Sderot resides next to Gaza. Even before the Disengagement, Palestinian rockets were being launched at the town. Accuracy was a serious problem and the number of hits was small. Then came the Disengagement, but even though every single Jewish soldier and every single Jewish resident of Gaza were moved out of Gaza, the rocket attacks continued. One day, the Palestinians also attacked an IDF position outside of Gaza, killing some soldiers and kidnapping Gilad Shalit.
The rockets have continued unabated since the Disengagement and appear to be hitting Sderot with far greater accuracy, suggesting progress in Palestinian rocket technology. Some have likened living in Sderot to playing Russian roulette. For example, yesterday, an Israeli visitor to Sderot from an area in central Israel called Hod HaSharon, Oshri Oz (see photo), was killed because his car was in the wrong place at the wrong time. A piece of shrapnel from the Qassem rocket pierced his neck and he died shortly after. He leaves behind a pregnant wife and a 2 year old daughter.
Of course, while this is russian roulette for those who reside or visit Sderot, for the Palestinians this is a strategic play. They want to keep Israel engaged with Gaza, but they also want to make it clear that they want into Israel. The rockets right now have a range limited to western Negev communities and S. Ashkelon, a larger city, but the improved accuracy and larger number being launched mean real danger and real damage for all of Israel. Anybody thinking about Iranian and Hizbullah military and economic support for Hamas – both of which apparently exist – can envision a day in 5-10 years when those Palestinian rockets will reach much farther into Israel. Hamas is also learning from Hizbullah, according to a senior defense official in Israel, to launch from civilian centers. This, of course, means that any attempt to stop the attack or retaliate against the launching crew involves the possibility of hitting Palestinian civilians. This, in turn, leads to cynical propaganda eaten up by the journalists in the West.
This is where the excellent opinion editorial by Ari Shavit in today’s Ha’aretz comes into play.
Sderot is Us, Shavit calls it, and his point is strong and important: these attacks are not only against Sderot, but are attacks on the concept of a two-state solution, on the idea that peace will be possible with the Palestinians, on the nature of what Israel’s borders are, and on the future of Israel itself. He notes that if Sderot is hit, no other disengagement will ever work. Furthermore, he adds that it is not only the Palestinians who are teaching and learning from these attacks, but the fact that Sderot has not garnered the support of Israel’s peace camp and tepid support from Israel’s politicians is also instructive.
So the basic fact remains: Sderot 2007 is a city that seems cursed. A frontier city with no home front. A frontier city with no aura of heroism. A frontier city that the government should protect, but isn’t protecting. A frontier city that the nation should be standing behind, but is not. A frontier city abandoned by the center of the country.
It should not have been like this. Sderot is not Gush Katif. There is no debate. On the contrary: Sderot is a “Green Line” city. Sderot is a post-withdrawal city. Sderot is the righteous Israeli city after the occupation. Sderot is the future. Indeed, it is the litmus test that will teach us in real time what we can expect in the future when we withdraw completely. This being the case, Sderot should have been the apple of the eye of all those preaching withdrawal in the past, and of everyone who still believes in withdrawal. Sderot should have been the city of peace writers and peace singers and peace industrialists. A “peace now” city. A city of Israeli solidarity. A city of mutual responsibility. A city where strong Israelis stand together with Israelis who are less strong in the face of Islamic zealotry.
All this is not happening.
Read the rest below the fold, it’s important!
He goes on to list some of the weak responses to the attacks, suggesting that they reveal an absence of wisdom:
The attack on Sderot is a strategic attack on peace. It is an attack on the two-state solution. If the attack succeeds, there will be no chance of any future withdrawal. If the attack succeeds, the occupation will be perpetuated. Therefore, before the great political decision is made on how to act in Gaza, a moral decision has to be made about Sderot. Sderot must become the national project of the current period. Its residents cannot be expected to confront the Qassams alone. In the face of buses removing people from the city, buses of supporters must set out for it. In the face of the economic collapse of Sderot should come an unprecedented economic embrace of it by government and nongovernment bodies alike.
At the same time, it should be made clear that there is one law for Sderot and Tzahala [ed.: upscale neighborhood north of Tel Aviv]: A Qassam on Sderot is like a Qassam on Kikar Hamedina [ed.: central location where many of the country’s largest demonstrations have been held]. The insensitivity has got to stop. Sderot has to be defined as the Israeli front line. The struggle for the city should be viewed as both a struggle for Israeli sovereignty and as a symbol of the responsibility of Israelis for each other.
Sderot is us, all of us. We rise and fall with Sderot.
I don’t know that I expect Israelis to head over there in support, but I do expect those who advocate most strongly for a two state solution to make some sort of stand. Instead, they tend to shake their heads, tsk tsk a whole bunch in a condescending tone and tell us that it’s obvious this should happen since unilateral withdrawals are stupid.
Actually, people who say that are being short-sighted because if they believe that having Israelis occupy Palestinian areas is immoral then it is quite moral to evacuate these areas. If they would like some magical partner to appear on the other side to negotiate these withdrawals, then they are dreaming because no such person exists. Abbas is too weak and Hamas would not stop anyway (I include their sub-groups which they use as cover when attacking by claiming a different Islamic group committed the attack). Also, if one believes occupation is immoral, then every inch from which Israel withdraws enhances its position. The day Israel left Gaza was an important day in this regard.
For those who say, “You shouldn’t have done it unilaterally” or who say, “What do you expect as long as the Palestinians are also ‘occupied’ in the West Bank or have no state of their own,” I would say, “They will not get either a state or a withdrawal, ever, if they attack those towns and cities that are within the Green Line after receiving control of their own areas.” Nobody wants to be suicidal and if Gaza was a test of withdrawal, the lesson is clear: the Palestinians will keep attacking.
While this is depressing, it is also important because it teaches us that our best hopes may not match reality and therefore a new understanding of the situation might be necessary, even by those of us who strongly support a two-state solution and the removal of Israel from the majority of the territories. No, I don’t expect Peace Now or Yossi Beilin to make it a point to show up in Sderot in solidarity, but I believe that it’s time the government expended serious resources in this regard and made it clear both to Israelis and to Palestinians that it perceives Sderot, the western Negev and Ashkelon as important, as Shavit says, as any upscale neighborhood in central Israel. In fact, it perceives it as more important because it is the front-line and it represents the border – not just a physical one, but a mental border, as well, showing what Israel will and will not accept from its enemies. This is war.