Here we have the yardstick for security success: the number of Palestinians killed. As in the most primeval wars, the heads of the defense establishment are boasting about the number of people Israel has killed. Their job is to ensure protection for the residents of the state. And, as we know, the residents of the "Gaza perimeter" are not receiving this protection. So the death toll has become the measure of their success.
Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin briefed the cabinet last week about the "achievements" of his organization: 810 Palestinians killed during the past two years. His predecessor, Avi Dichter, once appeared before the editorial board of Haaretz and proudly presented a sophisticated slideshow from his laptop computer: a pie chart of Palestinian casualties, in several colors. Last week, the brigade commander in Gaza, Colonel Ron Ashrov, defined the operation in the Zeitun neighborhood as "very successful." Why? Because his troops killed 19 Palestinians in a single day and further inflamed the conflagration in the South. How depressing, morally and in practical terms, to think that this is the measure of success.
Has the daily mass killing in Gaza improved the security situation? No, it has only made it worse. Has it reduced the number of Qassams? No, it has led to their proliferation. So why are we killing? We need "to do something" and there needs to be "a price tag." These are hollow cliches. A review of recent newspapers presents a clear picture: As long as the U.S. president was still in the country, Israel refrained from liquidations, and the number of Qassams decreased. When George Bush left, we resumed killing and, as a result, Sderot has faced the most difficult days it has ever known. The burning question that arises is: What are we killing for? Someone must answer this.
The distinction that Diskin and his ilk make between "armed" and "unarmed" Palestinians also does not change a thing. Whether 600 armed men were killed (the number cited by the Shin Bet director) or only 455 (according to Haaretz’s calculation), this does not justify the scope of the killing or serve as an indication of its effectiveness. Not every armed person deserves to die. All of the killings, of armed and unarmed, have only led to an escalation of the violence on the other side. For every "senior Jihad commander," for every Qassam launcher killed, seven others immediately emerge. The killing is useless, and the defense establishment boasts about it only to satisfy public opinion.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak should understand this better than anyone. He has certainly read a book or two about history, and he knows that it is impossible to forcefully extinguish a determined and protracted struggle for freedom, like that of the Palestinians. He is also the person who once said in a television interview, courageously and frankly: "If I were a Palestinian, I would join a terror organization." He is the one who is now orchestrating the sowing of death in Gaza.
One’s heart goes out to the residents of Sderot, but one should also remember that they bear the same responsibility for the situation as do all Israelis. If a survey were conducted in this battered city, it would show that there is also a majority in Sderot in favor of continuing the occupation and siege, as everywhere else in Israel. And despite all the suffering they are experiencing, the situation of their neighbors to the south is much worse.
Haaretz presented a mirror image last week on its front page: a crying toddler in Sderot and a crying toddler in Gaza, both in the arms of their fathers. The other newspapers deemed it sufficient to print pictures of the weeping in Sderot on their front pages. But in recent days, Israel has killed dozens of residents of the besieged, blacked-out and starved Gaza Strip. This information cannot be ignored, with all due sympathy for Sderot.
The continued killing in Gaza is leading nowhere, except for exacerbating the situation in Sderot. It will not weaken the Palestinians’ struggle for freedom and will not bring security for Israel. The yearning for a "large-scale military operation" in Gaza, as described by warmongering generals and commentators, is also infuriating. This operation already started a long time ago — just listen to the death figures of Diskin and his colleagues. We have killed over 800 Palestinians in two years, and it is appalling that some take pride in this. And what have we solved?