(UPDATE: Since the graphs appearing below have been removed from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) website, some readers might have doubts about there authenticity. However, Jeffrey Goldberg who blogs at the Atlantic, has kindly alerted me to the source that the MFA continues to cite for its statistics on rocket fire from Gaza in 2008. The graphs I reproduced can be found in that document.
Goldberg writes: “Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs cites this report [PDF] that claims that 362 rockets and mortars were fired into Israel from Gaza into Israel during what the report calls the ‘lull’ in the fighting. I think it’s fair to say that, though the numbers of rocket and mortar attacks dropped off dramatically during the ceasefire, there were, indeed, attacks.”
What Goldberg fails to point out is that of these 362 rockets and mortars fired, 324 were launched after Israel broke the ceasefire on November 4, 2008. During the period in which the ceasefire was being maintained by both Hamas and Israel from June 18 until November 4, there were a total of 38 fired. This averages 8.5 rocket and mortar attacks per month. As far as I am aware, none of these were conducted by Hamas and the level of attacks can be seen as a measure of the effectiveness (not absolute) with which Hamas was able to reign in other militant groups such as Islamic Jihad.)
For four months, from Summer into Fall, the truce between Israel and Hamas was a stunning success. Indeed, if Israel doubted Hamas’ ability or willingness to engage in a truce, the Jewish state would have had no reason to request that the truce be extended as its expiration approached and passed in late December.
But now is a time of war and not only is talk of a truce being ruled out by the authors of this war but history is being re-written in order to degrade the value of a ceasefire. The memory of a period of recent calm that was the most durable peace that the residents of southern Israel have experienced in recent years must now be erased.
The Israeli government’s own graphical representation of the calm told the story in terms that even a child could understand. This is the graph that the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs displayed on its web site demonstrating that from July to October, rocket fire, if not reduced to a perfect zero, came stunningly close. From an average of 179 rockets per month in the preceding period of 2008, the number fell to just three per month:
Now that the Israeli propaganda machine is revved up to full throttle, the image of an effective truce no longer suits the Israeli government’s purposes. Instead it has become more convenient to try and hide the numbers — with numbers! The foreign ministry has thus removed the simple graph shown above and replaced it with this:
In the earlier image, graph blocks dramatically portrayed the rise and fall in rocket fire rates. In the revised image, blocks of equal size (containing numbers) are used to obscure the graph. The effect, clearly intended, is to try and portray the lull as really nothing more than a minor undulation in a period of unremitting attacks.
The message Israel now wants to sell is that the truce never really worked. Instead of acknowledging that the truce effectively collapsed when Israel launched Operation “Double Challenge” on November 5, the rocket fire that followed that Israeli raid is being used to obscure the fact that rocket fire had effectively been curtailed up to that point.*
On the IDF Spokesman web site, a post on rocket statistics simply omits the part of the record that Israel now finds inconvenient to acknowledge:
- Between Hamas’ takeover and the start of the Tahadiya (State of Calm), (June 14, 2007 – June 16, 2008), there was an average of over 361 attacks per month—an increase of an additional 350%.
- On Nov. 4 – 5, Israel launched Operation “Double Challenge”, targeting a tunnel Hamas was building as part of a plan to kidnap Israeli soldiers.
- From the end of Operation “Double Challenge” until the end of the Tahadiya, (Nov. 4 – Dec. 19, 2008) a period of only a month and a half, there were 170 mortars, 255 Qassams, and 5 Grads fired upon Israel’s civilian population centers.
- Since the end of the Tahadiya (Dec. 19, 2009) until the beginning of Operation “Cast Lead,” (Dec. 27, 2008) a period of little more than a week, there were approximately 300 mortars and rockets fired onto Israel.
- Since the begining of Operation “Cast Lead”, there have been an additional 500 launches, 284 of which have been verified as rockets (both Qassams and Grads), and 113 as mortars.
Was four months of calm really worthless? Given that it became the precursor to war, the answer now apparently is yes.
But it didn’t have to turn out this way. The effectiveness with which Hamas enforced a truce should have provided the impetus for Israel to lift its economic siege of Gaza.
Instead, we are once again witness to Israel’s seemingly insatiable appetite for war, even while it never tires of professing its love of peace.
* Should anyone doubt that the Israeli raid (official declarations about Israel’s commitment to the truce notwithstanding) constituted a unilateral breach of the truce, consider what Israel and the world’s response would have been in the event that the raid had been launched from Gaza. Hamas gunmen conducted a raid inside Israeli territory, killing six Israeli soldiers.
That wouldn’t have been described as a breakdown in the truce; it would have been regarded as an act of war.