device that created a hole in the tunnel's wall and entered the courtyard connecting the Israeli and Palestinian posts. The gunman was killed in exchanges of fire that took place at the scene.The Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack.
Jan 13, 2005 - Six Israeli civilians were murdered and five Israeli civilians were wounded in a combined terrorist attack carried out in the compound of the Karni Crossing. Three terrorists infiltrated into the compound via a hole which was created in a wall after the terrorists activated an explosive device which was placed next to a door at the Palestinian side of the crossing. The civilians were killed as result of the explosion, and after the terrorists hurled grenades and opened fire at the civilians working at Karni. Hamas and the Fatah al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades claimed joint responsiblity for the attack.
In January 2005, a terrorist attack was thwarted in the community of Ganei Tal in Gush Katif, after a Palestinian gunman infiltrated the greenhouses of the community via the area of the Tufah Crossing used by Palestinian workers on their way to work in Gush Katif.
Jun 20, 2005 - 21-year-old Wafa Samir Ibrahim al-Biss was arrested at the Erez Crossing, after attempting to smuggle an explosives belt through the crossing with the intent of carrying out a suicide bombing attack.
These attacks occured over and over at border posts between Israel and Gaza. It is akin to Mexico deciding it wants to own Texas, and repeatedly attacking the border crossings between the US and Mexico.
In August 2005, Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, turning over the entire territory to the Palestinians in response to the international community's insistence, and the Palestinian insistence, that it was this "occupation" of Gaza which thwarted peace.
BUT, after Gaza was freed of Israel's presence:
June 25, 2006: Gilad Shalit was captured in a cross border raid on the crossing Kerem Shalom from the Gaza Strip by Palestinian terrorists and has been held hostage by Hamas since, without contact with the International Red Cross, in violation of the Geneva Convention which the Palestinians are always invoking on their own behalf.
Sept 28, 2006 - A member of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) who had received an entry permit into Israel on humanitarian grounds was arrested at the Erez Crossing. He received the permit due to medical problems and planned to use it to establish terrorist cells in the West Bank.
May 30, 2007 - Two female suicide bombers at the Erez Crossing who received authentic entry permits into Israel using false medical information were arrested. They planned to carry out a double suicide bombing in Tel Aviv and in Netanya.
These attempts at mass murder of Israelis were not in response to the "blockade" of Gaza -- because there wasn't one! The embargo of Gaza began with the Hamas-Fatah civil war which broke out in June, 2007 wherein Hamas seized power militarily by killing its Fatah opposition.
It also meant that the more moderate Fatah Party, which was a party to prior peace efforts with Israel, and which recognized Israel's right to exist, was suddenly supplanted by a jihadi oligarchy whose main platform was Jewish genocide and the replacement of Israel (and other Arab states, by the way) with a single, unified Islamic State which would wage jihad against the rest of the world.
It also meant that Hamas was now in charge of the border crossings, instead of Fatah.
We closed those crossings, not wanting to facilitate more committed mass murderer's entry into Israel.
Apr 9, 2008 - Oleg Lipson, 37, and Lev Cherniak, 53, both of Beersheba, were killed when Palestinian terrorists, after firing a salvo of mortars at the Nahal Oz area, penetrated the fuel terminal and opened fire on the civilian employees who were there to supply Gaza's Palestinians with fuel.
Apr 16, 2008 - Three IDF soldiers - two from the Givati Brigade and one tracker (Sgt. Menhash al-Banyat, Sgt. Matan Ovdati, Sgt. David Papian) - were killed in a confrontation with armed Palestinian gunmen approaching the Gaza security fence south of the Nahal Oz fuel terminal. Three other soldiers were wounded.
Apr 17, 2008 - An IDF force thwarted an attempt by three Palestinian gunmen to infiltrate Israel near the Kerem Shalom border. The Nahal Oz fuel terminal was forced to close again after Palestinian snipers fired at the terminal, which is the supply point to which Israel brings fuel for the Palestinians.
Apr 19, 2008 - Suicide bombing attack: Three explosive-laden vehicles, two disguised as military jeeps and an armored vehicle, approached under heavy morning fog the Kerem Shalom central crossing for supplies through which approximately 200 humanitarian aid trucks enter per week. Terrorists triggered the explosives in the two jeeps, wounding 13 IDF soldiers. Four terrorists were killed in the incident; their attempts to detonate the third vehicle foiled. The bombing attack was combined with a barrage of 15 mortar shells fired at the area.
Apr 28, 2008 - Two mortar bombs land on the Kerem Shalom Crossing, forcing its closure. The Palestinians promptly complain that Israel "has closed the borders and we are under a blockade."
May 4, 2008 - A mortar bomb lands on the Nahal Oz fuel terminal, which is closed following the attack. The Palestinians promptly complain that Israel has deprived them of fuel.
May 5, 2008 - Two mortar bombs land on the Karni Crossing and one on the Erez Crossing. The crossings are closed, and the Palestinians promptly complain that Israel has blockaded their borders.
May 6, 2008 - A mortar bomb lands on the Nahal Oz fuel terminal, which is then closed because it is under fire. The Palestinians complain about not getting their fuel.
May 22, 2008 - A Palestinian bomber blew up an explosives-laden truck on the Palestinian side of the Erez Crossing on the Israel-Gaza Strip border early Thursday morning. The driver was the only casualty in the attempted attack. As the truck approached the border, other terrorists fired mortar shells at the crossing. The explosion ripped a hole in a pedestrian passageway leading out of the Erez terminal and into Gaza, which was empty because of the early hour (6:45 am). Had it been later in the day, it would have butchered Palestinian civilians from Gaza. Shortly after the explosion, an IAF helicopter fired a missile at a nearby jeep which was accompanying the exploding truck, killing one of the terrorists who apparently planned to use the jeep to kidnap soldiers or to penetrate across the border after the explosion. The Erez Crossing was closed until the damage was repaired.
June 4, 2008 - Palestinians fired mortars at the Nahal Oz fuel depot, forcing the early cessation of pumping of fuel and gas to Gaza. A Palestinian worker critically wounded was transfered to Israel for treatment. Of course, Hamas complained that Israel was blockading its fuel supplies.
Israel controls its OWN borders. Israel protects its own people. The fact that Hamas & Co. have ceaselessly launched attacks against Israel, tried to penetrate our borders, tried repeatedly to kill our people, and according to the Hamas Charter, are intent on wiping out Israel and the Jews who live here, means we do NOT want to open our borders to them.
There is a price for attempted genocide. That price is international isolation, embargo and now war.
(4) Israel is engaged in a "massacre" of the Palestinian people.
On December 31st, the United Nations, hardly friendly to Israel, stated that 64 of the 374 Gaza fatalities -- or 17 percent -- are civilians. Hamas itself, on January 4th, admitted that the majority of the people killed in Gaza are fighters from its own ranks.
People intent on "massacre" don't drop leaflets ahead of time (in Arabic) warning people to get out of their building because Hamas has stockpiled rockets in the basement, so move because we're going to blow it to smithereens.
People intent on "massacre" don't SMS the residents of a house to warn them of incoming bombs.
There is something surreal about getting SMS from the Enemy:
Can you imagine? There you are, talking with your spouse about when this is ever going to end, and the phone rings -- and some Israeli guy, in Arabic, instant-messages: "You've got 5 minutes to get out because we're coming to bomb your building -- Yallah!"....of course, Hamas has also been SMS'ing Israelis as well, with such cheery messages as "Your doom awaits you" and "Run because we will destroy you!"
Note also that in June of 2005, the International Red Cross extimated that 550 people were wounded and 118 killed in the Hamas-Fatah civil war. Other numbers provided online indicate that 120 combatants and 41 non-combatants.
I didn't hear Hamas or the Arab League or the Palestinians or the UN screaming about a "massacre" when it was Hamas-Arabs killing Fatah-Arabs.
It's late. I'm tired. Like many, I've been glued to the internet and the television for days and running on little sleep. Like many, I have friends in harm's way, and friends who have family in harm's way.
Mohamed and I don't watch the same television; we don't speak the same language or hear the same news; we don't share similar historical vantage points because of our differences in age and background. I'm sure he is as baffled, frustrated and perhaps even angry at my inability to comprehend his point of view as I am taken aback at his seeming inability to grasp Israeli fears.
I cannot reduce this conflict to "Palestinians good-Israelis evil" which seems to be the mantra of many. I live here, and to us Hamas, Iran, Hezbollah and all those who call for wiping Am Yisrael off the face of the earth ARE an existential threat. We once believed that no civilized people would exterminate another. We were proved wrong by the Germans.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.