Recently, I spent three weeks traveling in the US, Canada and the UK, making presentations on University campuses, portraying what it was like living in Sderot under constant missile attack from Gaza over the past 18 months.
Throughout the trip, I received daily reports about the continuing barrage of missiles fired at my hometown, Sderot
During that 3-week stay abroad, almost 500 missiles hit Sderot, Ashkelon as well as twenty farming communities in the Western Negev region of Israel.
Indeed, the western Negev remains the only region in the entire western world where missiles are fired at a civilian population with intent to kill, maim and traumatize as many civilians as possible.
With such a barrage, you would expect to hear and read about it all over the press.
Instead, newspaper headlines from the Middle East that greeted my student audience every day, from Wellesley to Halifax to London, were...
“ 120 Palestinian were killed over the past two weeks, following a disproportionate response from the Israeli army - following rockets launched towards Israel, with no severe injuries or damages”-
“The Humanitarian crisis is Gaza the worst since 1967”
“Tens of children were killed in the Gaza Strip in these past few days.”
All this brings to mind the media rule of thumb that: “ONLY WHEN IT BLEEDS IT LEADS”, which means that if people are not killed on Israel’s side, there is no news story on Israel’s side.
Meanwhile, no mention was made in any media outlet about the fact that 97% of the missiles that are produced and fired from Gaza are deliberately positioned among the civilian population in Gaza.
In other words, if Israel wants to protect its own citizens by targeting the missile launchers and missile factories, the Israeli army is left with no choice but to inadvertently kill Gaza civilians in order to achieve that purpose.
That unfortunately will happen when missiles are deliberately and strategically placed among civilian population so as to maximize the amount of casualties on the Palestinian side, thus creating an international outcry for Israel to cease fire against Gaza targets, while making Israel look like the bad guy.
International Human Rights statutes state flat out that when a terrorist uses a human shield that is a war crime.
Funny how so many Human Rights Advocacy groups and mainstream reporters forget that little detail.
That little detail also escapes the average media consumer.
Once you see dead children from Gaza on the front page of the New York Times- you stop thinking.
You just get mad at the so called “child killers”.
After all, the Western mind cannot conceive the preposterous notion that someone would actually deliberately place a child, a woman or an elderly person in the range of fire just to get him killed, but that is exactly what the Palestinian missile launchers in Gaza do every day - sometimes 50-100 times in one day. It makes instant headlines and plays right into the hands of the terrorists.
We live in a new era, when the only window outside of the personal bubble we all live in, is what we see on television, read in the newspapers and peruse the internet and it is all cunningly packaged and marketed for the consumer to see only what its producers intend you to see.
The TV image of crowded refugee camps in Gaza, and the sound byte that “this is the worse humanitarian crisis since 1967” plays well and is most effective in the ongoing successful Palestinian propaganda against the State of Israel..
How many know of the billions of dollars and Euro of Western aid that was squandered in Gaza? What about the billions that ended up in Arafat’s personal account?
Yet the disproportional media coverage speaks for itself:
“Israel cuts off Gaza's electricity by 1%-5%”.
Those who looked closely at the photographs and newsreels of Hamas’s candle march with their children who were protesting the electricity cut off by Israel, were able to see clearly that the stores were lit up, as were the streets. Yet, Hamas achieved what they set out to do - generated an outrage world opinion which forced Israel to immediately cease the sanctions against them and restore the small power outages used to try and force Hamas to stop raining kassam rockets on Israeli civilian targets.
All this goes on while Gaza missiles are fired in the direction of the power plants in Ashkelon, which provides Gaza with 70% of their electricity!
How many people stop to ask why Israel, who “disengaged” itself from the Gaza Strip while uprooting 10,000 of its Israeli civilians and destroying their communities, towns and farms, still had to supply electricity to an entity ruled by the Hamas terrorist organization whose sole purpose is to liquidate the State of Israel?
This trip was a learning experience, to witness first hand the outcome of what people think when they are constantly fed one side of the story for so many years.
What we hear, what we see, what we read- is what we know... Or what we think we know...
Meeting Jewish activists who are impressed with what they think is the “suffering of Gaza” wearing shirts that proclaim ”Israel Apartheid”.
Reading a chart prepared by Jewish students about how many children have been killed in Gaza, and how many were killed in the “West Bank” according to “objective” UN reports.
Watching Jewish students support a photo exhibit on “Breaking the silence”-, as if Israeli soldiers serve in an “occupation” army and commit crimes against humanity.
Experiencing Jewish students attack me only because I'm from Israel, believing Israel doesn't have the right to exist if it behaves the way it is portrayed by the press..
The meaning of the Simon Wiesenthal Center study showing that 40% of Jews under of the age of 35 do not understand why there needs to be a State of Israel suddenly becomes clear..
In the words of one of the Jewish campus coordinators, "Often on campuses, hatred against Jews is masked in the politically correct veil of anti-Zionism. People use the word Zionist or Zionism as a codeword to express anti Jewish sentiment. Asking a professor about the appropriateness of speaking with a group that had members chanting, "slaughter the Jews" after a campus rally, he pursued me yelling "Zionist, Zionist, Zionist" in a threatening manner. He knew absolutely nothing about my political beliefs.
There is a lot of controversy around Israeli issues. People like to assume the truth of any conflict lies somewhere in the middle. It is hard for them to understand how one side can be committed to the destruction of the other or that one side does not desire our definition of peace. So rather than learn, they settle with ignorance, and refuse to support Israel."
Natan Scharansky's observations are also appropriate, “The most sophisticated form of demonization is demonization of the Jewish State. For example, the comparisons of Israelis to Nazis and of the Palestinian refugee camps to Auschwitz - these comparisons which are heard daily within the “enlightened” quarters of Europe - can only be considered anti Semitic.”
In that context, the reality of Sderot is deemed too political for most Jewish student groups to touch.
Yet this is the first time in 60 years where much of the State of Israel, may now fall under the threat of missile attacks, from Lebanon and from Gaza, who are now developing missile capability to reach all the way to Ashdod, which will place over half a million Israelis in range of their rockets.
Indeed, a missile fell in Kiryat Gat on the 30th of March.
No family in Israel should suffer the indignity of sleeping in their living room in fear - for the past few years, with parents and children huddling with fear on the lower floors of their homes, so that they can be ready to run for shelter at a moment’s notice.
Imagine a reality where you cannot sleep in an upstairs bedroom because you won't have enough time in the 15 seconds between the siren and the explosion of a missile to run for cover in a safe room, that is when the house has safe room.
Without tens of dead bodies, what can best illustrate the suffering of Sderot?
How about hundreds of nursery school children in Sderot who now live on tranquilizers?
What kind of life do they have?
Ziva Dahan, a Sderot resident, mother of four - describes the trauma of her children.
“We don't get it yet... but don't worry, our children growing up with this kind of reality - they get it.
And our children's children who are going to get it hard...”
There can be no excuse can for firing missiles into civilian populations, for the express purpose of killing as many people as possible.
When the IDF kills a civilian, you can be sure it is unintentional as the target is always a military one and never ever of an innocent civilian and regret and apologies are expressed..
When Arabs fire a missile and misses killing a civilian, the regret is only that the civilian wasn’t killed..
Children in Sderot are trained to run to a bomb shelter in 15 seconds, while children in Gaza are trained to run on top of the roof top and become a human shield, because it 'looks good' in the eye of the camera’.
This is the definition of pure terrorism.
That is because each and every one of these missiles can actually kill.
The damage of any missile can damage anything within the radius of 100 meters -80 feet.
With 8554 missiles fired in seven years and miraculously with only a few fatal casualties, almost every family can tell their story of how a missile fell right near them, causing horrendous property damage, yet leaving them alive to tell the horrific tale of a missile that fell close by.
Showing the human face of the families in Sderot, through the media- that is our only window,
This is the only way out of our own personal bubble.
This is what we can do to give hope to this town and to the Western Negev and to the people of Israel..
As Rabbi Abe Cooper of the Wiesenthal Center recently observed, “ Sderot is now on the front line of the Jewish people.
The reality of Sderot continues, like nowhere else in the world.
Have we forgotten our rights to live in dignity, as Jews and as Israelis, in our own land?
Indeed, the survival of Sderot will depends on the backing that it receives from the people of Israel and Jewish people everywhere.