“Grant, O God, that we lie down in peace, and raise us up, our Guardian, to life renewed. Spread over us the shelter of Your peace. Guide us with Your good counsel; for Your Name’s sake, be our help. Shield and shelter us beneath the shadow of Your wings. Defend us against enemies, illness, war, famine, and sorrow.” – Hashkivienu, a Jewish Prayer seeking shelter traditionally recited in the evening.
I do not know if Ricarda Louk, mother of Shani Louk, uttered these prayers the night of October 6. The next morning Shani, 23, could be seen dancing at a “Tribe of Nova” rave party three miles south of Be’eri, a Kibbutz in Israel near the Gaza border. Minutes after the video was taken Hamas terrorists descended on the event and gunned down two hundred and sixty revelers. Shani was captured, a video showed her naked body in a truck, since reported alive but gravely injured in a Gaza hospital.
On Saturday, October 7, 2023, Hamas carried out the worst single-day massacre of Jews since the Holocaust; slaughtered over a hundred of a thousand residents of Be’eri, butchered forty children in Kfar Aza, some of them are reported to have been beheaded, as adults have been. Mayhem started around daybreak with Hamas raining down over two thousand rockets into Israel, breaching the border wall with bulldozers and infiltrating towns nearby, going door to door and killing women and children, grandmas and families, parents in front of their toddlers, and, innocent men. Barbarians left behind a trail of blood and brutality that would do ISIS proud.
On Saturday, and, in the days that followed before Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) regained control of the home front, 1200 lives were lost in Israel, almost all civilians, over 150 hostages were taken into Gaza. At least 27 US citizens died with 14 missing, presumed taken hostage.
Life on the other side of the fence was a hellscape to start with and worsened since Israel started air raids in retaliation. Ahmad Hassouna, 42, was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying “Forget human rights, we don’t even have animal rights.” His entire family was injured and waiting on the ground for an ambulance, it came and the vehicle was bombed. Israel has cut off electricity, water, medicine, and food in the aftermath, prompting the UN to raise alarm about the impending disaster. Live news feeds depict a post-apocalyptic montage of high-rises reduced to rubbles waiting in pitch dark to be blitzed by near-constant bombardment in one of the most congested habitats in the world. Some two million people live inside the area under severe clampdown by both Israel and Egypt, a quarter million of them in refugee camps, half of all adults are without jobs; the lure of non-state terror agents like Hamas and its sister concerns is all too obvious.
Over 1000 Gazans died in Israeli airstrikes since the current strife started, including families, the elderly, women, and children. With an impending IDF ground invasion, the death toll is sure to skyrocket, exacerbated by the humanitarian disaster of lack of food, water, electricity, and medicine.
Almost fourteen times as many people died in Israel, proportionally, as they did in the US on 9/11. The much-vaunted Israeli security and intelligence apparatus lies bare, clueless, and toothless facing a low-tech asymmetric warfare started by Hamas with reported Iranian blessing and green light. The surprise evokes the Yom Kippur war, almost fifty years ago to the day, probably not a coincidence. Post 9/11, the US woke up to the challenge of low-tech catastrophe on her soil; she attacked the brain-trust and its protectors with all the might she could muster. Israel’s options are more limited, not only because Gaza boasts one of the most cramped living quarters in the world, but also because Hamas has ingrained itself in all parts of civic and political life, systematically annihilating any and all opposition with criminal completeness. Eradicating Hamas might end up destroying much of Gaza with tens of thousands more dead this side of the border, a vast majority of whom are bound to be civilians caught in between. Israel is scorched by memories of a previous ground invasion into Gaza, though it looks like she is preparing for exactly that, over 300,000 reservists are called in the single largest activation in her history. Previous Israeli forays, on top of decades of near-total isolation of Gaza, could not eradicate the threats, they effervesced in silence and erupted when Israel least expected it.
It is obvious Hamas accords little value to life – of Israelis, of ordinary Gazans, of their own. Each bullet in the head of their people births a new martyr to the cause, each house blown to smithereens is another call for funds to their pool of supporters abroad, each account of sub-human lives in a refugee camp is another tale of perpetual suffering inside an open-air prison to shame the other side. As much as Hamas livestream butchery inside Israel, they make no attempt at hiding the despair or improving quality of lives under their control since 2007. They understand that stated goal of eliminating the Jewish State is beyond reach, they can only prosper in perpetuating their sickness beyond their own lives, often sacrificing it if need be. At the very least, Hamas may have managed to scuttle any impending grand bargain in the Middle East, might endanger Abraham Accords, and may have gained status as the sole torch-bearer of ‘resistance’ in all of Palestine over a corrupt and feeble Palestinian Authority.
How does Israel conduct an ethical war against an unethical enemy? Beyond the perpetual, and exhausting, state of preparedness to face the unknown unknowns, the unimaginable possibles, and inhuman savages, Israel needs a new approach. Israel needs to deny Hamas their raison d’etre. Goal of a one-state solution with shared rights and responsibilities is the only way forward.
I have argued this at length in a previous Op-ed Noakhali by the West Bank May 25, 2021. It was anchored in the observation that both Jews and Palestinians have long memories of the land going back generations, even centuries, which necessitates the two sides finding a way to live peacefully within earshot of each other. Israel cannot cede its security in a two-state outcome, and the State of Israel cannot afford to be anything but a (raucously) functioning democracy. More recently, it was increasingly apparent that recent (relative) opening of Gaza weakened Hamas considerably. As the Wall Street Journal observed a few months back “(b)y unbolting some of the strictures it imposes on the Strip and threatening to reimpose them should Hamas attack, Israel has forced the militant group to choose between violent confrontation with its neighbor and preserving those economic incentives for its populace.” Hamas had to change that equation, hence the Oct 7 invasion. It is also noted that Arabs inside Israel are unperturbed by goings-on in Gaza, and more worried above surviving barrage of Hamas rockets; they live with rights and responsibilities and have unfettered access to the economic miracle that Israel is.
Yes, it can happen. Over time. With course corrections in between. With resolve. With international buy-in.
For the time we all need to accord Israel enough room to act in support of its right to exist. It is going to be messy, and bloody on both sides. Arguments for proportionality will clash with the ease of taking human shields in the close quarter battles inside Gaza, images of wailing moms on both sides will run parallel – one side lost her toddler under tons of bricks and mortar, the other side lost hers under a knife. It is possible we have to make room for both in the short run so we can wash away our woes and wake up anew.
What we cannot afford is questioning the right to exist – for the State of Israel and for Palestinians. I am aghast and appalled beyond measure by barely, if at all, concealed glee at the ‘success’ of ‘resistance.’ “What did y’all think decolonization meant? vibes? papers? essays? losers.” That was an actual tweet, shared and liked by too many times to shrug it off as a one-off. From 30 student bodies in Harvard to lukewarm remarks defending ‘free speech’ in their support to “Days of Resistance” celebrations in Times Square of New York to similar events across America, the UK and Europe, many attended by elected representatives in person to countless posts on social media …masks fall off quite easily when they fail to take sides in a battle started by barbarians at the breach, or worse, voice approval of savagery. If Hamas are your chosen agents of change, you are complicit in evil crimes against humanity like that unfolded last weekend.
Many months back I twisted a slogan of White Supremacists in the US, and said “Jews shall not be replaced.” That was true that day, today and every single day. Israel, as the “Jew of Nations” shall not be replaced either. I pray that the State of Israel will be the rightful place for the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of both Jews and Palestinians, and soon.
“What did y’all think decolonization meant? vibes? papers? essays? losers.” That was an actual tweet, shared and liked by too many times to shrug it off as isolated outlier.
From student bodies in Harvard blaming Israel solely to remarks defending them to “Days of Resistance” celebrations in Times Square of New York to similar events across America, the UK and Europe, many attended by elected representatives in person to countless posts on social media … I am appalled beyond measure by barely, if at all, concealed glee at the ‘success’ of ‘resistance.’
There is no amount of injustice and grievances, however legitimate they may be, past or present, that justifies savagery unleashed inside Israel by Hamas terrorists.
Masks fall off quite easily when you fail to take right side in a battle started by barbarians at the breach, or worse, voice approval of their brutality. If Hamas terrorists are your chosen agents of change, you are complicit in evil crimes against humanity like that unfolded last weekend.
Many months back I twisted a slogan of the Neo-Nazi in the US, and said “Jews shall not be replaced.” That was true that day, today and every single day. Israel, as the “Jew of Nations” shall not be replaced either.