In Gaza — “Necessary Stories” from The Jerusalem Report

Haim Watzman

illustration by Avi Katz
I never let them touch me. I told Dima that at every opportunity, once she was old enough to understand. When she’d learned from her friends what I could not bear to say and what the Rosary Sisters would tell the girls only the following year, she said she did not believe me. Believe me or not, I said, you will not go die for them.

I long ago stopped believing myself. Stopped believing the Rosary Sisters and Father Joaquin and Ismail Haniyeh and Abu Mazen and the pope and my own thoughts. Nasrin, the only thing you believe in is the sea, Mama screamed at me when my brothers found me on the beach instead of in class with the Sisters. Because, I screamed back, it’s where Gaza ends and the world begins. But I could never put even my foot in the water.

Our names were right. I was a lonely flower, Dima was a downpour. By the time she was fourteen she was climbing out of the bathroom window at the Rosary Sisters, shouting herself hoarse at demonstrations that no one heard, attending political meetings that no one cared about. When I raised the subject, she shouted at me about Israeli imperialism and European colonialism and patriarchal oppression. What does a girl with no father know about patriarchal oppression, I countered, trying to make a joke. But jokes only work if there’s a real world to joke about.

The Rosary Sisters taught a great deal, but I learned very little. I had no use for incarnations and visitations and transubstantiations, for a miracle’s only a miracle if you live in a world that operates according to laws and logic. Then a miracle can startle you out of the natural routine and give you a glimpse of something beyond. But in Gaza, where sewage runs down the street and your fridge operates just a few hours a day and where a brother or two, bored and distracted and unmanned by inaction and unemployment, beats you at incoherent intervals for no reason at all, there are no laws, so there can be no miracles.

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What the Breaking the Silence Report Says about the Gaza War–and Doesn’t

Excerpt from my new op-ed in The Forward In its most recent report , Breaking the Silence does something different — it points its spotlight at the haze of a full-scale military operation, last summer’s Protective Edge incursion into the Gaza Strip and tries to draw from its testimonies bigger lessons about an Israeli army … Read more

Commandoes against Demonstrators? Israel Shoots Itself in the Leg–Again

Haim Watzman

Why send a crack naval commando unit to quell a political demonstration? We don’t know all the facts yet, but on the face of it Israel has again overreacted and, in doing so, gotten itself into a situation much worse than it would have been in had it not responded to this pr gimmick at all.

The IDF’s Shayetet 13 is a legendary unit staffed with tough, sharp fighters. They undergo tough training and operate under the harshest of conditions. But they do not learn how to disperse demonstrations or engage in diplomacy. If the so-called Gaza rescue mission boats were carrying heavy arms and torpedoes, the commandos would have been the men for the job. But if the boats were carrying food, medicine, and several dozen deluded liberals, then the decision to send in the commandos is totally incomprehensible.

Israel has a right to protect its territorial waters. Not responding to the boats at all would have been problematic, and could have been seen as a precedent under which Israel gave up its right to supervise shipping to Gaza. And given that arms are shipped to the repressive Hamas regime by sea , Israel cannot allow free access to Gaza.

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A Call for Morality

As the Gaza war winds down, and as the extent of the death and destruction becomes evident, many critics of Israel are charging that Israel was wrong to attack the Hamas regime at all. It is important to distinguish between the conduct of the war and the circumstances that made Israeli action inevitable and necessary, even in the eyes of many Israelis who believe that this war was conducted longer and more violently than was needed in order to achieve its goals.

The statement below was written by Yoel Kretzmer-Raziel. Kretzmer-Raziel is a teacher and Torah scholar who lives at Kibbutz Ein Tzurim, near the border of the Gaza Strip. It is currently circulating by e-mail and I have translated it with his permission.–HW

Yoel Kretzmer-Raziel

The Cast Lead operation has been underway for nearly three weeks in the Gaza Strip. The moral justification for launching this operation is clear to us. Over the course of the three years following Israel’s evacuation of Gaza, Palestinian society faced a choice of which path to choose. The Palestinian leadership in Gaza chose to continue firing into Israeli territory and even to intensify its attacks, and to work to the detriment of the welfare of the Gaza Strip’s population. Had this society wished to do so, it could have created a new and entirely different situation. Israel has no interest in continuing the blockade of Gaza Strip and, had the Palestinian leadership not chosen to fire into Israel, an entirely different set of regional circumstances would have come into being.

The logic of defense requires that pressure be applied to prevent attacks on our citizens. We take no position here on which is the correct defense strategy for achieving this goal, nor do we address the diplomatic outcomes produced by the military operation. Rather, the moral issue is our concern. Clearly, however, successful diplomacy requires that the other side understand our willingness to use force.

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No Wimps in SoJo

Haim Watzman

I would really like to punch Ismail Hanieh, the Hamas prime minister of the Gaza Strip, in the face. I would derive great pleasure from seeing every Hamas facility in Gaza reduced to rubble and every fanatical Islamic Jew-hater there blown to smithereens.

I just want to put that on the record for the readers of this left-wing accommodationist blog. Because, as always, some readers who disagree with me seem to think I’m a wimp. That rankles. I mean, I have nothing against wimps. Wimps can be fine people to know, especially if they are standing in front of you in a long line at the bank or have just picked the juiciest, finest-looking apple out of the pile at the supermarket. They’re so deferential, so anxious to please.

But that’s not me. In my guts, I’m as eager to bomb Gaza into the stone age as your average kindergarten bully is to push little Yoram off the sliding board. No cease fires for Yoram. Not even for a minute.

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No Happy Endings in Gaza

Haim Watzman I’ve got war refugees in my home today. I mean my daughter’s fellow second-year students from the animation program at Sapir College, located right next to Sderot. The campus is under fire and has shut its gates, so these budding cartoonists are unable to work on their projects or attend their classes. The … Read more

Golan On The Table, Gaza In The Sights

In the past, when the press has reported that Israel’s leaders were talking to Syria about returning the Golan Heights for peace, I was skeptical. First Yitzhak Rabin, then Binyamin Netanyahu, then Ehud Barak signalled to Syria that they were willing to contemplate a full withdrawal from the Golan Heights in exchange for a peace agreement. Yet, when I compared the price to be paid with the possible benefits, it wasn’t clear to me that the deal was a good one. What were we losing by holding on to the Golan, and what would we gain by giving it up?

In contrast, Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip was clearly debilitating our country, and we obviously stood to gain much by leaving them and allowing the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Today, Ehud Olmert’s government is talking, indirectly, with Syria about returning the Golan Heights in the framework of a peace agreement, and with Hamas about a cease fire in the Gaza Strip. Now the benefits of an agreement with Syria seem obvious to me, while I’m skeptical about a possible agreement with Hamas.

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