It’s almost compelling to draw analogies between the three Cohen siblings of what was Kfar Darom and the Twito brothers of Sderot. In both cases children were hit in indiscriminate terrorist atrocities emanating from homicidal Gaza. In both cases Gaza’s bloodlusting denizens celebrated the appalling injuries their adulated “heroes” managed to inflict and distributed candy in the streets to cheering passersby, incongruously the objects of boundless international compassion.
In both cases global opinion-molders didn’t much care about underage Jewish victims but speculated anxiously/sanctimoniously about what wrath Israel might unleash in response and how it might thereby disturb world peace.
On November 20, 2000 – after the school bus in which the Cohen children traveled was targeted – overseas news-purveyors reported that two settlers were killed and several others wounded. It was barely mentioned that the dead were teachers and that the injured were youngsters. It got no better when the Twito boys were felled by a Kassam recently. Even on friendly FoxNews the affable Greg Kelly spoke of what Israel might be cooking up because “two men were injured.” Jewish children have no faces, identities and presumed innocence. They’re generic specimens, virtually dehumanized.
But the greatest similarity is the horrific nature of the maiming. Eight-year-old Tehila Cohen lost a leg. The doctors struggled to save her other leg but failed. Both were amputated. Eight-year-old Osher Twito lost a leg when a Kassam exploded on the sidewalk, a hop away from his Sderot home. The doctors are now struggling to save his other leg. Osher’s 19-year-old brother Rami was luckier. Both his legs, though badly shattered, were saved. Orit Cohen, 12 at the time, lost one foot. The youngest of the trio, seven-year-old Yisrael, lost one leg.
The three Cohens wrote the Twito brothers, encouraging them not to lose heart because, with resolve, crippling physical damage can be overcome.
BUT IT’S not easy when your own country – to resort to a gross understatement – is less than supportive and/or sympathetic. Just waking up after his first surgery, Rami exclaimed: “I hate Olmert for letting the Arabs do this to us.” While still groggy from another operation, Rami found himself surrounded by news crews. Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik was there to pay her lip-service and he couldn’t recall her name.
While cameras and sound equipment hummed, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, on speaker-phone from Berlin, sent regards to Osher via Rami. “The poor boy is still comatose,” Rami retorted and afterward quipped: “I’m not moved by this premier.”
He suggested that Olmert spend “just 24 hours in Sderot and see what life is like when you’re afraid to go to the bathroom or the kitchen. Maybe if he lives as he expects us to, he’d actually treat us like citizens of this country.”
But if Rami feels disaffection, imagine what the Cohens were subjected to. Neglected Sderot is at least within the Green Line. Kfar Darom wasn’t. It was categorized as a dastardly settlement. This, despite the fact that it was reconstructed over the ruins of a kibbutz established on lands Jews purchased in 1930, the latter-day namesake of a local talmudic era village.
In 1948 this kibbutz became an obstacle on the Egyptian penetration path into the Coastal Plain, en route to Tel Aviv. The ruthless invaders subjected Kfar Darom to brutal battering and interminable shelling. A May 10 offensive on the besieged pioneers left none of them unhurt, but the repelled Egyptians left 70 dead behind. Kfar Darom’s incredible stand became legend.
Outnumbered, hungry, thirsty and bleeding, Kfar Darom’s defiant defenders hung on by sheer grit for two more months. There was no way to remove the wounded, relieve beleaguered fighters, deliver ammunition or replenish severely dwindling supplies. On July 8, 1948 Kfar Darom finally fell. Because of that, its belated liberation in 1967 was branded “occupation” and those like the Cohens, who with government sanction renewed Jewish presence there, were castigated as odious settlers.
Hence, when one family’s three children were crippled, the left-wing bon ton was to blame the parents rather than the perpetrators. In the forefront, pouring salt on the Cohens’ anyway smarting wounds, was none other than trendy novelist A.B. Yehoshua. Remorselessly, he accused the suffering parents of callously exposing their offspring to danger.
IN AN open letter he implored the settlers to evacuate themselves “for the children’s sake… return home from the Palestinian Diaspora… save the next marked child from destruction and bereavement.”
It’s time to ask “for what it’s necessary and proper to die and which death is meaningless and for nothing in every sense of the word.” Yehoshua pulled no punches: “Many Israelis are alienated from even your pain and grief. You’ve become so foreign and strange in the eyes of many that even future tragedies which will befall you will only heighten anger toward you. You entangle yourselves and us needlessly in your hopeless obstinacy.”
Yehoshua’s hate-mongering constituted the cynically promoted ideological platform-cum-pretext for evicting the Cohens and 9,000 other Jews during the 2005 infamous disengagement. Tehila, then 12, admitted that “there’s no day I can forget that I have no legs. I sacrificed my legs for this place. How can they uproot me from here?” She was expelled nonetheless.
YEHOSHUA may have smirked with satisfaction but so did Hamas terrorists. Tehila’s eviction denoted victory to them. They assumed their ambushes, Kassams and mortars drove the Jews out. Jubilant Gazans rewarded Hamas with an electoral triumph and terrorist appetites were whetted. The Green Line, so sacrosanct to Yehoshua, remains unrecognized by Hamas. Gaza claims everything – on both sides of the border – earmarking all Jews for annihilation or ethnic cleansing. Having retaken Kfar Darom, reinforced Hamastan switched its sights to Sderot and is indeed slowly depopulating that town too.
The bottom line: There’s more than coincidental resemblance between the Cohen and Twito tragedies. It’s a causal connection. Osher will never play soccer, as he dreamed, because most Israelis subscribed unthinkingly to Yehoshua’s vicious logic and subsequently acquiesced obediently to Tehila’s displacement. Will Yehoshua now blame Osher’s parents for their “hopeless obstinacy” and urge them to find a more legitimate domicile?