Saturday, May 8th | 26 Iyyar 5781

May 18, 2018 12:40 pm

What If Israel Didn’t Shoot?

avatar by Stephen M. Flatow /


Gazans send ignited kites over the border with Israel as part of the weekly Friday protests at the southern border on May 4, 2018. Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90. – Imagine the scenario.

It’s been a month now since the Israeli government made its controversial decision to stop shooting back at the Palestinian mobs surging toward the Gaza fence. Let’s see how things turned out.

At first, of course, Israel’s leaders insisted that they had a right to defend the border. But eventually, international pressure got to be too much: All those editorials in The New York Times accusing Israel of brutality. The constant hectoring by the hosts of cable TV’s “Morning Joe” and “Andrea Mitchell Reports.” The condemnations by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The UN resolutions.

Then American Jews jumped on the bandwagon. At first, it was just the predictable groups — Jewish Voice for Peace and J Street. That’s what they do. But then, Rabbi Rick Jacobs started squirming when the pundits on his favorite MSNBC talk show began criticizing Israel, and soon his Union for Reform Judaism was proclaiming how “alarmed, concerned and profoundly saddened” it was about the deaths of all those Gaza rioters. Not much alarm, concern, or sadness about the border kibbutzim being devastated as flaming kites set their crops ablaze. But never mind all that.

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The Anti-Defamation League, increasingly resembling the Obama administration for which its national director once worked, chimed in with “concern” of its own. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations dithered, unable to reach a consensus on what position to take. Right-of-center groups issued their usually verbose, over-the-top press releases that nobody took seriously. No wonder the Israelis felt so alone. They really were.

So Israel announced that its soldiers would cease firing and expressed the hope that the Gaza mobs would reciprocate. Unfortunately, the word “reciprocity” is not in the vocabulary of the Palestinian Arabs. As soon as the Israelis stopped shooting, the mobs rushed forward.

Not just the few thousand who happened to be at the border that day. Soon there were tens of thousands of Gazans streaming towards the border fence. Then hundreds of thousands.

The young men with knives and steel bars were followed by waves of women armed with empty bags. Older Israelis remembered scenes from the 1948 war, when an Arab military force was about to overrun an Israeli town, and neighboring Arab women would rush to the scene with their empty bags, anxious to loot the Jewish property.

What happened next wasn’t exactly a surprise. After all, on May 14, The Washington Post reporters Loveday Morris and Hazem Balousha had asked the would-be border-crashers about their intentions. Here’s what they reported:

“We are excited to storm and get inside,” said 23-year-old Mohammed Mansoura. When asked what he would do inside Israel, he said, “Whatever is possible, to kill, throw stones” . . . Two other young men carried large knives and said they wanted to kill Jews on the other side of the fence.

Mansoura was true to his word. As the Israeli soldiers retreated, Mansoura led a mob of hundreds across the border fence and through the fields of nearby Kibbutz Mefalsim. The kibbutz security men were hopelessly outnumbered. Mansoura and his comrades smashed their way into the communal kitchen, helped themselves to dozens of knives and then invaded the homes of the kibbutzniks. What happened next is too gruesome to recount here.

In the old days, the kibbutzim were American Jewry’s pride and joy. More than a few J Streeters had spent a summer on a kibbutz, picking olives and fantasizing about how a more socialist, egalitarian Israel might gain favor in the eyes of Western intellectuals. Alas, now the kibbutzim in southern Israel just got in the way.

Those two “young men with large knives” who told The Washington Post that “they wanted to kill Jews” kept their word, too. So did hundreds, and then thousands, of other Gazans. For Israel’s leaders, the choice was between headlines about dead Palestinians or retreating. They ordered the army to continue its retreat. Border towns such as Sderot and Netivot were overrun. The slaughter was horrific.

Finally, at Ashkelon, the army dug in. Tel Aviv, after all, was just 36 miles away. The left-wing Israeli intellectuals who bitterly protested when the army was shooting rioters at the Gaza border changed their tune as the Palestinian mobs got within striking distance of the cafes on Dizengoff Street.

There was a brief lull in the violence as the Palestinians filled Molotov cocktail bottles with gasoline, and the Israelis positioned thousands of sandbags along Ashkelon’s perimeter. Surely, now the world would see that the Palestinians were the aggressors, Israel’s beleaguered leaders thought. Surely, now Thomas Friedman and the United Nations would stop criticizing Israel, they thought.

But as the firebomb-throwers surged forward again and the Israeli army shot back, it all started again. Headlines about the number of dead Palestinian “protesters.” Liberal Jewish leaders expressing “sadness” over the “clashes.” Pundits calling for Israel to stop using “disproportionate force.” Ex-State Department officials pontificating about the need for Israel to “compromise.”

And that’s what it would look like, a month after the Israelis stopped shooting at the Gaza attackers.

Stephen M. Flatow, a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, is an attorney in New Jersey. He is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.

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