When you are 61 years old and your son, two sons-in-law, and nephew have all been called into army reserve duty, and when you are not a medical professional, you find yourself limited as to what you can do in the war effort.
So, I write.
Yes, the massacre of October 7 was the worst tragedy in the history of the State of Israel. Needless to say, all of our hearts bleed – and will bleed for a long time – for the more than nine hundred Israelis murdered in cold blood by the vicious Hamas terrorists, and we pray for the quick release of all hostages and for the full recovery of all the wounded.
But we must do more than pray. We – Israelis and supporters of Israel – must ask some tough questions and swallow some tough answers.
First, let’s put this atrocity in its historic perspective. Everyone in Israel (and presumably Jews worldwide) has been changed by this vicious attack. Those of us who were born several years after the Holocaust – and certainly those who grew up after the Second Vatican Council – never thought that we would witness a Pogrom. But that is what occurred in Southern Israel on Saturday morning – a mass Pogrom. Jew-haters attacked defenseless men, women, and children simply because they are Jews.
And the manner of the killing demonstrates the barbaric nature of these Hamas murderers – civilians were pulled out of their homes and shot in the street. Entire families were murdered – such as the Simon Tov family, a couple with their two six-year old daughters and their four-year old son. On Tuesday, the IDF found the bodies of decapitated babies, killed alongside their parents. Initial reports were of 40 decapitated babies.
What kind of people commit these kinds of murders? The answer – barbarians.
Hitler admitted to being a barbarian. Hamas and its supporters have never so acknowledged.
When a Hamas terrorist fires a rocket into an Israeli city, that vicious act deserves to be responded to by the use of deadly force. But the terrorist who fired that rocket is located far from his victims. He does not hear their cries as the rocket smashes through a living room, and that terrorist does not look at the dying family member while the others plead for mercy.
In contrast, the terrorists who infiltrated Israel on October 7 and shot entire families heard the screaming of the victims and saw the bleeding bodies. Each such terrorist had at least a few seconds for both his eyes and his ears to process that he was taking innocent lives, and civilized people expect that the ears and eyes of such a person would tell his brain to stop killing. Yet in the case of the Simon Tov family (and others), the eyes and the ears of the terrorist simply told him to kill more Jews.
Without in any way derogating from the vicious and criminal act of shooting rockets into civilian areas, the viciousness that took place on October 7 was on a level that the world had not seen since the Holocaust.
There is another similarity between the Nazis and Hamas. The Nazis filmed the deportation of Jews to death camps, and they also filmed the Jewish corpses being put in ovens. The Nazis did so because they were proud of their “accomplishment” of ridding European countries of Jews. On Saturday the Hamas terrorists videoed their shooting Jews and their kidnapping Jewish civilians whom they took back to Gaza. Like the Nazis, the Hamas terrorists have no shame.
Starting October 7, comparing terrorists to Nazis became mainstream. It would be a sad reflection on the world if the passage of weeks or months were to change that perception.
How Did It Happen? The biggest question is: How is it that a terrorist organization was able to inflict in one day such a high number of fatalities? The answer is that Hamas functions as an arm of the Iranian military.
For far too long, westerners have ignored that reality – preferring to see Hamas as an “organization” of Palestinian Arabs. The US Department of State has classified Hamas as a terrorist organization since 1997. That is over 25 years ago. Yet most western news organizations report about Hamas “militants” – instead of using the far more accurate term, terrorists.
Americans would understandably be up in arms if the media were to refer to the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001 as “militants.” They were terrorists by every definition of the word.
Choice of words matters, and the repeated use of any terminology other than “terrorist” opens the door to allowing readers to focus on issues other than the terrorist status of Hamas.
There is a wide spectrum concerning middle east reporting in the American and international media. The term “militant” has been used to describe Hamas by news organizations from the New York Times to Fox News. While the former is considered by many of Israel’s friends to be too sympathetic to Israel’s enemies, the latter is considered a supporter of Israel. But the subjective perception that some in the media are sympathetic while others are not is secondary. Israel and its supporters have the right to demand that all media organizations use the term “terrorist” to refer to Hamas and its members.
If you are a supporter of Israel, every time you read that a media organization in your country uses the term “militant” to describe a terrorist, please send an e-mail to that media organization, objecting to the failure to call the people who commit terrorist acts terrorists.
More than one intelligence failure: How is it that the Israeli communities near the Gaza border were so insufficiently protected? This question is closely related to the question: How could Israeli intelligence have failed to detect an attack that (obviously) was well coordinated?
Initial speculation is that the attack was coordinated with minimal use of electronic means of communication. But there will be time to examine the how questions. It is likely that, as was the case after the Yom Kippur War, the Knesset will establish a commission of inquiry to look into the failures to warn of the Hamas attack. In light of the Likud government’s expressed view that the judiciary is too involved in political questions, it is likely that the government will insist on such a commission being comprised of more than just retired judges.
That would be a good idea.
It wasn’t just the government and the IDF that failed: But even at this early stage, one of the failures is apparent, and it is one for which the responsibility lies not only at the feet of the government or the IDF.
As a general matter, over the past 36 years, parents in Tel Aviv have not gone to sleep worrying that their children might be kidnapped by an Arab terrorist crossing the border. But for parents near Gaza (and elsewhere), that was a real concern. In many parts of Israel, the attitude was “they chose to live where they do; they accept the risk.”
Such a thought was rarely uttered, but it was thought. I suspect that, when the investigation is completed, it will reveal that such an attitude was one of the reasons that, along the “Gaza corridor,” our security establishment satisfied itself with a high degree of reliance upon technological detection. The Israeli communities along the Gaza corridor have long requested that more IDF soldiers be stationed in that corridor to deter terrorists from infiltrating and to be able to respond quickly in the event of an infiltration. Someone “up the chain of command” made the decision not to accede to that request. A full investigation will show how high up the chain that decision was made.
But in the short term, anyone in Israel who ever shared the “they chose to live where they do; they accept the risk” attitude has to accept some of the responsibility for this colossal failure that resulted in the murder of more than 1,000 Jews.
Oslo was always flawed: Thirty years ago, a slim majority of the Israeli public was “sold” on the Oslo “peace process” — a process that was also called “Gaza/Jericho First.” One of the arguments made by the supporters of the Oslo process was that, if “land for peace” does not work, “Israel can always go back into” whatever territories from which it withdraws.
The idea that Israel could “always go back into Gaza” was a ruse. The “debate” concerning the Oslo accords, in 1993-95, never included having the supporters of Oslo quantify how long it would take for Israel to “go back into Gaza” or how many Israeli lives it would take to recapture the strip. Such a quantification did not take place because the Oslo proponents were afraid to quantify – any realistic number of Israeli casualties would have been too high to “sell the deal.”
Israel completely pulled out of Gaza in 2005, and in 2007, Gaza was taken over by a terrorist organization closely allied with Iran. If, when the supporters of Oslo made their “Israel can always go back in” argument (in 1993-95), they failed to take into account that Gaza might be taken over by terrorists, then that means that the Oslo process was based on naïveté at best (more likely on stupidity).
On a going forth basis, all those who advocated for Oslo by arguing that Israel could “always” go back in should — always – be ignored.
As noted above, in 2005, Israel withdrew from land – we completely withdrew from Gaza. Instead of “land for peace,” Israel got land for massacre.
Lastly, several days into this war, a word about Israel’s friends. Israel has many friends throughout the world, and here in Israel we appreciate the expressions of solidarity that have come in over the past several days. Perhaps the most noteworthy are from American Jewry and the American administrative – they have said all the right things. The European Union’s recent announcement of the suspension of aid to Palestinian Arab organizations is a classic example of better late than never.
I’d like to focus on our best friends. When I grew up in Philadelphia, I knew few Evangelical Christians. And when I was a student in New York, and later worked in New York, again — I knew few Evangelical Christians. But I have kept my eyes and ears open for a few decades, and I know that the Evangelicals are Israel’s best friends.
The Evangelical Christians do not get confused by “moral equivalence” arguments. The Evangelical Christians understand evil when they see it, and they are not fearful of being called “xenophobic” merely because most terrorists do not look like them.
Some of our other friends throughout the world could learn a thing or three from the Evangelical Christians.
God bless all supporters of Zion.