Recall that in a blood-soaked campaign of thuggish violence against Fatah and its supporters, Hamas wrested control of Gaza this summer. The most immediate result was a substantial escalation in the rate of ongoing acts of terror against neighboring Israeli communities. Rockets, grenades, Qassams, Katyushas became - as we try to report here: have remained - a daily fixture of life in southern Israel since then.
In June, 5 days after Hamas violently seized power there, Israel sealed the crossings on its border with Gaza. As the NY Times reported, "the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority security services that had operated the Gaza side of the border crossings ran for their lives during the fighting. Israel, like much of the West, considers Hamas a terrorist organization and will not deal with it."
Israel then took the additional step of declaring jihadist Gaza as a "hostile entity" in September, warning that unless Hamas curbed its war of terror against us, fuel and electricity supplies into Gaza would be targeted, though (as the BBC pointed out at the time) not water, food or medicine. (These were and continue to supplied by and with the help of Israel, even at the height of the attacks on israel, with almost no reporting to bring it to the attention of people in far-away places.)
Why such self-evidently required defensive actions should be surprising or odd is beyond us.
As a reminder, here's how certain observers reacted:
- Fawzi Barhoum, Hamas spokesman: "It is a declaration of war and continues the criminal, terrorist Zionist actions against our people."
- UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon: "Such a step would be contrary to Israel's obligations towards the civilian population [of Gaza] under international humanitarian and human rights law."
- BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus: "The Israeli move will only be seen by Palestinians as a form of collective punishment and risks consolidating support for Hamas in Gaza."
- The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in a Dec. 13 statement: "The Palestinian population living in the occupied territories is facing a worsening humanitarian crisis as a result of the drastic deterioration of the situation there".
So if you're facing a humanitarian catastrophe, with your children in danger of serious illness or even dying from neglect, you'd take every possible measure to protect your channels of supply of medicines and other essentials, right?
Maybe not so much if you're a Gazan-Palestinian-Arab jihadist.
Last night, Israeli sources disclosed the latest act of self-destructive madness perpetrated by the Gazans. As Haaretz, the Jerusalem Post and YNet report this morning (but not one non-Israeli source, as at the time we write this Tuesday morning), the terrorists who dominate Gaza, taking cynical advantage of an Israeli permit allowing the entry of humanitarian goods, smuggled two tons of raw materials for explosives in a truck transporting aid. (Note: two tons.) They failed this time.
In the second such incident in a fortnight (see our report "29-Dec-07: Security checkpoints? Who needs 'em?"), Israeli security staff employed by the Israel Airport Authority at the Kerem Shalom border crossing uncovered the smuggling during a random inspection of vehicles carrying humanitarian equipment and goods. No one is under any illusions here that this seizure means an end to the smuggling of weapons, explosives and money into the hands of the jihadists. Israel's defensive measures will undoubtedly continue, maybe increase.
The criticism of Israel will also grow. The emotional impact of a news photograph of Israelis sticking their noses and search-equipment into trucks and sugar sacks and vehicles and guitar cases heading for Gaza is enormous. The same is true for the remarkably effective security fence under construction for the past few years in our country. Too many people (and the politicians and news analysts and media photographers who serve them) just don't want to know why.
But we know why.