The View From My Veranda
Sheila's Letter From Jerusalem
18th January 2009.
Update Gaza 12 – Unilateral cease fire from Israel.
Today 20 rockets and missiles fell on Israeli towns. The rockets fell despite Israel’s clear announcement of a unilateral cease fire. This unilateral cease fire allows, however, for response to sniper fire, anti-tank fire and of course missile launching from Gaza. Troops remain but have retreated from the major population sites and many have returned to Israel but are prepared to return if the situation changes.
My thanks to Peter Cooper for sending me this piece. Quite incredibly this assessment of the behaviour of Israeli troops in Gaza by Colonel Richard Kemp CBE, former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan Senior Advisor on Military Issues to the British Government, was captured by the staff of BICOM on the BBC.
Click here to view the complete interview -essential viewing. http://www.bicom.org.uk/videos/bbc-news–military-analysis
Many television stations across the world carried an interview with Dr Alazadin Abu Al-Aish, the doctor I told you about, whose tragedy was broadcast live on Israeli television when 3 of his daughters were killed by a tank shell. The interview was interrupted by an hysterical woman who screamed abuse at the doctor for using Sheba Hospital, where many soldiers were in treatment, as a stage for his “propaganda”. It must be said that she was in the minority and the people of Israel have rallied to his aid and his fellow practitioners have ensured the best treatment for his daughters. That is who we are – not a screaming banshee who does not understand a man in extreme distress.
In another expression of Israel’s open-handed help toward the ordinary Palestinians of Gaza, today an emergency treatment center is opening at Erez Crossing, to treat civilians from Gaza. The Israeli Ministry of Health and Magen David Adom, will operate the centre and an understanding has been reached between Israel’s Ministries of Welfare and Health and the Red Cross, to bring injured civilians from Gaza to hospitals in Israel, after passing through triage in the centre. Maybe this time Hamas is too weakened to resist this offer of help to the people.
I believe that the Israeli leaders acted in the only manner possible. They waited and heeded every nation which had a positive influence in this area, but finally the battle of the last few weeks was the only possible action to stop the constant rocket fire, to defend Israelis and halt the clearly excessive arming of Hamas. In a country where it is highly unpopular to praise ones leaders I am happy to do so. I believe that they did a good job – yes I know it is popular to say that history will tell, but Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi is my hero. During the Yom Kippur War the entire country, led by the press even then, came out against Golda Meir. In my opinion we went in at the right time and came out at the right time; the press was not allowed into Gaza with the troops so the leaks which occurred in Lebanon were avoided; despite some very healthy arguments within the cabinet meeting the external appearance of cohesion was maintained; all the relevant Ministers performed their tasks with excellence and our intention to weaken Hamas and show them that we are capable of ending their reign of terror. Without this “cease-fire” we cannot prove to the world that Hamas is still firing rockets and we still have the right to respond.
In his speech last night the Prime Minister made it clear that Gilad Schalit is primary in his thoughts and actions but in order to proceed he cannot reveal everything at this point. I hope that G-d will speed his hand in the direction of Gilad and bring him home to his family.
Today, at the Summit in Sharm el Sheikh many of the leaders from Jordan, Britain, France, Spain, Turkey, Italy, Czech Republic and others, praised President Mubarak of Egypt for his initiative toward some form of truce. If it works then I will be prepared to praise him too but what I do not and will not understand is why he is willing to jaw jaw jaw but when it comes down to it, he will not allow any multi-national force on the border between Gaza and Egypt, is not prepared to take an active role in stopping the gun-running tunnels and is also not prepared to allow any aid to Gaza through his own country. From what I heard the only positive suggestion came from Prime Minister Gordon Brown who said he was prepared to place British ships to patrol the seas of Gaza to prevent gun-running from that source.
This Summit in Sharm el Sheikh had exposed perhaps the most important outcome of this war – the split between the Arab countries which have always stood as a bloc. The split is clearly bewteen the more moderate countries – Jordan, Egypt, the Gulf States – and the extremist and fundamentalist countries – Syria, Iran etc.
Today Israel tried a cease fire but Hamas still wants to fight. 20 rockets and missiles landed on Israeli soil, 4 missiles came after Syria sent a directive to Hamas to begin a week-long cease fire. This directive from Syria clearly showed their deep involvement as with Hezb-Allah and when Hamas fired we responded. Syria, has raised its head and shown the truth – it is the apex of the axis of evil.
I hope this missive helped put things in perspective in terms of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The people of Gaza have been lied to, starved, murdered and had every penny of aid given to them taken from them. Israel did not cause poverty in Gaza – how easy it is to forget that we left Gaza leaving behind us fertile and productive farms and agricultural factories – Hamas destroyed every one.
We must look very carefully as to why the worm – I mean world – turned against Israel so violently this time. Is it because we are deemed the powerful, aggressive one? Is it because the world sees the Palestinians as the underdog? Is it because we live in a humane world which cares for the poverty stricken areas of the world? None of the above – it just doesn’t like us. We were meant to be a pathetic people rubbing our hands like Uriah Heep wearing striped pyjamas but we aren’t – we rose up from the ashes and we are strong, able and thrive; we will defend ourselves despite the desire for our downfall. In this world, just now, one is either part of the problem or part of the solution. Let’s ensure that you, me and us are part of the solution.
With love from Jerusalem
It was just announced on the news that the remaining troops are leaving Gaza.