[Freemanlist2] David M. Weinberg - "Restraint" -Strategic Folly and Shame:

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Strategic Folly and Shame:
Personal Reflections on a Visit to Beleaguered Sderot

David M. Weinberg

BESA Perspectives Paper No. 30, June 24, 2007
www.biu.ac.il/SOC/besa/perspectives30.html

With the Hamas now fully in control of Gaza, freely running guns and 
missiles through the Egyptian border (negating the need for tunnels), the 
missile barrages on southern Israel can be expected to increase.

Close to six months of Israeli "restraint" in the face of these attacks is 
both strategic folly of the highest order and a deep source of shame. 
Folly - because Israel has allowed a city of twenty-four thousand people to 
wither away and empty out under enemy fire. Shame - because Israel has left 
the forlorn people of Sderot, the most destitute, downtrodden, and drained 
citizens of Israel in normal times, to take the hit.

All the praise for Israeli "self-discipline" and "resilience" in the face of 
the missile attacks is dangerous and unfounded blather, predicated on a lie. 
The disadvantaged people of Sderot are not resilient. They're just stuck. 
They have been forgotten by Israeli society; abandoned to the gangs of the 
so-called Palestinian "Authority." That is an unforgivable social (as well 
as a political-military) sin that should shake Israelis to the very fiber of 
their souls.

I recently spent a day in Sderot, visiting families to evaluate and 
catalogue their needs for the "Lev Ehad" volunteer association. While ten 
Kassam missiles fell in and around Sderot last week, walking out on the 
streets was not scary. The bone-chilling part was inside Sderot homes. Here, 
I discovered shame and suffering that runs far deeper than the 
political-security challenge coming from Gaza.

Olga (not her real name) is destitute. Her mentally-ill ex-husband left her 
with enormous black-market debts, she has bouts of depression along with 
heart trouble, and her daughter has chronic and severe asthma that has led 
to lengthy hospitalizations. Loan sharks broke her front door two years 
ago - it still doesn't close. The water and electricity have been cut off a 
few times. She lost a brother to Chechen rebels back in the Commonwealth of 
Independent States, where her kids would sleep under her bed during 
night-time mortar attacks.

A Kassam missile landed in her daughter's Sderot schoolyard during class, 
and the eight-year-old is traumatized. She won't leave her mother's side, 
nor return to school. Once again, she sleeps under her mother's bed. "Just 
like Chechnya," says Olga. Both mother and daughter have been diagnosed with 
clinical post traumatic stress disorder and depression. Prior to the arrival 
of my friend Dr. Mordechai and I, no one from central Israel or from the 
Jewish Diaspora had spoken to them.

Similar stories repeated themselves in other homes. Rachamim has a 
disability that prevents him from working, but his understanding of the 
situation is keen. "We are imprisoned at home by fear of the missiles," he 
says. "It's like having a guy coming at you from behind with a knife," he 
explains. "You're constantly looking over your shoulder." His wife will not 
let the kids walk to school, and Rachamim's social worker won't travel from 
Beersheba to Sderot in order to treat him.

And so, Sderot is tragedy upon tragedy. The rockets of Hamas are a layer of 
misery piled atop the misfortune and deprivation that already was the lot of 
many residents. They are truly the forgotten people of Israel - now more 
than ever.

Echoes of Amalek reverberate in me as I drive back to civilized, privileged, 
central Israel: "(He) smote the hindmost of you, all that were feeble in 
your rear, the faint and weary" (Deuteronomy 25:18). And I wonder: where is 
our shame?

The ugly truth is that Israel is not mobilized to really defend or 
significantly assist Sderot - because its residents are third-class Israelis 
at best.

Had it been the upwardly-mobile, well-connected people of Ramat Hasharon, 
Kochav Yair or Tel Aviv that had been targeted by Hamas for months of 
unremitting bombardment - would Israel be doing so little? IDF tanks would 
be rolling into Riyadh if necessary to halt the bombing; and every 
government ministry, corporation, postal clerk, human rights, gay rights, 
and animal rights organization would be marshaled to lend a helping hand to 
the distressed people of Herzliya or Caesarea.

Fortunately, Israel's naked shame is being covered-up by the dozens of 
idealistic youth from across the country, now volunteering in Sderot. The 
day after receiving my visit report, they went to fix Olga's front door and 
do schoolwork with her daughter. They also brought candies and chocolate, 
along with medication for Olga from a non-profit dispensary. The electricity 
bill was paid. They drove Rachamim's frightened teenager to and from school. 
In the evening - in fact, every evening - they march through the city 
streets, singing and dancing; spreading cheer and dispelling fear.

Sderot is Israel's frontline, socially as well as geo-politically. Its 
neglect is a metaphor for the ebbing away of a caring Jewish-Zionist 
society, and a symbol of the recklessness that passes for Israeli security 
policy. It's time to take up arms, first and foremost, against our 
indifference to Sderot's anguish. Then we can turn our attention to the 
battle against Sderot's foreign foes.
----------------------
David M. Weinberg is director of public affairs at the BESA Center. A 
lobbyist, spokesman and speechwriter, he has served in executive positions 
for Diaspora Jewish organizations, and as a senior advisor in the Prime 
Minister's Office.
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