Saturday 26 July 2014

Iron Dome - Blessing or Curse?

There is almost universal recognition of the value of the Iron Dome anti-missile system amongst Israeli citizens.  Watching missiles being shot down out of the sky, which have been fired indiscriminately into the most populated parts of Israel with the purpose of causing death and destruction, is an amazingly impressive and heart-warming sight.  It is difficult not to understand the enormity of the task that Iron Dome is doing, and the thousands of lives that are being saved in the process.   The stark contrast between Israel's investment in defensive systems and Hamas's investment in promoting terror, death and destruction, is difficult to ignore.  Unfortunately, not everybody sees it for the positive force that it is.

In an ironic twist of fate, Iron Dome is also proving to have some negative implications for Israel and her safety.  The fact that Israel has invested so heavily in defending the lives of her citizens, including a substantial investment in the Iron Dome, is causing the current round of operations to look one-sided and unbalanced.  Despite Hamas having fired more than two thousand rockets towards Israel's densely-populated towns and cities in the past two weeks,  "only" three Israeli civilians have been killed as a result of this rocket fire.  This is not due to lack of trying on the part of Hamas. This is all down to Israel taking care of its citizens.  By contrast, a few hundred Palestinian civilians have been killed in the conflict.  This is despite the fact that Israel has taken every precaution to avoid civilian deaths wherever possible.  Many Israeli bombing raids have been called off due to the fact that innocent civilians have been observed in the targeted areas.  This action, perceived as a weakness on the part of Hamas, has given the Hamas leadership the incentive to turn large swathes of the civilian population of Gaza into human shields.  Inevitably, when more civilians are sent into the war zone, more civilians are killed. This serves Hamas's interests.

International opinion seems to ignore defensive and precautionary efforts on the part of Israel, and equally ignores the despicable actions taken by Hamas.  Instead, international opinion counts up the dead bodies in order to decide in which direction it will be swayed.  This has resulted in the international community accusing Israel of a "disproportionate response".  The Hamas leadership has understood this very quickly, and seems to value international opinion and sympathy more than it values the lives of its innocent civilians.  It has decided that dead bodies are good for international public relations, and are more important than preserving the lives of innocent civilians.  They have cynically used this for public relations, to very good effect.  This is a battle that Israel cannot win.  Investing in safety for Israeli civilians means that Israel is losing the moral high ground in the eyes of international community.  The Iron Dome and other defensive measures implemented, are turning the tide of international public opinion against Israel.  Instead of valuing Israel's efforts in defending her citizens, the international community is being fooled by the cynical efforts by Hamas to gain their sympathy and support.

It is horrifying that Hamas seeks sympathy via the death of its innocent civilians, through the glorification of death and using it in the most cynical way possible.  It is even more horrifying that members of the international community cannot see through this for the disgusting behaviour that it is.  Even if these sympathy-seeking tactics are successful, they will never change Israel's approach to valuing life of its own citizens and even of the citizens of its enemies.  Citizens of the State of Israel are enormously proud of Iron Dome, and the wonderful work that it has done in protecting innocent lives.  No amount of sympathy lost as a result of employing life-saving tactics and technologies will change this.

In an ironic way, the Iron Dome has probably saved more Palestinian lives than Israeli ones.  Without the benefit of the Iron Dome protecting Israel, the government and the IDF would have been forced into making much quicker decisions, and ones that are much more far-reaching.  The response to so many rockets fired into Israeli towns and cities causing death and destruction, is likely to have been a much more powerful military and air force reaction to bring the bombimg campaign to an abrupt halt.  The "collateral damage" in terms of Palestinian civilians from such a campaign would have been far greater.  

The value and importance of recognition and support of the international community can never be underestimated.  The actions taken by Hamas to gain this support and recognition have crossed all red lines.  There can be nothing to justify sacrificing the lives of innocent civilians, your own innocent civilians, in return for international sympathy.  It is for this reason that Israel will continue to develop systems to defend its citizens, and Hamas is likely not to do so.  If this comes at the cost of public support and sympathy, so be it.  Israel will never compromise on defending the lives of her citizens.  And the citizens of Israel will never give up on Israel and her defense forces.

Sunday 13 July 2014

Protective Edge or Strong Cliff

The name of the latest operation against Hamas rocket-fire from Gaza is an interesting and meaningful choice.  The Hebrew name for the operation, צוק איתן (tzuk eitan), literally means strong cliff.  One can understand the imagery associated with a cliff that is extremely strong.  One can easily imagine the Sate of Israel risking the threat of collapsing if the cliff does not continue to support it, and the Israel Defense Force (IDF) continuously reinforcing the strength of the cliff to support all that sits above it.  Despite having stood on the edge of the cliff for the past 66 years, the cliff stands as strong as ever.

The English name for the operation, probably chosen by spin doctors who will have given great consideration to how the world's media will interpret it, is "Protective Edge".  No matter which way one translates the "edge" in "protective edge", it seems to work out in a positive way in depicting the State of Israel in its current state of emergency. The "protective" seems to portray to the international community, that the operation is all about retaliation and protection, rather than being the aggressor.  While this is entirely accurate, it contrasts sharply against the impression of strength that is reflected in the Hebrew name.

How important is the name of  the operation?  Other than providing the press with a way of referring to the operation, does the name really serve any significant purpose?  Does it matter whether it is named something meaningful, or if we simply adopt a system of naming operations in alphabetical order in the same way as typhoons in the Atlantic are named?  The naming of an operation is a significant moment in the conflicts that Israel is constantly battling.  The moment an operation has a name, it is a clear indication to the general public and to the security services  that this operation is more than simply ongoing defensive actions that are part of our everyday lives.  The name becomes equally important.  We wish the name to reflect the tone and atmosphere that will be associated with the operation.   In the case of "protective edge", the names in Hebrew and in English are both significant to their respective audiences.  The message to the people of Israel is, that while we do have the risk of falling over the cliff, we also have the strength to avoid this.  A little stick, and a little carrot.  The message to the international community is that we will do all that we need to protect ourselves, and we will use our edge despite living on the edge.

All of these messages seem to have got through to those who are fighting this battle on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people.  Our soldiers and our politicians understand that we are on the edge of the cliff.  This is how we have survived for the past 66 years, and how we are likely to continue for the foreseeable future.  We live under an existential threat which sees our neighbours continuously and unashamedly trying to destroy us, and wipe us from the map.  Our so-called peace partners in the Palestinian community, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (which currently forms part of Fatah), still have as part of their constitution the objective of destroying the State of Israel.  It is clear that, if we were not to defend ourselves in the strong and determined way that we do, we would not have a state.  In the defense of our country, we are strong and will continue to be strong.  Our young men and women who are drafted to the military in the defense of this country, do an amazing job with a smile and with an understanding of the importance of their role that belies their age. 

We use our edge in every possible way.  In this operation, the Iron Dome has proved to be our edge.  The technology associated with this system is ahead of its time, and has shown itself to be highly effective in protecting the lives of innocent people.  As of the time of writing this article, more than 100 incoming missiles have been intercepted by Iron Dome.  Failure to intercept these rockets could have resulted in hundreds, or even thousands, of death and injuries.

Our edge has also been in the way that we approach the battle.  Hamas insists upon launching missiles, which have no accurate guidance method, right into the centre of the most populated areas of Israel.  By contrast, Israel has been sending pamphlets to the residents of Gaza warning of impending attacks.  Due to the fact that Hamas continues to insist upon conducting its warfare from residential areas, the Israeli army has no choice but to target these areas in an attempt to quell the rocket fire.  Telephone calls and SMS messages are sent to the residents of particular apartment buildings by the IDF to warn them to evacuate the area.  Hamas has advised these residents to remain in their buildings, and to even climb onto the roofs in the knowledge that Israeli pilots are likely to abort releasing missiles on buildings which are inhabited by innocent civilians.

Our edge is also represented in the way that we support our boys and girls in battle.  Our soldiers on operational duty have told of residents bringing food and other suppliers to their units in the field, in order to keep them well fed.  It is also a way for these residents to show appreciation and solidarity with those on operational duty.  No food is too much to make, and no distance is too far to travel to bring the smell and taste of home-made food to battle stations.  With many fathers having been called to reserve duty to serve in this operation, systems at home have moved into overdrive in order to assist wives and children left at home.  The country is doing all that it can to assist and support those who are on active duty at this critical time.

They say that the strength of character of people is brought out during extreme circumstances.  The strength and character of the Israelis who are under fire during this operation, has truly surpassed all expectations.  This is the real strength that is referred to in the Hebrew version of the name.  We are enormously proud of the way in which our army and our people have responded to this crisis.  It certainly bodes well for this operation, and for the future.  The names in Hebrew and Engish both fit well, and perhaps even drive us forward.

Image from

Monday 7 July 2014

Peace for Peace

The shocking news received last week that the bodies of the three missing teenagers were found in a shallow grave near to where they were kidnapped, has left me with a feeling of utter despair.  My heart breaks for the parents and the families of the three young men who will never see them grow to full adulthood.  We mourn for three lives that were taken in a random, unnecessary and evil way.

When news of the kidnapping broke, we all knew deep in our hearts that it could end like this.  We prayed and desperately hoped that the story would somehow end well.  That we would see the boys, once again, in the arms of their parents and rejoice like we did upon the return of Gilad Shalit.  We hoped all of this, despite the concern that we all felt for the safety of Eyal, Gil-Ad and Naftali.  In this case, however, the smiles that we all hoped to see have turned to tears and despair.  They have also turned to anger, bitterness and calls for retaliation and revenge.

I feel immense mourning and sadness for the murder of three children long before their time.  My despair, however, comes from a different place than the source of my mourning.  I keep thinking about the type of person or people that could have carried out this horrifying act.  Who are they?  Who are the members of their families that support them in these acts?  Who are their colleagues in the organisations that stand behind them and their ghastly murderous acts?  My great despair comes from the reality that these are the people that we have been sitting around the negotiating table with over many years.  These are the people who are being released from our prisons in prisoner exchange deals, only to re offend.

If these were the people that lived in my street, I would probably prefer to move to live elsewhere, in order to escape their vile influence.  The neighbourhood in which I live,  however, is the only one for me.  Instead of moving away, I continue to live where I really wish to be, in the hope that somehow the government will clean up my local area to allow me to live here in peace and security.

The source of my despair comes from the fact that I feel isolated in my fear about the neighbours that I live with.  The international community is forcing me to find a way to co-exist with such monsters, despite their unashamed desire to kill me off.  After I clean up my street by placing such unwanted people in prison in response to heinous crimes that they have committed, the international community thinks that it is acceptable to force my hand to release them.  All of this in the name of creating a better future.  Why can they not understand that releasing murderers, no matter what the reason for their murder, cannot create a better future?  It simply makes it acceptable for the murderers to commit their horrible acts over and over again.  Those who force me to litter my neighbourhood with unwanted individuals seem to understand the need to keep their own streets clean.  Why are we not justified in keeping our streets clean too?

Despite the fact that we are in mourning for three of our children who were murdered by those who were released to kill again, we will not allow ourselves to mourn for the future that we plan to build.  While we would prefer to have a good, peaceful co-existence with our neighbourhoods, we will protect ourselves when this is not the situation.  And we will not allow ourselves to give up on our vision for the future, even if this cannot be achieved right now.  The time has come for us to stand up to the international community and say that we will give peace in return for peace, and we will keep criminals in their rightful place.  If our neighbours do not value the peace that we offer in return for peace, there is no deal to be done.

It is my hope that three innocent lives were not lost totally in vain.  The unity that they brought to the people of Israel and Jews around the world, while we prayed for their safe return, is unparallelled.  Let us hope that this unity will allow us to overcome the obstacles that lie in our way to build a better future for ourselves and our children.