In the last year, Israel’s foes and critics have redoubled their efforts to pressure it to end the “occupation.” Most observers assume that to mean that Israel should withdraw from the West Bank and/or much of Jerusalem. But do these people actually care what would happen if Israel did just that? The current standoff on the border between southern Israel and Gaza gives us a pretty good idea of the answer to the question.
The independent Palestinian state in-all-but-name run by Hamas terrorists that exists in Gaza has lobbed thousands of rockets at Israeli towns and cities and has dug tunnels in order to facilitate cross-border kidnapping and murder raids. The discovery of yet another such elaborate tunnel by the Israel Defense Forces and the skirmishing with Hamas as it seeks to prevent the army from destroying that and other such facilities illustrates what the government of Gaza does with the aid that is funneled into the strip ostensibly to help the poor and rebuild homes destroyed in the last war. That raises the question for those activists determined to help isolate Israel or to disassociate Americans and Jews from its measures of self-defense, why the silence about Gaza terror? In whose name does Hamas dig?
Few of those who seem most outraged by the presence of Jews in these places where Jewish history began seem to think they have any sort of obligation to also pressure the Palestinians to make peace with Israel in exchange for such a gesture. Of course, given the continued Palestinian refusal to negotiate with Israel or to indicate that any sort of gesture from the Netanyahu government would incline them to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders would be drawn, such calls would not be heeded.
But those who are most vocal about about the occupation — a term that most Palestinians, including their supposedly moderate leader Mahmoud Abbas, thinks refers to all of Israel, including the lands under its control before June 1967 — seem to be curiously silent about what happened when Israel did end their presence in part of the territories. The occupation of Gaza ended in 2005 when then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon pulled out every Israeli soldier, settler, and settlement from the strip. Sharon was no peacenik but by that point he agreed with the notion that Israel needed to separate from the Palestinians.
Yet the withdrawal from Gaza — the exact thing that Israel’s critics have said they wanted — led to two interesting developments.
One was that rather than being transformed into an incubator for peace and economic development, Gaza became a large terrorist base. Hamas seized control of the strip in 2007 in a bloody coup in which the Fatah Party that runs the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank was deposed. Hamas’s platform calls not merely for the destruction of Israel but also for the eviction of its Jewish population. To that end, it used the absence of the IDF to create a vast terror infrastructure in order to facilitate the launching of rockets as well as underground networks to give shelter to terrorists (though not civilians) and their armaments. In recent years they began to dig tunnels, which played a not insignificant role in the last round of fighting with Israel.
The other curious result of Israel’s Gaza withdrawal was that it had absolutely no impact on the Jewish state’s critics. The overwhelming majority of Israelis see the Gaza experiment as proof that, in the absence of evidence that Palestinians want a peace that will end the conflict for all time, a similar withdrawal in the larger and more strategic West Bank would be insane. Yet that thought never seems to occur to those who bewail the occupation and believe its end would solve the problems of the Middle East, if not the world. If ending the occupation of Gaza led to more terror and bloodshed for the Israelis then those who support the BDS — boycott, divest, sanction — movement against the Jewish state or even those Jews who jabber about Netanyahu and the IDF not acting “in their name” haven’t anything to say about it.
Of course, some of them claim that in spite of the withdrawal Gaza is still occupied. They point to the partial blockade of the strip as “proof” that it is just one big Israeli prison. They claim Israel is perpetrating a humanitarian disaster even though shipments of food and medicine have streamed steadily into Gaza even on days when Hamas is shooting rockets. They seem to believe the borders of Israel and Egypt — which also seeks to isolate the terrorist-run government of Gaza — should be open to attack and that Hamas should be free to import arms and military material without restraint.
But even if we dismiss these assertions as ludicrous, it still bears asking the anti-occupation activists what they think the proper response to a government that uses cement sent to Gaza to build homes and terror tunnels should be? If Hamas sees Tel Aviv as being every bit as much of a Jewish “settlement” that needs to be dismantled the same way the communities that were left behind in Gaza in 2005 were taken apart, why doesn’t that impact their views about Israel’s need to surrender more territory? At the very least, should it not incline some of those demanding more withdrawals to speak out against Hamas terrorism and to call for international action to stop the digging of tunnels or the accumulation of more munitions and material — funded in part by Iran — that will enable another bloody and pointless war?
But no, we hear no such calls from Jewish Voices for Peace or If Not Now (which came into existence as a reaction against Israel’s effort to silence missile fire from Gaza and to eliminate terror tunnels) or from pro-BDS groups that care only about promoting an economic war on Israel.
That silence is significant because, like the rest of those aiding the anti-Zionist cause, this refusal to speak up about the nature of the Hamas government or its policies, bespeaks a clear bias against the one Jewish state on the planet and the hypocritical nature of their calls for ending occupation.
Opposition to settlements or antagonism to the Netanyahu government is one thing. But if you aren’t willing to state clearly that you support the right of Israel to exist and to defend itself inside some borders or to oppose the launching of rockets and the digging of terror tunnels, then what these anti-occupation activists are really telling us is that they agree with Hamas about the definition of occupation. That would mean they can’t deny that it is in their name that Hamas digs and plots the murder of Jews.
If so, then they should stop pretending to be acting in the name of human rights and state openly that their only real goal is to eliminate Israel. Doing so would expose them as unabashed anti-Semites, but at least it would be honest.