The sirens were silent when I was in Metulla two months ago today. After exploring the archaeological site of Hazor, my husband and I had headed north up highway 90 past Kiryat Shmona to Israel’s northernmost city, Metulla. I had always wanted to visit Metulla; I’m not sure why–maybe because of its precarious position right on the border with Lebanon, or maybe because it had made the news so often in the past. We spent two great hours in this charming–and oh, so vulnerable–little city. It was lunchtime and ‘stinkin’ hot’ when we arrived. We found a great restaurant alongside the main road. Seated in a tree-shaded courtyard with a water fountain burbling nearby, and dining on excellent Middle eastern food and wine, I felt like I was in some kind of oasis–it was so peaceful and pleasant. But I wasn’t. Taking a stroll after lunch, I saw a high tower with an air raid siren mounted on top, a stark reminder that I was in no oasis. Little did I suspect on the idyllic day in Metulla that the air raid siren I saw would be wailing its warning of incoming Katyusha rockets from Lebanon a mere eight weeks later.
The rockets launched by Hamas from the Gaza Strip in recent days have shown that almost all of Israel now, and not just Metulla, is vulnerable to rocket attacks. The terrorist organization Hamas has launched over 1000 rockets into Israel in the past eight days. Most of the rockets have been deflected by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system. There have been several Katyusha rocket attacks emanating from Hizballah-ruled southern Lebanon as well.
Israel’s response to the lethal rocket barrage has been to launch Operation Protective Edge to destroy the rocket-launching sites in Gaza. Inevitably, civilians in Gaza–many of them innocent women and children–have been killed. The number of Palestinian dead up to this point stands at 213 with more than 1500 injured. There has been one Israeli death: that of a 37-year-old civilian man delivering food to Israeli soldiers at the Erez Crossing. A couple of elderly Israelis have suffered fatal heart attacks trying to reach the shelters in time.
This disparity in the number of deaths suffered by the two sides had led to the demonization of Israel, the reasoning being: The Palestinians are dying in far greater numbers, therefore Israel must be the ‘bad guy’. Apart from Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Israel gets little in way of support or sympathy from the international community. However, anyone who has ever read Hamas’ founding charter would know–or should know–where to lay the blame for this tragic loss of life.
Hamas (Arabic acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement) was founded in 1987 after the first intifada. In Article 8 of its 1988 founding charter, Hamas makes its raison d’être unmistakably clear:
Allah is its goal;
the Prophet its model;
the Qur’an its Constitution,
jihad its path
and death for the case [sic] of Allah its most sublime belief.
Furthermore, in Article 15, Hamas states:
When our enemies usurp some Islamic lands, jihad becomes a duty binding on all Muslims. In order to face the usurpation of Palestine by the Jews, we have no escape from raising the banner of jihad.
Many who denounce Israel do not know the history of the Gaza Strip. In 2005, Israel disengaged unilaterally from Gaza. The Israeli army withdrew; all Israeli settlements were dismantled; and all Israeli residents were evicted. Then, in 2006, elections were held in Gaza at the insistence of then-US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, despite Israel’s warning that the election shouldn’t be held as long as Hamas participated while refusing to lay down its arms. In a move that left the Bush administration utterly dumbfounded, the people of Gaza voted Hamas into office! No one in the Bush White House had contemplated a Hamas victory! In 2007, Hamas seized power in a coup d’état and ousted its rival Fatah. For the past seven years the Palestinians in Gaza have been subject to the oppressive rule of a terrorist organization whose primary goal is not the well-being of the people but the destruction of its neighbour Israel.
According to the latest news, Tel Aviv has been under a particularly heavy barrage of Hamas rocket fire today. I have good memories of my time in Tel Aviv in May: walking the beach promenade to the old port city of Yafo/Jaffa; sitting at an outdoor restaurant alongside the Mediterranean, watching the sun set–and people-watching, too. A seemingly never-ending parade of Israelis passed by me on Tel Aviv’s world-famous promenade: joggers, people on bicycles, people walking their dogs, couples pushing baby strollers, seniors out for an evening stroll, ‘foodies’ heading out to some restaurant. I was struck by the vitality and zest for life that I saw around me. Now, undoubtedly, most of these same Israelis are running for the lives to escape Hamas’ ‘rain of terror’.
The civilized world deplores the deaths of innocent Palestinians, and rightly so. But, I wonder, how does Hamas view these deaths if it truly believes, as it states in its charter, that death for the cause of Allah is its “most sublime belief,” that jihad is incumbent upon every Muslim? Hamas has come to recognize the PR value of each and every civilian death in Gaza. With each death, outrage in a largely ignorant West grows against Israel, when the responsibility lies solely with the ‘death cult’ known as Hamas.