This Carnage Must End Now

It is already clear that Israel will completely withdraw from the Gaza Strip. Every additional day that Israel remains in Gaza is an invitation for more bloodshed and death. Today’s tragic killing of innocent Palestinians, mostly children, marching against the Israeli military machine of destruction in Rafah, was inevitable. It was so unnecessary and so disgraceful that the half-hearted apologies from the Minister of Defense and the Chief of Staff of the Israeli army are nothing but shameful. I am outraged and I am deeply ashamed.

Killing follows revenge which follows more killing and more revenge. The horrific killing of the Hatuel family followed the assassinations of Ahmad Yassin and Abed el Aziz Rantisi along with tens of other Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza last month, which was preceded by bus bombings and Israeli attacks and incursions, death and destruction and more death and destruction. Palestinians kill Israelis and Israelis kill Palestinians and no end in sight.

Following the senseless murder Tali Hatuel and her 4 daughters, the settlers of Gaza and other right wing politicians demanded action. The operations planning department of the Israeli army was ordered to take out of their file of potential targets a list to present to the Chief of Staff in order to be presented to the Security Cabinet. Their instructions were to identify a number of targets that would make a visible impression on both the Palestinian and the Israeli publics. The targets chosen were a few workshops that were allegedly involved in the production of Qassem missiles. These so-called workshops are little more than a small room, usually attached to homes in densely populated neighborhoods (because there are no other kind in Gaza), where some form of metal work is done. Notwithstanding the fact that the hundreds of Qassem missiles fired into Israel over the past three years are responsible for the death of only one Israeli, and understanding that there are probably a couple of hundred of these so-called workshops or alleged workshops in Gaza, the army needed a visible target, so several of these workshops in densely populated areas were selected. The end result was a few more Palestinian homes and the lives of several more Palestinian families destroyed by Israeli bulldozers and explosives, and six Israeli soldiers killed when their armed personnel carrier carrying them and one ton of explosives was hit.

Killing and revenge. The revenge brought a massive incursion into Rafah searching for tunnels across the Egyptian border and once again another armed personnel carrier carrying soldiers and explosives was hit and another five Israeli soldiers were killed. And later another two soldiers searching for the remains of body parts of killed soldiers were added to the list of casualties. And then more Israeli forces went into Rafah and more Palestinians were killed. Killing and revenge, revenge and more killing.

As a result of 13 IDF soldiers being killed, so obviously for nothing, the Israeli peace camp was reborn, and on last Saturday night more than 150,000 Israelis showed up to demonstrate and to tell Sharon, his government and the world: Get out of Gaza now and start to talk! But even one of the speakers at the demonstration reminded the Israeli crowd of peaceniks that the last time they forced the Government of Israel to withdraw (from south Lebanon), the Israeli army ran out of Lebanon with their tails between the legs, and according to former General Yom Tov Samia, the Palestinians launched the second intifada adopting the “successful” tactics of Hizballah to chase the Israeli army out of Palestine. Maybe Samia is correct. Maybe Israel will only withdraw when the price in human lives is too big to absorb.

Since the beginning of the second intifada in the end of September 2000, the diminished peace camp in Israel has been trying to get the public to understand what they are beginning to understand now –” 1,000 dead Israelis and 3,000 dead Palestinians later. There is a certain paradox or irony that must be pointed out. It seems that Israeli society is much more shaken when 13 soldiers are killed in Gaza then when a bus explodes inside of Israel, killing even more civilians. Israeli society seems to place a lot more weight on the lives of their soldiers than they do on the lives of their civilians. It is so clear that Israel will withdraw from all of Gaza, so they are forced to ask themselves: what exactly are these soldiers being killed for?

With the construction of the barriers, fences, and walls, the ability to kill Israeli civilians is becoming more and more difficult. Israeli soldiers and settlers will be targeted more and more. The irony is that attacking soldiers cannot be called terrorism (even though Israeli news calls all forms of Palestinian resistance terrorism) and in the view of most of the international community and even amongst many in Israel, attacking soldiers is even seen as a legitimate act of fighting against occupation. And on top of that, attacking and targeting soldiers seems to be a lot more effective at influencing public opinion in Israel to demand withdrawal now from the occupied territories.

The voice of Samia echoes loudly in the halls of the Ministry of Defense and the Prime Ministers office. They are not going to allow the Palestinians to force Israel out of Gaza. The IDF will not run away with its tail between their legs. The Israeli army will show the Palestinians and the world that no one can chase them away. Every home in Gaza will feel the strength and the might of Israel. That’s what is going on in Gaza today. And everyday more people will be killed. More innocent people, victims of ignorance, machismos, revenge and stupidity will pay with their lives because before running out of Gaza, Israel must make its last and final mark there.

While Israeli broadcasters are arguing amongst themselves if 22 people were killed, or 15, or perhaps only 7, and while the IDF spokeswoman is busying herself with films, drawings and diagrams, unintelligent explanations and meaningless apologies, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters in Rafah are burying their dead. No Israeli news program told us the names of those killed or showed films of their friends and families speaking about the victims. We didn’t see Palestinians crying for their dead. We didn’t see the brutally wounded survivors or hear the doctors telling us how many people were admitted to the hospitals and what kind of injuries they suffered. We didn’t see mothers crying over their children or fathers weeping over freshly dug graves. We only heard the assertive voices of so-called defense experts giving their sickening verbiage and talking about how the world is against Israel and how the Palestinians will make use of the today’s “events” in their propaganda war against Israel. Tomorrow we will be told that the Palestinians killed weren’t children at all, they were armed and they threatened the lives of the soldiers in their tanks and helicopters.

The Chief of Staff has already announced that the operation in Gaza will continue, as planned, because it is such a great success. Members of the Government of Israel and of the Knesset will speak to every microphone willing to listen that the IDF is the most humane and moral army in the world –” look at the US Army in Iraq, we are much better than them, they will tell us. They will show us more footage of Israeli soldiers giving water to Palestinian prisoners –” an act of supreme humanity. The closures will be strengthened. More check points will go up. The IDF and the Shin Bet will uncover some new cells, they will report that there are 50 warnings of terrorist attacks everyday and the army will once again kill the “head of the snake” that keeps appearing every few weeks or months. Palestinians will get their revenge and Israelis will revenge the revenge. And mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers will continue to bury their dead.