December 27th 2009.
One year ago Sunday, Israel finally responded to a multiyear barrage of rocket attacks on schools, homes and synagogues, peaking with more than 3,200 in 2008, with a targeted military campaign in Gaza.
In the anti-Israel “world community,” that restrained act of self-defense has been repaid with howls that a sovereign nation protecting itself from terrorists committed war crimes. That much, though sickening, was perfectly predictable.
The picture of what’s happened to the Palestinian people on the ground – in Gaza on the one hand and in the West Bank on the other – is far more surprising, and powerfully educational.
A year on, unoccupied Gaza, where Hamas rules, is an isolated, angry place – a toxic stew of Islamic radicalism and political repression.
Women cannot walk the streets alone without getting hostile glances or worse. Children, if they go to school at all, are taught to hate Israel.
Unemployment is rampant, upward of 40%. Terrorists, drawing from the ranks of the disaffected unemployed, find safe haven. After all, they run the joint.
Though missile launches fell sharply after Israel’s intervention, they have since begun to creep up. More than 700 rockets and mortars were fired from Gaza in the first nine months of this year.
All this despite the fact that Israeli humanitarian aid increased ninefold from 2008 to 2009.
Contrast this with the West Bank, where Israel is technically an occupying force but the Palestinian Authority runs the show. The streets are quiet. The economy is growing. The city of Ramallah has film festivals, shopping centers and construction sites. Joblessness is in the teens. Observers say conditions are the best they’ve seen since 1948.
Perhaps most importantly, terrorists in the West Bank have precious few save havens.
Reported the Israeli newspaper Haaretz last week: “The successes of the Palestinian security forces there have aroused jaw-dropping admiration in the Israel Defense Forces, notably because of the Palestinians’ capabilities in fighting Hamas and other terrorist groups. Indeed, the Palestinian forces have surprised even the Shin Bet security service and Military Intelligence by uncovering dormant Hamas cells … whose existence was unknown even to the Israeli defense establishment.”
While the likes of the UN Human Rights Council – desperate to perpetuate the false narrative that Israel is to blame for all the region’s ills – yearn to throw Israeli leaders in the dock, real Palestinians are determining their own fates.
It is up to them to choose their path: Embrace radicalism, feed terrorism and get poverty and a permanent state of war. Or look inward for solutions, co-exist with a neighbor and plant the seeds of peace and prosperity.