Thursday, May 20, 2021

Under Siege, from Israel's Riviera (#1 of 4)

(A version of this was published in the Waterbury Republican-American on May 19, 2021. This was the first of a series of four send during and immediately after the Hamas rocket war. Three were published. All four are being posted here.) 

Under Siege, from Israel's Riviera

Alan Stein

After becoming Israel's prime minister in the midst of the Palestinian Arab terror offensive known as the second intifada, Ariel Sharon famously said "What you see from here you don't see from there."

Sitting in my living room in Netanya and observing the American media write about the current Palestinian Arab terror offensive centered around the massive launching of rockets at Israeli cities and towns, I could express exactly the same sentiments. In fact, a few days ago, I experienced something "here" that I would never experience "there."

I was in a park in Netanya, called Winter Pond Park because it has what passes for a pond, albeit only in the winter, in water-challenged Israel. I was with a friend, riding our bikes around the pond, the way one might ride around the twin ponds in Fulton Park. While taking a short break, we were told we had to leave: the Home Front Command had ordered the park closed because of the rockets Hamas was raining down on Israel.

I found out a little more the next day. I had and still feel relatively safe in Netanya. We're generally not the target of rocket attacks and I'm told the bomb shelter just outside the door to our apartment has never been used for anything other than to store junk. But it turns out the park was closed so the army could come in and retrieve rocket debris that had landed in the pond after the Iron Dome had intercepted it. That also answered the question of why friends had asked if I'd heard a siren or a boom the other night. I hadn't, but the siren was the "Red Alert," the warning to quickly get to a bomb shelter - in Netanya, we have 90 seconds, far more time than the 15 seconds afforded people living near Gaza - and the boom was the sound of the Iron Dome intercepting the rocket.

Without realizing it, I'd experienced my first rocket attack, something I had never dreamed of experiencing while living in Waterbury.

It's also something Ariel Sharon believed he would be putting an end to when he took Israel completely out of Gaza in 2005, giving Palestinian Arabs complete control of territory and their own lives for the first time in their brief history. 

Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza had been launching rockets at Israel for a few years, learning how Saddam Hussein had increased his popularity among Palestinian Arabs by launching SCUD missiles at Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities in 1991 during the Gulf War. Sharon believed pulling out of Gaza would take away any conceivable excuse for Hamas to continue its terror attacks. He also expected the rest of the world would be shocked if the rockets kept coming and support Israel when it had to defend itself. Instead, with the Palestinian Arabs in complete control of Gaza, Hamas expanded its importation and production of terror rockets, has launched tens of thousands at Israeli civilians, and the world has harshly criticized Israel every time it has done anything to protect its people.

Consider the following analogy:

Rhode Island has a government dedicated to the destruction of Connecticut. The people there have been attacking Connecticut Yankees for a century and have launched tens of thousands of rockets at Connecticut over the last decade. In the last few days alone, it has launched a thousand rockets at Connecticut (roughly the same number, per capita, that Hamas has launched at Israel in the last few days).

Think about what you would expect your government, led by Prime Minister Ned Lamont, to do.

Now suppose your government tried to stop the barrage of rockets by having its defense forces use precision guided weapons to target the terrorists launching the rockets and their facilities. Being among the most moral forces in the world, it did its best to avoid harming any civilians in Rhode Island - a difficult task because the terrorists in Rhode Island used women and children as human shields, stored its rockets and other weapons in homes, schools and hospitals, and its leaders even set up their main command post in the basement of a hospital. But Connecticut's defense forces actually gave warnings before attacking those facilities, in order to give innocent people plenty of time to avoid being harmed, even though it also gave the terrorists time to escape.

Now imagine that, instead of the world praising Connecticut, your government was almost universally condemned, urged to "de-escalate" - even as rockets continued to rain down on Hartford, New Haven, Stamford and Waterbury - and a special session of the United Nations Security Council was convened to condemn and put pressure on Connecticut.

Think about what your reaction would be. It may give you an idea of how Israelis are feeling right now.

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