Fifteen seconds – that's all the time that hundreds of thousands of Israelis have from the moment the alarm sounds, signaling that a rocket has been launched at them by Hamas. Wherever they are – at home, in the car, in the street or in the shower – they have a mere 15 seconds in which to run with their wives and children to the nearest bomb shelter and save their lives. For eight long years the town of Sderot, located only four kilometers (2.5 miles) from Gaza, has been living this way. A quarter of the town's population has already deserted it. Would you be willing to live under such conditions, day and night, for eight years, veritable human sitting-ducks in the crosshairs of a Hamas projectile.
The Palestinians as a people are not our enemy. The Palestinians are our neighbors. We truly want to build bridges with them, bridges of dialog and hope for a better future.
The Hamas is our enemy. Hamas is a violent Islamic terror organization, a member of the radical Tehran-Hezbollah axis. With its hard-line adherence to a particularly extremist religious doctrine, the Hamas is unwilling to compromise and respects no agreements. Its declared aim is to eliminate the State of Israel and murder all its citizens. Hamas has blown up buses with all their passengers in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem. Hamas sent suicide bombers to murder Israeli teenagers in discotheques. Hamas has perpetrated horrendous massacres in restaurants and cafes, killing hundreds of Israelis. How would you act if a brutal, armed-to-the-teeth terrorist organization were to send its murderers to kill men, women and children in your restaurants, supermarkets, and trains?
Moreover, Hamas is not the enemy of Israel alone, but the enemy of all moderate Palestinians. Only a short while ago, when Hamas took over Gaza by force, its men thought nothing of throwing their political opponents, supporters of Palestinian Authority Presidents Abbas, off tall buildings. Scores of Palestinians were killed by Hamas gunfire, as Hamas wrested control of Gaza from the hands of President Abbas. Moderate Palestinians know the bitter truth about Hamas. The European Union also knows the true face of Hamas, and has included it in its list of terror organizations. I would like you to know the truth, too.
Hamas is the incarnation of the Middle East's worst nightmare. It does not represent the Palestinian national desire for independence, because it objects to the two-state solution, that is, Israel and a Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security. Rather, it espouses the idea of one fanatical Islamist state that would be established on top of the ruins of the Jewish state. The aim of Hamas is not to establish a Palestinian state; it never was. Instead, Hamas aims to destroy the state of Israel, plain and simple. This is the most important message which the media fails time and again to impart. If a terrorist organization were to demand the destruction of your country as a condition for terminating its violent aggression, would you nod your head and say Amen?
Three and a half years ago, in the summer of 2005, Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip completely. Anyone speaking today of the "Israeli occupation of Gaza" simply does not know what he's talking about. Or perhaps he does, but prefers to tell a tall tale. With courage and decisiveness, Israel uprooted all its military bases and civilian settlements, pulled out all of its people, to the very last one. The Palestinians were given a historical opportunity change their fate, and turn Gaza into an economic, national and cultural miracle. With massive international aid, they could have converted Gaza into a paradise of agriculture and hi-tech industry.
Instead, the Hamas seized control and made Gaza into a den of terrorism and oppression. It methodically violated all cease-fire agreements with Israel, smuggled Iranian-made weapons and rockets through tunnels dug under the border, and consistently ignored the basic human needs of Gaza's civilian population. Israel's disengagement from Gaza three years ago was a crucial historical test, one which the Hamas resoundingly failed.
There are some in the world who automatically blame Israel for anything bad that happens on Earth. Their world-view is black-and-white, with Israel always painted black. This is a serious distortion of morality, affecting the political and media spheres, that is probably fed by the same-old poisonous wells that nourish certain elements of the antisemitic psyche. This in turn finds expression in some caricatures and articles in daily papers, especially in western Europe, that cause shock and shame; shame that such modes of expression still exist in Europe in 2009.
In Israel's just struggle against terrorism we are not asking for your help. We ask only for your understanding, and expect you first and foremost to be fair. Before you criticize us, take a close look at yourselves in the mirror, and ask yourselves what you would do if your country was attacked by 8000 rockets fired for the express purpose of killing civilians. Would you sit around idly, doing nothing? How many of you would go out and protest, demanding that your government and army put an end to the unbearable situation?
People who have never felt what it's like to be bombed, who have never gone through the awful experience of running with their kids within 15 seconds to the bomb shelter, accuse us of a "disproportionate" response. What is the right formula for the appropriate response to rocket fire aimed at homes with the intent to kill? Would it be right to respond with 8000 rockets aimed at their homes? What is the correct moral arithmetic?
The Hamas deliberately fires at our civilians from their hideouts among their own civilian population. They deliberately hole up among women and children, in mosques and hospitals, while hoping that Israel will respond so that they can portray themselves as victims in the world press. This is a tremendous moral dilemma, which Israel handles far better than other armies in the world, who have found themselves in less difficult circumstances. There are those among the world media who fall easily into the traps of deceptive photos. I ask of you not to be taken in.
Despite the ongoing fighting, Israel endeavors to enable the transfer of humanitarian aid to Gaza. On most days, some eighty trucks bring and unload tons of goods, food and medication to the border crossings for transport to Gaza. The Israel Air Force invests huge efforts to avoid hitting civilians who are not involved in terror. According to IDF publications, at Air Force meetings and briefings eighty per cent of the time is dedicated to discussing ways of hitting known terrorist targets without injury to surrounding civilians. Israeli aircraft distribute leaflets calling on residents to leave areas that are about to be bombed. Do you know of any other air force in the world that takes such measures, in the midst of war? Our people actually make telephone calls to homes in Gaza, warning innocent civilians of what may happen to a building that houses a Hamas HQ office or a stockpile of rockets.
Despite all our efforts, we are not always successful. Civilian casualties are deeply regretted. Mistakes happen even in times of peace, let alone in the turmoil of war. Only this week we lost some of our own troops, shot by their brothers in arms following an unfortunate mistake.
Our war against Hamas is aimed at protecting the lives of citizens of Israel's south, but it is far more than that. It also can protect the political process and the chance for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, a chance that is persistently, obstinately, ferociously torpedoed by Hamas. It comes also to rescue this region from slipping into an abyss of fanaticism and from Iranian hegemony. It is part of the world's legitimate struggle against terrorism and murderous extremism.
When talking about the southern Israeli towns and cities, such as Sderot, Ashkelon and Ashdod, I ask you to engage in a mental exercise. Just for a moment, imagine your lovely city under a sudden barrage of Grad or Kassam rockets. Only if you put yourself for a moment in our place and realize the hardships that Israel's residents cope with, will you be able to see the picture in true color.
מח' מידע – אגף תקשורת
6 ינואר 2007