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May 3, 2018 3:42 pm

Gaza’s Border Fence: A Symbol of Israeli Sovereignty

avatar by Moshe Dann / JNS.org

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Israeli soldiers shoot tear gas at Palestinian rioters on the Gaza border, March 30, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Amir Cohen.

JNS.org – Although the media and many observers have described the recent Hamas-inspired and directed riots, they have not explained them or put them in context.

The riots are the logical conclusion of the “Disengagement,” Israel’s mistaken withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005. The heart of the conflict is not about territory, or claims of property lost in the war of annihilation that the Palestinians and Arab states launched in 1948. It is about Israel’s existence and an internal Arab power struggle.

The riots demonstrate Hamas’ ability to motivate large numbers of Arabs to sacrifice themselves for a “higher cause”: the war against Israel, Zionism, the Jewish people, and the world.

The border fence, therefore, serves as a symbol that not only represents Israel’s power and determination, but also — as a representation of Israeli sovereignty — invites attack. Just as Israel must defend its border fence, Arabs must seek to destroy it — either by direct attacks or by tunnels.

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The riots also reveal the struggle between Hamas and its rival the Palestinian Authority (PA). While the PA is willing to make some accommodations and concessions to Israel, Hamas will not compromise. That explains the appeal and power of Islamists, such as ISIS and Al Qaeda, who carry on their war against “the infidels.” It’s not just against Israel and the Jews, but anything and everything that does not conform to what Islamists define as Islamic purity.

The Hamas attacks against the border fence, therefore, are part of a “holy war,” a jihad, that is encouraged by Islamists.

The border fence is not only a symbol of Israeli sovereignty. It is a symbol of non-Muslim sovereignty that — in their radical eyes — is seen as “oppressing and persecuting Muslims.” Therefore, it must be destroyed in order to preserve and maintain the “purity of Islam.” Suicidal attacks against the fence, like those against other targets throughout the world, are carried out by those willing to sacrifice themselves for what they believe is a “holy” purpose. That’s why they are called “martyrs.” They are willing to die for their cause — Islam.

For Hamas and Islamists, the fence is a perfect symbol; it defines the conflict. The “good guys” are on one side; the “bad guys” are on the other side. Breaching and destroying the fence becomes a way of demonstrating not only one’s courage, but — more importantly — one’s faith. It is not only an act of self-sacrifice, but one of self-affirmation and redemption.

Everyone who planned, supported, and engaged in the Disengagement should have known, or at least anticipated, that Israel would likely be drawn into quicksand from which it could not escape and would only further the conflict. The riots at the fence confirm the warnings and predictions at the time, which have come true.

The riots are an indication of what can be expected from a Palestinian state and why such a state is a clear and present danger. We now know the “price tag” of the Disengagement and what future Israeli withdrawals will cost in lives and treasure. Caveat emptor.

Moshe Dann is a PhD historian, writer, and journalist in Israel. 

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