Last week in Israel began with a forgotten anniversary and ended in bloodshed, the indiscriminate murder of at least 8 civilians in a three-pronged terrorist attack near Eilat, followed by an escalation of rocket fire into Israeli population centers, which killed one and injured many more, emanating from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
Amdist the chaos, the anniversary in question has understandably been relegated to the status of an afterthought. However, to contextualize the ongoing destruction of Jewish life being perpetrated by terrorist factions in Gaza requires taking a deeper look at the connection between unfolding events and those of years past.
Exactly six years ago last week, Israel’s disengagement from Gaza began.
On the eve of the Disengagement Plan’s implementation, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon addressed the nation: “Citizens of Israel, the day has arrived. We are beginning the most difficult and painful step of all—evacuating our communities from the Gaza Strip and Northern Samaria.”
The next morning, some 14,000 IDF soldiers and police officers began the task of forcibly evicting the approximately 4,500 “settlers” and 4,000 activists remaining in Gaza, where clashes broke out between civilians and security forces in what can aptly be described as one of the most traumatic events in modern Jewish history.
But aside from Jews fighting against Jews, the disengagement from Gaza has primarily become defined by the ensuing emergence of Hamas, both politically and militarily.
The story of Hamas’ coming-of-age is well-known. Following Israel’s withdrawal, and largely at the behest of Washington, elections were held in Gaza in 2006. Despite warnings from Israel that elections could empower the then-floundering Hamas, the White House ignored Israel’s allegations. The consequence was the “democratic” election of a terrorist group dedicated to liberating “Palestine” from the “Mediterranean to the Jordan River.”
Following Hamas’ political empowerment came its 2007 civil war waged against another terrorist faction, the Palestinian Authority, leading to the PA’s banishment to the West Bank.
If the PA’s terrorist sympathies were ever in doubt, consider its response to last Thursday’s attack on Israel: in the words of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s spokesman Mark Regev, the Palestinian silence was “deafening.”
Once Israel began its retaliatory campaign, however, Palestinian representatives mysteriously regained their powers of speech: First, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat warned Israel against “any irresponsible action” in the Gaza Strip (it is already well-known that the PA considers as irresponsible the dismantling or elimination of terrorist infrastructure, as it has still not satisfied this fundamental criterion of the Oslo Accords). Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, ignoring the slaughter of Israeli civilians, called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss “halting Israeli aggression” on the Gaza Strip. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad issued a statement asserting that Israel’s “rogue behavior must end.” Nimer Hammad, a senior adviser to Abbas, accused Israel of perpetrating “war crimes” against the Palestinians. Mohammed Subh, the PA envoy to the Arab League alleged that “Israel is preparing for war to distract attention from the Palestinian Authority’s plan for September.”
Terrorism comprises the indiscriminate use of violence, whether direct or indirect, for political aims, and the Palestinian Authority is doing just that by claiming that Israel’s legitimate retaliation to the massacre of civilians is an attempt to stifle the PA’s September bid for statehood at the UN, and by equating Israeli self-defense with Palestinian terrorism. That these claims are patently false was confirmed by the London-based Arabic-language newspaper Al-Hayat, which reported that Egyptian delegates delivered a message from Jerusalem to Hamas saying that Israel was only targeting in Gaza the elements responsible for the terror attack, and would immediately halt its strikes if rocket fire into Israel stopped. Therefore, instead of calling on its newly minted political partner, Hamas, to stop murdering Israelis with projectiles, the PA is wrongly, although expectedly, condemning Israel for a situation it could otherwise help to resolve—that is, if it wanted to, rather than manipulate tragedy to empower itself while further delegitimizing the Jewish state.
To fully conceptualize the ongoing violence in Israel, it is essential to view the events in the framework of Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza.
Following the PA’s own eviction from Gaza, Hamas and associated terrorist organizations were left unabated to re-arm, and trench in. The result is that Gaza has effectively become an Iranian-sponsored military base whose lone ambition is the annihilation of Israel. This is not to say that Israel brought terror upon itself, but rather to show the correlation between ceding territory to sworn enemies and the potential deadly ramifications. The fact of the matter remains: the terrorists who perpetrated the attacks in Southern Israel gained access to the Sinai via the Philadelphi Corridor, situated along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, which was monitored and patrolled by Israeli forces prior to the 2005 disengagement.
One can only hope that by accentuating this connection policymakers in Israel will realize the dangers associated with the “land for peace formula”—that all Israel has ever received in return for territory is the spilled blood of its innocents. In this respect, perhaps those in power will forego future Israeli territorial withdrawals, in particular to the 1967 borders, as is presently being promoted by US President Barack Obama.
The security of millions of Israelis depends on it, and the memories of those who perished this week deserve nothing less.
For forgotten memories manifest in repeated anniversaries.