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Fighting with Pinpricks: Enough about Sderot already

Published: March 7, 2008
Section: Opinions


In the past few years of the Second Intifada, as the number of suicide bombings waned, the residents of the small western Negev city of Sderot became the new poster-children for Israeli suffering. Whenever I argue with someone who supports the Israeli occupation of Palestine, it is never long before I hear about Qassam rockets; the harrowing images of frightened children in bomb shelters are burned into my mind by pictures in the newspaper.

Violence between Israelis and Palestinians erupted again last week after one of the homemade Qassam rockets killed a civilian in Sderot. Israel answered, as it often has in the last two years, with massive airstrikes against a Gaza population already suffering from the austere brutality of Israel’s patently illegal economic blockade.

The airstrikes combined with a ground incursion have killed, as I write this, over 100 Palestinians; they promise to kill many more by the time this article appears in print. Violence has spread from Gaza to the West Bank, and if the Israelis continue operating in this fashion, a total conflagration in Palestine will soon follow.

To me, this situation is a perfect microcosm of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The Israeli government and its supporters loudly proclaim Sderot’s suffering and use it to justify Israel’s campaign of slow-motion genocide in Palestine. The suffering of people in Sderot is certainly real; however, the rocket attacks are a crude and ineffective military tactic, so much so that the death last week was the first in Sderot in nine months. In contrast, Israel has at its command a technologically advanced military machine armed and funded principally by the United States. This machine possesses the power to deploy deadly force with startling efficiency and—I would argue—a deeply disturbing aplomb.

The violence which has raged since last Wednesday is illustrative. While the Palestinians killed two Israeli soldiers and one civilian, the Israelis killed—as mentioned above—over 100 Palestinians, many if not most of them civilians. This spasm of Israeli cruelty violates the concept of proportionality which has defined moral and legal thinking about warfare since the Middle Ages.

And yet, this massive inequity of death and suffering is at the heart of Israeli policy. During the current Intifada, Israel has killed more than four Palestinians for every one fallen Israeli. Most of these Palestinian dead were civilians; furthermore, this ratio does not even begin to take into account the number of Palestinians lives shortened by Israeli and Western economic blockades.

In all the sound and fury about Sderot, we must remember that it is the Israelis who are responsible for the vast majority of the violence in Israel and Palestine. As well we must remember that the only Israelis have the power to end the conflict since only they can remove themselves from the territory which they have illegally occupied for over forty years.