Israel’s astonishingly effective Iron Dome air defense has prevented Hamas from killing Israeli Jews and spreading terror in the civilian population. Ironically, though, the better Iron Dome works, the less sympathy the rest of the world has for a nation that remains under rocket attack.
Israel hardly feels like a place under assault from close range. Bars, restaurants, and the Mediterranean beaches are still busy. Businesses are open. Although traffic is lighter than normal, the roads are hardly abandoned. Incoming rockets that would ordinarily wreak havoc are being blown up in the air, causing nothing but a boom, a puff of white smoke, and falling debris. Iron Dome’s success rate hovers around 90 percent. No other system in the world is as effective in shooting down short-range and medium-range rockets.
I was in Jerusalem as a tourist on Thursday afternoon when Iron Dome went into action in the city for the first time. An alarm sounded. We pulled our rental car to the side of the road, jumped out, and lay flat on the ground in a patch of dirt and stones next to the central bus station. People were prostrating themselves all across what passes in Jerusalem for a small park. Others continued to stand. Within a minute we heard muffled booms. We looked up and saw small, wispy clouds in the blue sky—the aftermath of the detonations. Threat over. Someone standing near me called it a miracle.
The health ministry in Gaza on Friday reported that Israeli airstrikes against targets in Gaza had killed more than 100 Palestinians, with more than 500 injured. By contrast, as the Jewish Sabbath was about to begin on Friday evening, just one Israeli had died from Hamas’s rocket attacks—an elderly woman in Haifa who had a heart attack while seeking shelter. (Eight others were injured, one seriously, when a rocket hit a gas station in Ashdod on Friday morning.)
But Iron Dome’s very success makes Israel look worse in the eyes of the world. There might well be more sympathy for Israel if Hamas broke through and achieved its objective of killing large numbers of Jews. As is usually the case in this asymmetrical war, the death toll is much higher in Gaza, where innocent women and children have died alongside Hamas operatives. The difference is that while Hamas is trying to kill civilians, Israel is trying to avoid harming them while it goes after combatants. Because Hamas hides its launchers, rocket factories, and stockpiles in densely populated areas, it’s impossible for Israel to avoid killing innocents. On Friday the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, said there is “serious doubt” that Israel is complying with international human rights law.
SOURCE: Peter Coy