By Schmoel Yitzhak
In real life there are two kinds of mortars.
The common kitchen version doesn't hurt. It's a thick bowl of porcelain in which substances are pounded with a pestle.
Likewise, the pestle is an instrument for pounding substances in a mortar. Pestles don't hurt either, unless you bop someone in the head with it.
The other kind of mortar can be dangerous in the hands of Arabs.
As employed by Hamas and its murderous sub-divisions, the common military mortar is a short-barreled cannon for short-distance firing of heavy shells.
When those shells explode they kill anyone around the blast and if Hamas has its way, the more Israelis murdered, the better.
By all rights, mortars should only be used by nations at war with one another and certainly not directed at civilian targets.
That's why Israel -- right or wrong and it sure is debatable now-- removed all established towns and hamlets where Jews lived in Gaza. At the time, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon believed -- again, right or wrong -- that such a peace-seeking, humanitarian gesture would inspire the Arab (Palestinian) side to respond with equal warmth.
Despite considerable resentment of Sharon's decision among rank-and-file Israelis, Arik steadfastly ordered his countrymen out of Gaza and transplanted within Israel. Period. End of story.
Whether Sharon was turning senile -- as some believed at the time -- or was naive beyond belief no longer matters.
His vision of a reciprocal peace gesture from the other side was greeted not with gratitude but rather the brand of vicious cynicism so much a part of Arab thinking.
The first thing the Palestinians did was destroy virtually everything in sight that was left by the Israelis. Even when a group of wealthy Americans -- including New York Daily News publisher Mortimer Zuckerman -- pledged millions of dollars to help turn the abandoned, immensely productive Jewish-built Gaza hot houses into successful industries, the Arabs promptly wasted them. ,
Hey, that was the Palestinians' problem if they didn't want to exploit a perfectly useful gift on which to build their economy.
Yet, beyond such wanton destruction, there was a problem that now has become more than a PROBLEM but rather a war.
The hot house razing also had a message that neither Sharon nor other peace-seeking Israelis fully expected and that was simply this; any positive, Israeli gesture of amity would be greeted in return with Grade A hostility. The hot house razing was a mere portent of pernicious things to come. And -- brother and sister -- they came; in spades.
Wiping out the hot houses with bulldozers and hammers was mere kid stuff. Once Hamas annexed Gaza, rocket sites were established and the bombardment of Sderot, the Negev and cities such as Ashkelon had begun.
This must have amused the United Nations, European Union and other Arab-loving outfits that have poured billions into Palestinian pockets because they ignored Hamas' declaration of war. (No, it doesn't have to be a statement on paper; regularly exploding sharpnel that kills innocent Israelis is a war declaration enough.)
The Israeli response -- with typical American pressure for "restraint" -- was very, very mild in terms of what any other nation would do. Patience was Israel's byword and that -- as we know -- was interpreted by the Arabs as a sign of weakness.
Soon the Israel-bound rockets were accompanied by mortar fire until the Israeli government said, in so many words, "Enough, already!" A more vivid translation is Operation Cast Lead.
The Israeli Defense Forces easily could have marched through Gaza the way General Sherman demolished the Civil War state of Georgia. Unfortunately, extreme pressure from the usual suspects -- Uncle Sam, European diplomats, et. al. -- halted the Israel offensive under the guise of a peace-producing cease fire.
Could the Jerusalem high command have ignored the insistent demands from America that it stop its tanks in their tracks?
Absolutely, just as it could have done likewise as the IDF's offensive had moved forward in Lebanon. But the promise of real, unadulterated peace was so intensively promoted by America that Cast Lead was aborted and residents of Sderot, Askelon and Beersheba, among others, could breathe easy again; or so they hoped.
As is now patently apparent, they were fooled. Jerusalem was duped along with every Israeli leader who signed on to the Cast Lead cease fire.
All the Arabs wanted was -- as always when they're on the run -- an opportunity to regroup. When the Israeli's foolishly abandoned the Philadelphi Corridor, it meant that smuggling -- in or out of tunnels -- would be the order of the day; and so it was.
Which brings us to the here and now. Incessant mortar fire is back in full force and Hamas makes no bones about it either. In response, Foreign Minister Lieberman has protested to the United Nations. Based on past performances, Lieberman's plaints will produce -- at best -- a yawn at UN headquarters no matter how many Jews are slaughtered.
So far, the Israeli response has been a case of "deja-vu all over again." The IDF pounds Gaza with a day of tank fire and helicopters sporadically strafe Hamas operatives. It's a reasonably humanitarian response but, alas, it won't work.
The Arabs laugh at such lukewarm retaliatory moves. For one thing, it has enabled them to not only restock their armories with more lethal weapons -- Egypt no longer is a smuggling barrier -- from countries such as Iran but Hamas is actively preparing for another war.
Sorry, but Benjamin Netanyahu unequivocally must know that tepid counterattacks simply invite more rocket and mortar fire.
Ah, but what to do? For starters, Bibi might imagine what would happen if America's northern or southern neighbors, Canada and Mexico, would -- unprovoked -- begin shelling Texas and Minnesota, respectively with rockets and mortar, killing American citizens left and right. Congress would quickly convene, declare war, get UN approval and send in the troops.
Naturally, the GIs would be accompanied by Uncle Sam's air force and navy if necessary and the war would be over in less than a week.
As for the proper, realistic response, my suggestion is simple:
1. Netanyahu -- or Lieberman -- should first make their declaration to the UN, EU and the United States that enough is enough; 2. A similar warning should be delivered to the Arabs; "Any more shelling of any kind will be greeted by an all-out attack that will destroy all Hamas military establishments and bases for mortar-rocket strikes against Israel as well as electric plants, etc. 3. A grace period of several days will be granted for Hamas to get its house in order before such an operation is set in motion; 4. If rockets and mortar fire continues, AND neither the White House, EU, UN, et. al. decisively neutralize Hamas, then LET THEM HAVE IT.
And if you're still wondering why: just remember that Hamas is not hurling kitchen mortars nor Toys 'R Us rockets at innocent Israelis!
Those mortar shells actually hurt when they explode and, yes, kill Jews!