Thursday, August 28, 2014

Day 50 - Are we there yet?

Yesterday was Day 50 of Operation Protective Edge and in the end, the day ended in a ceasefire that is supposed to last for 30 days, during which the sides are supposed to talk and get to some long range agreement.

Today, Ismail Abdel Salam Ahmed Haniyeh, leader of the Palestinians in Gaza, crawled out of the bunker in which he hid for the last 50 days. Much of the world laughed when he claimed victory in no uncertain terms.

Israel was under pressure to accept a ceasefire. The pressure came from beyond our borders - this is unacceptable; and the pressure came from the calendar - and this is understandable.

In just a few days, the new school year will open. Yesterday, a nursery schools was destroyed - had this happened next week, we could have lost so many children. Today, my daughter and many high schools students begin.

The ceasefire was announced to begin at 7:00 p.m. - I saw a few places that said it would begin at 8:00 p.m. If indeed it began at 7:00 p.m., Gaza clearly broke it within minutes.

If it began at 8:00 p.m. - then a last (fatal) barrage was fired at Israel a short time before. The barrage lasted more than a half hour, involved dozens of rockets - including in areas in central Israel and resulted in the death of two Israelis.

All day long, they pounded us with rockets - over 100 hit in the Eshkol region very close to the Gaza border; but others were fired throughout the south and even central Israel.

In the end, two interesting things happened around 8:00 p.m.

Gaza came out into the streets to celebrate their victory and Israel accepted that this war may finally be over.

The idea of Gaza celebrating was both amusing and informative. It was amusing because once again, Gazans fired into the air to celebrate and once again, gravity defeated them and dozens were evacuated to local hospitals. How hard is it to understand the concept of gravity?

But also, there is something quite interesting in their choosing to celebrate. This is a people that shouted that we were committing genocide and had destroyed nearly all of Gaza. It would take, they swore to the world, decades to undo the terrible damage. 

From 1939 to 1945, the Germans committed genocide against the Jewish people. Any Jew was their target - old, young, male, female. Over 1.5 million Jewish children were murdered.

Overall, if one were to do a statistical analysis of the casualties of the Holocaust, one would find that babies died in similar numbers to elderly; men in similar numbers to women. I would guess, young people in their late teens and twenties had a better chance of survival because they were put to work by the Nazis. I know that most of my husband's relatives of that age (men and women in this age range), returned while most of the older and younger family members were murdered.

And in the devastation that followed the Holocaust, Jews did not celebrate - not even their liberation from the death camps. The first time I think we celebrated was three years later, when Israel was created...recreated, after 2,000 years in exile.

The interesting part about this conflict that seems to have come to an end, at least for this round, is the casualties. There is no question, other than among a fringe bunch of lunatics (one of which even wrote to me), that the Jews of Europe did not go to war against the Germans, before, during or even after WWII.

Overwhelmingly, Jewish men in their late teens, twenties and even thirties had a better chance of survival than women, children, the elderly.

And what we see from the statistics of dead in Gaza, is an overwhelming number of men these same ages. Children are by far well under-represented, as are women and elderly. In other words, a large number of the dead in Gaza were military age...connect the dots.

What is happening now is a retrospective of 50 days at war - the longest single operation/war we have ever experienced. Israel hit Hamas hard, very hard and yes, Hamas didn't fall. To the very last minute - and fifteen minutes beyond, Hamas continued to fire rockets, even at Tel Aviv. 

Throughout the day, as it became clear that there would be a ceasefire, Hamas bombarded Israel with rockets.

In total, almost 5,000 rockets were fired at Israel in just 50 days.

No, Hamas continued - but not because we didn't cause them any damage. Instead, it is part of the mindset - as completely inaccurate as their claiming victory in the end.

Day 50 ended in a ceasefire. The signs on the highways warning that you should pull safely to the side if you hear a siren, have turned back into regular highway signs warning you to check your tires, what number to call in case there is an accident. The flags and signs remain - the people aren't quite as ready as the government to believe this is over.

Aliza thought she heard a siren at one point; we all still listen and check the news. A few ceasefires ago (this is the twelfth - Hamas broke all the other 11, a perfect record - not one agreement honored), the mother of one soldier came over and told me how happy she was that it was over. I didn't have the heart to tell her it wasn't over...but now, I believe it is.

The truest end to war is peace. So far, for eleven ceasefires, we didn't even get to a cessation of violence. But peace...

Are we there yet? No. And sadly, it's been a long time since I believed we would ever get there. The only difference now, post war, is that so many more Israelis now stand beside me in believing that peace is not possible so long as Hamas is the legally elected representatives of the Palestinian people. A poll released today says that 89% of the Palestinians are in favor of firing rockets at Israel. 89% - that tells you so much about the enemy we face.

Someone wrote to me complaining that nothing had been accomplished. I don't agree with her and think she is being unfair, especially since she lives in the US, not here. I shouldn't have to explain to her and yet I find myself trying to break through the militant voice she so easily spews out. We did a tremendous amount to push Hamas back. Tunnels were destroyed; their top military leaders removed permanently from the equation.

Their rocket arsenals have been seriously depleted. I believe I saw a report that said our military intelligence estimated they had around 10,000 at the start. Close to half of those were fired at us, many thousands more were destroyed in the hospitals, mosques, homes, and tunnels they converted to arsenals. Of course, we were condemned by the UN and France and others for daring to destroy these arsenals because of the shapes and sizes of the buildings in which they stored, but that's okay because we value the lives we save more than the voices we would hope to have silenced by not bombing these legitimate military targets.

In January, 2009, as Elie fought with his unit - I wrote a mosque is not an arsenal and an arsenal is not a mosque. This is true of hospitals and schools. The minute UNRWA schools were used to store rockets, they ceased being schools and became legitimate military targets - even Ban-Ki Moon admitted that.

It will take Hamas years to recuperate, to get back to the level they were 51 days ago. Is that enough? No - it stinks that we can't utterly and completely remove Hamas forever from the picture. But Hamas played this brilliantly and did all it could to show the world its true colors. If the world is too blind to see or too filled with hate to admit this, that is their loss, and ours.

Foreign journalists, reluctantly and resentfully, in some cases, ultimately added their voices and pictures to show Hamas firing from civilian areas, hiding behind children, and lying about the number of casualties.

Like many in Israel, I wish we could have finished the job, permanently buried Hamas. Without question, we brought Hamas to its knees and that will have to be enough. If the Palestinians can honor a leader that hid under ground while his people took the brunt of the war he waged, that is their loss.

Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed victory. This is to be expected of a politician and yet, despite the politics of it, he's right. Ultimately, the victory is ours because as a nation, we did what we could to protect our young and now we stop this was for them. Hamas stole their summer. There was no camp, little fun. They were mostly inside, awakened night after night. In a few days, they will start school and, as children do, bounce back. For our children, we would do all and despite many political differences, with this I agree with Bibi.

The reality of the Middle East could have been changed in this war, had we been allowed to do what needed to be done. Instead, the history and the future, at least for now, will be the same. We will all bounce back...and then, in a year or two or three...we'll do this all again in an operation or a war with a different name.


Sammy Finkelman said...

>>> peace is not possible so long as Hamas is the legally elected representatives of the Palestinian people.

Actually it isn't the legally elected representatives of the Palestinian people

They won a majority of the seats in Gaza for the Palestinian Parliament, but not in the Parliament as a whole, and no executive position ever, and they tool power in Gaza in a coup in 2007.

And no country in the world formally recognized the legality of their rule in Gaza and they cannot issue passports.

Technically now, since April, they are not supposed to be ruling there at all.

Sammy Finkelman said...

Not that anybody seems interested in actually trying to replace them.

Sammy Finkelman said...

Hamas' rule in Gaza is even less legitimate or recognized than the Republic of Donetsk, but it is treated woth more respect

Sammy Finkelman said...

Re: victory. They doubled the number of Israeli civilians killed, from 3 to 6 in the last few days - two of them just under the buzzer.

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