Sunday, November 19, 2006

Human Shields

When the Qassam rockets fell on Sderot and the Negev no Peace protestors gathered to demonstrate against the attacks. An Israeli taxi-driver from Beer Sheva was seriously injured on Sunday when one of eight Qassam rockets fell near his cab.
Most of the schools in Sderot are empty, as parents have decided to keep their children at home rather than risk their lives in unprotected school buildings. No protestors show up to encircle the Israeli schools with a human shield in an effort to dissuade Hamas and other Arab terrorist organizations from firing on Israeli civilians.

But those same protestors mounted an Israeli tank near Gaza, protesting the Israeli incursions. Another group encircled a home of a Hamas fighter in order to prevent the Israeli Army from bombing the home. Israel had apparently warned that the house was to be destroyed in order to save innocent lives.

The human shield stopped the Israeli attack. A laudable undertaking. Should more protestors form human shields perhaps less people would be killed on both sides. But when was the last time anyone heard of a human shield to protect Israelis? Why can’t the same humanitarian minded individuals set up camp in Sderot to prevent the Arab “activists” from bombing the town with Qassam rockets?

There is, of course, a double standard. Forget for a minute who fired the first shot, threw the first stone, drew the first blood. No one can put a finger on the exact incident anyway. Some may go as far back as Sarah forcing Hagar and her son Ishmael out into the desert, to distance them from the patriarch Abraham. Arabs frequently cite this as the start of bad faith between Jews and Arabs. Others cite the actions of the patriarch Jacob who posed as Esau in order to get the blessing of the first-born, and thus all of the Patriarch Isaac’s possessions, as signs of Jewish duplicity far back in history.

When a debate ensues between Jews and Arabs, and the discussion turns to history, Arabs toss up the first two examples listed above, then deny that any further discussion of history is relevant. Most pinpoint as the point where the struggle began to the Jewish return to the Holy Land at the turn of the last Century. Arab discussion ignores the Jewish presence in the Holy Land prior to that. In a wave of the hand Arabs have tossed aside 1,000 years of Jewish presence in the Holy Land, as well as the first and second Temples.

This issue has even bubbled over in the press. Recently some archeological finds indicated that indeed the Temple of the Jews did exist thousands of years ago, substantiating the Bible and Jewish claims to the land.

However, the find was discovered amid rubble excavated from the Temple Mount. The Wakf, the Moslem religious authority that was given charge of the Temple Mount by the Israeli government after the 1967-Six Day War, refuses to allow Israeli archeologists a chance to dig on or even near the Temple Mount. Israelis have to content themselves with sifting through rubble from construction on the Temple mount that is tossed into a nearby pit.

It is not in the Wakf’s interest to allow proof that Jews have a long legitimate and historic claim to the Temple Mount, to Jerusalem, and to Israel. Rather they deny access to the ruins that could prove, or disprove, history.

The 1948 War of Independence was another watershed in Arab Jewish relations. In this instance it was the United Nations that granted Israel statehood and legitimacy. When offered a State alongside Israel the Arabs opted to try and win the entire area back in a continued struggle. So far they’ve struggled in vain.

The 1967-Six Day War, as anyone interested in the region knows, gave Israel more land than the UN provided in ’48. The West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, the Sinai, the Golan Heights were all war booty. Recent reports believe that then Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan made a huge error giving the Temple Mount to the Wakf, rather than keep it, and put up a synagogue on the site. Others are equally as critical of Dayan for not giving back the West Bank and Gaza as soon as he could, divesting Israel of a problem that has haunted the Jewish State ever since.

In the What If scenarios, the West Bank would have become a Palestinian State, perhaps in some confederation with Jordan; Gaza would have been somehow linked to Egypt; the Golan Heights may have gone back to Syria if they left it de-militarized. Remember that Syria used the Golan Heights to shell Israel’s Galilee region, only a short cannon lob away.

Jerusalem, of course, is another sore point. But as former Prime Minister Ehud Barak pointed out, everything is negotiable. During his term in office he was willing to give away much of East Jerusalem, and even the Old City, for Peace, although skeptics believe his plan was a bluff: Barak knew the offer would never pass a Knesset vote or a public referendum.

The ’73 was another watershed, but it brought Egypt and Israel to a peace treaty, although the treaty cost Egypt’s then president Anwar Sadat his life. Sadat died at the hands of those same Moslem fundamentalists who are today terrorizing the world. Dr. Zarawiri, one of the then leaders of the Islamic Brotherhood in Egypt, went on to help Ossama Bin Ladin start Al Queda.

In 1981 Israel launched an invasion of Lebanon in order to drive the Palestinians from the northern border, and stop the Katyusha attacks that fell on the towns and villages. The PLO had essentially taken over Lebanon, run it as a mini-State, with roadblocks, and taxes, and bullies with guns. Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, then Defense Minister, convinced then Prime Minister Menachem Begin to invade Lebanon up to the Litani River. But the Israeli Army kept marching, eventually encircling Beirut. The fighting finally ended when PLO chief Yassir Arafat boarded a ship for Tunis with his PLO leadership.

What has changed since then? Is Hezbollah in Lebanon still angry at that invasion? According to press reports, Lebanon is about to undergo a coup by Hezbollah’s Sheik Nasrallah. Rather than the PLO running the country, as it did in the 70’s, Nasrallah will run the country. Rather than the PLO shooting Katyushas at Israel, it will be Nasrallah, again. What is it with these guys, anyway?

We’re back to the same question: where are the peace activists to protect Israel’s north? Why weren’t they out in numbers standing around in Kyriat Shmona to stop the Katyushas during the War in Lebanon II? Why do they think Gaza is a worthier goal for their humanitarian efforts? Aren’t Jews human? Isn’t Israel being bombed daily? Do they think that if the Qassam rockets stop falling Israel will continue to fight? Which world are they living in?

Some say that the human shields are merely another front in the Hamas battle for the hearts and minds of the world. Public Relations tricks. Human Shields to protect those people in Gaza. And of course this tactic works. Innocent people shouldn’t die. Israel mourns when they do. The focus is on the terrorist who had his house saved, not the Israeli taxi driver nearly killed by a Qassam rocket? Or the Russian immigrant woman, or the Ethiopian immigrant family, killed over the past months.

The UN is now going to investigate the Israeli shell that fell on a house killing 19 Palestinians. But why doesn’t the UN investigate the daily bombing of Israeli targets in Sderot, and the Negev? One IDF shell is allegedly fired accidentally on innocent people and the UN investigates. Daily rockets fall on Israel and nothing happens. Is this fair? Is this justice?

Israelis are forced to look with cynicism on the Human Shields, and UN endeavors: fairness is apparently not a doctrine the world practices when it comes to Jews. This is a common consensus. The world isn’t fair. If Israel doesn’t protect herself, no one else will.

Thankfully Israel has its active peace camp that want to have a deep and meaningful dialogue with the Arabs. Only a radical few in Israel do not want peace, do not want to sit down and talk with the other side. Even staunch right wing Knesset Members, like Gideon Ezra, have said that the time has come to declare a cease-fire for 10-days.

The peace activists are the only hope Israel has for finding a solution to the daily shelling, The cycle of violence continues, and will until one side or the other surrenders. Or until the humanitarians who put up human shields to protect the Palestinians have the same impulses to protect Israelis, Jewish and non-Jewish. Or until the UN decides to investigate why the Arab activists in Gaza continue lobbing rockets into Israel, rather than just investigate why one shell from an Israeli canon is more important than the hundreds of rockets killing and wounding Israelis?

But then again, who ever said life was fair?