Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Sderot residents: "We want the Qassams back"

You would think Israel cares a lot for Sderot. After all, its soldiers sacrificed life and limb, or at least a few thousand white phosphorus shells, to make the place safe from Palestinian rockets in operation Cast Lead. They didn't want to, but in the end there was no other option than to wipe out 1,400 terrorists, between men, men dressed up as women, women who allowed men to dress up like them, and children who might have grown up to kill Jews. You would think it was all done for Sderot's sake.

Think again. In a story titled Sderot plagued with welfare crisis, Ynet reports that, now that the rockets are over, the true face of Sderot as an impoverished and neglected community of mostly Mizrachi resdidents has emerged. Director of social services in the Sderot Municipality Yigal Levy is very candid about the origins of the city's current troubles:

Over 4000 families are currently being treated by social services in Sderot. Out of all applications this year, 40% were new applications and some 20% of those were related to bank debts and foreclosure threats. The municipality finds itself unable to attend to all of the new problems as a result of a drop in grant funds.

"The number of applications has risen, but our ability to address them has dropped by 50%," Levy complained. "The government saved people from the Qassams, but now no one really cares."
An indebted resident feels virtually helpless:

"Suddenly when it's calm and there are no more Qassams, they've threatened to take away my house. During the operation everyone was considerate. (...)

As long as the operation lasted no one approached me and I could live in peace, at least in that respect. My debt isn't that high, I'm trying to pay it off and still they threatened to evict me…I always felt that we were abandoned here, but now I feel it even more," he said.
But most striking is his actual longing for the days when the rockets poured down on the town, "bringing unspeakable pain to the population and leaving them mentally scarred forever":

Sometimes I think, to hell with it - bring on the Qassams. It'll solve my problems with the bank and I'll get to keep the roof over my head[.]
Yes, firing those rockets against a civilian population center was a crime against humanity on Hamas' part, which can't be overlooked or forgiven. But no matter what the intentions were, the actual harm inflicted can't be disregarded either. Any equivalence between the low-level damage suffered by Sderot and the carnage visited on Gaza is immoral and should be denounced by intellectuals as a monstrously dishonest debating device.

16 comments:

Ernie Halfdram said...

Quite. You beat me to it. You write of 'few thousand white phosphorus shells'. Do you have source for that? As you may know, I've been trying to find some estimate of the number of projectiles Israel has fired into Gaza over some relevant period. That would be a start.

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

Actually, Ernie, I have no idea. The "few thousand shells" claim was part of a clearly jocular sentence, in which wild exaggeration or downright inaccuracy are allowed.

Gert said...

I'm not an expert (but I was a gunner with a 155 mm Howitzer battalion - as a conscript - in a European army, using the exact same pieces of artillery used by the AOF, and also the British Army) but I would think the total number of WP shells fired by Israeli artillery over Gaza to be probably less than a hundred. As can be seen in numerous photos and live video coverage at the time, the WP fragments fan out over quite a large area. The wounds this stuff inflicts (and this I can attest as a chemist but so does much evidence shown of victims recently on Press TV) are horrendous: to use this kind of ordnance against a defenseless population is up there with other war crimes like Fallujah.

Of the several so-called allotropes (physical forms) of phosphorus, the white allotrope is considered the most (chemically) toxic one and is for commercial purposes usually converted into the quite innocuous red phosphorus, for use e.g. in safety matchsticks. I recently made some white phosphorus in my backyard lab and I'm very wary around it.

I haven't read Goldstone yet and wonder what it has to say about it?

Ernie Halfdram said...

Oh, well. Anyway, on reflection, while interesting in itself, the amount of ordinance used durint 'Cast lead' is not really relevant to the argument that the 'thousands of rockets' launched between 2001 and 2008 were in fact retalliation for an undisclosed number of missiles fired at Gaza.

Gert said...

Well, the sheer number of WP shells used isn't that important, is it: the only thing that matters is the damage the weapon can cause. Compared to a 25 kg HE shell, the destructive power of a WP shell is very small but the latter can nonetheless wound large numbers of people in horrific ways. It's not really a 'killer weapon' but its effects are nonetheless seriously pernicious for those finding themselves in the weapon's path. About a 100 shells would mean about 3 per day and that also kind of 'feels' right, as a number.

Ernie Halfdram said...

I gather that's why WP is supposed to be banned from use in populated areas, along with cluster munitions. Not sure about DIME. And who knows what you-beaut new weapons the boffins enjoying Israeli academic freedom have come up with in their labs?

That the Israeli military used such things in 'Cast lead' is tangentially relevant - it demonstrates the IOF's inordinately high level of respect for the lives and wellbeing of the noncombatant population and extreme purity of arms. But ultimately, it's only evidence of how proportionate Israel's 'response' was. This is already widely discussed. What interests me is what the 'thousands of rockets' were the response to. I expect the answer to be hundreds of thousands of bombs, missiles, mortar shells, etc. But it would be good to be able to quantify it.

Joshua said...

Sderot has always been the bait that Israel dangles over the rest of the world for past and future operations. This was a long time ago but Sderot residents were fuming at the poor shelters and aid given to the residents living there and even the mayor of Sderot wanted negotiations with Hamas rather than Cast Lead. It surprises me not that nothing has changed for Sderot. Apologies for the absence of links but I'm on short time.

Anonymous said...

Eight years of low-level warfare with sporadic deaths and constant terror against civilians in Israel = a few days of killing terrorists in Gaza.

Yes, this moral equation is monstrous but in the exact opposite way you claim.

Gert said...

Ernie:

The use of WP, as I'm sure you're aware, is for creating giant smoke screens: the phosphorus burns eagerly (and very hotly) to phosphorus pentoxide which forms a smog-like, thick smoke. But it should never be used in populated areas.

I've always had questions about the use of 155 mm artillery against Hamas rocket launchers (with HE shells): while an artillery battery on stand-by can be summoned to deliver fire very quickly (probably within 2 minutes of a request for fire) the weapon just isn't all that accurate. A typical six-piece battery will when in optimum firing mode basically carpet bomb an area of about 100 m wide by 50 m deep. Very useful to slow the advance of a hostile infantry unit or to harass an enemy artillery battery, not very useful to pin down a few militants with mobile rocket launchers. That's what I was taught by NATO anyway...

Ernie Halfdram said...

Gert, you can't seriously be suggesting that NATO knows more about close urban counterterrorism tactics than the fabled IOF. Why their expertise is one of Israel's principal exports, and the market is always right.

Gert said...

Ernie:

Hahaha...

I would posit that at the time I 'served', Nato knew nothing about 'close urban counterterrorism tactics', tout court. Nato armies being designed and trained to fight mirror image armies ('fair play, Old Boy!'). But taking a crude but powerful battle field weapon to manual 'rocket' launchers is the height of inefficiency or so I would imagine.

We also have to wait with baited breath for some army, 'insurgent group' or whatever to use WP against our own delicate white skins. There would be hell to pay...

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

We also have to wait with baited breath for some army, 'insurgent group' or whatever to use WP against our own delicate white skins.

Well, I have a fairly dark (pardon the paradox) complexion. Does that mean that if someone (I'm not saying the Israelis) drops a WP shell on my block my Piedmontese neighbor will get more severely burnt than me? I'm asking because I have a few issues with him.

Gert said...

Haha...

No, but if he suffers from White Man's Burden he may just scream a little louder!

Maurice Pinay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Nope, Israel doesnt care that much about Sderot, otherwise it wouldnt have taken 8 years to launch the operation.

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