Sitting in my comfortable home in North Carolina, I can only think about and comment on the current situation from a great remove. I can only think about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the current altercation between Israel and Hamas. I can only read about it and look at photos.
Thus, I can only imagine what an Israeli Jew with even the barest modicum of empathy for the nearly two million people in the Gaza Strip feels about the situation. Gaza is right there, a territory Israel knows well, having occupied it from 1967 until 2005.
Part of me wants to give in to the image of a place ruled by fanatics whose obsession with Israel permits them to divert significant amounts of aid for the purposes of building sophisticated tunnels that run under the Israel-Gaza border. Hamas receives millions of dollars from Iran, another sworn enemy of Israel. And by the way, Iran’s willingness to support a Sunni group for the sake of injuring Israel, I think, identifies Iran’s own obsession with Israel.
Part of me sits back in wonder as Gazans destroy, twice, the Kerem Shalom crossing, delaying the delivery of food, medical equipment, and building materials and causing millions of dollars of damage. What purpose, I wonder, is served by such self-destructive activity?
Part of me sits back and wonders about the extent to which the humanitarian crisis is caused by the extremely bad blood between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, which has stopped payment of Gazan civil servants, among other things.
Part of me sits back and wonders about the extent to which the humanitarian crisis has been caused by Hamas aggression toward Israel, with missiles and terrorism, that forced Israel to impose a partial blockade, which, among other things, limits the entry of Gazans into Israel to work.
Part of me wonders about a Hamas leadership that lives in luxury outside of the Strip.
Part of me wonders about clergy and perhaps even parents who incite children to attack Israel’s border welcoming the possibility of martyrdom.
But I also wonder about the disproportionate nature of the current situation. How can Israel with its sophisticated army take so many lives, when so many of the dead are ordinary citizens, many unarmed? Though, apparently, Hamas claims many of the dead were actually Hamas members.
Part of me wonders at the what I can only conclude is the intentional sloppiness of the press in accepting as fact Hamas reports of the dead and wounded without some other means of fact checking. How can the press be so accepting of the Hamas narrative?
Part of me wonders about Israel living with an enemy on its border sworn to its destruction. Israel, a victim of so much terrorism, has to be vigilant to prevent any terrorism. No sovereign nation should be expected to relax its vigilance and allow even one incident to occur. It may be that Hamas has the well-being of its own citizens at heart. From the outside, however, it looks as if Hamas’s prime raison d’etre is Israel’s destruction and the re-occupation of Jaffa, among other places, and spends its monetary and human capital in the attempt to accomplish this goal.
A part of me is astounded at the cleverness of the Hamas strategy of gathering thousands of Gazans and delivering them to several border points to create the illusion of massive civil disobedience, when in fact this is warfare in a new guise. It’s a strategy that depends upon at least two things: 1) The continuing willingness of the international press to perpetuate the David and Goliath narrative, this time with Goliath mowing down innocent civilians as they engage in civil disobedience; and 2) The continuing willingness of the citizens of Gaza to sacrifice themselves to the cause of the unending war against Israel.
Is the Israeli reaction disproportionate? I am no military strategist, and cannot suggest an alternative, save the unacceptable one of allowing thousands of Gazans to enter Israel and wreak whatever havoc they might.
However, the goal of entering Israel was never realistic, never intended. If any Gazan actually believed he’d succeed in breaching the border, that man is deluded beyond help. Hamas’s goal was to do precisely what it did: create havoc, bad international press, and keep the Hamas version of reality on the minds of those who can’t see through the smokescreen. Brilliant in its way, it depends upon Hamas’s control of Gaza, and the willingness of many to get shot, perhaps killed.
By the way, the highest estimate of attendees at this black soiree comes in at around 50,000. If the population of the Gaza Strip numbers just under just two million, that leaves a significant number who did not avail themselves of the opportunity to picnic and then meet an Israeli bullet.
So what to do? Sitting here in my North Carolina home, it seems to me that the situation is a royal bollocks. Israel evacuates Gaza and it gets turned into a Hamas prison, and Israel imposes a blockade, including limits to fishing rights. Hamas fires missiles and courts war, and Gazans die. Now Hamas runs a peaceful protest that’s actually a war, and Gazans die. Hamas builds tunnels, and Gazans die.
So what’s Israel to do?
I don’t know.