Map from Wikipedia
Steven Erlanger's story on the front page of today's New York Times (print edition) is, to my knowledge, the first time that the plight of the southern town's residents has made it there. The qassam attacks from Gaza began before the withdrawal of August 2005, but they have intensified greatly since. Erlanger's piece, accompanied by photographs of children peering at the destruction caused by the rockets, gives voice to the parents, sons, and daughters of the town, whose suffering has received relatively little attention until now.
There are some who try to relativize the qassam attacks, by pointing to the primitive construction of the rockets, their inaccuracy, and the low number of deaths that they have caused so far. They inevitably follow up with a comparison of the qassam to the F-15, with its deadly strikes on Gaza. This kind of comparison provides the relativizers with poetic justification, just like the image of rock throwers confronting tanks (in reality, they are more likely to face soldiers). We are entreated to view the struggle as one of heroic resistance fighters with limited resources confronting an awesome machine marshaling infinitely stronger state and military power. Or better yet, we are told that the rocket attacks resist "the occupation."
Such comparisons obscure the particularity of the terror that Sderot's residents experience every day. It is easy to remark, upon reading about one of Erlanger's teenage protagonists Razi, who "has seen 15 therapists" since seeing a rocket explode in front of his eyes, that Razi, unlike the children of Gaza at least has a therapist. This is a cynical and cruel game. The suffering experienced by Razi and all of Sderot's residents is not just and it is not unavoidable. It is the outcome of a deliberate strategy to terrorize civilians, which should be condemned as loudly as Israeli air strikes which kill innocent Palestinians.
The qassam attacks are all too often depicted as pin-point blows against the "powerful" by those sanctified as essential "victims." The reality of course is that they are aimed at one of Israel's poorest and most defenseless populations.
In this post, I have deliberately avoided the "causes" of the qassam problem and any discussion of its solution. I do not know whether the qassam attacks are being used for tactical or strategic purposes. These are issues I hope to address soon.