Israel & Gaza hostilities, take eleventy-billion.

See update, below.

I often find that I use Twitter as my rough draft for a full-fledged post — the outrage (or delight – occasionally there’s delight) begins, and my thoughts start to come together in that forum, and then I wind up over here, writing it all in a more coherent (and less 140-character dependent) form.

Such was the case over the weekend, as news broke of renewed hostilities on the Gaza-Israel border, and I began to tweet.

The whole thing started when Israel assassinated Zuhir al-Qaisi, the leader of the Palestinian Popular Resistance Committees (a militant group more extremist than Hamas) in an airstrike near Gaza City on Friday. Israel claims that al-Qaisi was in the process of planning another attack like the one last August for which it holds the PRC responsible, an attack in which eight Israelis were murdered outside of Eilat (Israel’s southern-most point).

The problems with just that first paragraph are myriad, however, starting with the fact that extra-judicial assassinations are illegal and immoral. Even if one presumes al-Qaisi’s guilt, his assistant was also killed in that initial attack. Moreover, I, for one, have learned not to immediately trust any government that drops information like “so-and-so was about to kill us, that’s why we had to take him out” — governments have very, very good reasons to lie about these things, and, if Israel was in fact lying this time, it had an especially good reason to do so: Those involved in last August’s Eilat attack didn’t actually come from Gaza, where al-Qaisi and the PRC are located. The terrorists came from the Sinai.

The Palestinians responded to this act of egregious violence with rockets aimed at their attackers — or, at least, at the people living on the other side of the border, in southern Israel. To which Israel responded with bombing run after bombing run, which it justified as being targeted against militants, but needless to say, noncombatants have been among the 25 Palestinians killed since Friday, including a 12 year old boy. According to HaAretz, Egypt’s ambassador to the Palestinian Authority says he expects to see a ceasefire within 48 hours.

It’s possible there may be a ceasefire — as we say in Hebrew: With things like this, it’s impossible to ever know. But ceasefire or no, here’s what we have:

Israel decided to kill someone that it really doesn’t like, without bothering with the niceties of due process or security arrangements with the Palestinian government(s) or anything that would have allowed facts to come to the fore and come into play. And much as I don’t like people who think I should die, call me crazy – I still think justice for all means “justice for all.

Moreover, Israel didn’t just kill that one person. It engaged in an ongoing, full-fledged bombing campaign, which is the very definition of collective punishment — which is also illegal and immoral.

But possibly even more to the point, since Israel doesn’t seem to much care about the whole “illegal and immoral” thing — these actions are all shockingly ineffective, as well.

As I’ve written here in the past, Israel has been swearing that it was going to wipe out the terrorists and their ability to terrorize for decades — and clearly, it’s not working.

Are the residents of southern Israel now safer because of Israel’s decision to engage in a little bit of extra-judicial assassination? Are the residents of Gaza any less likely to want to rise up against the continued occupation? (And yes, as long as Israel continues to control 95% of what and who goes in and out of the Strip, essentially turning Gaza into a large, open-air prison, it is still the occupying power).

The Palestinians did what any people does when violently attacked — they attacked back. What would Israel have done if Palestinian militants had conducted a targeted assassination inside Israel? What would the world have said?

In my 14 years in Israel, I lived through wave upon wave of suicide bombing, and the randomness of missiles fired by Saddam Hussein. I know the fear my fellow Israelis are feeling today.

What we have to come to understand is that our fear is no more valid than that of the people with whom we are at war. That the fear and the loss and the grieving is the same on both sides — except that on the Palestinian side, there’s a lot more of it, because we have much better weapons and resources.

No one — no one — should have to grab a child and pray they make it to the shelter in time.

But in Gaza, there aren’t even any shelters.


3/13/12 UPDATE: I happened to be up in the middle of the night last night, and I checked HaAretz re: the violence. At the time, they were reporting an imminent ceasefire; this morning, however, you’ll find that information buried at the bottom of this report and not even mentioned in the headline or tease – which, in my experience, suggests that the ceasefire is not quite the done deal that the Egyptians are saying it is.


  1. I think the issues you raise are courageous and appropriate Emily. I was most taken with your point about collective punishment. I thought back to the war and the way the Nazis would wreak horrendous violence on ghetto communities or villages following attacks on their personnel. I suppose it’s academic when you intend slaughtering the entire population in camps, or starving them to death, but that isn’t what Israel intends with the Palestinians. However, the same carelss attitude to innocent life is evidenced. It is tragic that the bullied often become bullies. I do not defend, for an instant, Palestinian violence against Israel – but, and it is a big but, if that 12 year old boy has an elder brother, do you think he will hesitate long if someone pushes a Kalashnikov into his hands, or a rock, or a grenade … or straps a suicide belt to him? When, oh when, will people connect the dots?

  2. Abbi

     /  March 14, 2012

    “What would Israel have done if Palestinian militants had conducted a targeted assassination inside Israel?” Are you for real? Does the word “bus bombing” mean anything to you? How quickly you forget the thousands of Israelis who died in bus, restaurant bombings ten years ago. How quickly you forget 3 month old Hadas Fogel’s slit throat last year. Un-freaking-believable.

    Hamas and the PA can choose at any minute of any day to sit down and accept the country Israel has been offering them for the past 20 years in exchange for total and lasting peace. That they choose not to do so and continue to engage in terror against Israel has consequences, including the forfeiture of “due process”.

    In addition, the only government laying siege to Gaza currently is Hamas. Ask them why they chose to destroy the settler homes instead of using them to house their own citizens who ARE STILL IN REFUGEE CAMPS. Who’s keeping them in those camps? Why hasn’t any aid money been used to build them proper homes or bomb shelters, as you so helpfully pointed out are lacking in Gaza. Why aren’t there shelters in Gaza? The PA has received billions of dollars in aid since Oslo. Why weren’t a few hundred thousand used to build shelters instead of lining the pockets of corrupt PA/Hamas officials?

    I agree with the last line of the above comment. When will people connect the dots and stop infantalizing the Palestinians and condoning terrorism?

    • I’m leaving this comment as an example of the kind of comment that is over the line.

      It is (in fact) possible to disagree as to the relative trustworthiness and/or responsibility of the two parties to this conflict and do so in a way that is not willfully insulting to the people with whom one is disagreeing, or to the human beings about whom one is having the conversation in the first place.

      Also, if you read my About Commenting (which I highly recommend!), you’ll see that I ask that people who come to argue come armed with facts, figures, links, and so on — not mere free-form rage. “They make me really, really mad and I think I’m right” is not an argument.

      I could answer all of the things you raise here, but choose not to, because I don’t engage with what I believe to be trolling. You did not come looking for a conversation – you came looking for a fight, and that I won’t give you.

      The one thing I will note (for anyone else who might be reading) is that the entire Arab League (all 22 members, including the Palestinian Authority) offered Israel a comprehensive two state peace not once, but twice, in 2002 and 2007 and Israel literally ignored the offer, both times. I choose not to infantalize Israel (my home), and would rather urge the government to accept the fact that actions (such as last Friday’s assassination, as but one example) actually have consequences.

      Two last things, though: If you comment here again, and your comment is as rude as this one (to me, or to other commenters, the Palestinian people or [should you decide to go this way] Israelis) your comment will be deleted and you will be banned.

      Also, as to “am I for real”? Yes, I am very much for real. I lived with those bus bombings, and saw them up close. I have seen horrible things that I wish I had never seen and will never be able to unsee. So you may take your assumptions about me, put them in your bindle, and head for the door.

      • Abbi

         /  March 14, 2012

        ed note: As I said before, if you were as rude the second time, your words would be deleted and you would be banned. Congrats!

    • With this you are attempting to suggest I have no problem with rockets on Israel. I’m not sure how you got that from the line “No one – no one — should have to grab a child and pray they make it to the shelter in time,” but there you are.

      (But thank you for linking to Bradley Burston. He’s one of my favorite Israeli writers, bar none).

  3. My old mother would simply have shaken her head and murmured “two wrongs don’t make a right”.

  4. But when we get to the bottom line Gaza’s continued attacks on southern Israel puts a large civilian population under the gun. Israel can’t and never has relied on any of the governments that surround them to bring killers to justice. In fact former PA leader Yassar Arafat would pay off the families of terrorists. People who have used suicide bombing in Israel are venerated on the West Bank and in Gaza. (I know I have seen it with my own eyes). Hamas continues to see itself at war with Israel. I don’t think we can condemn Israel for taking out their command and control centers. Zuhir al-Qaisi was a walking command and control center. The answers are not black and white, there are lots of shades of gray. Too bad so many on both sides can’t see that.

  5. Eliezer Be'eri

     /  April 15, 2012

    As an Anglo living in Israel for the last 25 years, feeling alternately proud and ashamed of my country’s political/military behavior, I found “Dear Israel, this is why I left” compelling reading, because it touched my innermost moral sensitivities. I agreed with much of what you said, but found your conclusion (not to return here, because you don’t want your children to be part of a society that has lost its way morally) very problematic. I do understand many of the reasons why committed Zionists like yourself might choose to leave Israel – fatigue, finances, stress, career advancement – and they are all honorable reasons. You quote “moral disillusionment” as your reason for leaving. Fair enough. But your public trumpeting of that disillusionment, while simultaneously publicly declaring the depth of your Zionist identity, is very jarring. Those who, by living in Israel, daily pay the price of the mess we’re in (as you once did, but no longer do) have the credentials to both criticize our society in public, and simultaneously identify strongly with it. If you were a truly committed moral Zionist, you would stay here and advocate your viewpoint so as to try improve the society you identify with. Vote. Convince people. Be a personal example. Raise your kids the way you think everyone here should. But having left, you forfeited that credential. By trumpeting criticism, while declaring your strong Zionist identity (as you do in other posts), you imply to readers that you still have that degree of legitimacy. In truth, you don’t. Either criticize …or identify. But if you want to do both publicly, you should be true to your values consistently, and come back here.

    • I think the only real response I can make to this is that, while I understand your position (and know that you are far from the only Israeli to hold it), I disagree.

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