Perhaps when I tell this story I will start with the “Red Alert” app I downloaded to my i-Phone.
For fifty days my phone sounded an alarm, day and night, every time rockets were shot from Gaza into Israel. It gave me the illusion of somehow being connected to what was happening, 7,000 miles away.
Except, of course, I never had to jump out of the shower to run for cover in fifteen seconds. I never had to try to scoop up both of my year-old grandchildren and head for the shelter. I never found myself in a place without shelter, never had to lay those babies on the ground and stretch my body over theirs. I never had to shield them, hoping that the Iron Dome would hit the rocket before the rocket hit us.
If I begin the story that way, it will surely cause people to ask me about the terrible loss of life in Gaza. What about those children, they will ask, in tones both sorrowful and accusing.
The pictures are horrific. What the Hamas did to its own people is an obscenity, a barbaric perversion of all human norms.
We are in uncharted waters here, I will say. This is a new kind of warfare, Hamas-stye, where “victory” is measured by how many of your own civilians you can get killed.
Hamas launched over four thousand rockets at Israel from crowded Gaza neighborhoods. Before responding to the rocket fire, the IDF first warned civilians to leave the area. Hamas forced them to stay and ‘confront Israeli warplanes with their bare chests in order in protect their homes.’ Then Hamas and their sympathizers screamed “massacre” and got a willing media to play along.
The rules of this game are so cynical and so monstrous that decent people have a hard time believing it. Laying the blame on Israel is not only easier, but absolves them of thinking through how, exactly, Israel can defend her people from such an enemy.
Beloved Israeli writer and long time peacenik, Amos Oz, expressed it perfectly in an interview with Deutsche Welle.
Amoz Oz: I would like to begin the interview in a very unusal way: by presenting one or two questions to your readers and listeners. May I do that?
Deutsche Welle: Go ahead!
Question 1: What would you do if your neighbor across the street sits down on the balcony, puts his little boy on his lap and starts shooting machine gun fire into your nursery?
Question 2: What would you do if your neighbor across the street digs a tunnel from his nursery to your nursery in order to blow up your home or in order to kidnap your family?
With these two questions I pass the interview to you.
Dealing with an enemy like Hamas defies easy answers. A quick read of the Hamas charter, which calls for the elimination of Israel and the targeting of Jews worldwide, makes it clear that conflict between Israel and Hamas is not a territorial dispute and never was.
I might ask people if they have ever read this document. Most are unaware of it.
I also will ask people if they know that Israel waited several days before entering this war, hoping that the rocket fire would stop and war could be avoided.
I will show people this graphic of how many ceasefires Israel honored and Hamas broke. How many lives might have been saved had Hamas chosen the Israeli goal of “quiet for quiet”?
I will make sure that people know that even under rocket fire, Israel continued delivering hundreds of truckloads of food, medicine and other supplies to the people of Gaza. Israel’s war was with Hamas, not the Gazans. Is there another example in history of a nation providing humanitarian relief to the citizens of its enemy in wartime?
Then there are the tunnels, snaking from Gaza into Israel.
One hundred and sixty Palestinian children were killed while working to build the perfect mechanism to kidnap and kill Israelis. I do not recall seeing anyone demonstrate against this abuse of children.
The tunnels Hamas built were a technical and engineering marvel, so large and solid that you could drive a motorcycle through them- and they did.
Millions of dollars in materials, years in the making. Imagine if those resources and know-how had been applied to building a better life for the people of Gaza.
The tunnels are largely destroyed now. Thank God.
Which brings me to the media coverage of this war, a topic unto itself. Surely one of the most jaw dropping moments came courtesy of Hanan Ashrawi, spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority, which in comparison to Hamas is often labeled “moderate”.
In this five minute clip with ABC News she says: “If they (the residents of Gaza) try to dig tunnels as a way out, what do you expect?”
The only thing more mind boggling than her total inversion of the truth about the tunnels was the fact that this whopper went unchallenged by the interviewer.
In fact, Hamas could have used tunnels on the Gaza side as shelter for their people. But that would have denied Hamas the propaganda victory that they sought.
It will be weeks until the IDF can verify each and every death as a result of this war. Until then, Hamas and UN casualty figures should be viewed as unreliable. Already there are reports of Hamas fighters being listed as children.
Were it not for the Iron Dome, there would be many, many more dead Israelis. For those who shrug this off, I ask: If someone shoots a gun at you with intent to kill, but you duck and they miss, are they any less culpable? Would you have the police simply let them go? Didn’t think so.
All of this and more will need to explained again and again.
When I am done answering questions about this war, there is one central message that must be delivered, and this is it:
Hamas, along with its ideological fellow travelers, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, is part of a monstrous theocratic movement that rejects the foundational beliefs of the West — freedom, human rights, social justice, tolerance of differences.
Therefore, Israel’s war with Hamas is not a left wing or right wing issue, it is not even an exclusively Jewish issue. It is an American issue, a human issue, and should matter to everyone who cares about where this world is headed.
Israel is at the vanguard of a struggle that affects us all.
As for who won this war, the fact that the question is being asked means that Israel did not achieve a decisive victory. Netanyahu has, so far, achieved his objective of “quiet for quiet”, avoiding the massive casualties that would result from attempting to “go all the way” in defeating and removing Hamas.
Hamas is still standing, albeit on the rubble of Gaza, which is a victory of sorts for them.
Last thought, and it is this.
The runaway hit song this summer in Israel was the Hamas anthem “Up! Do Terror Attacks.” This call to genocide of the Jews, recorded in clunky, Arabic-accented Hebrew, became an instant sensation among the Israeli youth. Even soldiers patrolling the Gaza border sang it. Parodies and versions with altered lyrics appeared everywhere.
Tablet Magazine featured a lengthy piece on the song, it’s astonishing popularity, and what it all meant.
“The fact is that this song is about what they [Hamas] love the most—they really want to see everyone dying and lying bleeding in the street like in the video. Which also happens to be what we hate the most. When people sing the song, they are looking that culture straight in the eye. They see the difference between them and us, and they know what this war is about and what they’re fighting for.”
Yes, the brave, resilient Israelis stared down the Hamas death cult, and with characteristic chutzpah turned their grotesque anthem into a life- affirming hit.