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Gaza is here — and it's not going anywhere

After 17 years of war, Israel’s leaders still fail to understand that no amount of military force will make Gaza disappear. 

By Avi Dabush

Woman near shattered window caused by a Hamas rocket on July 15, 2014 in the town of Sderot, Israel. (Photo by Activestills.org)

A woman stands near shattered window caused by a Hamas rocket on July 15, 2014 in the town of Sderot, Israel. (Photo by Activestills.org)

I was born and raised in Ashkelon; now I live near Sderot. I still remember Gaza, just an arm’s length away. No matter how much military force Israel uses, Gaza is not going anywhere. Here are five things you can see five kilometers from the Gaza border that are impossible to see from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.

We are losing. There’s no doubt that the Gazans are losing but what our leaders don’t see is that we’re losing, too. We’re losing an entire generation that has grown up under continuous rocket fire and the traumas that come with it. We’re losing the tremendous potential prosperity that the western Negev could provide. We’re losing so much energy. We believe in the illusion that significant financial investment (which exists, thanks to the Israeli government) can cover these losses. It can’t. One needs to live here to understand that. The Gazans are losing far more but we are also losing.

Gaza is here. When tires burn in Gaza, Israeli towns are strangled by the smoke. Gaza’s untreated sewage flows into nearby streams and pollutes the environment. The sewage also reaches the beaches of Ashkelon and Zikim, sometimes forcing them to close. Health experts fear regional epidemics could break out because of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Hamas is a criminal organization that mistreats its own people, but what brought thousands of people to protest at the Gaza-Israel separation barrier, despite the very real mortal danger, was despair. And the despair is not going to end. At first we joked about “flying pipes,” but then we had to deal with rockets of every kind. We have dealt with the tunnels and with attempts to reach Israel through them. And we will manage, it seems, to deal with the Molotov cocktail kites. But even if we close our eyes, Gaza will not disappear.

The solution is on the table. It always was. Seventeen years of war —since the first Qassam rocket hit Sderot — can only end with a peaceful resolution. Call it a hoodna, a ceasefire, or a peace deal. Israel must aid in rebuilding Gaza’s infrastructure, provide work visas to Gazans, allow for greater commercial freedom, and help develop a functional port. Hamas must commit to holding its fire for years to come. And while it won’t agree to disarmament, perhaps it will agree to removing some of its military posts or reducing its arsenal. There will also have to be a prisoner exchange and the return of the bodies of Israeli soldiers. This is more or less what Hamas proposed recently. Our creativity in war-making must be diverted into political creativity and cooperation with Egypt, the European Union, the United States, and even Turkey to reach a resolution.

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Military force is the weakest weapon in our arsenal. There is no question here who is stronger. Israel’s military capabilities far exceed those of Hamas. Hamas cannot defeat the IDF or even prevent the re-occupation of the Gaza Strip (at a heavy price), if that is what Israel decides to do. However, military power is a limited power. It does not solve the problems of electricity and water shortages and unemployment. It cannot overcome the despair or defeat the desire for freedom. The hubris that comes with military force puts Israeli in situations where force is the only option. And violence only begets more violence. Seventeen years of war has proven that this doesn’t work. But what would? Diplomatic maneuvering, renewed contact with the Palestinian authority. Economic investment. There are thousands of other ways — it is time to pursue them.

We share this place. When one stands on Kobi Hill, on the western edge of Sderot three kilometers from Gaza, one can see this clearly. Gaza is here. And I’m not talking about the military buffer zone. People’s houses are really just a short distance away. As someone born in 1976 and raised in Ashkelon, my memories of Gaza are still alive. From childhood until the First Intifada. Then Gush Katif before the Oslo Accords. Thousands of Gazans came to work in Israel’s southern cities every morning, and thousands of Israelis came to the markets, the coffeehouses, and the beach in Gaza. To be sure, there were power relations — I do not miss that. But there was a kind of mutual dependence. To this day, many Israelis and Sderot residents have deep, real, and personal ties in Gaza. As recently as 2006, Gazans could still come and work in the area. This living memory could transform into a vision for peace, bolstered by meaningful relationships.

Avi Dabush one of the leaders of the Periphery Movement and a member of the Meretz Party leadership. A version of this post first appeared in Hebrew at Local Call. Read it here.  

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    COMMENTS

    1. Lewis from Afula

      Gaza will not disappear.
      But the Arabs squatting there might !
      Mass population transfers have happened many times in history.
      Soon, the time will be ripe to start them up again !

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Lest anyone thing a village is missing its idiot and Lewis is a solitary troll, think again. Lewis is the real Israeli right wing without the pretenses. Without the mask. I know these people. These people have no intention whatsoever of agreeing to a two state solution or any kind of peace or any kind of fairness. So next time someone says oh how awful, awful is the idea of boycotting Israel, oh how could anyone think of it, oh the horror–the next time you hear someone say that, think of Lewis and realize why BDS is a moderate response.

        Reply to Comment
        • Lewis from Afula

          Israel’s economy is growing at 4.2 % per year.
          So keep BDSing – it seems to help our economy !

          Reply to Comment
          • Bruce Gould

            @Lewis: Uh ok, we’ll keep trying – https://bdsmovement.net/

            “The City of Barcelona Endorses the Call for a Comprehensive Military Embargo on Israeli Apartheid” – “Shakira Nixes Her Tel Aviv Show” – “TLVFest Hit with Wave of Cancellations Ahead of Opening this Week”

            Sometimes it takes awhile…

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Who is “Shakira” ???
            Sounds like BDS non-person that nobody ever has heard about.
            Keep up the BDSing – it helps Israel’s economy !

            Reply to Comment
      • duh

        Zionists have advocated “transfer” ever since Herzl proposed sending impoverished non-Jews outside the boundaries of the hypothetical “Jewish” state by denying them employment. The movement started off with the conceit it would be possible to invent a non-militarized form of segregation through bribing the right people. At least you can be counted on to explain what Zionism really is without any pretense.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Ben

      They’re Right. If Palestinians in Gaza Don’t Shoot, No One Listens
      Gideon Levy
      Jun 01, 2018
      “…They are the last fighters against the Israeli occupation. While most of the occupied West Bank behaves like it’s given up, Gaza is not giving up. They were always more determined and daring than their brothers in the West Bank, maybe because of their greater suffering. There isn’t a single Israel who can imagine his or her life in Gaza. The meaning of growing up into their reality. Everything has already been said about that, and nobody gets upset. They have a harsh, undemocratic government, but Israel cannot cast the blame on Hamas. In the West Bank there’s a far more moderate government, and Israel is doing nothing to end the occupation there.
      In recent weeks they buried 118 people – which, relative to the size of the population, is like 500 dead for us, and they will never stop fighting. They’re right, too.”
      https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-if-palestinians-in-gaza-don-t-shoot-no-one-listens-1.6136890

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        By Noam Sheizaf |Published March 11, 2016

        Why do we only listen to violence?

        Two intifadas increased Israeli willingness to make territorial withdrawals. Wars in Lebanon and Egypt led Israel to withdrawals from those territories. Despite all that, the Palestinian Authority is trying to maintain quiet and security for Israelis but receives nothing in return. If I were Palestinian I might come to a disturbing conclusion.

        https://972mag.com/why-do-we-only-listen-to-violence/117773/

        Reply to Comment