Somebody needs to tell the truth -- to the inhabitants of Beit Hanoun, to the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, to the Arabs of the territories, to the whole world.
It is a simple, harsh and single truth: Those who fire thousands of Kassam rockets upon a civilian population for years, those who accumulate tons of explosive materials, arms and Katyusha rockets for months, those who impose terrorism and fear upon an entire region for no apparent reason need to understand that they cannot hide behind women and children.
Such behavior carries a price tag.
Every country in the world has an obligation to protect its citizens. Israel's behavior in Gaza has been much more moderate, humane and moral than the way American, British or Russian armies would respond to terrorists who consistently fired on Texas, Coventry or Moscow. This is not a theoretical assumption; it's a historical fact. If we go to less enlightened regimes -- for example, in the Arab world -- we see even worse outcomes.
Yet, of course, only Israel is criticized. That's how it is. It's hard to be a Jew. Although the burden of proof upon us is heavier, we may not flinch from it.
Therefore, alongside the deep regret that every human being must feel at the shocking photographs that were broadcast from Beit Hanoun last week, we also need to tell the truth.
And that is that until they stop firing Kassam rockets upon Israel, Israel must keep firing back. Yes, firing back.
They shoot to kill women and children. We do not. Never. But when they shoot at us from inside inhabited areas, it's very difficult to prevent mishaps or terrible incidents. And so, precisely in light of what happened in Beit Hanoun, I would state again with courage -- straight into their eyes, to the whole world -- that this is the situation: Until there is quiet in Sederot, there will be no peace in Gaza.
When you cut down trees, chips fly. When you fire rockets, shells fall. When one of them strays, it is a shame, but that's how it is. Every other method has been tried, and failed. With scoundrels, you behave like a scoundrel, and with murderous, bloodthirsty terrorism that wants to wipe you off the map, you have to respond accordingly: Wipe it out.
On Israel's Army Radio, Hamas operative Rabhi Rantisi said angrily: "What do you expect, that the Arabs will sit quietly now?"
Well, dear Rabhi, we do not expect the Arabs to sit quietly now. We expected that they would sit quietly after we left Gaza -- after Israel uprooted thousands of its citizens, turned them into refugees, invested billions and stood on the brink of civil war in order to leave completely.
Yes, in our naivete we expected that now, at least in Gaza, "they would sit quietly." Instead, we got intensified barrages of upgraded Kassam rockets, tons of explosives, and Hamas in power. An Israeli commentator came on the air and said, now, after the deaths in Beit Hanoun, hatred of Israel in Gaza has skyrocketed.
And what was going on before this incident? Was a blazing love for Zionism and Jews running wild in the streets? After all, these people -- whose lives we left only slightly more than a year ago, leaving them free to do their will -- could have created a model for reconstruction, coexistence, peace. They could have invested a hundredth of their murderous energies in reconstructing refugee camps, a tenth of the money that they invest in terrorism for building new housing blocks.
But instead, they fell upon us with wild rage. They are not attacking the 1967 borders; they are attacking the 1948 lines. They are not challenging the occupation, and they are not arguing with the oppression. They want to uproot us from here, wipe us from the face of the earth. And we do not intend to allow that to happen.
Every Arab mother in Gaza needs to know that it will be impossible to get a quiet night's sleep anywhere if the children of Sederot do not get a quiet night's sleep. And a place where rockets are fired from it will have rockets fired at it.
Ben Caspit is a columnist for Ma'ariv.