Translation from the Hebrew by Jessica Cohen
The mantra repeated ad nauseam these days by Israeli officials, from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert down to the last spokesperson, is “Show us a state that would practice restraint while rockets are continuously fired at civilian populations in its sovereign territory.” For the benefit of provincial spectators like our American friends, the Israeli hasbara (Hebrew for “explanation” or “information”–a more euphemistic term than “propaganda”) has produced a film that compares Israel’s southern border to that of the United States. The question posed by the narrator: “Would the United States ignore rockets fired from Mexico into San Diego?”
The requisite yet simplistic answer is, of course, absolutely not. Even an incurable leftie like myself would not stand aside while Egyptian or Jordanian rockets landed on Israeli towns. But the correct answer, albeit the more complex one, is that the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip (and between Israel and the West Bank and the Golan Heights) is unlike any border in the world, including the Israel-Egypt and Israel-Jordan ones. The fact that Israel pulled its army out of Gaza and even removed 8,000 settlers in 2005 does not alter the fact that Gaza is still, practically and according to international law, occupied territory. Israel controls the entrances and exits, as well as access to necessities such as power and water. Mexico has not spent the last three or more years under an American aerial and sea blockade. Moreover, Israel’s impressive victory in the Six-Day War turned the West Bank and Gaza into one ethnic unit. In the peace agreement signed by Egypt and Israel in 1979, the Gaza Strip remained in Israel’s hands. The Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians, signed in September 1993, determined that the Gaza Strip and the West Bank are one political entity. This means that as long as the West Bank is under Israeli occupation, so too is Gaza.
These arguments are not intended to justify Hamas’s conduct or to defend its interests. Hamas is an enemy that refuses to recognize my national right, as a Jew, to live in my country. No one would be happier than I would to see it gone from the seat of power. As I wrote at the time, I believe that President Bush caused severe damage when he insisted that Sharon’s government allow Hamas to take part in the January 2006 elections, despite the organization’s failure to meet the electoral conditions stipulated in the Oslo II agreement. I was deeply saddened to see that Fatah, Israel’s partner in a peace agreement based on the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, missed no opportunity to make a mistake; corruption and clumsy management alienated the constituency from the Tunis leadership. I was angry at my friends in Ramallah who foolishly paved the way for this extreme organization to gain power. However, as my president, Shimon Peres, says, you can make an omelet from an egg, but you can’t make an egg from an omelet. Hamas has no plans to commit suicide or wave a white flag.