Consider the following allegory:
Yitzhak’s neighbors don’t like him very much.
He wasn’t welcome in any neighborhood in the area. So he decided to put down roots in Eretzville because that’s where his family used to live for many years and that is where many of his kin still lived. He worked hard to build a beautiful house and garden in Eretzville. He also opened a small grocery store that served many people in town.
One day, as Yitzhak returned home, he heard desperate screams from inside the house. As he ran into the bedroom he was stunned to find a neighbor raping his wife. The neighbor was pressing a knife against his wife’s throat.
Having prepared for this day, Yitzhak pulled out the pistol he always carries. He shot and killed the neighbor.
The next day the local newspaper carried the sensational story. The headline read: EREZTVILLE MAN SHOOTS AND KILLS NEIGHBOR.
The residents of his neighborhood were furious with Yitzhak for killing his neighbor. The neighborhood association held a meeting to condemn Yitzhak. The neighbors shunned him. They started a campaign to boycott his grocery store, and some residents tried to get him prosecuted for the killing.
Although this story is fictional, it is analogous to what happens to Israel on a regular basis. Here’s the problem: The newspaper told only half the story.
I am prompted to write this blog post by a program I heard a few weeks ago on a local radio talk show. Previously the talk show host had done a program sympathetic to Israel. In an effort to provide balance, he invited a father and daughter to present an “opposing view” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The two had just returned from a visit to the Gaza Strip.
From the start of the interview it was clear that the two had a gripe against Israel. They must have travelled through Israel to get to the Gaza Strip, but rather than speak to both Jews and Arabs, they spoke only with Arabs in Gaza. They made the usual accusations about Israel: the country was built on land stolen from Arabs, and so on. But their enmity was focused on the charge that Israel is a brute and kills Arabs needlessly.
As the father spoke, he became increasingly angry.
“I was in the Emergency Room at the Gaza hospital. The Israelis shot a man and all he did was go up to the security fence with Israel. The Israelis can’t deny it…. I saw the man with my own eyes!”
In their accusations against Israel, the father-daughter duo was puffed up with outrage. But they told only half the story. Many of the accusations that the press and critics hurl at Israel suffer from the same deficit. Thus, this case is representative of much that is wrong about the way the media present the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
What this father-daughter team did not tell their listeners is that the Israel-Gaza border fence is a war zone due to relentless attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups. As a result, Israel has developed a defensive policy that must be well-known to everyone in Gaza. The Israelis have declared a one kilometer (0.6 mile) “no-go” zone on the Gaza side of the fence. (The Israeli army also has a one kilometer zone on the Israeli side. In order to dissuade Arab attacks and protect Israeli civilians, Israelis are not permitted to enter this zone.)
When an Israeli patrol spots anyone who is approaching the fence within the Gaza “no go” zone, they act to prevent an incursion. The Israeli protocol for such situations is well-defined.
The first step is a verbal warning to the would-be intruder. If the intruder continues toward the fence, the soldier will fire a warning shot into the air. If that doesn’t work, the soldier is authorized to shoot at the intruder’s legs. Finally, if these steps have not deterred the intruder, the soldier is authorized to shoot to kill. Of course, because the actions of intruders are unpredictable, there are instances where soldiers cannot or should not follow this protocol.
History of a War Zone
Before using a radio interview to demonize Israelis, the father-daughter duo should have educated themselves about the history of the Israel-Gaza border. This history is complex.
In 1947 the United Nations presented a plan to partition Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state. The Jews accepted the plan. Israel’s Arab neighbors and the Arab League rejected the plan and five of Israel’s Arab neighbors invaded the fledgling Jewish state in 1948. The Jews won, and Israel was born.
The separation between Israel and Gaza (Gaza was part of Egypt) was marked by an armistice line. In a defensive war in 1967, Israel gained control of Gaza, but in 2005 they voluntarily withdrew all forces, as well as the entire Jewish population. The 1948 armistice line again separated Israel from Gaza and that is where it stands today.
Despite repeated wars of aggression, the Arabs never managed to destroy Israel. But, for the last 70 years they have kept up a relentless pattern of border incursions and attacks.
After Egypt’s defeat in 1948-1949, Egyptian dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser established a special terrorist unit in the Egyptian Armed Forces: the Fedayeen. On many occasions over the next decades, Fedayeen terrorists infiltrated into Israel across the armistice line. In Israel, the Fedayeen carried out horrific murders. When they succeeded in killing Israelis they cut off their ears and brought them back to Egypt as souvenirs.
When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, the rulers of Gaza used the Strip as a launching pad for terrorist incursions and rocket attacks against Israel. By withdrawing from Gaza, the Israelis had hoped that the Arabs would use their new independence to establish a Palestinian State and give up their goal of annihilating Israel. It was not to be.
Shortly after Israel’s withdrawal, the Islamic terrorist group Hamas overthrew the Palestinian Authority government and began to dedicate enormous resources to attacks against Israel. Malevolent state actors such as Iran, Qatar, and Turkey have poured billions of dollars into Gaza and much or most of that has been used to fund a continuation of the Arab’s war of annihilation against the Jews.
Hamas has launched thousands of rocket attacks against populated communities in Israel. They have dug terror tunnels under the separation fence and used these to kidnap and kill Israelis. On many occasions they have planted explosive devices along and on the fence. These devices have killed and maimed Israeli soldiers on patrol.
According to Wikipedia, from September 2000 to March 2013 alone, terrorists in Gaza launched 8,749 rockets and 5,047 mortar shells into Israel. These have caused major disruptions to daily life in southern Israel, as well as injuries and loss of life. Examples of just some of the rocket attacks include: In 2006 an Israeli woman was killed and the bodyguard of an Israeli official lost both legs. In 2008 an eight year old boy lost a leg and another boy was injured. In another instance a toddler was killed when a rocket landed on his house before his mother could get him into the bomb shelter. In yet another instance, terrorists behind the fence shot a mortar against a school bus, killing a school child. And so it goes….
Hamas, which rules the Strip, has diverted millions of dollars of foreign aid to build extensive terror tunnels deep into Israel. One of the tunnels was discovered under an Israeli kindergarten. Hamas had packed explosives into a cavern directly below the kindergarten. If the Israeli army had not discovered this tunnel, many children would have died.
In November of 2012 a mob of 300 Gazans assembled at the separation fence, damaged it and attempted to cross into Israel. It is unclear if some or all of these intruders were terrorists, but given the history of brutal attacks, the Israeli army had no choice but to act against the intruders. Since then, Hamas has threatened to use additional mobs to breach the Israeli border.
What led to the shooting of the man that the father-daughter accusers saw in the Gaza hospital? I don’t know and neither do they. In the end, their accusations were misguided.
After all, they told only half the story.