Do Not Forget Hamas Kassams Hitting Sderot

JEWISH LIGHT EDITORIAL

Two weeks ago, the St. Louis Jewish Light was proud to publish an exclusive and gripping first-person account, “Visiting Sderot under fire,” by Rachel Schwartz, an Israeli citizen and Assistant Professor with Saint Louis University’s esteemed Institute for Biosecurity and Disaster Preparedness. In May, Professor Schwartz traveled to Sderot, the Israeli town which has been relentlessly targeted by kassam and Grad rockets fired by Hamas and its terrorists, which have continued despite the Egyptian-brokered “agreement” by Hamas to observe a period of “calm” with Israel. Apparently Hamas’s definition of “calm” means taking advantage of Israel’s observance of a formal cease-fire to resume at will the attacks on Sderot, Ashkelon and other cities, with deathly kassam and long-range Grad rockets launched from the Gaza Strip.

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Schwartz’s words are chilling: “The facts themselves were frightening enough — bombs have been falling for seven years now — but the worst bombing has been in the first six months of the year, with over 2,300 kassams falling, killing five and wounding 280. As a result, fully 96 percent of Sderot residents suffer some degree of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).” With all of the other dramatic local, world and national news dominated headlines in recent months, including the presidential and other elections, the Mumbai Massacre, the “Hit a Jew Day” controversy at a local middle school, the Agriprocessors kosher meat-packers issues, etc., it has been too easy to forget about the ongoing and horrific suffering by the innocent men, women and children of Sderot, Ashkelon and other Israeli towns and cities.

It was helpful that President-elect Barack Obama traveled to Sderot during his visit to Israel and the Palestinian territoriies during the course of his presidential campaign. The first-hand knowledge by the incoming President of the full scope of the consequences of terrorist attacks on the innocent Israelis is critically important during this transitional period. President-elect Obama made it clear during his campaign (and in his record as a U.S. Senator) that he fully supports the continuous bi-partisan support for a strong partnership between the United States and its sister democracy, Israel. The President-elect and his announced nominee for Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, have also made it clear that they intend to continue the pursuit of a formal peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority based on two states: the Jewish State of Israel, living side-by-side in peace and security with an Arab State of Palestine.

As the Palestinian-Israeli and other Middle East negotiations go forward, it is critically important that the reality of the iron grip on the Gaza Strip by Hamas, the Islamist terrorist organization which remains officially committed to Israel’s destruction, and which with its terrorist allies launches deadly rocket attacks against civilian targets in Israel, not be overlooked. If there is indeed truly to be a two-state solution, which the St. Louis Jewish Light, a majority of Israelis and American Jews support, it is absolutely essential that Hamas’s attacks against Israel be stopped permanently.

If the Palestinian Authority, headed by the well-meaning but weak Mahmoud Abbas, is to be a dependable peace partner, the Hamas terrorists must be disarmed and required to abide by all present and future agreements to establish a full and formal peace with the State of Israel.

As Professor Schwartz pointed out in her poignant and compelling first-person account: “The streets of Sderot, once a thriving town of 23,000, mostly immigrants from Ethiopia and Morocco, were virtually empty. It’s now a town of 19,000, and those people we did see hurried as they crossed open spaces heading always toward the nearest shelter, listening for the red alert sirens. Nobody sat on the park benches under the trees; the playground was deserted, and even the shopping center was still.” No Israeli, no American, no human being should have to live under such horrible conditions, which resemble the war zones of today or those of London during the blitz of World War II.

We urge our readers to write to the White House, the State Department and their representatives in Congress, that just as we were admonished to “Remember Pearl Harbor” during World War II, we must “Remember Sderot” in the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Peace without security is not really peace, and we must insist upon a real peace.