Peres should apologize
New York – The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has criticized remarks made by Israeli Vice-Premier Shimon Peres denigrating concern over the incessant rocket attacks upon Sderot and other parts of Israel adjacent to Gaza as â€œhysteriaâ€ and for demeaning the danger of Qassem missile attacks as â€œQassems schmassems.â€ Peres was quoted as saying, â€œThis hysteria over the Qassems must end … Weâ€™re just adding to the hysteria. What happened? Kiryat Shmona was shelled for years. What, there werenâ€™t missiles … We must tell the Palestinians, Qassems shmassems, weâ€™ll hold firm.â€ (Yediot Ahronot, June 20).
On the issue of the Israeli governmentâ€™s general downplaying of the significance of these Qassem rocket attacks, former Defense Minister Moshe Arens wrote recently that the Olmert government has been unwilling to admit that the whole Gaza unilateral withdrawal had been â€œone gigantic blunderâ€ (Ha’aretz, June 22).
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, â€œWe are appalled at Shimon Peres words which downplay the horror of constant Palestinian missile attacks from Gaza upon innocent Israelis in Sderot. These attacks have caused casualties as well as damage to homes, schools and factories. It is miraculous that that there have not been more casualties till now. By dismissing these incessant attacks with the words, â€˜Qassems shmassemsâ€™, Peres is seemingly saying that these attacks are unimportant.
â€œPeresâ€™ argument that Israel should not make a fuss about Qassem rockets hitting Israel from Gaza because other parts of Israel like Kiryat Shmona have been indiscriminately shelled in the past by other terrorists contradicts even his own past conduct. In 1993, after continuous rocket attacks upon Kiryat Shmona and other residential areas in northern Israel, the Israeli government of which Peres was then Foreign Minister launched â€˜Operation Accountability,â€™ a major military incursion on the ground in Lebanon in order to pressure the Lebanese Islamist terrorist group, Hezbollah, to stop firing missiles into Israel. In April 1996, when Peres was Prime Minister, he launched another major military incursion into Lebanon, Operation Grapes of Wrath II, for the same reasons.
â€œIn other words, Shimon Peres himself launched substantial military operations against terrorists raining missiles on Israeli towns but for some reason he is not proposing any measures against these attacks from Gaza and is pretending they are not important. What will it take for the Israeli government to act? Rockets hitting classrooms filled with children? Instead, Peres calls concern over these rocket attacks â€˜hysteria.â€™ Is this because he will not admit that the policy of unilateral withdrawals which he supports damaged Israeli security? Shimon Peresâ€™ attempt to pretend that the Qassem rocket attacks from Gaza are not important seems to bear out Moshe Arensâ€™ explanation for the Olmert governmentâ€™s inaction — that it is not prepared to face the fact that the Gaza withdrawal was a big mistake which endangers Israel.
â€œShimon Peres should apologize to the residents of Sderot and the people of Israel.â€