Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attack on the Gaza Strip is located inside a just and merciful response to Hamas rockets, echoed by President Obama’s, “No country on Earth would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.” Accordingly, in the Gaza Strip, rockets are to be found everywhere—under hospital beds, in school cellars, under the pillows of infants asleep in their beds. The elderly are storing them up God knows where, as well as patients in intensive care, some of them strapped to machines and comatose. Rockets are to be found on the beach where little boys play soccer, carried ingeniously within the sand, and in schoolyards, back yards, railroad yards, slaughterhouse yards. Rockets are hidden in chimneys, tree houses, attics, closets, outhouses, suitcases, trunks, sideboards, toilets, under mattresses, in medicine cabinets. Hamas deliberately plants these devices everywhere in the Gaza Strip, and even baby carriages carry them in folds between the springs. And they are effective. Israel’s Iron Dome System is hardly able to cope. In the first days of the conflict three Israelis were injured from these ubiquitously located rockets fired from The Strip into the hapless Iron Dome System. Over the years with these rocket attacks and mortar attacks, 32 Israelis have died. Meanwhile, in the first days this time 166 Palestinians died, including 36 children, with 1,120 injured. They died due to Hamas’ insistence on Palestinians remaining in their homes—to die instead of fleeing. This is Hamas strategy to make Israel look bad. Citizens and children, even the comatose in intensive care, all said: “Hamas, we will die for you because you commanded it.” They could have fled somewhere and saved themselves, although the Strip is a closed ghetto with nowhere to go. Perhaps there were schools or UN Centers or hospitals that might not be bombed and were not too crowded. Or holes in the ground to crawl into. Furthermore there were compassionate warnings as with text messages or telephone calls at two o’clock in the morning, with three minutes to get everyone up and out of the house, including elderly, disabled, children, before the missiles descended. There was the merciful knock-on system, which is a light missile hammering on a house indicating the real thing is coming in just a moment, the complete fire ball obliteration, so get out soon. The knock-on message was: “We are saving you. We care about you.” But rockets and Hamas must be rooted out, tunnels destroyed, so a ground invasion must be initiated. Rockets, being secreted not just in tunnels but everywhere—in the pockets of infants, old ladies, the gravely ill, ambulance drivers, aid workers, doctors, nurses, teachers, housewives, toddlers, shop workers, police, the wretched, the insane and helpless alike—must be pursued and extinguished. “After all, they have rockets.” “We have the Iron Dome, a captive population within a narrow space and nowhere to run, hellfire missiles, drones, tanks, F-16s, gunships, an army.” “We have the backing of the United States and its allies, the West.” Currently the tally is 718 Palestinians killed, 132 of them children, thousands injured. Israel has lost 34, 32 of them soldiers. War is war, asymmetric or not, unfortunate or not. There is the just war, unfortunate as it may be, and as compassionate as it may be. It’s a simple case. Barbaric and disproportionate punishment of a civilian population must be abjured and condemned. The rocket fusillade from the Gaza Strip is unreasonable, extreme, hideous, primitive, indiscriminate, infantile. It has taken a saint of patience, mercy, and restraint to deal with it. Joseph K. Winter is a novelist and political activist in the San Francisco Bay area writing occasionally for the internet press.
July 25, 2014