By Frimet Roth
Each year, we visit our child’s grave on the day of her murder. And with the passing years our grief acquires fresh layers.
In 2011, we grappled with the travesty of justice that befell us via the Shalit Deal. This week, we gathered at the cemetery with the knowledge that Hamas, the cult that dispatched her killers, has gone through a makeover.
Once considered a dire threat to Israel, Hamas is now overshadowed by the maelstrom of Iran’s nuclear threat and ISIS conquests.
Some experts even suggest that in comparison with the Gaza chapters of ISIS and Al Qaeda, Hamas is a less insidious brand of terrorism. Others don’t even see it as a danger to Israel, while still others embrace it sympathetically.
In recent weeks, to commemorate the 2014 Gaza war, news networks have intensified their quest for the video clip that most compellingly depicts the Gaza situation. Evoking pathos for the Gazans’ plight, their journalists blame Israel for that war, its casualties, its aftermath, the increasingly dismal Gazan economy and the suffering of the Gazan children. Hamas rarely get so much as a slap on the wrist.
To be fair, Israel has itself been turning a blind eye to the Hamas threat. Censured for Operation Protective Edge, launched to eradicate lethal infiltration tunnels and missile attacks from Gaza, prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu is now trying to curry favor with the West. One of the results is that the embargo imposed by Israel on Gaza in 2009 has effectively been scuttled.
As the numbers below testify, Israel’s blockade of Gaza continues in theory only. De facto, there is bustling two-way traffic of myriad sorts: 115,000 Gazans crossed at the Erez Terminal for medical treatment in Israel and abroad in 2014. Roughly 1,000 Gazans, among them hundreds of merchants, crossed it on any given day during 2015 along with six to eight hundred trucks carrying thousands of tons of humanitarian, construction and consumer goods.
From daily statistics compiled by COGAT, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, we learn that on July 28, 2015 – a random date – of the 1,525 people traversing the Erez crossing, 95 were foreigners, 208 were humanitarian travelers, 919 were merchants and 302 were designated “others”. The nearly 600 trucks entering Gaza that day delivered 17,162 tons of goods.
All this occurs while the IDF knows that Hamas terrorists are digging new attack tunnels under the border, its weapons factories continue to churn out rockets and it conducts guerrilla-style combat training drills. All right under Israel’s nose.
According to a source in the IDF’s Southern Command, Hamas has not yet restored its rocket arsenal to pre-August 2014 levels, but it is steadily nearing that goal and will seek to exceed it (sources: Ynet and Times of Israel). Nevertheless, the traffic at the Erez crossing continues. Israel is complacent.
There is an ugly truth absent from the above state of affairs. And this is the perfect time to draw attention to it.
Fourteen years ago, a terrorist squad in the service of Hamas targeted innocent Jews, mainly children, having lunch at the Sbarro pizzeria in the center of Jerusalem. It was the height of the summer school vacation and mothers were out in droves spending time with their children.
One of the terrorists, Ahlam Tamimi, who survived the explosion after telling the human bomb to give her a few minutes to get away, boasted afterwards of how she had conducted several earlier forays into the city scouting for a venue that attracted the greatest number of women and children in the early afternoon hours.
This is a crucial detail. The eight children killed there that day, out of a total of fifteen dead, in the ensuing massacre were not collateral damage. They were not caught in any cross-fire. They were not stuck in some building that housed weapons or fighters. They were targeted.
Their murderer, Tamimi, the chief plotter of the Sbarro attack, has boasted of this repeatedly to Arab interviewers.
The Hamas human bomb, Al Masri, bore 10 kg. of nail-enhanced explosives on his back, concealed within a guitar case. He, along with the explosive components, was transported from east to west Jerusalem by Tamimi, who disguised herself to look like a young Israeli woman. He was eager to kill – not merely Jews; not merely children; but as Tamimi later related, specifically religious ones. She was filmed saying proudly that she assured Al Masri her target would satisfy his blood thirst.
Lest anyone imagine that Hamas is rehabilitated, here are some facts to clear that up that delusion.
Hamas today employs Tamimi as a high-profile inciter to terror. She has her own weekly TV program on Al Quds, a global Hamas television station, broadcasting by satellite to Arabic-language speakers throughout the world. She collects a monthly stipend from the Palestinian Authority, for which the funding is predominantly from Europe. Hamas flies Tamimi overseas routinely to address fans, to incite budding terrorists and to receive sundry awards and trophies for her act of “heroism”. Between 2011 and 2014, she visited Algeria, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Tunisia and Yemen.
Hamas’ lust for murdering Jewish children is alive and well. It is being dispersed beyond Gaza’s borders and endangers every Israeli.
Complacency is a chilling stance for Israel to take. It was just such an attitude that enabled the Sbarro massacre to be perpetrated. Several days later, the Minister of Justice revealed that on the morning of August 9, 2001, all the relevant arms of the government were aware that Hamas operatives, armed with explosives, were making their way to the capital intending to bomb and murder as many innocents as possible. They decided not to warn the public. They opted not to empty the streets. They relied on police patrols scouring the summer crowds for suspicious-looking individuals.
Fifteen precious souls perished because of that lame, blasé response – among them my precious Malki.
Frimet Roth is a freelance writer in Jerusalem. Her daughter Malki was murdered at the age of 15 in the Sbarro pizzeria bombing on August 9, 2001. With her husband Arnold she founded the Malki Foundation (www.malkifoundation.org) in their daughter’s name. It provides concrete support for Israeli families of all faiths who care at home for a special-needs child.