ADL Op-Ed in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Date: November 19, 2012
Hamas terrorizes Israel, again
By Yael Hershfield
Florida Interim Director of the Anti-Defamation League
This op-ed originally appeared in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel on November 17, 2012.
Once again, Israel is under attack by terrorists in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Hamas, a U.S.- and EU-designated terrorist organization, has escalated its campaign of terrorizing millions of Israeli civilian women, children and men in pursuit of its commitment to completely eradicate the State of Israel.
Currently, the entire population of Israel's southern cities and towns, as well as those residing in and around Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, are under direct threat of deadly rockets being fired indiscriminately by Hamas, an Iranian proxy, and other terror groups openly operating in Gaza toward their homes, schools, colleges and hospitals.
Since 2001, nearly 15,000 rockets and mortar shells have been directed at Israeli targets. Israel fully withdrew from the Gaza Strip in August 2005, uprooting Israeli settlers and removing all its military installations in the hope that the Palestinians would govern Gaza responsibly and peacefully.
Instead, the Hamas leadership has turned Gaza into an armed camp, creating and maintaining the conditions for a humanitarian crisis, forcing the isolation of Gaza's population and establishing a deadly launching pad for its rockets and mortars trained on Israeli civilians.
In the face of the most recent barrages from Gaza, Israel demonstrated tremendous restraint. It actively reached out to the international community to intervene and get Hamas to stop the unceasing rocket and mortar fire and hoped that Egypt could prevail on Hamas to cease firing. Those efforts proved fruitless. On Thursday alone, Hamas missiles killed three Israelis, including a pregnant woman and injured dozens of others, including small children.
No country in the world would stand by and tolerate such attacks against its civilians. Israel is no exception and its decision to take defensive military action against Hamas and other terrorist groups, directly targeting the leadership responsible for these attacks, as well as the warehouses and facilities housing their weapons, is wholly justified. One of those killed by Israel was Ahmed Jabari, often referred to as the Palestinian version of Osama bin Laden.
Israel, unlike Hamas, does everything in its power to avoid and minimize civilian casualties in responding to attacks. It employs laser guided missiles and smart weapons, and humanely refrains from firing into areas with a high civilian concentration.
Hamas on the other hand, does not discriminate between Israeli military forces and civilians. They deliberately aim missiles at large Israeli population centers, and intentionally hide behind human shields.
The psychological damage of Hamas's rocket attacks cannot be minimized. When the alarm is sounded, no matter where Israelis are or what they are doing — taking a shower, shopping for food, in the classroom, going to work — residents have 15 seconds to reach shelter or risk being killed or injured.
When then-presidential candidate Barack Obama visited Sderot in July 2008, he witnessed firsthand the physical destruction and psychological devastation caused by the constant rocket attacks. Reacting to what he saw, Obama observed that "If somebody was sending rockets into my house, where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing."
The international community has an obligation to clearly, unequivocally and persistently condemn these attacks and support Israel's right to self-defense. Israel's military actions in Gaza have one purpose: To protect its citizens and ensure that those residing in areas under rocket attacks no longer have to take cover inside a bomb shelter on a daily basis.
Yael Hershfield is the Florida Interim Director of the Anti-Defamation League.