The Terror Journal

A Journal on Terrorism and Genocide

The Gaza deaths that made an impact in Israel

GazaWhy did it take a long time for Israelis to become aware of the fact that many hundreds of Palestinian civilians were being killed in Gaza by their troops?

The al-Mazen centre for human rights has told the BBC that 1,268 people were killed, among them 288 children and 103 women. It is still investigating some unconfirmed cases.

Thirteen Israelis – 10 soldiers and three civilians hit by Hamas rockets – were killed before the two sides both announced ceasefires on 18 January.

It took the grief of Dr Izzeldeen Abuelaish, after the deaths of three of his daughters and a niece, to get through to the Israeli consciousness. I have written about the family in my last few diaries.

‘Unique factors’

In Tel Aviv today I met the journalists who helped evacuate another Abuelaish daughter and another niece for medical treatment in Israel. They work for Israel’s Channel 10 TV.

One of them, Shlomi Eldar, was telephoned by Dr Izzeldeen while he was in the studio. The doctor’s anguish was broadcast live, in the fluent Hebrew that he uses with Jewish patients in the Israeli hospital where he works.

Shlomi covers the Palestinians for Channel 10. With his colleague Alon Ben-David, who is the defence correspondent, they started to ring all the influential people they could.

They say that within an hour and a half, the girls were being transferred into an Israeli ambulance at the Erez crossing into Gaza.

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As far as they know, the only other Palestinian casualties taken into Israel during what was a very one-sided war, were people who had been picked up by the army.

Other civilians were evacuated via the Rafah crossing into Egypt and then sent to Cairo and other Arab capitals.

Shlomi and Alon say that in this case unique factors came together. The drama happened live on TV. The doctor spoke Hebrew. The channel had already interviewed him on conditions inside Gaza so he was known to the audience.

And that was why the deaths of four young girls in Gaza hit home in Israel’s sitting rooms in a way that no others did, and then made some Israelis think about other Palestinian casualties too.

‘Just war’

This morning I also paid a visit to Levana Stern, an Israeli mother of three sons, who made headlines here when she interrupted a news conference being held by Dr Izzeldeen in the Sheba hospital near Tel Aviv.

She had been visiting her father in the orthopaedic department, and had seen wounded soldiers and their crying mothers. So when she saw journalists paying a lot of attention to a Palestinian doctor she flipped.

She thought it was grotesque that the journalists were more concerned about Gazans than Israelis. For a few minutes that day, it got very noisy.

Afterwards she apologised for shouting, and told the doctor that she felt very sad about the dead girls, but she has not changed her view that Israel was fighting a just war of legitimate self defence.

Polls have shown that her view is shared by most Israelis. That is why they may feel sorry about dead civilians, but don’t believe their country is at fault.

They say it happened because Hamas was firing rockets. There is a strong feeling still that something had to done about the rocket fire out of Gaza.

Levana said that an eight-year-old, in the areas within rocket range of Gaza, has never been able to get to school without having that sense of threat.

It all feeds into the generalised sense of insecurity that many Israelis say they feel. It is a product of their history, and the uncertain future.

It exists despite the fact that Israel has the most powerful army in the Middle East, nuclear weapons, a high-tech economy and the closest possible strategic relationship with the United States, the most powerful country in the world.

But did the war make Israelis any safer? Levana and her husband don’t think so. They believe that will only happen when there is peace with the Palestinians.

Source: BBC News

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