Over the past two days, Hamas has launched a barrage of rockets into southern Israel. These attacks are horrible, and their significance far-reaching: No one should have to live with the uncertainty and fear they bring; no one should have to grab a child and run. Moreover, rockets fired by Hamas itself, rather than militants over whom the movement may or may not have any real control, represents a worrying escalation.
But there are other facts to this story, facts that are no less important but which tend not to be discussed when rockets start flying out of Gaza. To wit:
On Monday evening, the IDF carried out strikes in several locations in Gaza, and Palestinian[s] reported that five people were wounded. Shortly afterward, the IDF carried out two more strikes and killed four Palestinians.
Those strikes were carried out in response to rockets. Which came in response to Israeli strikes. Which came in response to rockets.
Just like in March of this year. And August of last year. And March of the year before that. And January 2010, too. And of course there was Operation Cast Lead, the full-on war of in the winter of 2008/9.
The details vary, the number of deaths, the methods of violence, but the basics remain identical: Violence leads to violence, more Palestinians die than Israelis, and somewhere along the line an Israeli official says something like:
This cannot be allowed to continue…We will have to catch [Hamas members], to tear them apart, to chop them to pieces. This is what I’m certain the Israel Defense Forces and the security service will do.
But here’s the thing: You know when that actual quote was uttered, and by whom? In 1996, by then-President Ezer Weizman, in response to an especially grisly suicide bombing in Tel Aviv.
I remember that bombing particularly well, because I reported on it. I remember hearing such responses from Israelis officials again and again during the years of suicide terrorism, and watching the IDF tear into the Gaza Strip and West Bank, again and again.
And here we are, Hamas still fully operational, sixteen years later.
Remember 2006’s War-In-All-But-Name “Operation Summer Rains”? Israel responded to the capture of Gilad Shalit by decimating Gaza from above, destroying roads and bridges as well as the Strip’s single power plant and killing 202 Palestinians (five Israeli soldiers were also killed), in an effort to win Shalit’s release and prevent the firing of rockets.
In 2008, Operation Cast Lead (1,396 Palestinians and nine Israelis dead) was launched to “break Hamas resistance.” In January 2010, Netanyahu “threatened [to] respond to every single rocket by Gaza militants.” Last March, Netanyahu declared Israel had “a clear policy regarding security issues…resolute preventative steps against terror.”
At what point do we admit that Israel’s Gaza policies are an abject failure?
The fact is that Israel has gone into the Palestinian territories over and over, tearing the people and their institutions to shreds in an effort to stop Hamas and the other militant organizations—and for what? Putting aside, for just a moment, the staggering moral implications of the occupation and blockade, after all of this death and mayhem, what’s been achieved for Israel?
Israelis are not secure. Israelis do not live in peace. Israelis do not know that they will be able to raise their children to adulthood without sending them into a meat-grinder that is war on the way—on the contrary, Israelis tend to assume that the next war is just a matter of time.
Insanity, it’s said, is the act of doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
But I’m the crazy one for advocating negotiations.