I have been living in Israel since 1982. I write about Israeli society and the economy. For all the battles and bloodshed, I never seen a war like this one in Gaza.
I live in a country, where nobody agrees on anything. Nearly 80% Jewish, there is an old Yiddish joke – in a conversation with 2 Jews, there will be 3 opinions. There are frequently demonstrations against government policies – any government, on any policy. Even now, the army has called the fight with Hamas “Operation Protective Edge” while the Israeli media labels it a war.
But this war…….Surveys reveal that 90% of the public supports it fully. Talk to just about anyone and they are saying the same thing. Despite the heavy price of soldiers’ lives, the hit on the economy, the roaring uncertainty of Kassam missiles, Israelis are in favour (for now) of continuing the fight.
In over three decades, I have never seen such a commitment to unity and for so long. What has changed? How can this be explained to an outsider, who is primarily exposed to the harrowing pictures from CNN, BBC and SKY?
Israelis do not ignore the fact that Gaza is such a tiny strip of sand. I have read off-line witness accounts from journalists, and I am sure they are not exaggerating about the amount of destruction left after the fighting. The near constant Israeli gunfire must be horrendous to live with. Whatever the numbers, and we know they are exaggerated, even one innocent killed is one too many.
So what is it that unifies the Israeli consensus? Why does the Israel, which sends aid to the Philippines, Haiti and to elsewhere, find itself going to war? Why should this country sacrifice tens of its best youngsters in the army? Why does my client plead in front of his bank manager as clientele are staying at home, yet he is in favour of the war?
Please understand that the answer does not lie in some hatred of Palestinians. I long for the days when I used to buy in Bethlehem. Neither is it because of some subconscious militaristic drive in Israelis. Our neighbourhood alone is replete with parents petrified about what is happening to their beloved ones at the front. And while I am no big fan of our Prime Minister, I refuse to accept the pathetic accusations how he has launched a personal crusade for future glory.
Four very obvious buttons have been pressed at once, which the mega media channels, Ms S Gomez, Mr M Ali, Ms P Cruz and other celebs prefer to ignore, for all their state of politically correct ignorance
First – Hamas war crimes will no longer be accepted by Israel: Since Israel left Gaza in 2005, Hamas and its allies have launched thousands of rockets against civilian populations centres in Israel. If the US, UK et al can send troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, Israel has a right to defend itself military, and that includes from within Gaza.
To put it bluntly, Hamas built a network of tunnels, deep into Israel, designed to attack, maim, kill, kidnap and destroy. Which country in the world would accept that from a neighbour without a military response? No more.
Second – Israel is refuting actively the inhumanity of Hamas: It was the shouting antics of Condeleezza Rice, who twisted Israel’s arm to withdraw from Gaza. In turn, Hamas threw out Fatah a year later. UNRWA schools, funded by Western taxpayers have become military establishments, which teach hatred. Having rejected at least 5 ceasefires, Hamas armaments are killing their own children. It slays opponents without due recourse to law. Hamas admits to exploiting human shields. Israel is saying a big NO to this way of life, both in a military manner and, in parallel, by providing medical supplies to Gazans.
Third – Israel is no longer prepared to accept the malicious rhetoric of Hamas. The proponents of Hamas argue that the inhabitants are densely caged into a narrow strip of land. Yet, every day including during the war, hundreds of trucks cross into Gaza from Israel. It is the border with Egypt that is sealed hermetically. And anyway, the wealthy yet tiny Singapore is far more congested. It is clear that Hamas has attacked and will continue to attack for reasons of pure hatred.
Fourth, and potentially the straw that broke the camel’s back, Israel has watched as the West has repeatedly failed to keep moral commitments. In 2014 alone, tens of thousands have died in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. Compared to the diplomatic noise over Gaza, politicians and civil servants have been pathetically inactive. Even while Israel has been forced to destroy the military prowess of Hamas, the 60,000 ancient Christian community in Mosul, Iraq, has been wiped out.
Take all of these points together and you can understand why Israelis, even though the government has accepted ceasefires, are very wary of laying down their weapons so quickly. For example, the Druze commander of the Golani brigade, which has seen some of the worst fighting, was injured yet publicly announced his determination to return to the frontline a.s.a.p..
And while we are talking about it, what is a humanitarian ceasefire, as opposed to any offer true? And If Hamas are so worried about its people, why has the it not stopped fighting long ago?
This war started back in early July. The 4th of July is noted in Israel to recall the Entebbe raid of 1976. An elite Israeli crack unit rescued those stranded in Africa because of their religion, their nationality. Led by Yoni Netanyahu, Bibi’s brother and the only fatality during the action, Yoni famously addressed his troops before departing. “If we do not do this, nobody else will”.
Let me repeat that: “If we do not do this, nobody else will”. Thanks to Hamas, this Gaza war has never made the Israeli public so united in decades.