I was originally going to dedicate this post to the injustice the Israeli media has been doing to Israel’s cause when reporting on incidents involving terrorism. That was before Israel’s worries became a whole lot worse, with the publication of the Egyptian election results.
Last week began with an attempted kidnapping/mugging of an Israeli truck driver by three Palestinians. The man was pulled out of his truck and attacked by three Palestinians armed with a wrench and other cold weapons. Fearing for his life, as there have been warnings of attempted kidnappings of Israelis for the purpose of freeing terrorists (Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier, was kidnapped in the summer of 2006 near Gaza and held by Hamas for over five years, until he was eventually released in return for over 1000 convicted terrorists), the driver drew the gun he carried and killed two of his attackers. The third attacker escaped. The driver managed to get back into his truck and drove to the nearest IDF checkpoint, where he was treated for his wounds.
Israeli newspapers, who have been rightly accused of being way too pro-Palestinian for their own good, declared: “Israeli truck driver kills two Palestinians”.
Later on in the week, the Islamic Jihad and Hamas, the two main terrorist organizations in Gaza, began, once again, firing “Qassam” and “Grad” rockets at Israeli towns and cities in the south of Israel.
This requires a bit of background explanation:
Ever since Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, the various terrorist organizations realized that they can continue making life hard for the Israelis by firing rockets into Israel. The “Qassam” rockets were first put into use in 2001, and are basically pipes filled with explosives, home-made in Hamas and Islamic Jihad labs. They have no guidance system whatsoever, and they can be made and fired easily from anywhere. All terrorists need to do is drive out to a field, or better yet, get up on the roof of a school or hospital where the IDF wouldn’t dare fire back, aim it in the general direction of an Israeli town, fire and then run.
Over the years, they have developed rockets with longer ranges (“Grad” rockets). At first, they could barely reach the nearby cities of Ashkelon and Sderot. Later, their ranges improved so that towns such as Kiryat-Gat were also under fire. Now, they have the capability of reaching as far as Be’er Sheva and even Mitzpe Ramon, as they proved last week.
A lot of the time, these rockets, having no guidance system, hit open areas. Sometimes, however, people get hurt and even killed. Schools have been hit, luckily after hours. This has been going on since 2001, and the people living in these areas have had to adjust to a way of living which would be totally unacceptable in any other western country. They have gotten used to the sound of the “Color Red” alarm, telling them that they have less than a minute to get to the nearest bomb shelter. This can happen at any time of the day or night, disrupting their daily lives over and over again, day after day. Children go to school bleary eyed, having spent the night in the shelter. The streets of Sderot and other nearby towns have been transformed: every few meters stands a “Migunit”, a large concrete cube, acting as a makeshift shelter so that people can leave the safety of their houses.
Sderot culture revolves around life in the shadow of the “Qassam” rockets and their upgraded counterparts, the “Grad” rockets. I recently watched an amateur satirical film made in the “Sapir” College in Sderot. The film tells the fictional story of a male student in the college who has a crush on a female student, who he met in the “Migunit” shelter during one of the “Color Red” alarms. The only thing he knows about her is that she takes a class near that particular “Migunit” at a certain time of day. Along with his roommate, he hatches a crazy idea and contacts the Hamas in order to schedule their rocket firings in such a way that he can meet her again. When word leaks out that he can control the times of the “Color Red” alarms, a small black-market business sprouts up, with students trying to escape exams and lessons as his clients.
But life in the shadow of the “Qassams” and “Grads” is something that only a small percentage of the population knows. While life in Sderot and the area has been made into a living hell, life continues unhindered in the rest of the country. It’s been going on for so long, that many of the “Qassam” attacks are not even reported by the media. The media, being pro-left, has an interest in down-playing terrorist activity, so that the Negev (south of Israel) citizens end up feeling that they are bearing this burden alone, which would be completely true. Many of the news reports regarding “Qassam” attacks begin with the words “After a period of quiet”, even when that period of quiet lasted less than a day.
The United States has developed the “Patriot” missile for intercepting ballistic missiles. Israel has developed the “Hetz” (arrow) missile for similar purposes. But the “Qassam” rockets are too primitive for these two missiles to intercept, being little more than flying exploding pipes. Nevertheless, Israel has managed to develop the “Iron dome” system, capable of firing 15 thousand dollar missiles at 100$ flying exploding pipes in order to intercept them. Each battery of “Iron dome” reportedly costs around 1 billion dollars, partially paid for by American aid money. And it doesn’t always hit its target.
So, for the past few years, these flying exploding pipes have been flying and exploding in our general direction every few days. The IDF tries its best to eliminate the terrorists doing the firing. That isn’t a simple task, as they don’t stick around for too long after doing it. Every few months we have a large-scale shooting contest. Last week was one of them, with over 100 rockets fired at Israel over the course of five days. The difference this time, was that Hamas, the terrorist organization that runs Gaza, who in previous rounds tried to portray itself as the “responsible adult” who was having a hard time restraining the other factions, this time admitted to taking full part in the rocket-firing.
A useful Twitter account keeps a tally of the rockets fired- you can find it here.
But this round of flying pipes did not receive much media attention in Israel or elsewhere. I had to work hard in order to find this article on Yahoo!, or this article on the Guardian. Astoundingly, the Israeli media was not much better.
The Muslim Brotherhood- a game changer
The results of the Egyptian election are no less than an earthquake in an already tense region. Dr. Mordechai Keidar of Bar-Ilan University’s Arabic department and the Begin-Sadaat Center for Strategic research, who I’ve had the pleasure of knowing as a neighbor for many years, pointed out in an interview with Ynet online newspaper (sorry, the link is in Hebrew), that the ascension of Mohammed Mursi to the Egyptian presidency may have a profound effect on the region. Mursi has already declared that he plans to ‘open-up’ the 1979 peace agreement between Israel and Egypt. Keidar believes Egypt may attempt to bring military forces into Sinai, a demilitarized zone according to the treaty, or even bar Israeli ships from passing through the Suez Canal, a breach of international law.
Mursi also declared today (June 25th) that he intends to strengthen Egyptian ties with Iran (although later on he denied this). This may be the beginning of a new era, in which, instead of Israeli-Egyptian cooperation, we will see an Egyptian attempt at threatening Israel with rescinding the peace treaty if Israel attempts to retaliate in Gaza when fired upon or even an attempt to blackmail Israel into forgoing its attempts to thwart Iranian nuclear aspirations: a very worrying prospect indeed.