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Israel: Israeli Bloggers Respond to Crisis in Palestine

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.”

Learn More–

You can learn more about the reactions of the Arab blogosphere from these Global Voices Online authors:

Your Reactions–

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.

55 comments

  • Hi Sarfaraz,

    Good link from solid sources, thank you.

    The death rates are staggering, but they are not for lack of trying. I believe, most unfortunately, that if the militants had better weapons, the death rates would be much higher on the Israeli side. Is that supposed to be a good thing?

    Kicked out of my country? I see your point and appreciate the comparison, but Jews lived without a country for the last 2,000 years, so I do understand the scenario. What about the Jews who were kicked out of Arab countries at the same time the Palestinians left what is now Israel (the numbers are equivalent)?

    Have you been to or are you from Palestine? If so, I am interested in what you can tell me about what attracts people so much to the land? Is it simply the longing to return home or is there something more innate? Are their songs and stories about Palestine that I could read? What do people talk about and think about when they dream of Palestine? I know that while the Jewish people were in the Diaspora, we had a rich tradition of such things, and I hope to learn more about it from the Palestinian side.

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

    Maya

  • Maya,

    While I don’t fully agree with Sarfaraz’s point, your rebuttal, “but Jews lived without a country for the last 2,000 years,” is simply unfair. There are plenty of peoples of other faiths who have lived without their own country, what entitles the Jews to their own? While I am certainly not against Israel entirely, I find that to be an extremely weak argument.

    As to what else Sarfaraz said – frankly, whatever the reason for the Palestinians’ weak weaponry, the fact is, they have caused far less suffering and destruction than Israel. They are militarily weaker, have less funds, and less global support.

    The fact is, no matter who is right in the grand scheme of things, what Israel has done this time is downright wrong. Cutting off power to everyone in Gaza – women, children, the weak, the sick, the poor – is simply disgusting.

    Jillian

  • Maya,

    Your attempt to provide fair coverage of these events is very appreciated. I don’t hear much of the MSM talking about the collective punishment that Hamas, a terrorist group, is inflicting on Israelis. I don’t hear about the fear, anxiety, and danger that thousands of missiles shot into Israel causes innocent civilians, including children.

    Reading some of the above comments makes me realize that nobody will ever convince people who want Israel destroyed that Palestinian terrorist groups are bad, no matter how many innocent Israelis they murder. Jewish history has taught us that you can’t have dialogue with everyone, and you can’t expect words to protect you from people dedicated to your destruction. Israel has a right to defend itself, whether or not people like it.

    The “blockade” will stop when Hamas stops targeting civilians. It is ironic that Israel was supplying power to its sworn enemies in the first place.

    Great coverage! Thank you.

    In Solidarity,
    Anti-Racist Blog

  • Mac

    The culture in the occupied territories teaches the children that they must give their lives as martyrs – a duty for which they are promised a rich reward in the afterlife. So really, how useful is the 4:1 ratio of Arab to Israeli deaths? And why doesn’t the referenced website make any mention of the use of human shields by the Arabs? After all, it is a practice in which you are attempting to increase casualties on your own side (which is why Amnesty and other human rights organizations routinely slam Hamas for it).

    I wonder if the a 4:1 death ratio might be closer to 3:1, 2:1, or even 1:1 when you consider these factors.

    Either way, doesn’t anything under 10:1 demonstrate that Israel is using extreme restraint, given how powerful Israel’s weapons are compared to the Arabs?

  • David

    Maya, you seem to miss the point. For those who want peace in the M.E. , the solution is not complex, it is very simple. Forget the ancient history, it will solve nothing. If the arabs want peace, they must be the first to stop the violence towards Israel, recognize Israel’s right to exists in peace and then they too will have peace and prosperity. If Israel stops defending itself against the arab violence, there will be no Israel.

  • Nas

    “but Jews lived without a country for the last 2,000 years”

    to add to what jillian said, more importantly, what entitles jews from poland, russia and everywhere to establish a country on palestinian land?

    “Are their songs and stories about Palestine that I could read? What do people talk about and think about when they dream of Palestine? I know that while the Jewish people were in the Diaspora, we had a rich tradition of such things,”

    this is the type of mindset that is suggestive of this worldly and absurd understanding, that palestinians did not exist before israel. they had no culture or traditions or were representative of any kind of civilization. that they had no dreams, no homeland, no great aspirations.

    nevertheless…

    it is true at this point, what you say, that pre-1948 thinking will get us no where, however palestinians are simply searching for justice in the void of the mother of all injustices. the occupation that began in 1948 is an ongoing experience, reality and history. nothing, absolutely nothing, has changed. i think it was james joyce who said: “History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake”.

    to those suggesting israel should do what its doing in order for palestinians to rise up against hamas. its funny when people insist on democracy just as long as the outcome is in their favor, but that aside, in times like these, people living in despair and poverty will only be pushed more to the right. hamas is the lesser of two evils in such a situation (and i, like yazan, am staunchly anti-hamas).

    moreover, if hamas were toppled tomorrow, if homemade rockets stopped flying tomorrow, if no palestinian resisted the occupation of their land tomorrow, if they swallowed the bitter pill and acknowledged israel’s right to exist even if it is on their own land, if they acknowledged the right for every jew in the world the right to “return”…would israel make peace? would it give back the land it took? would it acknowledge the palestinians’ right for return? would it tare down the wall? remove the checkpoints? allow and acknowledge a palestinian state? respect and acknowledge palestinian life?

    i think anyone who says “yes” to the aforementioned questions is just kidding themselves.

    and to those who are quoting the bible and suggesting its on palestinians to make peace and not israel. first of all, the last time i checked, peace was a two-way road even if the bible says, as you claim, the only way to deal with “us” is by force. second of all, violence against israel will never, ever stop, if israel insists on it’s kung-fu grip of the territories, including land confiscations, the building of illegal settlements, checkpoints, and a wall on more and more palestinian land. israel has, and continues to do all these things on a daily basis, in addition to raiding camps, killing civilians with guns, tanks, jets, missiles, to say nothing of political, economic, ethnic and psychological warfare. every single day.

    they do all this, and then they say to the world…look at what the palestinians are doing to us.

    the world really has no interest in what happens to the lives of people who are not white. and this doesn’t really matter because no arab is waiting for the international community to come to the rescue.

    more importantly, while a lot of this is simply context for the current situation, it is not the immediate trigger. in this particular situation, both hamas and israel have conspired to render this cold dish. the reason the latter has been given so much grief is because even in the darkness, people can tell who has their hand on the trigger right now.

    as usual, the people who pay for the politics are palestinian civilians.

  • Hi Jillian,

    My statement that the Jews lived in exile for thousands of years was in no way an argument for the State of Israel’s existence, simply an expression that I empathized with Sarfaraz’s point in that matter. I in no way intended to claim that the Jewish situation was in any way unique in that respect.

    As to the question of whether Israel deserves statehood, it’s not one I’m going to bother arguing. I don’t consider it a valid question as it is one that is only asked of Israel and only asked of the Jews.

    Jillian, I don’t agree with collective punishment, but it seems very unbalanced to hold Israel completely responsible for the situation in Gaza when Egypt and Gaza have open borders and are supposedly allies. Why must Israel hold full responsibility for this situation?

    Furthermore, the PA is hardly a poor state– they just act like it. According to Wikipedia, “Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip receive one of the highest levels of aid in the world.” In fact, $7.6 billion is pledged this year.

    Maya

  • David,

    I’m not sure where you got the impression that I disagree with your views (as expressed in your second comment).

    If only peace were that simple.

    Maya

  • Thanks very much, Anti-Racist Blog. Your comments and support are much appreciated.

    Maya

  • […] I am traveling, but will return mid next week to update as usual. In the meantime, you can read my article on Israelis’ reactions to the crisis in Gaza. […]

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