By Seth Freedman, December 28, 2008.
The last time I visited the embattled town of Sderot, I encountered a furious
young resident who spat out his solution for his community’s plight. “We have
to kill all the militants [who are launching the Kassams]”, he declared. “It’s the
only way to bring quiet back to the town. They had the chance to stop the
rockets after we pulled out of Gaza, but they chose to carry on. I know they’re
suffering in Gaza too, but that doesn’t excuse helping the terrorists attack us –
they bring it on themselves”.
What those militants sowed over the last few years, in the shape of thousands
of rockets and mortars fired over the border at Israeli civilians, they reaped
yesterday as the might of the Israeli air force came crashing down on Gaza. For
all that I regularly sound off about almost every facet of the Israeli occupation
and the government’s policies towards the Palestinians, I struggle to see what
option Israel’s leaders had, other than to take the kind of action that they took
As soon as the six-month ceasefire ended, with Hamas refusing to lay down
their weapons and resuming their attacks on Israeli civilians, it was plain that
Israel was being invited, if not provoked into, an operation to cut the head off
the hydra. Hamas knew that with tens of thousands of Israeli men, women and
children within range of the Kassam rockets, public opinion would demand
action to protect those in the line of fire.
Indeed, you would be hard-pressed to find an Israeli who thinks that Israel was
wrong to respond to the rockets in the way it did today. I suspect that Israel’s
response was no different to that which citizens of any other state would
demand of their leaders in similar circumstances.
As Israeli spokesmen have reiterated time and again in the media, there is not a
country in the world which would allow such assaults to take place on a daily
basis without taking action to defend their citizens. Hamas knew this, and that
their barrage of rockets would inevitably bring retaliation on the people of Gaza.
Despite the ever-louder sabre-rattling by Israeli politicians during the last week,
Hamas continued to use heavily-populated civilian centres as launching pads for
their daily attacks on Israel.
On Friday, militants in Gaza killed two Palestinian schoolgirls when a rocket
aimed at Israeli targets misfired and slammed into a Palestinian house. That
tragedy underlined the rocket crews’ utter disregard for civilian lives, Palestinian
or Israeli. In response, Israel has called time on these assaults, dealing a serious
blow to Hamas’s infrastructure. Cue deafening calls for restraint from the
But not all such calls are quite so deafening. Condoleeza Rice and Gordon
Brown, in carefully-worded statements, have expressed their concern about
Hamas rockets ahead of Israeli retaliation. Tzipi Livni was in Egypt last week
obtaining Egyptian support for yesterday’s activities. If Mahmoud Abbas openly
condemns the air strikes and expresses support for the people of Gaza, the
unspoken message is that he would not be entirely sorry to see Hamas brought
to its knees.
Those who have condemned Israel, loudly and unequivocally, for falling into the
trap laid by Hamas ought to be just as vocal in their condemnation of Hamas for
setting such a trap in the first place. Speaking on SkyNews to an Israeli
embassy spokesman, Tim Marshall castigated Israel for responding to Hamas
rockets (“which rarely cause fatalities”) with an assault leaving around 150
people dead. Who will castigate Hamas for their reckless endangerment of
civilian lives in Gaza?
Gordon Brown said in the wake of the strikes: “Peaceful means are the only
way of reaching a lasting solution to the situation in Gaza.” I firmly believe that
this is a view shared by the majority of Israelis, notwithstanding the devastation
that is currently being wrought. I also firmly believe that this is a view shared
by the majority of Palestinians, notwithstanding that their leadership (in Gaza at
least) appears to take a different approach.