The current round of fighting between the IDF and Gaza terrorists is unprecedented in terms of the number of rockets and mortar bombs being directed at Israel. Since last Friday, the IDF has registered some 200 launches from Gaza and is characterizing the ongoing barrage as a “dramatic development in terms of the quantity and rate of the fire.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday said that the IDF will continue to retaliate against terrorists in the Gaza Strip with great power, while blaming Iran for the crisis. “If it were not for Iran, these [Palestinian] extremists would not have their weapons, training or logistical support,” Netanyahu affirmed. Defense Minister Ehud Barak likewise warned that “The IDF would continue to protect Israeli citizens and will strike all those who rise to attack us.”
Schools were closed for a second consecutive day on Monday in all Israeli cities and towns located up to 25 miles from the Gaza border. According to Deputy Mayor of Beersheba, Heftsi Zohar, “Most of the schools in Beersheba don’t have enough shelters or safe areas, so we have decided to cancel classes.” Zohar described as unbearable conditions in the city and said that “life does not go on as normal…[when] citizens, especially children, are living under terror.” Beersheba Mayor Ruvik Danilovich compared the city to a “jungle,” and warned that “Today it’s the south dealing with the situation, but we know that there are missiles that could reach Rishon Lezion [Israel’s fourth largest city, located 12km south of Tel Aviv].”
Jerusalem Post, March 11, 2012
The latest round of rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza is part of a pattern. Every few months, Islamist terror organizations loosely linked or opposed to Hamas launch attacks against Israel in an attempt to undermine Israeli military deterrence. Hamas plays the game of claiming that it is not directly connected to the attacks while doing little to prevent them. In this way, Hamas hopes not to provoke Israel while at the same time avoiding a direct confrontation with…Islamist terrorists attempting to continue their armed struggle against Israel.
The trigger for the latest conflagration was the targeted killing of Zuhair Qaisi, the leader of the Popular Resistance Committees in the Gaza Strip. The IDF says Qaisi was behind the August 2011 gun and bomb attacks near Eilat that left eight Israelis dead. He was apparently planning a repeat performance, also to be launched from Sinai, a lawless no-man’s land nominally under Egyptian rule and home to Islamist terrorists and Beduin drugs and arms smugglers. But the IDF took the initiative, bombing a car carrying Qaisi and another top terrorist in the organization released in the Gilad Schalit prisoner exchange.
In October 2011, there was another flare-up after Islamic Jihad fired a Grad rocket at Rehovot to mark the October 1995 assassination in Malta of Islamic Jihad leader Fathi Shkaki. Israel retaliated, killing five terrorists, including Ahmed Sheikh Khalil, the head of the Islamic Jihad’s rocket production facilities.
But even when there is no official “escalation,” the various terrorist organizations operating in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and the anarchic Sinai have kept up a steady stream of fire directed at about a million civilians—men, women and children—living within range of Kassam rockets, mortar shells and Grad missiles.
Over the course of 2011, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PRC and other terrorist organizations fired 680 deadly projectiles of various types from the Gaza Strip at surrounding towns, kibbutzim and moshavim, a significant rise from the 365 fired during 2010. Sixteen-year-old Daniel Viflic was killed by Hamas terrorists who fired a Kornet anti-tank missile at the school bus he was riding in on April 7, 2011.
Israel significantly restored its deterrence after launching Operation Cast Lead—the 22-day military incursion in the Gaza Strip that began in December 2008 and ended in January 2009. But in the months since, there has been a steady deterioration of the security situation. Thousands of families now live under the constant threat of mortar, rocket and missile fire. Many lack proper bomb shelters.
True, the Iron Dome system has been a game-changer. Its three rocket-defense batteries—in Beersheba, Ashdod and Ashkelon—have significantly improved Israel’s defense capabilities. Dozens of rockets and missiles that might have hurt or injured Israelis were shot from the air. This has given our leaders the breathing room to plan for the future. Israel would have no choice but to react on a much wider scale if one of the more-than- recent mortar shells, rockets and missiles caused serious injuries or deaths.…
However, as Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz noted in November and reiterated in December on the third anniversary of Operation Cast Lead, a military offensive in Gaza will be launched “sooner or later.” Hamas cannot be allowed to continue to play the game of claiming it is not directly connected to the attacks while doing little to prevent them.…
IT’S TIME FOR A GAZA OFFENSIVE
Jerusalem Post, February 22, 2012
Three years may have passed since the end of Operation Cast Lead, when Israeli forces entered Gaza to conduct a limited counter-terror campaign, but that hasn’t stopped Palestinian terrorists from transforming southern Israel into a shooting gallery.
Though you would never know it from much of the mainstream press, the thugs of Hamas and Islamic Jihad have been turning up the heat, firing an increasing number of rockets and projectiles at Israeli cities, towns and villages. This mounting threat can no longer be ignored, and it is time for Israel to launch a wide-scale military offensive in Gaza to remove the danger once and for all.
Consider the following: In December 2011, Gaza-based Palestinian terrorists unleashed more than 40 rockets and shells into southern Israel, hitting Netivot and areas around Ashkelon and Beersheba. That averages out to more than one explosive projectile fired every day. And since the start of the year, dozens more have been launched against the Jewish state.…
This is simply intolerable and cannot be allowed to continue.… Instead of waiting for tragedy to strike, Israel should take the initiative and forestall such an eventuality by taking the battle to the enemy. After all, as various senior IDF officers have been warning, it is not a question of if, but when Israel will have to go back in to Gaza, where Hamas has been arming itself to the teeth.
Speaking at the Herzliya Conference earlier last month, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz labeled Gaza one of “the largest ammunition and weapon ‘storage facilities’ I know of.” Various reports have indicated that the terror group now has well over 5,000 rockets in its arsenal, including some with a potential range of 75 kilometers that are based on technology supplied by Iran. This means that Hamas could potentially hit Tel Aviv.
The Hamas arsenal is not merely a tactical nuisance. It poses a strategic threat which must be eliminated. A December 2011 study by Uzi Rubin of Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies [see ‘On Topics’ below for the full report—Ed.] concluded that the rocket threat from Gaza has become “a significant threat to Israeli population centers, national infrastructure and central military installations.”
“The threat,” it noted, “initially affecting about 50,000 Israeli citizens in the Gaza envelope communities, has increased more than 20-fold and now threatens more than one million civilians in southern and central Israel. It is no longer mere harassment, but a strategic threat capable of inflicting severe civilian casualties and paralyzing Israel’s economy.”
Clearly, Hamas is not an organization one can reason with. Its avowed ideological aim is the destruction of Israel, and no amount of pressure, diplomacy or negotiation will persuade it to begin acting in a civilized manner. Whether we like it or not, military force is the only way to disarm and deter them. But unlike previous attempts, this time Israel must ensure that it gets the job done by toppling the Hamas regime, destroying the terrorist infrastructure and reasserting complete military control over the area.…
Will there be an international outcry if Israel enters Gaza? Of course. Whenever Israel takes action to defend itself, no matter how justified it might be, the halls of the United Nations resound with condemnation and criticism. But it is better to be accused unfairly than fired upon indiscriminately. So let’s put a permanent end to Hamas’ reign of terror, and restore to southern Israel the basic security it deserves.
ST. DENIS MERCHANTS HURT BY ANTI-ISRAEL PICKETING
Canadian Jewish News, March 12, 2012
After almost 18 months of regular anti-Israeli demonstrations on their block, some shopkeepers on Montreal’s St. Denis Street say their business is suffering and they are weary, even unnerved, by a situation that has no end in sight.
The picketing, which now takes place every Saturday afternoon, was launched by the group Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU) in October 2010 to make St. Denis an “Israeli apartheid-free zone.” For a year now, the focus of the demonstrators has been Chaussures Naot, 3941 St. Denis St., across the street from another shoe store, Boutique le Marcheur, which was the initial target. Its owner, Yves Archambault, refused to yield to PAJU’s demand to stop selling Israeli footwear, a miniscule part of his stock.
“People are afraid to come in when they are standing there…,” said Naot’s manager, Ina.… “I suffer enough already. Nobody is going to protect my human rights.”
The tiny Naot store, which sells almost exclusively a line of shoes made in Israel, is owned by the Lissoos family of Toronto-based Solemates Inc. It has been on St. Denis for two years and employs five people, but Ina wonders how much longer that will be. “Of course, it’s affecting our business—big time,” she said. Saturday used to be the busiest day of the week.
The weekly barrage and the ill feeling it is creating among other business owners and residents are stressful for the staff. Last month, the company brought in a psychologist to counsel them. “We are the victim, but the neighbours are blaming us,” Ina said.
Usually about a half-dozen PAJU demonstrators stand on the sidewalk outside Naot for two hours holding a banner about five feet high dominated by a Palestinian flag. Sometimes, they shout or blow horns. “It’s scary,” she said. “The police come, but they say there is nothing they can do.”
Le Marcheur was helped by the Jewish community and other sympathizers who purposefully bought at the store, said pro-Israel activist Jack Kincler, but Naot and the neighbouring businesses have not had that support.
Kincler, who has joined the counter-boycott demonstrations from the beginning, is trying to organize a buying campaign benefiting these small businesses. He calls what PAJU is doing “economic terrorism” and believes Canada and Quebec must enact laws similar to those in United States that limit boycotts or France where they are illegal. “Week after week these small businesses are being harassed,” he said. “Why is there no protection of their right to do business in peace.”
Monic Dahan, owner of the Boutique Oz jewelry store next to Naot for 25 years, is visibly depressed by the situation. She wonders how much longer she can keep her five employees and provide work for eight outside artisans.… Jean-Philippe Plante, owner of the clothing store Boutique Panache, has only been there six months but is already discouraged.… The nearby Galerie du Plateau doesn’t open on Saturdays anymore.
The shopkeepers do receive unflagging moral support from Les Amis Québécois d’Israel, started by area resident Daniel Laprès as a Facebook group. It now has 187 “friends,” the majority francophone Quebecers like Laprès, a former adviser to federal Liberal cabinet ministers, and now a blogger and publisher who is critical of the political left.…
The Amis, on St. Denis every Saturday, usually far outnumber the PAJU picketers. They try to explain to passersby why Israel is not an apartheid state without adding to the commotion. Laprès believes the boycotters are disseminating “lies and slander” and fears the broader consequences of a PAJU “victory.” “Can we, in a civilized society, allow that sort of hate against a nation? Or the intimidation of hardworking people? We can’t afford such a campaign to succeed if we care about democracy and human dignity.…”
Kincler, an Israeli-born businessman, is collecting signatures on petitions to the federal and Quebec governments. The one addressed to the House of Commons calls for a legislated ban against boycotts that harass or threaten any store or business selling products legally in Canada, as well as those that hinder any business activity involving goods from a country with which Canada or Quebec has a bilateral trade agreement. The other asks the National Assembly to condemn boycott campaigns against products coming from countries with which a bilateral agreement exists, which includes Israel.…
PUSHING BACK AGAINST THE BDS BULLIES
FrontPage, March 9, 2012
Too often the media focus on—or even actively promote—the pro-Palestinian narrative that demonizes Israel. They report on the highly mobilized, relentless efforts to isolate and economically weaken the state of Israel. Much less often, if ever, do the media highlight stories of successful Israeli resistance to that onslaught.
Shanie Bar-Oz is the dynamic owner of a Vancouver bath-and-body boutique called Lavan Canada that sells unique Dead Sea-based products with natural scents. Prominently displayed both outside and inside the store are signs reading “Products Made in Israel.” Very enthusiastic about those Israeli-made products, Shanie, 33, unexpectedly came under fire from aggressive protesters from the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions bullies.…
But when word got out about her being targeted, the supportive response was more overwhelming than the protests. Pro-Israel customers flocked to the store. Lavan Canada’s online orders increased as well. A Cambridge University student named Gili Brenner established a Facebook group called “We Are All Shani Bar Oz,” in support of the store owner.…
Indeed, Israel’s supporters everywhere need to wake up and actively support businesses like Shanie’s. Her story is an instructive and inspirational one of ongoing, street-level resistance to the Israel-hating bullies—resistance from her, her customers and her supporters. They refused to be bullied and they banded together to help the store prosper, to stand in defense of Israelis and Israel, and to outnumber her enemies.
I talked to Shanie Bar-Oz about the empowering experience.
Mark Tapson: How exactly did this controversy begin? What happened outside your store, Lavan Canada?
Shanie Bar-Oz: About three or four days prior to the first picket, I received an email from The Jewish Federation warning me of an impending demonstration against my store. The first picket was quite small, totaling about ten or twelve protesters carrying white signs, Palestinian flags and inciting chants. Thankfully, due to the prior warning, many local Jews and Israelis came out to support me and my store. This was not the case for the next two protests, which were intentionally kept secret.
MT: Who was behind the protests and why did they target your store?
SB: A local group that calls themselves the “Boycott Israeli Apartheid Campaign.” They have targeted Lavan as an Israeli brand (all of my products are manufactured in Israel). They claim in their brochure that by manufacturing Dead Sea Mineral products, we support the alleged “mistreatment and oppression” of the Palestinian people in the area.
MT: What were the protests like? Were you concerned about your safety and your shop?
SB: As each protest comes and goes, they get larger in size and more organized. The number of protesters, signs, and props increase. They have a ten-foot-tall effigy of [Israeli Foreign Minister] Avigdor Lieberman, and images of Israelis as “apartheid vultures.” These vulture images, to me personally, are no different from the Nazis drawing Jews as pigs in the 1930’s.
They also brought a six-foot-tall wall that they use to block my display and divert pedestrians on the sidewalk away from my store. They also distribute vicious and slanderous pamphlets to the pedestrians and Lavan’s customers containing false claims about Lavan, as well as an edited version of our logo from “Body, Mind, and Soap” to “Bomb, Mine and Sell.”
Safety is always a concern during any protest. My employees are upset and scared, which is understandable considering there are people outside protesting our homeland’s existence. One protester said “Heil Hitler!” to one of Lavan’s supporters during the first protest.…
MT: How did the word start to get out that you were under assault? What was the response, when people learned you were being harassed?
SB: I wrote letters to the Jewish community and local Rabbis to let them know of my situation. They called for the counter-measure of a buycott. But the protesters would come unannounced. Unable to mobilize the Jewish and Israeli communities with so little warning, support on the day of the protests was small. They tried but they can only do so much.
I then went to the Israeli paper Ynet, which thankfully got Lavan’s story global recognition. The support I then received was incredibly empowering.…
MT: Was there any kind of official response from the Canadian or Israeli governments or local Jewish organizations?
SB: Yes. The Canadian Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Mr. Jason Kenney, visited the store to support Israel and my business, and the staff and myself personally [Minister Kenney made several purchases at the store to show his support—Ed.] I got the blessings of the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yuli Edelstein…and I spoke at great length with his VP to try to find some creative ideas to improve Israel’s image in the world. Also, the local Jewish centers motivated their people to come and support me and Lavan. The leading local Rabbis even replaced my mezuza, and came personally to the store to show their support.
MT: During Israeli Apartheid Week, are the protests outside your store getting worse?
SB: I have to be honest with you: I refuse to use Israel and apartheid in the same sentence. This is simply ridiculous and spreads ignorance. There is absolutely nothing Israel shares with apartheid. Israel is a very proud democracy that can be an inspiration to many other countries in the world.…
MT: What can your supporters do to help?
SB: I am extremely grateful and thankful for any form of support. Whether it be sharing my story, a Facebook page, coming into the store to make a purchase, or visiting our online store. Support in any form is what I was praying for. I think that any product made in Israel is a strong and proud ambassador of Israel. It just feels wrong that Israel is the only country in the world to have an “Anti-Week” against it. And now I hope that instead of being a target for hate we will be a symbol of success.