In the past six years or so, there have been many ups and downs in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Many ceasefires, many truces, many easings of tensions, many moments of hope — all, in the end, transient.
And over those six years, six thousand rockets have fallen on one Israeli city.
Six thousand rockets in six years.
A thousand rockets a year, on average.
Roughly three times a day.
You could almost set your clock by it. A rocket for lunch, a breakfast for dinner, and most days a rocket for breakfast — unless the terrorists sleep in, which they do in July and August and a couple other days a year.
Because they’re utterly unpredictable. You could get two or three in a row, then go a week or so without any.
And it’s not just the timing that’s unpredictable.
The rockets themselves are utterly unguided. The Palestinians build them out of scraps, point them in the direction of Israel, and send them on their way, with no guidance system but Sir Isaac Newton’s dead hand at the controls.
These are not military weapons. They’re not even as good as the original military rockets, the V-2s and Katyushas and air-launched rockets were more advanced and practical. Qassams are literally pure terror weapons: they are utterly unguided. They have no defined target, they just fly in the direction they are aimed until they run out of fuel or kinetic energy, and then they fall to earth and blow up whatever happens to be in the course governed by ballistics and winds and other random elements.
The death toll from Qassams has been relatively low. That’s because the people of Sderot have learned to take cover quickly when the alert is sounded. They have to, because they tend to get 15 seconds or so worth of warning.
Imagine you lived in a city when, three times a day, a blind man would go up on a rooftop and shoot a shotgun down into the streets. He almost never hit anybody, but he would still be blowing out windows, hitting cars, and in general causing chaos and fear. How long would it take for the people to demand the police do something? How many would just up and leave if this continued year after year?
The people of Sderot are made of sterner stuff. They hunker down, refuse to be driven from their homes, and demand their government do the one fundamental thing that governments are supposed to do — protect their people.
Their government would like to. Their government tries to. But its every move is countered by global pressures to “show moderation.” To “demonstrate restraint.” To give only a “proportional response.”
In this last week, the government of Israel started hitting back. They started targeting Qassam rocket teams before they could fire. And they started targeting Palestinian officials who, at best, refuse to stop the attacks — and, more likely, give them their blessings.
Now the Israelis have superior military equipment. Their weapons are guided. And in accordance with their own sense of ethics, many of them have reduced-size warheads from standard to reduce the chances of killing bystanders. Further, their doctrine says they will often forgo chances to attack if too many bystanders are present (something the Palestinians exploit at every opportunity, surrounding themselves with children and other civilians whenever they can).
But for even that, they are punished. Earlier this week, a woman was killed by a Qassam rocket. Israel, in response, killed a rocket team and at least one terrorist leader. This was promptly reduced to pure numbers — “how could you kill seven in response to the death of one?” Here, Israel is punished for being more competent than the Palestinians.
So, how well does “restraint” and “proportionality” and “moderation” work for Israel? Let’s take a gander at some opinions:
According to Sarah El Deeb, a writer for the Associated Press and Canadian Press:
Palestinian rockets slammed into southern Israel on Monday morning after an Israeli air strike hit a Hamas legislator’s house and killed eight people in the deadliest attack of a renewed Israeli campaign against incessant rocket fire.
Note the Palestinian rockets are written as a retaliation for the air strike, while the provocation for the air strike is couched as a “campaign against incessant rocket fire.”
Over on Wizbang Blue, Paul Hamilton quotes a similar story under the headline “Israel Determined To Shatter Cease Fire.” He doesn’t explain which cease fire they are trying to shatter — one between Hamas and Fatah, or between Israel and the Palestinians — but that’s OK, because they’re both pretty fictional. Remember, a “cease fire” that has the Palestinians involved means, to them “you stop killing us, and we’ll cut back a little on killing you. Maybe. As long as it’s convenient. Or we re-arm. Or we get bored.”
But back to Sderot. In the story Hamilton quoted, let’s look at how the cease-fire had been honored before Israel had gotten all medieval:
The rocket was part of a small barrage of six this evening. Earlier, the number of rockets launched at Israel had been relatively few, only nine during the day, the army said, six of which landed in Israel, causing no injuries.
Several hundred Palestinian rockets have been fired into Israel, with more of them now being fired by Hamas, which had largely refrained from such actions under a kind of cease-fire with Israel over Gaza dating from last November. That cease-fire is over, although the Palestinians are calling for a new cease-fire to cover both Gaza and also the West Bank, where Israeli troops operate freely.
I’d dearly love to see just how many days of that “cease fire” passed with no actual firing going on. With no rockets falling on Sderot. But I’m just using my Western prejudices and racism and bigotry by defining “cease fire” as “no actual firing going on.”
The people of Sderot are not being protected by their government. It wants to, it tries to, but finds its hands tied by international pressures. It’s not being protected by groups who promote “peace” and “understanding” and “compassion” — those people tend to save all the sympathy for those firing the rockets at the people of Sderot. They’re not being protected by the United Nations — that august body can only bring itself to wring its hands and make vague, general platitudes about how the whole situation is “unacceptable.”
So the people of Sderot are now looking for help from the world in general. From anyone who will listen.
For a very long time, there has been a theory in the world that the Jews are like canaries in a coal mine. When things start getting bad for Jews somewhere, it’s a good indicator that things will start getting bad for everyone else there, too. And whatever befalls Jews, will eventually befall non-Jews.
If you want to know what the future in the War on Terror might be like, look at Sderot. Years and years and years of attacks, while nobody does a goddamned thing to stop them. A worldwide culture of tolerance for a certain level of terror, of carnage, where a couple of rocket attacks a day are considered “acceptable” and “tolerable” — especially by those not sitting on the bullseye.
An average of three rockets a day, every day, for six years.
Here’s what I’m going to do today. During my three meals, I’m going to take a moment and imagine that wherever I happen to be is about to be hit by a rocket. I will have fifteen seconds to find whatever cover I can. I will look around and see just where I would bolt to.
I will do that for today. Tomorrow, I will go back to being content to live in New Hampshire, where I don’t have to worry about Vermont or Maine or Canada or even Massachusetts lobbing rockets at us.
The people of Sderot have been doing it for six years.
No one can inflict guilt like a Jewish mother. I know this as someone who spent several years involved with a Jewish mother. So when my Jewish blogmother dropped me a quick line asking me if I would mind mentioning the Sderot Media Center here, I hung my head in shame. I hadn’t mentioned Sderot too much because, quite frankly, I couldn’t think of anything I could say that would add one iota to the discussion — Meryl herself has done remarkable work blogging about it.
But Jewish guilt is a remarkable thing. Even on non-Jews like me, it can work its magic — and the “magic” of Jewish guilt is that it most often inspires people to find within themselves that which they did not know exists. After Meryl’s gentle noodging, I found that I did, indeed have something to say on the matter. A hell of a lot, it turned out.
Thank you, Meryl, for giving me that tap on the shoulder. It might not have been as satisfying for you to deliver as a kick in the ass, but it worked a hell of a lot better.