Gaza! The very word conjures up visions of violence, religious fanaticism, and human degradation. A place no one would want to visit. There are more than 2 million people living in the Gaza Strip, and since 2007, they have been ruled by Hamas, a terrorist organization with no interest in helping its people. Affiliated with the Islamic Brotherhood, a radical Sunni group, their main interest is the spread of their own radical brand of Islam. Central to their goals is the total eradication of Israel and the Jewish people, whom they see as a stain on their Muslim hegemony in the Middle East.
In 2005, then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon withdrew totally from the Gaza Strip. He evacuated all IDF personnel and bases and forcibly evicted close to 9,000 people from their homes in the 17 Jewish communities that had been established there since 1967. He promised the Israeli public that this move would lead to peace, that when the Arabs of Gaza were given the ability to rule their own lives, they would choose peace and stability and reject the path of terrorism.
The PA took control of the Strip but did nothing to promote peace or even improve the lives of the local population. Less than two years later, Hamas took over, and it has been downhill ever since. For years, Hamas and their collaborators have fired rockets and missiles into Israel, with greater effectiveness in recent years. When Sharon first pulled Israel out of Gaza, he promised that even one attack over the line would result in the recapture of the Strip. Instead, for years, Israel tolerated a constant stream of artillery, growing to rockets and then long-range missiles, responding only from time to time. The goal, however, has never been to retake Gaza. Today, 18 years later, no one in Israel advocates a return to Gaza. Too much has happened to make that an effective possibility at this point.
Last week, Israel was subjected, once again, to a steady stream of rocket fire aimed not only at the area adjacent to the Strip but also at central Israel. For six days, Israelis living nearest to the Strip stayed in their shelters. Those a bit further away remained in close proximity to their shelters at all times. Schools were closed, businesses shut down, and roads blocked. And while life in Tel Aviv and its surroundings proceeded normally, there were a number of attacks there as well. There were even attacks against communities in Judea, in the area of Efrat.
The Israeli government identified the Islamic Jihad as the perpetrator of last week’s attacks, and its first response included the elimination of the key leadership of that organization. It was a move that reflected the amazing abilities of Israeli intelligence to pinpoint the exact location of the leadership and eliminate them without collateral damage. Following that, the Israeli Air Force proceeded to attack and eliminate known Islamic Jihad targets, including munitions factories, launching pads, and terrorist bases. A cease-fire was achieved at the request of the Islamic Jihad after Hamas understood that too much damage had been wrought by Israel in Gaza. Egypt helped broker the deal. But even after the cease-fire went into effect, Islamic Jihad continued to fire missiles into Israel for several hours more, and the IDF responded to each attack.
The question that remains after all of this is what was accomplished. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced that Israel had dealt a crushing blow to Islamic Jihad in Gaza and had restored deterrence to the entire area for some time to come. Analysts point to the fact that Israel carefully avoided attacking Hamas during the campaign and note that Hamas has been taking more responsibility for the welfare of its people recently and therefore are more interested in the economic benefits that Israel can provide to Gazans, including work permits in Israel. They identify this as motivation for Hamas to ensure quiet. But has anything really changed?
Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad are terrorist organizations. Both are committed to the destruction of Israel. Both have consistently used civilian human shields to cover their terrorist activities, placing weapons and missile launchers in schools and residential areas. They have always opted for investment in terrorism rather than in the economic development of their people. They have directed their resources toward weapons rather than towards health or education. They have poisoned their people against Israel so that it is not even clear if there are any Gazans who understand how they have been taken hostage and used as pawns in the Islamist war against Israel.
There is no possibility of discussing peace or even non-violent co-existence with people pledged to your destruction. The people of Gaza are suffering for sure. But they are paying the price of a leadership that they support in overwhelming numbers. When terrorists are killed in the battle, they view them as holy martyrs. When homes are destroyed, they are immediately rebuilt with funds provided by Iran and in some cases, indirectly by European countries.
There is only one way to change this situation. The international community must get involved. They must halt all financial assistance to Gaza. They must do whatever needs to be done to remove the terrorist organizations from Gaza and install a normal, political leadership. Is this possible? Probably not. Will the international community want to commit its resources and military to effect this sort of change? I cannot imagine they would., especially since they are overwhelmingly stuck in a paradigm that separates the needs of civilians from the decisions of their terrorist leadership. They are always willing to pour money into civilian infrastructure, demanding nothing in return from the leadership. In which case, we have just finished yet another violent round with Gaza. Stay tuned for the next round, coming soon I am sure.
Sondra Oster Baras is the founder and director of CFOIC Heartland, an organization that connects Christians all over the world to the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, Israel’s Biblical Heartland. To learn more about her work and to support the people of Judea and Samaria, visit www.cfoic.com .