HISTORY, Part 6: 2001+ The Rockets
Israeli Rhetoric and Actions
Having looked at various attempts at reconciliation, as well as Palestinian responses to Israeli status quo, the next logical topic is Israeli responses to Palestinian status quo. For the Palestinians, resistance is standard operating procedure. The population as a whole is peaceful and busy making ends meet under difficult circumstances. But resistance is in their blood. The mindset, according to my husband (who was born in a Gaza refugee camp in 1960), is that if Palestinians stop resisting, Israel will take what little they have left. And so it is common for Gazans especially (who have literally nothing to lose) to shoot off homemade rockets into Israel. This has been going on since 2001.
According to the official blog of the Israeli Defense Forces, idfblog.com, “Since 2001, more than 15,200 rockets and mortars, an average of over 3 rocket attacks every single day, have targeted Israel.” (Rocket Attacks) The subtitle of the article in which this statistic appears is, “Israel Under Fire,” with the tagline, “Here is everything you need to know about the constant threat Hamas poses to Israel’s civilians.”
But is that all we need to know? Actually, there is more to the story—or rather, there is less. The number of fatalities is presumed to be astronomical, especially with the ominous-looking graphics that accompany the article. Actually, the total number of fatalities in seventeen years of rocket and mortar attacks—that’s 17,000+ rockets and mortars, an average of 3 projectiles per day for over 5,000 days—is forty-four (Nguyen How). That is just over 3 Israeli deaths per year.
In response to rocket attacks, Israel has gone to war with Gaza: Operations Rainbow, Hot Winter, Summer Rains, Autumn Clouds, Days of Penitence, Cast Lead, and Pillar of Defense, and the 2014 Gaza War were all purportedly responses to rocket fire. The rhetoric of these conflicts was always to “end rocket fire and make Israeli citizens safe.” But the facts tell a different story once again.
There were zero rocket-related deaths in the months before Operation Cast Lead, yet over 1,400 Palestinians were killed in this conflict; after the conflict started, rocket fire killed 4 Israelis in 3 days. As a side note, 13 Israelis were killed in the entire conflict—4 by friendly fire. (Nguyen Dissecting)
The same story is true for Operation Pillar of Defense: for an entire year, there were no rocket-related deaths; but hours after Israel attacked, 3 Israelis were killed by a rocket (Dissecting). The attack on Gaza then became “retroactively justified” in Israeli minds and the media. The final death toll for Operation Pillar of Defense: 174 Palestinians, 6 Israelis. (Btselem’s)
Jewish Virtual Library has catalogued every rocket and mortar since 2009, as well as the responses by Israel. In many cases, “no injuries were reported” after rockets, yet the response took the form of multiple Israeli Air Force jets striking sites in Gaza (Rocket Threat). After one such set of attacks, an Israeli army spokesman declared that Israel would not allow anything to “undermine the security and jeopardize the well being of the civilians of Israel” (Estrin). After another rocket that killed an Israeli, Prime Minister Netanyahu stated, “This is precisely the type of murderous attacks that we are trying to prevent. Israel will take any means necessary in protecting our citizens” (Estrin).
In one incident in 2008, after Palestinians had injured one Israeli with rocket fire, Israeli aircraft destroyed an office building and killed at least 24 Palestinians. This is the method Israel uses to “prevent murderous attacks” on a regular basis. The missile defense system, Iron Dome, has been somewhat effective in preventing Israeli casualties by intercepting missiles; the presence of bomb shelters in Israel is also a factor. While these have kept the Israeli death toll low, the Israeli response to rocket fire has little to do with actual fatalities and more to do with the perception of threat.
The total deaths since 2000 are: Palestinians 9,038, Israelis 1193—a 15:2 ratio (B’Teslem, Occupied).
It is instructive to look at the death toll from Hamas rockets over the next few years after Cast Lead:
2009 after Cast Lead, 0 Israeli deaths from rockets
2010 1 Israeli death from rockets
2011 2 Israeli deaths from rockets
2012 (Jan 1 - Nov 15) 0 Israeli deaths from rockets
Israel called for another war to pressure Hamas into stopping the rocket fire, although the number of deaths in recent times had been very low.
In 2012, there were 6 Israeli rocket deaths – all during a mini “war,” started by Israel on November 14th because of rockets.
But in spite of the “war,” Israel was a pretty safe place in 2012 because of a new invention: the Iron Dome missile defense system. Iron Dome was designed to intercept and destroy short-range rockets and artillery shells fired from distances of 2.5 - 43 miles away, and whose trajectory would take them to a populated area. Now of course every human life is priceless. But before Iron Dome went online, 30 Israeli civilians had been killed by rockets.
Palestinians have never received a gift like this from the US to defend themselves, although they have lost thousands of civilian lives.
It’s amazing that the US is providing Israel with over $10 million a DAY for defense against a country that isn’t allowed to have an army or even weapons.
(Meanwhile, food aid has been cut for Palestinian refugees.)