There are two Israels. One of them is busy bombing Gaza “back to the stone age,” a cherished strategy promoted by various military and political leaders of the past and (alas) the present, a favorite with headline writers and most recently an acceptable subject of discourse in mainstream Israel.
That is one Israel. The other Israel sends generous planeloads of food, medicine, and expert teams all around the world when people are in dire need — as per the Wikipedia page on Israel’s foreign aid:
Although [it is] a small country,… Israel has a long-standing tradition of coordinating relief efforts to alleviate disease, hunger, and poverty all over the world.
Among the well-known crises that Israel [has provided] humanitarian aid for are:
Turkey and Syria – Following the earthquake in 2023
Syria – Israeli humanitarian operations during the Syrian Civil War
Japan – Following the earthquake and tsunami in 2011
Haiti – Following the severe earthquake in January 2010
Sri Lanka – Following the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami in 2005
…Sri Lanka yes, but Gaza no? Does that make sense?
Well, dear reader, within a fairly short drive of every Israeli resident’s living room, a horrific humanitarian emergency has speedily developed in Gaza since October 7th. Blame Hamas or blame Israel, or blame them both; blame the devil – it won’t change what has happened and is still ongoing. Israel has declared the necessity of destroying the Hamas organization and its infrastructure, its weaponry, its leadership, its future (in self-defense, of course, not – heaven forbid! – as retribution for the massacres and abductions of October 7th). Many experts, even in Israel, hold that Hamas or its equivalent will rise from the ashes eventually like the proverbial phoenix, no matter what Israel does or does not do, and the historical record tends to support that view. But meanwhile: the incomprehensible dimensions of the suffering of innocents!
An estimated 85 percent of Gaza’s population of 2.2 million has been displaced and many of their homes destroyed; 20,000 or more Gazans have been killed and some 50,000 injured; and hundreds of thousands – mostly children – are now starving, with who knows how many homeless, orphaned, maimed, sick and dying. Most Israelis do not see this unfolding nightmare on their television screens at home, because Israeli channels do not broadcast it; the foreign media reports heard by Israelis tend to be dismissed as anti-Israel bias.
As an aside, lest we forget: if nearly every child, every family, in Gaza is starving today, the Israeli hostages still in Gaza and still alive are almost certainly starving, too.
Flip the switch to “Foreign Aid Nation”
Directly aiding civilian Gazans while pursuing the attack on Hamas may seem impossible. On the other hand, Israel is after all the Start-Up Nation, with a record of technical creativity that has proven equal to almost any task. I therefore urgently call on Israel’s creative civic and business leadership, together with its governmental and nongovernmental foreign humanitarian aid agencies, to find a way immediately to send a massive influx of food to Gazan civilians. Right now. Oh, and drinkable water rations. And maybe blankets. And toilets for the tent cities where masses of displaced people are “sheltering,” in the vernacular of Western coverage of foreign emergencies. And maybe get the sewage treatment plants running again (or do we really want to wait until the raw sewage is washing up on beaches in Herzliya?).
How to get food to starving Gazans right away? Figure it out! Create a food-bearing drone corridor – create dozens of aid-by-drone corridors. Put a brigade of combat engineers to work ferrying food to civilian distribution points and overseeing its transfer to actual human families, not Hamas operatives. How to distinguish? I have no clue. But Israel has facial recognition, it has sniffer dogs, it has satellite imagery, it has robotics, it has lots and lots of know-how. There must be a way, or possibly several ways to be tried simultaneously.
I don’t suppose anyone in authority will read this blog post and if they do, the authorities are more likely to charge me under the new emergency laws against aiding the enemy than they are to rush to implement my suggestions. But since I find it impossible to continue sitting at home here in Israel, where I enjoy plenty of nutritious food, clean water, warm clothes and a roof over my head while hundreds of thousands of Gazan children are dying, I am writing the post anyway. And if you are reading it now, this newspaper has been courageous enough to allow its publication.
Hate will never drive out hate
Please don’t think for a moment that I have forgotten the unfathomable trauma of October 7th and its aftermath from the Israeli standpoint. No one in Israel could possibly do that. The marks of post-trauma are everywhere, and everyone knows someone who lost someone or lost their home. But in some very fundamental way, our suffering, our woundedness, our trauma, can only ever be compounded, never remediated, by the suffering of Gazan children wrought by Israeli bombs.
Go ahead, you Greater Israel fanatics among Israel’s ruling coalition for whom Gazan children and their suffering are invisible, or irrelevant, or (God help us) strategically beneficial. Arrest me! I have a few Palestinian friends in Gaza all of whom, insofar as I know, despise Hamas, and you are killing them and their children, and their elderly parents, too. Among my Palestinian friends and colleagues who live in Israel or abroad, none of whom love Hamas, most have family and friends in Gaza and you are killing them too. I like Palestinians. I see them. I value them. So sue me! Anything is better than standing by and being complicit, by my silence, in this insanity. Is there some way that even more violence could solve what repeated rounds of massive violence have failed to solve thus far? There is not.
And by the way, I am not alone. Far from it. Tens of thousands of Israelis – and Palestinians, too – actively continue to seek genuine peace with justice, equality, and mutual respect for everyone in this land. A bunch of them died on October 7th in the Gaza-perimeter kibbutzim, and a lot of their spiritual comrades have died in Gaza in the last three months, but that will not deter the rest of us. Since Rabin’s time, we have not been numerous enough or strong enough to steer Israel’s government toward a different path into the future, and no one knows how to steer the other folks’ leadership. But we go on striving, nonviolently, for a different way:
“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” (MLK)
Dear reader, please spread the meme: Drop food, not bombs, on Gaza’s children today. For the love of God, or common decency. Today!
No one knows where all this violence will end, and all the region’s residents are threatened on multiple fronts now – but of one thing we can be certain. If we ordinary people in Israel or abroad wait passively at home, self-censoring in our fear and confusion, we will regret it later. However hesitant we may be to criticize Israeli actions in the wake of October 7th, if we refrain from protest as the children of Gaza die cruel deaths one by one in their hundreds of thousands, we will bitterly regret our silence when it is too late. We will regret it to the end of our lives, and no atonement will suffice, and on our own deathbed we will beg forgiveness with our last breath.