TEL AVIV, Israel - The chilling scenes of wailing Palestinian parents as they hear of the deaths of their sons reverberated around the world, but in Israel they were just another sad footnote to a continuing tragedy.
“Remember, what we do to them by accident they try 100 times a day to do to us on purpose,” one Tel Aviv mother-of-three said.
Hamas has fired an average of 130 rockets at Israel daily for nine days. The Iron Dome anti-rocket missile system and a vast network of bomb shelters have saved Israel from similar carnage. One Israeli has died, versus 230 Palestinians.
The threat to Israelis is from the ground, too.
On Thursday, Israeli intelligence officers said they spotted 13 Palestinians emerging from a secret tunnel into Israeli territory on the Gaza border, heading for a nearby kibbutz with the presumed aim of killing civilians. The army shelled them. Israeli officials say some were killed but others apparently escaped back into the tunnel.
A tragedy averted, maybe, and one that reminds Israelis that what happened to the four boys on a beach in Gaza on Wednesday could happen to them at any moment. To some extent this fear inures them against deaths on the other side: Rather them than us.
The real effect of the killing of the children, which the Israeli military is investigating, will be felt in growing international pressure on Israel to halt the fighting, analysts suggested Thursday.
“The damage has been done, the images have been broadcast, Israel’s international credit has shrunk, patience has waned,” columnist Ben Caspit wrote in Maariv newspaper.
An unidentified senior political official summed up the damage this way in Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper: “All of the political arguments about Hamas’ aggression are immediately erased from the viewers’ minds. An incident of this kind does away with the political debate and leaves a deep emotional mark.”
Many also feel that one reason Israel agreed to a five-hour halt to the shooting on Thursday to allow Palestinians to stock up on food and water was to offset the public relations damage done by the TV footage of grieving parents.
It all testifies to the power of television.
Other groups of children have been killed during the current round of fighting. In one Israeli attack, 18 members of one family were killed – most, if not all, were civilians.
Yet because the killing of the four boys happened very close to the hotel housing the foreign media in Gaza, and they were able to film the tragedy as it unfolded and with all its gruesome intensity, a mother’s agony echoes around the world.
In Israel, sadly, this is part of the landscape.