At 2AM Sunday morning Israel has entered a unilateral cease-fire, three weeks after embarking on Operation Cast Lead. Twelve hours later, as world leaders gathered in Egypt to discuss aid to Gazan (to the tune of $2.5 billion), Israel had absorbed another 20 rockets and mortar shells.
For eight years, Israel has failed in responding to these terrorist attacks. The people whose lives were disrupted were within a 15 second radius around Gaza. Now, close to a million people in the south, in a 60 second radius (26 miles) of Gaza must either learn to live with a new reality or escape out of the region.
It is Israel’s obligation to defend itself. In war, act accordingly. The only consideration of proportionality should be: the stronger the response, the less likely an additional act perpetrated against innocent civilians. Thus, a strong response is sometimes necessary to save future lives.
If the response is not clearly understood, increase it ten fold. The sooner that the enemy understands this is not a game, the faster the unbearable reality can change. The price exerted on the enemy may be of a different value than we assign. For instance, death serves the purposes of Hamas, but land may be of a different meaning. Thus, one possible venue is to transfer the Gazans.
From our (Western) perspective, this would ensure that the poor Gazans are out of harm’s way. Their “eternal” refugee camps would be destroyed and new tent cities be erected. Then with the billions committed, new actual cities, with sewage and roads, schools and medical clinics, could be formed. Gaza can turn into a thriving tourist destination. A service economy can emerge. Local arts and crafts can flourish. Restaurants, nightlight, everything un-Muslim and Western can spring like it used to be – decades ago – in Tripoli, Lebanon.
Success, the ability to earn a respectable living, the focus on learning – math, English, history, science and geography – will become the elements most abhorred by Hamas and other Muslim organizations. But the Gazans will see a light at the end of the tunnel of life, replacing all these death traps in the tunnels underneath.
It is time to exert such a heavy toll on Hamas in the coin they use – not death and destruction but our own structures and freedoms. Like fire or the immense strength of water, learning, opportunities created, self respect and respect of others and the sanctity of life would defeat the forces of evil.
Separate and re-create, use the strongest weapon of all – love and affection, life itself – to reclaim the lives of the Gazans and then to destroy and eliminate Hamas. Once the Gazans are separated from Hamas, eliminate Hamas. Like Sodom and Gomorrah, nothing should remain, only a lesson for future generations.
Here is the perspective of one foreign correspondent who ventured last week to the war zone, for a briefing at the City of Ashkelon, just 25 seconds away from the launch of rockets in Gaza.
A Last Will and Testimony
While the world’s focus is on Israel, I am about to leave from Rehovot, a city of science and culture, where the Weizmann Institute of Science is located, toward Gaza. Rehovot is just outside the range of rockets currently used. The train station here is the “last station before the missile zone.” I boarded the train at Noon of a sunny warm day in the middle of January.
The scene outside the window changes – green pastures, orange groves, fields covered with early-winter flowers (mostly yellow of various shades). The ground is not thirsty anymore. Everything is green, new, growing. We pass one station, then the next (the Port City of Ashdod, 45 seconds from Gaza).
We pass by a community with red roofs. Evacuees from Gush Katif (the Northern part of Gaza that was part of the Disengagement three years ago) live in this community of Nitzan (a bud) in temporary housing. The train tracks are parallel to the freeway. Israeli flags wave on the electric posts. Blue and White, the Star of David in the middle, waving, weaving themselves into the wind, reminding us we are in a modern, democratic country, that we are in Israel.
The train comes to a stop. The conductor’s voice on the loud speaker, just slightly shaking: “A siren was just heard in Ashkelon” (meaning 25 to 30 seconds to take cover). We are outside this zone, so we are not instructed to take cover. We sit and wait. Some say a prayer. Others look worried, afraid. A soldier sits in our midst, on the way to the frontline. Befitting the moment, when the world comes to a stop and one does not know what the next few seconds will bring, I take my pen and papers out and write:
I love life.
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