On March 30, coinciding with the start of Passover, the former and current Hamas prime ministers in Gaza, Ismael Haniya and Yahya Sinwar, organized what they called the “March of Return.” Although this had been dubbed by many news outlets throughout the world as a peaceful demonstration, these two Hamas leaders told their followers to “infiltrate the border,” that doing so will “mark the beginning of the liberation of all of Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea,” i.e., all of Israel.
This was not intended, as many media outlets had described it, “to eliminate the economic suffering in the Gaza Strip,” but rather to eliminate the sheer existence of the Jewish state.
At least 30,000 protestors, many known terrorists of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Qassam Brigades, came to the border with Israel with explicit instructions to penetrate the fence and thereby create a security and demographic nightmare for the Jewish state. The objective was to remain there until May 15, the English anniversary of Israel’s Independence Day, which the Palestinians and many in the Arab World dub “al nakba,” “the Day of the Catastrophe.” May 15 is also, not coincidentally, the day that President Trump and his team have designated for the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.
This “march” was not a peaceful demonstration reminiscent of the sit-ins of Selma, Ala. The protestors sought to storm the border with lethal intent, hurling firebombs, rocks and burning tires at Israeli soldiers. In at least two cases, they fired bullets directly at troops on the other side. And unfortunately, it resulted in the fatalities of 17 Palestinians, who have consistently been manipulated by their leaders to despise the state of Israel.
Considering the inflammatory potential of the situation, the IDF has got to be commended for training their young men and women to act with such amazing discipline and restraint.
It is also important to remember that Gaza is not under Israeli occupation. In 2005, in a heart-wrenching, politically divisive move, the Israeli government decided to uproot any remnant of a Jewish presence in Gaza and withdrew to the pre-1967 lines, giving the Palestinian people there total independence. Jewish philanthropists actually bought the greenhouses to give to this “nascent Palestinian state.” Some rabbis wanted to leave the synagogues in Gaza, arguing, “After all, we all pray to the same God.”
Many of my friends who were for the Gaza withdrawal explained to me, “This will finally prove to the world just how far Israel is willing to go for peace.” Do you think the world remembers any of this today?
As soon as the blue and white flag was lowered, and the IDF closed the gate, those greenhouses and synagogues, as well as any other vestige of Jewish life, were all destroyed in a heightened display of hate-infested anarchy and mayhem.
And then in 2007, after a bitter internecine war between Fatah and Hamas, Hamas, an organization that was created specifically to achieve the imminent destruction of the State of Israel, took over Gaza.
The result of the magnanimous gesture of the Gaza withdrawal was that more than 10,000 missiles raining down on Israel, provoking Israel to fight three wars: Cast Lead in 2008, Pillar of Defense in 2012, and Operation Protective Edge in 2014. With each successive war the range of the rockets was extended. By now, the Palestinians in Gaza have missiles that can reach all of Israel’s main population centers.
And just in case the missiles do not do the trick, those living in Gaza have been assiduously digging underground tunnels.
Yet there are many powerful voices in Washington who have not learned the lessons of the Gaza withdrawal. They want a precipitous withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, and try to delude themselves into thinking that that will solve the problem.
They are looking at today’s impasse with the Palestinians and want to seize upon a solution, any solution, not realizing the lessons of the Gaza withdrawal.
These people choose to willfully blind themselves to what Palestinian leaders say to their own people in Arabic, and prefer not to entertain the notion that in today’s volatile Middle East, power changes hands very quickly.
The recent actions of Hamas, which could step in for the Palestinian Authority at any moment, should provide a wakeup call to everyone.
Sarah N. Stern is the founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth.