[Highlight: "The people of Gaza have a right to keep looking over their shoulder. That's where they are going.
By Alan Howe
The Herald Sun
20 July 2009
The people of Gaza are set to be the first to bomb themselves back to the Stone Age. Serves them right.
Sympathetic news outlets last week ran reports on how "resourceful" Gazans were making simple homes out of mud and straw bricks using the rubble from destroyed buildings.
They had been forced to return to the rudimentary building techniques of previous millennia because of a shortage of materials due to the partial blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel.
The only difference is that their forefathers didn't have access to that much rubble.
Israelis created that rubble when they reluctantly launched Operation Cast Lead seven months ago to silence the endless bombing campaign against its southern cities, which reside so near the festering malevolence that is Gaza.
The rockets from Gaza are mostly aimed at Sderot, a town of 20,000 in the western Negev desert.
I hadn't been there when I wrote about it more than a year ago, reporting on the odd life of the resilient people who choose to live in the world's most bombed city.
The other day, with incoming quiet for a while, we drove around its streets and met some of the locals.
On most corners there are simple concrete bomb shelters, smaller versions of the ones in their schools where the shelters also serve as playgrounds, a prime Arab target, of course.
No one in Sderot drives around listening to CDs or the radio. They are permanently tuned to the possibility they'll hear a calm, disembodied woman's voice announcing "Tseva Adom" - Code Red. Because they have just seconds to get from their vehicle to a shelter, seat belts are never worn.
No one has a shower unless there is someone else in the house; no point in smelling like roses with a homemade missile about to reshape your roof. We saw a house hit by one of those Qassams. It could have been a modest 1930s tiled cottage in Coburg.
The missile had penetrated the roof and destroyed much of the house.
It was a lucky strike; built by angry Gazans who might in some quarters be described as "resourceful", it could have been propelled on its wonky path by oil, or petrol, maybe even sugar.
Almost a third of the people of Sderot are being treated for psychiatric illness.
Last year I wrote that "Gazans ... know that as many innocents as they can kill at the bus shelter today will be fewer than the casualties they suffer once Israel responds.
But that is inevitable when you keep poking sticks into the eyes of one of the world's sharpest armies. They aren't going to come at you with some jerry-built rockets knocked up in Uncle Ali's shed."
And they didn't. Getting precisely the response that many Gazans prayed for, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead late in December.
Hamas fighters, like their Hezbollah colleagues in Southern Lebanon, hid out in, fired from and operated around sensitive populated areas - and even a cemetery of Australian war dead - hoping to goad the Israeli army into an indiscriminate response.
The terrorist foot-soldiers may be uneducated and unworldly, but their bosses know a PR coup if they can set one up. Dead schoolkids? Great!
More than 1000 Palestinians died during the conflict, the most insightful moment of which was captured on film: a Hamas hero, trying to evade Israeli fire, picks up a small child by the scruff of the neck as "cover" as he runs from one side of the street to the other.
Things since have been a little quieter, but the lull ended on Friday when the first missile for a month weaved its irregular way from Gaza to Israel.
It landed harmlessly in a field near a kibbutz.
The problem for Gazans is that a survey after the Israeli action showed that almost half the population believed Hamas had won, that more than half believed acts of terror should continue, and there was a sharp rise in the number who wanted the rocket attacks to continue.
The people of Gaza have a right to keep looking over their shoulder. That's where they are going.