Stories From The Gaza War You May Have Missed 6
(January 16, 2009)
Israeli Medic Risks Life to Save Palestinians
“Israeli medic Moshe Vaknin drove an ambulance to the Erez Crossing, between Israel and Gaza, and got ready to evacuate an injured Palestinian child. With Israeli mortars fired on one side, and bullets passing overhead from the other, Vaknin, the deputy director for the south district at Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s version of the Red Cross, risked his life to bring the Palestinian child out of Gaza and take him to an Israeli hospital for life-saving treatment.
Since then, he's brought out two more wounded Palestinian children for treatment in Israeli hospitals, and last week, was one of a team of medics who drove in to the checkpoint, the most dangerous in Israel and possibly the Middle East, in a special bulletproof ambulance to rescue Palestinian truck drivers, hired by the United Nations, and attacked while delivering humanitarian aid....
Over the last four years in his job working for the MDA, he has helped bring thousands of sick and injured Palestinian children and adults from the Gaza Strip to Israeli hospitals for vital medical care, often on a daily basis....Hamas sniper fire and rockets have been aimed many times at both Vaknin and the Palestinian patients he was transporting....“I really don't know why they were firing at us. They don’t care, even if we were transporting a child or baby,” says Vaknin....
‘Every day, almost, we’re taking injured and sick people to Israel through the Erez crossing,’ he says. ‘We have a coordinator in Gaza working with us. He will tell us if it’s a baby in an incubator, a child, an adult, or an elderly person. It’s pretty unpredictable, and I’ve stopped asking questions. Sometimes they will tell us to expect a five-year-old child. When we get to the crossing it’s a one-month-old baby....’
It’s a bit strange, he admits, that living about a mile from the Gaza border in Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, he knows that he’s treating the same people who are throwing rockets on his family....‘We’ve learned to live like this. It’s not a normal situation,” says Vaknin....‘They're throwing rockets at my family and I am still helping them.’”
Life Under Rocket Fire
“Let people know that there are four agricultural municipalities bordering Gaza. Forty-thousand people live here. We want to farm, to cultivate the land, to love life. But for the past eight years we cannot send our children to school, we can't gather for community events, we cannot live normally. We have been forced to go out to fight for the right to live normal lives....
From the other side, I can understand there is also loss. But don't forget that three years ago we evacuated from Gaza. We were trying, by this action, to bring a solution to this area. And instead, they dug tunnels and smuggled weapons and ammunition.”
— Ofer Baram is Jewish Agency Director of Community Relations, Israel Southern Region, (January 15, 2009)
“Again we started our morning with two red alert sirens. In our protected room I hugged my children and said "good morning." My four-year-old son looked at me and said, "It's not a good morning, it's a morning with Kassam rockets." Sometimes our kids understand much more then we think they do.”
— Soni Singer is the director of the San Diego-IBIM Student Village, situated one and a half miles from the Gaza border
An Israeli Dove’s Reply to a Friend’s Critique of the War
“When I asked you after the disengagement from Gaza, Gideon, explain to me why they are firing missiles at us, you replied that they want us to open the crossings. I asked you whether you truly believe that if they fire missiles the crossings will be opened, or the opposite. And whether you truly believe that it is right and just to open crossings into Israel for those who declare openly and sincerely that they want to destroy our country. I did not get an answer from you. And even though the crossings were in fact opened many times, and were closed in the wake of the missile attacks, regrettably I still did not see you standing firmly behind a moral position which says: Now, people of Gaza, after you expelled the Israeli occupation from your land, and justly so, you must hold your fire.
The doleful thought sometimes crosses my mind that it is not the children of Gaza or of Israel that you are pining for, but only for your own private conscience. Because if you are truly concerned about the death of our children and theirs, you would understand the present war - not in order to uproot Hamas from Gaza but to induce its followers to understand, and regrettably in the only way they understand in the meantime, that they must stop the firing unilaterally, stop hoarding missiles for a bitter and hopeless war to destroy Israel, and above all for the sake of their children in the future, so they will not die in another pointless adventure....And if they start building, developing and pursuing social endeavors, even according to Islamic religious law, they will prove to the whole world, and especially to us, that the moment we terminate the occupation they will be ready to live in peace with their surroundings, free to do as they wish, but also responsible for their deeds.
There is something absurd in the comparison you draw about the number of those killed. When you ask how it can be that they killed three of our children and we cause the killing of a hundred and fifty, the inference one can draw is that if they were to kill a hundred of our children (for example, by the Qassam rockets that struck schools and kindergartens in Israel that happened to be empty), we would be justified in also killing a hundred of their children....you, Gideon, who live among the people, know very well that we are not bent on killing Palestinian children to avenge the killing of our children. All we are trying to do is get their leaders to stop this senseless and wicked aggression, and it is only because of the tragic and deliberate mingling between Hamas fighters and the civilian population that children, too, are unfortunately being killed. The fact is that since the disengagement, Hamas has fired only at civilians. Even in this war, to my astonishment, I see that they are not aiming at the army concentrations along the border but time and again at civilian communities.”
— Israeli novelist A.B. Yehoshua responding to criticism of Gideon Levy, Haaretz, (January 16, 2009)
Americans Stand Behind Israel
A new bipartisan poll shows that Americans blame the Palestinians for the current conflict in Gaza (56%-18%).
Within the context of the current conflict in Gaza, 73% of registered voters think the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is about ideology and religion, and the two sides will live in peace only when they acknowledge each other’s right to exist. Only 19% think the conflict is really about land.
In response to an open-ended question, 46% of Americans correctly identify Iran as a principal supporter of the military activities of Hamas. Despite the problems America faces at home right now, 79% of voters think we must still work hard to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Among possible approaches to deal with Iran, Americans support increased diplomatic pressure (47%), followed by direct negotiations (43%) and increased economic sanctions (39%).
Nearly all Americans (91%) think getting Palestinians to stop shooting rockets into Israel is important to help bring peace to the Middle East.
Americans also think getting Palestinians to stop teaching hate (90%), stopping Iran from arming, funding and training terrorists (87%), and getting Iran to stop its nuclear program (76%) are important conditions to bring peace to the region.
Americans clearly hold different opinions of Israeli and Palestinian leadership: 48% say Israeli leaders want peace and are working towards it while only 5% believe the same to be true of the Palestinian leaders. A plurality (55%) hold Palestinian leaders responsible for the violence and 11% blame Israeli leaders. Additionally, 54% think Israeli leaders only want to defend their people, not hurt others, while only 8% say Palestinian leaders want the same.
— The Israel Project, (January 14, 2009)
Where Are The Rockets Coming From?
“Every day, the Hamas rocket teams sneak through the fire and fury of Gaza to launching sites such as trucks, rooftops, school courtyards and mosques. Groups of three to five militants scramble to set up short-range Qassam rockets made in clandestine workshops in the Gaza Strip and longer-range Grads smuggled from Iran. Wary of Israeli jets hunting above the squalid urban maze, the rocket teams aim with the aid of Google Earth and landmarks such as the twin smokestacks of an Israeli power plant. The militants ignite the rockets and run; white smoke trails slash across the sky.”
— Los Angeles Times, (January 14, 2009)
“No one seeks sanctuary in the mosques, because Hamas fighters are known to store weapons there.”
— Washington Post, (January 16, 2009)