Why this war?
The first rocket was fired from Gaza in October, 2001. It was crude thing, landing outside a community over the border from Gaza, hitting no one. In Gaza, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) was busy protecting a small number of Israeli settlements in the midst of over a million Palestinians. During the next four years, the Israeli Government moved toward the recognition that withdrawal from Gaza was the only option. Give Gaza to the Palestinians; allow them to govern themselves, begin to build the Palestinian society as a first step toward statehood. The border would remain secure and, hopefully, the Palestinian Authority would focus on building a nation.
More rockets followed. Israel continued to prepare to leave. Many counseled not to. A bold statement was made in the summer of 2005 by the Prime Minister; Israel would unilaterally leave Gaza to the Palestinians. Hamas and other terror groups called it a victory against Israel. Many Israelis hoped against hope that the Palestinian leadership would, for once, use this opportunity to begin the long road toward independence.
On September 12, 2005, the last Jew left Gaza.
They left homes, villages, communities, infrastructure, buildings, roads; ready made for nation building.
The greenhouses were also left intact for the Palestinians; greenhouses worth tens of millions of dollars, producing exportable flowers and produce using the most modern technology in the world.
The Palestinians inherited these greenhouses intact because a group led by a Jewish philanthropist raised, almost overnight, over 14 million dollars to buy the greenhouses so that the current owners wouldn’t dismantle them as they left. The philanthropists turned the greenhouses over to the Palestinians as a gift. The hope was that Gaza would use this to help develop itself into a thriving community, and with a future West Bank, become the Palestine that the world, and Israel, was hopeful would emerge.
By October, 2005, the greenhouses were in ruins. Looters took the pipes, roof tiles, glass, floors, brass fittings, rubber hoses, trays, furniture, equipment, anything and everything. Photos from late 2005 showed utter destruction. By the end of the year, new photos emerged showing tunnels being dug from inside the greenhouses, linking Gaza to Egypt to move weapons and terrorists between Gaza and the untended Egyptian side of the border. The rockets continued.
During the next three years, thousands of tunnels have been dug between Gaza and Egypt. Some are used exclusively for terror operations, and all are under the direct supervision of the leadership in Gaza. There are tunnels under homes, linking together to form a network underground. Tunnels emerge in schools, mosques, government buildings, homes and hospitals. Terrorists set traps for any Israeli soldiers who might fall into the tunnels. Explosives were stored in the tunnels, in the mosques, schools and hospitals. The rockets continued.
In January, 2006 Hamas won a majority of elected seats in the Palestinian Authority’s ruling council. Hamas promptly took control, evicting the Palestinian Authority from Gaza and installing its own gang of leaders, transforming all of Gaza into a religious armed camp. Hamas and its sponsors in Hezbollah and Iran intensified its rocket fire into Israel. By some estimates, over 8,000 rockets have rained down on southern Israel, terrorizing a million civilians in dozens of cities and villages.
By the summer of 2008, Hamas, now firmly in control of all of Gaza, continued to support the firing of rockets into Israel. Israel held back major responses. Israel continued to use diplomacy, along with moderate Arab states and the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank, to alleviate the situation in Gaza for the people without direct contact with the Hamas terrorist group. A lull in fighting was agreed to in June, 2008 for six months. Many said that this was a mistake, it would give Hamas time to re-arm, to fortify the tunnels, the weapons, the rockets, with the help of their sponsors in Iran. Israel accepted the lull, and for several months a reasonable quiet settled on the south of Israel, interrupted from time to time by a rocket.
Humanitarian aid to Gaza, in the form of food, medical supplies, etc., has been an ongoing exercise in futility. A Jordanian convoy of aid trucks entered Gaza, unencumbered by the Israelis, in July of 2008. After passing the border, the Jordanian drivers were removed from the ten trucks, laden with food and medical supplies and the trucks were taken to separate warehouses controlled by Hamas police and military. The contents of the trucks never made it to the hospitals or aid stations.
Earlier in the year, in January, a shipment from Turkey destined for Gaza, was stopped at the Kerem Shalom border crossing. Over 2 tons of explosives were found to have been added after the shipment left Turkey and hidden in the trucks.
On December 27, 2008, after almost eight years of rocket attacks, after incursions from Gaza into Israel resulted in the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, after Hamas made it clear that their goal remains, as it is written in their Charter, the complete destruction of Israel, and after seeing an escalation of the rocket technology such that 1/6 of the whole of Israel is potentially under threat of rocket attack, Israel said enough is enough.
I have no illusions. Israel will not destroy Hamas. You cannot kill an ideology.
I have no illusions. Gaza will still be there, the Palestinians will still live there, and Israel will still have cities and villages just over the border.
I know that hundreds of Gaza residents have died. I know that many non-combatants have died. I know that schools and mosques have been destroyed.
I blame Hamas. Hamas cynically uses children and civilians as shields. Hamas stores rockets in schools and mosques. Hamas hides in tunnels, popping out in the midst of civilians, dressed as civilians, to shoot at uniformed soldiers of the IDF. (It has been discovered recently that Hamas ordered all fighters and even the police not to wear uniforms). Hamas has spent millions of dollars, some donated by generous countries, to fortify tunnels with concrete meant to build roads and hospitals. Hamas has kept their own loyal terrorist fighters well fed and cared for while civilians go without and then Hams cries out that the people have nothing. Instead of focusing on building a nation, Hamas has steadfastly kept to the ideology that all efforts must be made to destroy Israel and kill Jews.
I mourn the loss of life during this terrible war.
I am distressed that so many parents are mourning the death of a child.
I want this war to end.
I also want Israel to be safe. Until the rockets stop, I will continue to mourn the loss of life. Until Hamas ends its campaign of annihilation against the Jewish people, I will continue to be distressed by every death and every grieving parent. As much as I want this war to end, I will support Israel in her campaign to keep her children free of terror, away from the bomb shelters, and secure in their own recognized country.
Neal Elyakin, Ann Arbor 1-11-09