A View from the “Emergency Routine” under the Iron Dome
By Prof. Haim Harari*
Friday, July 18th, 2014 @ 8:05PM
These lines are written ten days after the beginning of the latest Gaza conflict and thirteen years since the Hamas started launching thousands of rockets from Gaza exclusively into Israeli civilian targets. It has also been nine years since Israel completely left the Gaza strip, and a few hours since the Hamas rejected two Egyptian cease fire proposals, and Israel launched a ground operation aimed at destroying Hamas offensive facilities.
In Israeli towns, near the Gaza border, 13 year old children celebrated their Bar Mitzvah without experiencing, since their birth, even one day free of fear of rockets, always having 15 seconds to reach for an improvised cover. High school graduates, the class of 2014, never went to school or returned from school, since kindergarten, without a real threat of a Hamas rocket hitting them on the way. It is debatable whether the children’s stress or their parents’ anxiety has more damaging long term effects. It is a hard competition.
The Hamas, which is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brothers, is openly committed to the annihilation of the State of Israel and to the extermination of all Jews, wherever they are. The United States, The European Union, Egypt and Israel consider the Hamas a terrorist organization. The Palestinian authority and most Arab countries treat the Hamas with suspicion, if not with animosity. They would be delighted if Hamas were destroyed, although they would not say so publicly. The amazing fact is that the only solid support of the Hamas comes, in recent years, from two countries: Qatar, an alleged staunch ally of the United States, home of the American Forces in the Gulf, and Turkey, a member of NATO, whose mask of moderation was lifted when the hot-headed Mr. Erdogan recently started making openly anti-Semitic statements, in the best traditions of Nazi Germany and the Muslim Brothers. The most disturbing factor of this unusual alliance is the mind boggling attitude of the United States and its President Barack Obama. The United States, “leading from behind”, as its current policy dictates, has consistently avoided helping the Egyptian negotiators, who tried to broker a cease fire between Israel and the terrorists. The Egyptians openly stated that President Obama has joined forces, in an unholy partnership, with Qatar and Turkey, supporting the Muslim Brothers, under the faint excuse of “they won the democratic election in Egypt”. They won? So did Hitler, after all.
Life in much of Israel is progressing on the basis of an unusual oxymoron: The Emergency Routine. This means going about your normal business, and getting, from time to time, into a barely protected area, not a real shelter, within 15 or 60 or 90 seconds, depending on the distance the rocket has to travel from Gaza in order to reach your area. Parents bring their children to their place of work, if possible; grandparents are drafted as babysitters; little children are taught to lie face down on the floor when an alarm catches them outdoors, and they are more than a few seconds away from cover. A few minutes later, explosions are heard. Perhaps a rocket falling in an empty area; Often the protective “Iron Dome” defensive missile intercepts the intruder from the sky; sometimes a rocket falling in a built area, causing damage and bodily harm. And then life goes on till the next siren sounds.
The success of the “Iron Dome” is a milestone in the history of armed conflicts, comparable to the first appearance of tanks, submarines, missiles, and military airplanes. It allowed Israel to absorb more than a thousand rockets, solely intended for murdering civilian population, without one fatality. An incredible achievement, based on technological excellence, but also on pure luck. The Hamas rockets are sufficiently inaccurate to miss entire towns. This is a clear proof that their single goal is murdering civilians. You cannot pretend that a rocket, which misses an entire town, has been aimed at some strategic or military target, and the Hamas is not even trying to make such a claim. By any definition, this is a continuous, methodical and persistent pursuit of war crimes, by a murderous terrorist organization. The terrorists and their allies accuse Israel of deliberately harming civilians. No one, in the entire global history of wars, made a greater effort to avoid civilian casualties, by giving advance warnings and by avoiding clear military targets protected by human shields of women and children. If Israel would have been interested in harming civilians, nothing could stop it from killing hundreds or thousands per day. There is no evidence whatsoever of one deliberate case of harming civilians. The percentage of non-combatants accidentally hurt in Gaza is far smaller than anything ever seen in the American operations in Iraq or Afghanistan, or in the allied operations in Kosovo or Belgrade. That does not stop the entire world from accusing, preaching and pontificating to Israel. On the same day ninety(!) civilians die in a suicide murder in Afghanistan and one child is accidentally hit, together with an arch-terrorist, by Israel in Gaza. The ninety dead civilians get a small corner in the world media, while the Gaza casualties get major headlines. It is not who died and how many of them did, that the world cares about. It is who hit them, and who can be conveniently accused by finger pointing, says the smart money.
An interesting symmetry or, perhaps, asymmetry: the Hamas is shooting only at civilians, mostly children, women, elderly people and all others, and protects itself mainly by using civilians as human shields, almost exclusively children, women and elderly people. The young male terrorists, and their leaders, are well hidden in tunnels and bunkers under hospitals, schools and mosques. Israel is attacking only military terrorist targets, even if it regretfully and accidentally also hits civilians, and defends itself militarily with the successful Iron Dome anti-missile defense. A telling caricature in the Israeli press shows a dialogue between an Israeli wearing a helmet and a masked Hamas terrorist, “wearing” a little child over his head. The Israeli says: “Why don’t you stop these stupid rockets? We have an Iron Dome”. The Hamas guy responds, pointing to the little child: “We too”. And the Hamas fire continues, unabated.
The behavior of the Hamas is neither surprising nor is it hidden behind claims of “objectivity”. They are publicly and openly committed to murdering Jews (not only Israeli Jews, and not at all Israeli non-Jews; just Jews, plain and simple). But the “objectivity” of some of the global media is amazing. A BBC interviewer angrily asks the Israeli Ambassador to London: “How many Palestinians were killed? More than a hundred! And no Israelis were killed”. The Ambassador is supposed to apologize for the success in intercepting thousands of rockets, a success which somehow turns Israel into a violent aggressor. Flashback seventy years to the first half of 1945, with British forces advancing on all fronts inside Nazi Germany and relentlessly bombing one German city after another. How many German civilians and how many British civilians died in the first few months of 1945? Apparently Hitler was right! Shouldn’t he deserve our support, due to the huge number of dead German civilians in those days?
An “objective journalism” report by Steven Erlanger of the New York Times “explains” that 80% of the people in Gaza are refugees of the 1948 war, and that “the rockets that they launch are aimed at their own former towns and villages”. Many miracles happened in the holy land, but the Erlanger miracle is a real masterpiece. 80% are refugees? Anyone who was born in 1948 is at least 66 years old now. Anyone who was an 18 year old adult in 1948 is at least 84 years old. And these people, who may have indeed been refugees, 66 years ago, left places which were 15 minute (!!!) drive from Gaza, and are still persistently maintained and fed by the United Nations as refugees, rejecting any attempts to resettle them. But we are now told by the enlightened New York Times that 80% of the people in Gaza are refugees! For the average 25 year old Hamas terrorist, 1948 is something that happened 40 years before he was born, a similar time relation as World War I for a 60 year old European. Except that the European is not told, 24 hours a day, since his childhood, that all Jews must be slaughtered (The standard battle cry is: “Itbah Al Yahood”, meaning “Slaughter the Jews”, not even “Kill the Jews”). In the same 1948 war, an equal number of Arabs and Jews became refugees. The Jews left behind their enormous property in Iraq, Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon and other Arab countries. They moved to a newly born, very poor distant country with a different language, had absolutely no support from the UN and created an impressive miracle in the desert. The Palestinians moved by a fifteen minute drive to their own brothers in Gaza, and have been kept by them as hostages for 66 years, fed by the United Nations. Mr. Erlanger of the New York Times knows all of these facts but chooses to quote only the Hamas lies. Why? Perhaps because facts that he has known for decades are not news. Or is there some other reason?
For years Israel has been clearly stating that the Hamas, as well as its subcontracting terror organizations in Gaza, are using private homes, schools, mosques, kindergartens and hospitals as cover for ammunition supplies, bunkers hiding their leaders, and launching pads of rockets. Israel avoids hitting these locations, except if it has clear intelligence that the place has no civilians. Numerous videos proved the point, both in the present operation and in the previous two rounds, by showing huge secondary explosions, after an Israeli missile destroyed the hiding place: A first explosion of the Israeli missile itself and a secondary, much more impressive, blast, of the stored rockets (or, perhaps, of the incendiary school textbooks, or the explosive oriental carpets in the mosque). But now, on July 17, 2014, UNRWA, the United Nations Agency which feeds the Palestinians for 66 years, at Western taxpayer expense, admitted publicly that they have discovered 20 ready-to launch rockets inside one of their schools. The UN statement refers to it as “for the first time”. Indeed, for the first time it was publicly confirmed by UN sources, but they obviously knew all along that this was a standard practice. Did this discovery make headlines in the Western press? That evening, CNN did not even mention it, but reported events which were less significant and which happened later. The New York Times website published a 500 word report on Gaza, with the “rockets in the school” story buried two lines from the bottom of the report. In a way, they are right: This is not news. It has been known for years. But these are the same media sources that pretended that no such things have ever happened. So perhaps it is news?
There is also a war of pictures and video clips. The International New York Times, following an old tradition of its predecessor, the Herald Tribune, has a headline about Israel being hit by rockets, but the large photo is of the usual crying poor Arab woman. How many people read the article and how many see the photo? Pictures of smashed bodies of children, from the Syrian civil war, appear in Hamas propaganda as being murdered by Israel, copied by the international press. But here there is real news: The BBC notices it and complains! It seems that someone must have developed a new app for smartphones: Choose a picture of an old crying Arab woman, choose a photo of a big tank, arrange the woman of your choice in front of the threatening tank of your choice and publish in your newspaper or website. Endless such photos appear repeatedly in the Western press. Where do you find so many different old Arab women posing in front of tanks? In the 2006 Lebanon war, the same body of the same child was photographed, carried by several different Hizbullah operatives, all claimed by the figure captions to be his father. Many photos of the rubble of a destroyed terrorist position include another miracle: a dust-free bright-color clean teddy bear or other toy, miraculously surviving the destruction without a stain or a speck of dust. But a new record is broken in the current conflict: In 2011, in broad daylight, a Hamas squad, near the Israel-Gaza border, spotted a clearly marked school bus. It deliberately launched an anti-tank missile into the school bus, which had luckily just returned from depositing the children. There was one boy in the bus. He wanted to go for a ride with the bus driver. The boy was killed. Now, in July 2014, the Hamas, eager to boast about some of its “victories”, proudly replayed everywhere the three year old video of the great military triumph of hitting a school bus.
Flashback to September 12, 2001, the morning after the Al Qaida attack on the World Trade Center. Imagine the Prime minister of Britain or Canada or Germany, calling a press conference, and making only the following statement: “We support the right of the United States to self-defense, and we call upon both sides to exercise restraint”. Do we need to add one word? Yet, following thousands of Hamas rockets, aimed exclusively into Israeli civilian targets, the spokesperson of the White House announced at the beginning of the Israeli operation: “We support the right of Israel to self-defense, and we call upon both sides to exercise restraint”. Does President Obama endorse this statement? May we assume that it reflects his views? Is his consistent support of the Egyptian Muslim Brothers, against President Al-Sisi of Egypt, now extends also to the Hamas niece, a daughter of the (Muslim) Brothers? In contrast, Germany’s Angela Merkel is loud and clear, condemning the Hamas, standing by Israel and supporting its actions. A brave lady. About people like her, it was said: “Being a leader is like being a lady. If you need to prove it, you are not”
When Israel declared the beginning of its ground attack, Secretary Kerry, a proven successful Middle East expert, warned Israel to go exclusively after the Hamas tunnels. Presumably, if the Israeli forces encounter rocket launchers or terrorist leaders outside of tunnels (e.g. in schools and mosques) they should not touch them. The entire Middle East and much of the Muslim world are burning. Iraq is in flames. Syria is destroyed. Libya and Yemen are in civil wars. Lebanon is occupied by a terrorist organization. Sudan and Somali are non-governments hosting freely roaming terrorist entities. Nuclear Pakistan is endangered by the Taliban. Qatar and Turkey support the Hamas. Hamas is trying to infiltrate the Egyptian Sinai. Bahrain is encroached by Iran. Afghanistan is in deadly chaos. Iran is developing nuclear weapons. But Israel, absorbing thousands of rockets, should only go after the tunnels, nothing else, and exercise restraint! Indeed, leading from behind.
Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey has now stated: “Since its founding in 1948, Israel has been performing genocide every day”. He is also openly threatening the Jewish community of Turkey and his followers attack the Israeli Embassy, with the Turkish police closing one and a half eyes. But the total combined number of Arabs and Israelis, military and civilians, killed in one hundred years of conflict, since 1920, with endless terrorism, and more than ten rounds of vicious fighting, is still less than 10% of the number of Armenians butchered by Turkey in a very short time. This is the same Mr. Erdogan, who is openly and consistently supporting the Hamas murderers, and who is also supporting the Muslim Brothers everywhere in the Arab world, yet is a leading member of NATO, and is allegedly a military ally of all Western European nations, as well as of the United States and Canada. This is also Mr. Erdogan who has been declared to be “my very close friend” by President Obama. How can the US and all EU nations explain the fact that their military ally, whom they must defend, if attacked, is openly supporting an organization (Hamas) which all of them define as a terrorist organization? Isn’t it time to reconsider Turkey’s membership in NATO, in view of its open support of terror? Did we hear one negative comment about the explicit anti-Semitism of Erdogan, from one of Turkey’s allies?
The European and American radical Left marches together with the Islamist Jihadists in the streets of the Western World, condemning Israel. A very interesting coalition: “Human rights advocates” support dictatorships which stone criminals and amputate their hands and using children as human shields; “Peace loving activists” support suicide bombing, rockets on civilians and numerous other atrocities; Feminists endorse those who treat women like low animals and murder them “to save the honor of the family” when they are raped; Gay rights organizations collaborate with those who execute gays, just because of their sexual preference. There is not one attribute of Fascism that does not apply to the Muslim Brothers and their associates, including, of course, the Hamas, the Palestinian Branch of the Muslim Brothers. The green flags of Islamic Fascism mix well with the Red flags of a deranged Radical Left, making a mockery of every good thing for which socialism used to stand. May I suggest an appropriate name for the city square in which these people march, shoulder to shoulder? Call it “Piazza Ribbentrop-Molotov”. It all happened before, and the one joint target of their hatred, the single common item on their political platform, was always the Jews. The regretful fact that some of the most virulent demagogues are self-hating Jews, does not change this conclusion. “Nothing new under the sun” said the wise biblical King Solomon.
Even under the barrage of rockets, Israel continues to send trucks with food and medicines to Gaza, providing Gaza with much of the electricity needed for producing new rockets, and accepting ailing Palestinians into its good hospitals. Perhaps someone should inform Erdogan? Or tell the hateful and blind radical left allies of the Jihadists? We might even face a malpractice suit for treating a sick Palestinian, coming from the creative brain of a blind agitated radical demonstrator somewhere. Israel has also been treating numerous wounded civilians from the horrible Syrian civil war, which produced in one year more refugees than 100 years of Israeli-Palestinian confrontation. Has anyone heard of these refugees?
A Hamas rocket hits the high voltage line leading electricity from Israel to Gaza. Hamas and the objective United Nations demand that Israeli workers will risk their lives, providing immediate repairs, as befits a loyal and good friendly customer. If the line is not repaired, two major difficulties might arise: Israel will cause a major humanitarian crisis and the next Hamas rocket will not be able to hit again the power line. It seems that the second of these is the one that really bothers Hamas, because nothing would suit their propaganda more than a self-inflicted humanitarian crisis. In the past, before Egypt closed the tunnels connecting Gaza and Egypt, the Hamas was routinely attacking the food trucks coming from Israel. After all, Hamas operatives received fat commissions on anything transported through the tunnels, and the Israeli trucks were not part of this lucrative business. Just watch the big mansions that the Hamas leaders built for themselves in Gaza. It was a flourishing organized crime scene, complete with “protection fees”, known to all, but mentioned nowhere in the global media.The new Egyptian regime, declaring Hamas a terrorist organization, blocked the tunnels, putting an end to the bonanza. Hamas cannot pay salaries to its thousands of employees. Hence the urgent need for an exciting war.
Sigmund Freud, the great Viennese father of psychoanalysis, was a great expert on dreams. When the Hamas barrage of rockets into the center of Israel started, we happened to host a Viennese Psychiatrist, as our guest at the Weizmann institute. He had an amazing dream, worth reporting here. On the day preceding his dream, the Hamas aimed rockets, for the first time, in the direction of Jerusalem. They were intercepted, like most rockets aimed at populated areas, by the successful Iron Dome defensive system. The remarkable dream of our Viennese guest went like this: A Hamas rocket from Gaza, aimed at Jewish Jerusalem, hit the Al Aqsa mosque. The United Nations Human Rights Council immediately called for an emergency session, and severely condemned Israel for the war crime of not intercepting the rocket with the Iron Dome.
July 18, 2014
* Professor Harari is Chair of the Board of the Davidson Institute of Science Education at the Weizmann Institute and Chair of the Management Committee of the Weizmann Global Endowment Management Trust in New York. He served as the President of the Weizmann Institute of Science from 1988-2001.