Let Them Eat Schadenfreude

Monday 11 February 2008, by Shir Hever

The shelling of Sderot continues. Numerous residents are in shock while others have been physically injured. The property of Sderot residents has been damaged, the city suffers from severe economic distress and many have already abandoned the area.

Alternatives International

The ongoing failure of the Israeli government to assist Sderot does not stem from powerlessness, but from a cruel logic that mirrors the priorities of the Israeli political leadership. The sole happiness the government provides to Sderot in its difficult hour is schadenfreude-happiness from the suffering of others. Instead of assisting the victims, the government is creating new victims in Gaza: for every Sderot resident injured by a Qassam rocket, Israel’s military forces kill tens of Palestinians in Gaza. Does this situation provide any real comfort to the residents under attack in Sderot?

It is no wonder that the residents of Gaza elected a Hamas leadership. To date it is the sole body that has offered Gazans a way to resist the Israeli occupation. Hamas succeeded in making order on the streets of Gaza while Fatah acted as something akin to an additional arm of the Israeli government. The breaching of the border between Gaza and Egypt allowed the residents of Gaza a much needed infusion of goods and a temporary sense of freedom, and the Hamas thus gained additional points in the eyes of Gazans.

Just as Fatah disappointed the residents of Gaza, not to mention a majority of Palestinians in the West Bank, the government of Israel is disappointing the residents of the northwestern Negev. Capitulation to violent urges directed toward defenseless residents of Gaza is not a constructive response to the distress of the residents of the northwestern Negev. In actuality, the government does not have an answer to their distress.

Their comfort is instead derived from the distress of others, from the additional suffering of the Gaza residents. This comfort can only be short-lived and cannot solve the problems of Sderot and its environs. No one should be surprised, therefore, if in light of the ongoing neglect, the residents of the region will refuse to pay taxes, enlist in the military or demonstrate loyalty to the state which abandoned them, and on the backs of whom the state is waging a war of honor and ego. After the state abandoned them, they no longer owe it anything.

Moreover, the fact that Israel kidnaps Palestinians and holds them for extended periods of time without trial, is actually an invitation for the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers and civilians to serve as bargaining chips to gain the freedom of Palestinian political prisoners.

The Israeli government’s lethargy in the matter of freeing Gilad Shalit only worsens the injustice that Israel inflicts on its soldiers. The government sends them to commit immoral occupation operations, and afterwards abandons them, as nationalistic honor and the belligerent discourse do not permit any willingness to compromise and the prisoner exchange continues to be postponed.

Fatah rule in the West Bank has become a rule reliant on military force, as it has lost most of its legitimacy in the eyes of the Palestinian public. The regime of checkpoints, the Wall, the expansion of settlements, administrative detentions and the unceasing killing in the West Bank has clarified for the Palestinians that the Fatah does not offer them solutions. Therefore, the day is likely not far off when Qassams and perhaps even Katyusha rockets fired also from the cities of the West Bank the will begin to fall on Israel, as a desperate act of people trying to find a way out of their life of imprisonment imposed on them. If rockets begin to fall on Kfar Saba and West Jerusalem, it will no longer be possible to ignore it and look away. The government possesses no plan to prevent these aforementioned developments. On the contrary, Israeli policy continues to prove to the Palestinians that negotiations with Israel do not result in an improvement of their lives, and that only violent action is capable of influencing Israeli public opinion to notice the Palestinians.

As Israel is determined to ignore international law, UN resolutions and the demands of the Palestinians for realization of their individual and collective rights, it is essentially pushing the Palestinian population to the last action available to them to fight for their rights-militancy.

As long as the government of Israel continues to delay and prevent negotiations, continues to expand the settlements and intentionally prevent any economic development in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, there will be no relief for the residents of the northwest Negev.

The alternative that must be demanded from Israel is to prove to the Palestinians that there also exists another path open to them towards realizing their rights. To open the safe passage from Gaza to the West Bank, to lift the economic and military siege from the Occupied Palestinian Territories, to take responsibility for the damages of the occupation and to begin compensating the Palestinian population in order to rehabilitate the infrastructures that has been damaged and destroyed by the Israeli occupation forces.

On Saturday 26 January, a long convoy of Israelis from throughout the country traveled to the Erez checkpoint to demand an end to the siege and try to bring foodstuffs that are in short supply in Gaza. They were joined by residents of Sderot who understand that shelling, starvation and darkness in Gaza do not ensure their security but only endanger it further. These Sderot residents are still a minority, but they represent a crack in the wall of Zionist propaganda that presents only blood for blood as a solution. The residents of Sderot who joined the convoy demonstrated that revenge does not satisfy them, and that they are determined to struggle for a better future. The government, in the meantime, continues its implementation of aggression at the expense of victims on both sides.

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