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Alan Edelstein

Blowin’ in the wind

As I was driving my car back from a store in the southern part of Jerusalem on Tuesday, Peter Paul & Mary’s “Blowin’ In The Wind” was blowin’ through the speakers. “How many times must a man look up. . . “ And then, the ominous warning and “Missile, Ashkelon.”

A few observations from social media that fit the moment:

“If only the kids at the music festival would have had any time to say ‘Ceasefire.’”

“In four weeks, Hamas launched more than twice as many missiles into Israel as Germany launched V-2’s into Britain in five months.”

“Assad Kills 500,000 Muslims in Syria. Streets of London:  Empty.

230,000 Muslims dead in Yemen. Streets of London:  Empty.

24,000 Muslims massacred in Myanmar. Streets of London: Empty.

Israel defends itself against Hamas. Streets of London packed with protestors.”

Not to mention one million Muslim Uyghurs essentially imprisoned by China. Streets of London: Empty

Only when Jews defend themselves do the London streets and the campuses of elite American universities fill with righteous protestors and the UN focuses its fiery and its attention.

The President’s residence is just up the block from our apartment in Jerusalem. I walk by it frequently. I regularly park across the street from it. Whenever I do either, I almost always marvel how close the public can get to it, and how accessible it is.

The one or two guards that stand outside, and the one who walks up and down the street peering into the cars parked nearby, usually look relaxed and sometimes look bored. An American cannot help but make comparisons to the no-go zone that has been built around the White House.

A few days ago I noticed a change: the guard checking cars now appears to be wearing a bullet-proof vest.

Israeli life has changed. Israeli minds have changed.  We are living in a reality that is difficult to label. We go about our business—shopping, meeting friends, working, going out for coffee or a meal. But just below the surface, and often protruding through the surface, life has changed.

You turn a corner and there are pictures of a kidnapped toddler and a grandma on a bus bench. Walk up the street and an empty baby stroller sits, symbolizing the kidnapped babies, nobody concerned that it might be taken.

Vigils here. Vigils there. Memorial ceremonies tonight. Can’t make that one? No problem; there are two or three around town tomorrow night.

The changes, the life lived only by a traumatized people, hit you in the face, and in the gut. As described by Shira Pasternak Be’eri, life here now is different, surreal, tense. It is tainted, overwhelmed with worry and tragedy.

Israelis from left to right agree we cannot live with terrorists in control of territory right next to us. Substantial parts of the South and of the North are no longer inhabitable because of constant missile attacks and the threat of terrorists again crossing our borders.

We now have gruesome proof that our borders can be breached en masse, and that those who have breached them are not fighting for a country. They are fighting to destroy ours and to torture and kill us. They have said so. And they have acted accordingly.

They raped women, killed parents in front of children and children in front of parents, ripped a baby from a womb, dragged old people through the streets, kidnapped children they made into orphans.

They proudly and perversely filmed and broadcast their “achievement,” and they have promised to repeat their monstrous behavior as many times as opportunity permits.

Israelis, as tormented, as grieving, as anxious-ridden, as lonely as they are, nonetheless are resolute in their determination that neither Hamas or Hezbollah or anyone else will ever have that opportunity again.

They must be resolute and determined. This is existential. Israel cannot live like this. No people could. Every country would respond the way Israel has: to ensure that its people can live without threat of terrorists repeating what they did.

As Eitan Shamir put it in Israeli parlance, we cannot go back to mowing the grass.

“But you are killing so many.” “It’s so disproportionate.” “It’s revenge.”

Since Hamas started this war with its barbaric attack, it has fired about 10,000 missiles at Israeli civilians. Would the world feel better if it had succeeded in killing 25 Jews with each of those missiles? 50? 100? What would make the world feel better about “proportionality?”

Would more dead Jews, Bedouin, Israeli Arabs, Thai workers make things better? More proportionate? How many dead, injured, traumatized civilians should be killed to make it okay for Israel to destroy Hamas?

Do not think that those seconds between when you hear the red alert and the sound of the Iron Dome (hopefully) hitting the missile are not traumatic. If in doubt, try it for a few days.

We have heard for years about the terrible “siege” we allegedly imposed on Gaza, hurting the population terribly. It could not have been that effective of a siege if enough materials for 10,000 missiles got in. The alleged fuel shortage cannot be that bad if, after 47 days, they still have fuel with which to shoot them.

You do not have to know much about how much fuel each missile requires to conclude that fuel for 10,000 missiles could power a lot of stoves, incubators, and generators.

Before the blood from October 7th was dry, everyone just assumed that Israel would release prisoners and/or cease defending itself in exchange for the hostages.

The cries for a ceasefire started almost immediately. But there was a ceasefire. Hamas broke it on October 7, just as they broke six or seven in the last decade or so.

The world is playing by Hamas’ rules: they do something reprehensible by kidnapping civilians of all ages, and Israel is expected to make concessions and cease fire. This “game” could go on for months, even years. Indeed, it has.

Forty-seven days with kids without their parents, old people, women, men—all taken, and held, not just by Hamas, but by a spectrum of Gazans who just want to hold and torture a Jew. No Red Cross visits, no communications, nothing.

Now, as part of “normal” dealings with Hamas, 50 will be released in exchange for four days of a “ceasefire” and a release of around 150 terrorists. In the height of cruelty and cynicism, not even all the children, and not necessarily all those with health concerns, will be released.

Hamas will dribble more out for more concessions. Now they get a three-to-one ratio of hostages. When they get down to Israeli soldiers, they will most certainly demand the 1,000 to one ratio they got with the release of Galid Shalit.

Of course, one celebrates the freedom of any innocent hostage. But who will be released last, and will they be dead or alive? And what will Hamas and Islamic Jihad be doing during the ceasefire? Surely not studying Ghandhi.

What would have happened if Israel simply had not allowed any food, water, or fuel into Gaza until all the hostages had been released? Why were the hostages not the first “innocent civilians” to be afforded humanitarian aid and corridors to safety?

But it would have been cruel to the “innocent” Gazans, the world says. They are powerless in the face of Hamas.

This thinking underscores one of the major causes of the continuation of the plight of the Palestinians and of the conflict: the assumption that they have no agency, no power.  They are simply and always victims.

Are they any more powerless than the brave Iranians that have confronted their government?  Then the citizens of Myanmar? Then the Polish Solidarity Movement was?  Then the Italians that hung Mussolini by his boots? Then the Romanians who put bullets through the Ceausescu’s?

The Allies in World War II held Germans and Japanese civilians responsible. Surely the average German and Japanese had no more power than the average Gazan has today.

If we did not hold the “innocent” Germans and Japanese responsible, we certainly took their deaths as the price that had to pay because their leadership went to war. The idea that a war can be won while separating the fighters from their people is an unrealistic ideal applied to no country other than Israel.

Only Israel is expected to fight an enemy embedded amongst a people without harming the people. And only Israel goes to sometimes ludicrous efforts to do so.

The point is that instead of playing by Hamas’ rules, acting like taking hostages is normal and responding exactly how Hamas wants, perhaps the world should have expected something of the Gazans.

Perhaps without food, water, and fuel for 36 hours, they may have started overturning cars, setting Hamas headquarters on fire, attacking officials. The things that people do when they object to what their leaders do and they do not have the freedom to peacefully protest and vote.

The problem is that terrorism works, and terrorists and their supporters know that. How many people would have been saved in the long run if European nations had not played revolving doors with the airplane hijackers of the 1970’s?

How many people would have been saved in the long run if Jimmy Carter had treated the 1979 Iranian takeover of the U.S Embassy in Tehran for what it was under international law, i.e., an invasion of American sovereignty, and responded accordingly?

How many would have been saved if Ronald Reagan had not responded to the 1982 assault on the U.S. barracks in Lebanon by making a great speech and then cutting and running?  And how many might have been saved had Israel not gotten into the pattern of trading hundreds if not thousands of prisoners for one or two hostages?

Yes, it sounds indifferent to the immediate victims and their families to raise these questions.  However, if perhaps the West had not played by the terrorists’ rules and rewarded them for inhuman behavior as if it is normal human interaction, they might not have continued to engage in such behavior.

Defeating an enemy that rules a territory without defeating the people is a novel concept, and it seems to only applies when Israel is involved.  Israel is the only country expected to supply the enemy with food, water, and fuel. Israel is the only country that provides telephone and text warnings before bombing, thereby giving the enemy combatants time to hide and to escape.

“Hamas does not represent Palestinians.” We keep hearing that from well-meaning people, including allies such as President Biden. There is virtually no evidence to support that statement.

Whatever evidence there is indicates the contrary. In the last elections held in Gaza in 2007, Hamas won. They followed that up with a violent battle with the Palestinian Authority to take total control.

When Hamas carries out terrorism against Israel, many Palestinians take joyfully to the streets, handing out candies. Just after the October 7 atrocities, a Palestinian politician opined that if elections were held then, Hamas would have swept them.

So, as cruel as it may sound, perhaps the world should have held all Gazans responsible long enough to do the humanitarian thing for the people who are the unequivocally the victims in this situation, the hostages.

Gazans can stay right where they are, the current ceasefire or pause can be extended permanently, all needed fuel, water, food, and other supplies can be delivered promptly. All that is required is a return of all the hostages, a full stop of fighting by and disarmament of Hamas, and an enforceable and verifiable commitment that they will not be allowed to rearm and fight again.

Is that such an unreasonable position?  The answer is . . .

About the Author
Alan Edelstein made Aliyah in 2011 and lives in Jerusalem. He was the founding partner of a well-respected California government affairs firm and was involved in California government and politics as a lobbyist and consultant for 30 years. He blogs at www.edelsteinrandomthoughts.com. He can be reached at ae@edelsteinstrategies.com