Overview of the Situation–
On Thursday, January 17th, the Israeli government shut the border crossing between Israel and Gaza, stopping the flow of all goods between the two countries, including food and fuel. On Sunday, Gaza's power plant announced major cutbacks, and by Monday, an estimated 40 per cent of Gaza's population was experiencing blackouts.
With food supplies running low and hospital generators rapidly losing power, international relief groups, including the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, Oxfam, and the World Health Organization declared a looming humanitarian crisis.
In response to mounting international pressure, including a personal phone call from Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak to Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the blockage was partially lifted and 13 aid trucks entered Gaza today with supplies from Jordan.
Gaza's border with Israel was closed down in response to an especially high number of rockets launched last week. Elder of Ziyon's January Qassam Calendar counted the combined number of rockets at 138 on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Since the border closing, the number fell to a total of 50 on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, increasing again to 18 today as the border was partially opened.
Over the last seven years, over 6,300 rockets have been fired by Gazan militants on Israel's civilian population.
Israeli Bloggers Ask: What Would You Do?
Israeli bloggers ask, “What would you do? How would your country react?
Rachel, a rabbinical student living in Jerusalem and the author of the Rachel Chronicles, is critical of the media's condemnation of Israel, asking them to think about Israel's options in the face of ongoing rocket fire on civilian populations.
“What I am not impressed with is the quickness with which people, the media, organizations, etc. are ready to abandon Israel and paint the Israeli government as either an evil empire that submits an entire population to collective punishment, or a weak government that can't keep its’ own residents safe. When the Gaza power plant decided to shut down, did it also turn off the lights to the world's critical eye?…
The spin that all the major newspapers in the States is that big bad Israel is cutting off Gaza. And while it is true that the border crossings have been closed, Israel is being very careful not allow a humanitarian crisis to emerge – at least outside of the city of S'derot, which is the one that they are trying to prevent…
S'derot has lived under a barrage of rocket attacks for the past seven years, or so. Israel has been very very patient and blatantly turned a blind eye to the daily torture that Gaza militants have poured on them. It is time for that bullying and harassment to stop. And while I respect the right of the Gaza civilians to live in peace, until the people that they fund, support, house, and hide stop trying to murder the people of S'derot, I will support the Israeli government's attempts to stop that murder.”
Yael of Oleh Girl adds to Rachel's criticism of what she perceives as the media's slanted reporting.
“A lot of newspapers carried as headlines, Abbas’ claim that Israel was conducting a ‘massacre.’
Nowhere did you read during the three days that such headlines listed above were appearing that, during those same three days more than 130 Qassam rockets hit the Israeli city of Sderot. Also during those same three days, more than 80 mortars were fired from Gaza into Israeli civilian communities along the Gaza border. Nowhere did you read that… snipers fired repeatedly at civilian targets or that Hamas issued a statement calling for constant sniper attacks against Israeli farmers and farm workers. Nowhere did you read that, in just the past year alone, Palestinian militants have launched considerably more than 1,000 rockets targeting the civilian population of Sderot.”
The Gentile Warrior questions why Israel is seen as the aggressor when its civilian population is also under attack, and asks how Gaza can simultaneously attack and demand services from Israel.
“Israel didn't do this just for the heck of it. Why doesn't this group accost Hamas, Fatah, and Al Aqsa to stop launching rockets into Israel? Why is the respondent considered the guilty party? If the “palestinians” would stop launching rockets they would have food and fuel. Instead, they allow their elected and unelected leaders to continue with attacks on Israel and expect Israel to keep feeding them. This is beyond insane…
This is a self imposer humanitarian crisis. The “palestinians” brought this retribution down on themselves. This same civilian population put Hamas, a [known] terrorist organization, in charge. This is the repercussions of that ignorant act. Besides, isn't it quite embarrassing to rely on Israel for your basic needs? The same nation the “palestinians” want to erase from the map is the one that can shut off fuel supplies as well as food? It is suicidal to want to destroy the only supplier of daily necessities…
Have them come to us unarmed. Have them come to us after they have overthrown the murderous regime they have put in charge. Until then let them have their self-induced humanitarian crisis. The longer the world caters to these murderers the long they will commit murder.”
David Bogner of Treppenwitz echoes Gentile Warrior's concerns and asks why humanitarian aid is not being channeled through Egypt's border with Gaza.
“Gazastan cannot continue to be both an openly hostile entity, committed to Israel's destruction… and at the same time a fully dependant beggar-state that relies on Israel for all of its basic needs. This kind of dysfunctional relationship has never existed before in the world, and I dare say no other nation would tolerate such a parasitic situation to continue.
The Gazan border with Egypt is, for all intents and purposes, open. Weapons, money and people pour across from Egypt unchecked every single day. There is no reason why the world can't channel it's sympathy for the Gazan population into humanitarian aid supplied via Egypt. Except, of course, that this would remove the albatross from around Israel's neck… something that nobody really wants to do.
The world seems to enjoy the delicious irony of Israel being forced to keep the lights and heat on in the kassam workshops and explosive laboratories of Gaza, even as the lethal fruit of those laboratories rains down on the heads of Israeli civilians in the western Negev.”
World renowned author (and occasional blogger) Naomi Ragen gets specific. She points out that many of the employees of the Ashkelon power plant are residents of neighboring Sderot and that Ashkelon has additionally been the target of attacks.
“Picture this: the electric plant which supplies 70% of electricity to the Palestinians in Gaza is in Ashkelon. The Palestinians in Gaza have been shooting kassam rockets at the plant ever since the ‘disengagement’ i.e. the abandonment of Gush Katif [Gaza]. Now, Palestinians are crying that they don't have enough electricity. They are complaining about Israeli sanctions against them. They are going to the U.N.
The truth is, Israel has not stopped supplying electricity to Gaza. Not only that, but Israeli electric company employees are risking their lives to do so.
Mickey Tsarfati, head of the union of electrical workers, was quoted in YNet: ‘It is unbelievable chutzpah for them to complain. We have not stopped supplying them with electricity for a minute. And they have not stopped logging bombs at us for a minute.’ Many of the workers who fix the lines to Gaza daily are residents of Sderot. It has happened more than once that bombs fell next to their homes as they were fixing the lines to supply electricity to the bombers.
Now the U.N. and the Quartet, and the Arab League are all getting demands to stop Israeli ‘sanctions’ against the Gazans…. You tell me what other country would be supplying electricity to people who are bombing their children on a daily basis, and risking their lives to do so.”
Lirun of East Med Sea Peace is concerned with the humanitarian implications of the crisis and suggests a way that Israelis can help provide food for Gazans.
“heard it on the radio this morning.. apparently on saturday morning a convoy of cars will be driving to gaza to pass on some supplies to the gazastanis.. who as you probably all now know are languishing in starvation and darkness.. because apparently nothing short of that could bring the rocket fire to an end..
people who want to drive down and donate flour sugar and rice should be at the arlozorov train station no later than 8 am and the reading bus depot no later than 830am..
i hate the qassam rockets just as much as the next guy.. and as far as i am concerned the hamas and co are collectively punishing a whole region of israel for israel not conforming to hamas’ demands.. however – people are starving in gaza and dying of hypothermia because of the measures we are taking and i cant accept that.. “
Meanwhile, Elliot Chodoff of Mideast On Target leaves us with suggestions for Israel's leadership.
“What can be done in the meantime? First, the Israeli leadership needs to conclude that while inaction under the circumstances is bad, improper action is worse. The Gaza population need not be provided with everything its heart desires, but allowing the creation of the image of a humanitarian disaster is counterproductive, especially when the image is false. Second, military activity needs to be stepped up, not only in quantity, but in quality. We have seen early indicators that this is occurring over the past two weeks, but if Sederot and its surroundings are to have any hope of weathering the rocket rainfall of this winter, the IDF will have to operate more intensively in Gaza until the weather permits the extensive operation that will be sure to occur sooner or later. It is high time the Israeli leadership stopped making declarations and starting taking effective action.”
You can learn more about the reactions of the Arab blogosphere from these Global Voices Online authors:
- Palestine: Gaza Under Siege by Amira Al Hussaini
- Egypt: Gaza in the Headlines by Eman Abd al Rahman
- Pitch Black Gaza: Jordanian Bloggers React by Naseem Tarawnah
After you have read reactions from the Israeli blogosphere in this post and opinions from Palestine, Egypt, and Jordan from my colleagues, come back here and let us know what you think about the whole situation. What are your reactions reading the voices of those whose lives have been touched on both sides of the border? What do you see as possible solutions? What do you think your country would have done when faced with similar threats from its neighbors?
I look forward to learning from your perspective.