In scenes remniscent to ISIS’s invasion of Iraq, and possibly to Einsatzgruppen death squads during the Holocaust, almost a thousand Jews were slain on Simcha Torah morning, a Jewish holiday, close to the Gaza Strip. The number of dead Jews, overwhelmingly civilian, including at an outdoor music festival where 260 bodies were found, would make the slaughter the worst enduring by Jews since the Holocaust.
I remember awakening to an air raid siren that morning. The news had no mention of a flare up with Gaza. In fact, the news was more concerned with violence in the restive West Bank and the successes of mighty Israeli intelligence. The irony of the situation became clear, when it became clear that none on the Israeli side saw the invasion coming. In one way, the invasion was compared to a second Yom Kippur War, fifty years after the original, almost to the day. However, the war in its first days at least, seemed more reminiscent of the country’s War of Independence. Never before since the establishment of the state was a full region invaded. Never before was the number of slain so grievous. With the IDF sometimes taking up to six hours to intervene, we were reminded first hand, what would happen if we let our guard down in this country. Additionally 150 Israeli hostages are now in Gaza, and likely never to be seen alive again without drastic action.
A first world country enjoying a high standard of living has weakened our resolve. We spent many months fighting one another over judicial principles instead of focusing on unity. Whether one was a secular or a religious Jew, a Bibi supporter or an overhaul supporter, did not matter to Hamas that morning: all were slaughtered. Many stories of heroism are now surfacing as 1500 to 2000 Hamas gunmen were battled and taken out. However, this isn’t the Israel I knew. We were used to a country that had a handle on our enemies, not days of slaughter and uncertainty. Even as of time of writing, the country is filled with uncertainty. The leadership promises revenge but it is slow to show it on the battlefield or on the political field. The Israeli populace is left to wonder, and to stock up for what may come ahead.
My masters dissertation was on the status of Gaza in International Law. The territory has all the hallmarks of a state: a government (Hamas), a population, territory, and a degree of control in its relations with other states. The Israeli action has been to treat it as a separate enclave to the rest of the Palestinian Territories. As is clear already when the soldier Gilad Shalit was captured and became obvious with the intelligence failure experienced with the invasion, Israel lost all effective control in the enclave. Considering the nearly 20 years of hostilities and countless thousands of rockets fired, and now the deaths of nearly a thousand Israelis, the cost of maintaining a Hamas enemy reminiscent to ISIS, is simply not worth it for the Israeli psyche. As such, this war cannot simply be succeeded from the air and using technology. As if Gaza were its own enemy country, Israel needs to invade it and to reestablish effective control. Only through that, will it be able to have a better grip over events transpiring there.
The early half of Israel’s existence were full of stories of how Israel vanquished its enemies. It conquored Gaza in 1956 and 1967. The country was established after six million Jews were sent to gas chambers by Nazis in Europe, not to be humbled by its enemies but to be a free people in its land in security and peace.
The IDF must regain control of Gaza: for the Israelis and for the Palestinians living there. It will be painful and the death toll will increase but only through boots on the ground will this war be won.