- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 30, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The Israelis finally get enough of the constant rain of rockets on their border towns and villages, fired by Hamas thugs recognized by nearly everybody as international jackals, and strike back to stop it. Guess who the villains are.

Those international thugs have become expert at retail death, killing one or two Jews one day, occasionally three or four on another, but rarely enough to make the front pages in London or Paris, Washington or New York. Death-by-rocket in Ashkelon and other cities, towns and villages in southern Israel is bad, but like other urban inconveniences not something to “overreact” to. This is the inevitable message to Israel. The grim and unrelenting war in the Middle East can be relieved in the soft salons of the West by turning to the inside pages of the morning newspaper to read about a new restaurant or a review of the latest movie, or by changing the channel to watch a chef demonstrate how to make a fluffy souffle. The Israelis have no such luxury.

Life is not so nice and easy on the ground where “the peace process” is played out with death from the sky. Because the Hamas terrorists have perfected provocation as an art of war, the blame is attached to Israel by those always eager to “blame it on the Jews,” and by a media unable to make distinctions and eager to draw moral equivalence between provocateur and the provoked.

“There was a shocking quality to Saturday’s attacks,” the New York Times observed of Israel’s emphatic response to the incessant rocket attacks, which began in broad daylight as police cadets were graduating, women were shopping at the outdoor market, and children were emerging from school. The “overreaction” of the Israelis soon ruined this happy scene of domestic tranquility, turning it into “a scene of chaotic horror, with rubble everywhere, sirens wailing, and women shrieking as dozens of mutiliated bodies were laid out on the pavement … so that family could identify them.”

“War is hell,” said old Tecumseh Sherman, the firebug of Atlanta, but only a brute is untouched by the suffering of innocents, including Palestinian women and children. But much of the rest of the world long ago decided that it would no longer be moved by the suffering of the Israelis, nor impressed by their patience in the face of extreme provocation. The Israelis are friends of the Great Satan, after all, and so deserve whatever retail death their enemies can deal. We must give the provocateur a pass.

The provocation is so unrelenting that it has become a bit boring to read about and tedious to talk about. The accounts of the Israeli response take ritual notice of the provocation, but only with statistics, dry to anyone not on the receiving end of the rockets: ” … the highest one-day toll in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in decades … .” There are few dispatches telling of a Jewish mother embracing her dead child in the hideous glare of a rocket, of wailing sirens, of the rubble of a Jewish village with tendrils of acrid smoke climbing to heaven in protest. Just the impersonal statistics.

Nevertheless, there is another reality on the ground available to anyone who looks. One place to look is Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon, hard by the border with Gaza. The doctors have moved the most essential wards underground. So many rockets have targeted the hospital and the neighborhood that the hospital now takes only emergency cases. Jewish and Palestinian children lie side by side in an underground ward. “We treat whoever needs to be treated,” says Dr. Ron Lobel, the deputy director of the hospital.

Precision bombing is a modern science, actually more art than science. The Palestinians typically station their missile-launching sites in residential neighborhoods, close to schools and hospitals, counting on the Israelis to avoid them. A video posted on the Internet, offering a pilot’s view of his bombing run, depicts a perfect hit, taking out a rocket site in such a residential neighborhood with little “collateral damage.” Not every hit is a perfect score, but civilized men try.

The tragedy is that none of this is necessary. The Palestinians could have a two-state solution if they would only take it. But they are determined to win a one-state solution bought at the price of a second Holocaust. This is the reality that Israel’s critics in the West willfully refuse to acknowledge. The Jews can expect to be made the villains of the piece - again.

• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

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