As I was walking home last week, I passed a demonstration protesting Israel’s Gaza operation being held near the Israeli Embassy The crowd was loud, and angry. I couldn’t read all of their signs, but I did see a few protesters holding signs which read “End the Occupation.”
So it goes. Reality and context matter little, or not at all. When you are protesting Israel on the streets, or even in the media, just take your best shot.
Israel did end its occupation of Gaza back in 2005. It withdrew every last Israeli soldier from their barracks and every last Israeli settler from their homes. But that is not when the missile fire into Israel from Gaza stopped. That is when the missile fire into Israel escalated. Hamas saw the Israeli withdrawal as a sign of Israeli weakness and was emboldened. It is only the fear of creating a similar situation in the West Bank that has kept the Israeli government from proceeding with a withdrawal from that territory as well.
Sadly, there have been worse signs. At an anti-Israel protest in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, one protestor carried a sign that read “Nuke Israel.” As if her sign was not troubling enough, she added a running commentary to her protest. A video camera captured her shouting “into the ovens” and “we need more ovens” at the pro-Israel demonstrators across the street.
While the anti-Israel protesters confuse cause and effect here in America, it seems that some Gaza residents have a clearer understanding. The New York Times reported this morning that upon finding her wounded relatives in a Gaza hospital, one woman shouted, “May God exterminate Hamas!” She seemed to have a very clear sense about who is responsible for the current violence. One wonders how many more Gazans would express similar sentiments if it were not so very dangerous to do so.
But children know no such fear. Last week, The New York Times reported the comments of a 13-year old Gazan who was asked about the Israeli air raids. “I blame Hamas,” he said. “It doesn’t want to recognize Israel. If they did so there could be peace.” He further noted that, “Egypt made a peace treaty with Israel, and nothing is happening to them.”
This young Gazan is right. If Hamas would stop firing missiles into Israel, Israel would not be in Gaza. And if Hamas actually recognized Israel and renounced terror, there could be a real peace. Gazans need jobs, opportunities, the freedom to travel. Israelis have no desire to see them suffer. But dreams of post-withdrawal economic cooperation between Israel and Gaza were shattered by terrorist attacks and rocket fire.
Hamas has been a determined foe not only of Israel, but of Arab-Israeli peace. Israel can’t end the occupation of Gaza — it already did. Approximately 6,000 missiles and mortars have fallen on southern Israel since then. Israel waited a very long time before responding to these attacks. Now that it is finally doing so, we pray that there result will be one which brings peace to southern Israel, and to all Israel, and to every Palestinian who dreams of a better life.