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ZOA Supports Long-Overdue Israeli Air Strikes in Gaza

December 30, 2008

Obama in July 2008: I would do everything
to stop rocket attacks

The Zionist Organization of America’s (ZOA) National Chairman of the Board, Dr. Michael Goldblatt, has issued the following statement of support for Israel’s military action in the past four days against Hamas in Gaza:

The ZOA firmly supports Israel’s long-overdue air strikes upon the Hamas leadership, personnel and fortifications in Gaza. These strikes follow the termination of the so-called ceasefire that was in any case frequently violated by Hamas. Only yesterday, three Israeli civilians were killed by missiles fired from Gaza into Israel, and 19 more were wounded. One of these rockets struck Ashdod, a city a little south of Tel Aviv and Israel’s largest port, which until now had appeared to be out of range of the terrorists in Gaza.

Altogether, over seventy missiles struck Israel yesterday. Attacks like these upon Israel have been commonplace for years, did not end during the supposed ceasefire with Hamas and were resumed in increasing strength last week before Israel acted militarily.

Under the terms of the former ceasefire, the only thing that Hamas consented to do was to stop firing rockets into southern Israel – and even that it did not fulfill. Instead, it used the breather provided by the ceasefire to entrench its fortifications, build bunkers, import weaponry and prepare its armed forces to strike ever deeper into Israel.

The ZOA hopes that Israel will not only decimate the Hamas leadership, but also reduce the mounting strategic dangers confronting Israel in Gaza and the capacity of Hamas and other terror groups to strike deep into Israel with rockets, shells and other offensive weaponry which they are known to have smuggled into the territory. As Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan D. Halevi, a senior researcher of the Middle East and radical Islam at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, pointed out in August, since Hamas has controlled Gaza, Al-Qaeda affiliates like the Jaish al-Islam, the Army of the Umma and Fatah al-Islam have all been established in Gaza.

Therefore, to accomplish the twin goals of reducing the strategic dangers to Israel and capacity of the terror groups to harm Israel, Israel must retake the Philadelphi Corridor along the Gaza-Egyptian border. This would permit Israel to drastically curtail the smuggling of offensive weaponry into Gaza by Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups. The need for such action is obvious: Maj.-Gen. Dror Almog, who headed the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Southern Command (2002-2003) has said that, “From a military point of view, there’s no question it was a mistake to leave [the] Philadelphi [corridor]” (Jerusalem Report, November 13, 2006). Similarly, the Pensioners Minister, Rafi Eitan, has said, “we need to sit on the Philadelphi Corridor for a long period of time” (Jerusalem Post, October 22, 2006).

Reducing the strategic dangers to Israel will at a minimum also require the IDF to reoccupy northern parts of Gaza, from which the missile barrages are launched against Israeli cities, towns and farms. This move was recommended over a year and a half ago by Col. (ret.) Moti Yogev, Ex-Gaza Division Commander, who said that, “The government is not implementing the most basic effective measures to fulfill its basic responsibility to protect the citizens of Sderot and the western Negev” (Israel National News, April 25, 2006). In this connection, former Likud Defense Minister, Moshe Arens, has also said that “the Qassem [rockets] being fired on Ashkelon are being fired from areas that were abandoned as part of the Disengagement. The army must therefore return and conquer these areas, and only in this way will we be able to stop the rockets from being fired at us” (Israel National News, April 25, 2006).

For these reasons, it was well past time for Israel to launch its current offensive to put an end to the incessant assaults from Gaza, like the barrage of some 80 rockets that hit Israel on December 25, and which, but for a miracle, could have resulted in many dead Israeli civilians and who knows how many wounded.

It is surely inconceivable that the United States would tolerate – for a period of years – incessant rocket attacks upon Chicago or Seattle from terrorist groups based in Canada, or upon Dallas or Phoenix from terrorist groups based in Mexico. Nor is it likely that any other country would tolerate similar attacks from across the border on its cities and people.

Israelis are entitled to live anywhere within Israel’s borders, to till every inch of Israel’s soil and to travel every yard of Israel’s roads without threat or fear of aggression. It is simply intolerable that whole Israeli communities, like the town of Sderot, have become partial ghost towns, that children within them fear to attend school or play outdoors because warning sirens signaling incoming missiles could be sounded at any moment. It is plainly unacceptable that 250,000 Israeli civilians in southern Israel, including 100,000 children, constantly live in fear of incoming missiles from Gaza.

It is clear now that it is necessary to rectify the deterioration in Israel’s security that has stemmed from the Gaza withdrawal and which has resulted in so much of southern Israel being reduced to a state of unremitting insecurity. This necessity has been admitted even by some prominent former supporters of the Gaza withdrawal.

For example, last year, former Labor Party leader and Defense Minister, Benyamin Ben Eliezer said, “I admit and confess … I was with those who strongly supported [former prime minister] Ariel Sharon, and today I say with my head held high: We erred, we made a very big mistake … [such a withdrawal can only work when territory is] handed over to responsible hands and anchored in agreements and international guarantees. Here we have a precedent — a territory we left turns into a base for terror – period … Israel must respond.” (Jerusalem Post, November 8, 2007).

Also, Yuval Diskin, director of Israel’s Shin Bet (Security Service) said nearly two years ago that, without sustained military action in Gaza, “in another two or three years, it will be very difficult to deal with the problem called the Gaza Strip” (Haaretz, March 13, 2007). And that is also why former Labor Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said that “the government made a mistake by withdrawing from the Gaza area without an agreement with a responsible Arab Authority” (Israel National News, November 15, 2006).

In targeting the leadership, personnel and fortifications of Hamas, a State Department-listed terrorist group that has does not recognize Israel, engages in terror attacks deliberately targeting civilians and calls in its Charter for the general murder of Jews (Article 7), Israel is clearly acting legitimately within its inherent right of self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter.

Palestinian civilian casualties are the clear result of Hamas’ deliberate policy of placing its personnel, armories and fortifications in civilian areas. This is a war crime under international law, which we condemn. We urge others who are concerned about civilian loss of life to condemn Hamas for this war crime as well, without which any expression of concern for civilians can have no meaning.

So far as this conflict is concerned, international law prohibits two things – deliberately targeting civilians and hiding armed forces amid civilians. Hamas is guilty on both counts. In this context, we firmly repudiate criticism of Israeli military action, which has gone out of its way to avoid harming civilians.

We note that President-elect Barack Obama has not commented on the current crisis, as George W. Bush is still the President. However, we note approvingly that in July, when he visited Israel, Senator Obama rightly endorsed Israel’s right to respond in force to these rocket attacks from Gaza, saying, “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do everything to stop that, and would expect Israel to do the same thing.”
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