Eytan Uliel

Four Weeks Later, Part Two: When is a ceasefire not a ceasefire?

In my last mini-post, I wrote about the concept of “equivalence”. And how the notion that there is no equivalence in the current Israel-Hamas war doesn’t stand up to basic factual scrutiny.

In this mini-post, I thought I’d continue in a similar vein, but with a focus on the global pro-Palestinian battle cry du jour: “we demand a ceasefire! We demand a ceasefire NOW!

Which, to be clear, in this context, means: “Israel – stop bombing Gaza. Israel – stop fighting Hamas. Israel – be decent and fair and let aid flow into Gaza unimpeded”.

This I find kind of ironic, really, in that those so passionately advocating for a “ceasefire” right now are doing so on the basis of Israel’s attacks on Gaza having no “equivalence” (too many Gazan civilians are being killed; too many Gazan civilians are being displaced; too many buildings are being destroyed; Gazans do not have enough access to essentials; etc.). Yet, in the same breath, they are also arguing for what amounts to a “no equivalence” ceasefire. A nonsensical position to adopt.

To see why, let’s start with asking a simple question: what exactly was the status between Israel and Hamas on October 6th?

Not sure? Well, the correct answer is, in fact, a ceasefire. That is, two neighbors, at complete odds with each other, were in a temporary truce of sorts (insofar as there was no active fighting between them). That is the very definition of a ceasefire.

And then on October 7th, Hamas decided to break that ceasefire when it invaded Israel. This much is incontrovertible.

Second, what have we heard from Hamas and those on the Palestinian side ever since?

Well, at the start, when Hamas had the upper hand (people have quickly forgotten that it took three full days for Israel to regain territorial control in southern Israel), all Hamas rhetoric was that this was the start of a great victory, when the “Zionist Colonial Occupier” would finally be smashed to pieces and destroyed. And I don’t remember any calls from anyone then demanding any form of restraint or decency of Hamas, much less a ceasefire.

Then slowly, as the war has ground on and the tide has turned, and the Palestinian civilian death toll and suffering has increased, the demand for a ceasefire on humanitarian grounds has become louder and louder. Which is perfectly understandable.

Except for one minor thing that niggles me: whenever anyone asks Hamas about it, they make it perfectly clear that any ceasefire would from their perspective simply be a tactical pause in hostilities, to allow time for rebuilding and regrouping. Like in a recent interview given by Hamas political honcho, Ghazi Hamad, on Lebanon TV, where he was quite explicit in saying: “Israel is a country that has no place on our land. We must remove that country…. We are not ashamed to say this…. The Al Aqsa Flood is just the first time. And there will be a second, third and fourth.”

Next, let’s ask another question: what are people asking of the two combatant sides?

Well, it seems that in all the raucous calls for a ceasefire (or the more politically palatable concept of a “humanitarian pause”), what is actually being demanded by the righteously outraged is pretty one-sided, and almost entirely directed at Israel.

Think about it. Have you once heard any demand that Hamas should stop firing rockets at Israel? Or that Hamas should surrender its arms? Or that as part of any ceasefire Hamas should, at an absolute minimum, release the Israeli civilian hostages it took, without conditions or strings attached?

No, you haven’t, because what is being required / demanded is for Israel to do certain things, but on the other hand nothing much is being required / demanded of Hamas.

Simply put, all those pro-Palestinian protestors marching the streets of our world capitals are asking for Israel to stop the bombing / fighting, for Israel to give up on whatever military gains have been made so far, for Israel to be reasonable and compassionate, for Israel to allow the flow of goods into Gaza to resume unimpeded, and for Israel to even resupply the enemy with fuel and electricity (I mean – seriously?). And, as a final coup de grace, for Israel to accept that Israeli (and foreign) hostages be retained by Hamas for God knows how long, most likely months if not years, until a negotiated prisoner exchange can be reached.

And meanwhile Hamas will, well …. actually, Hamas can more or less continue on as usual, and can more or less give up nothing.

Now, what I don’t get is why sensible people are unable to connect these dots, and acknowledge how ridiculous it all becomes. Because when spelled out in full, those demanding a ceasefire of Israel right now are actually saying something like this:

Hamas attacked you and started this particular fight, because they thought they’d have a pre-emptive go at destroying you. But, oops, it didn’t work like that, and now they are in the poo, because it looks like you might wind up destroying them instead. So, for the sake of protecting the civilians that Hamas (as the elected Government of Gaza) are meant to be looking after, can we please go back to how things were before Hamas attacked you? Except not exactly like it was before, because Hamas can keep the civilian hostages they took, and keep their weapons, and continue to rule Gaza, and still fire rockets at you. Oh, and by the way, when Hamas is ready, they’ve said they will probably try do the same thing to you all over again. But for now, a ceasefire would be swell, thanks”.

Honestly, if a 5-year-old child said this in a schoolyard, they’d be laughed all the way out of the sandpit. Because even 5-year-old children understand that if you start a fight, and then begin to lose the fight, and then want the fight to stop, you don’t get off scot-free, and you are the one who has to pay a price.

Meaning even a 5-year-old would understand that a consequence-free ceasefire of this nature would not actually be a ceasefire, but rather would amount to letting Hamas get away with what they did. And even a 5-year-old child can tell you that a ceasefire of the sort being demanded of Israel right now, well-meant or otherwise, would be the military equivalent of a draw in chess: a situation where no one wins, no one loses, the board gets reset, and it starts all over again.

No doubt an outcome that would be a totally fine if you were the one who started the war, slaughtered 1,400 civilians in an utterly barbaric way, deliberately plunged the region into chaos, deliberately threw hundreds of thousands of your own citizens under the proverbial bus, and took 240 innocent people into captivity to boot. And then your only penalty is a ceasefire that doesn’t require you to give up the hostages or surrender your arms or do anything different? That isn’t really a ceasefire, is it? Rather, it is a victory by another name, artfully snatched from the jaws of defeat.

Isn’t it blindingly obvious that this is exactly why Hamas, now encircled and on the verge of being obliterated (and its supporters, like Hezbollah) are suddenly all in favor of said ceasefire?

Or ask yourself the question in the opposite direction: if things were going badly for Israel right now (let’s say, for example, the conflict had widened, and Israel was fighting a war on multiple fronts against Iran and Hezbollah, and was suffering massive losses) do you think there would be any calls at all from anyone, much less Hamas, for an immediate ceasefire? Do you really think hundreds of thousands would be taking to the streets in London and Sydney and New York demanding a ceasefire to protect Israelis on “humanitarian” grounds? We all know the answer to this: of course not.

And I keep asking myself: why are so many people unable to be honest enough to admit it? Do people really harbor so much latent hatred for Israel and the Jews that they are willing to subvert all logic and reasoning to justify what is self-evidently unjustifiable?

No, I suspect that the real issue at play here is that Israel, after being caught unawares and fully on the defensive at the start of this war, is now “winning” (at least insofar as the military conflict is concerned). And that is what bugs the shit out of so many people, even if they can’t bring themselves to say it out loud. Because it seems that for so many people, the one thing they simply can’t abide is when those pesky Jews don’t read the memo, and instead doggedly refuse to be killed without a fight.

Golda Meir put it best: “If we have to have a choice between being dead and pitied, and being alive with a bad image, we’d rather be alive and have the bad image.”

About the Author
Eytan Uliel is an Australian-Israeli writer, wanderer and global traveler. After graduating from the University of New South Wales in Sydney Australia, he practiced corporate law for several years, before moving on to a career in investment banking, private equity, and oil and gas finance. An extensive work travel schedule has taken Eytan to every corner of the globe – over 85 countries, and counting. His blog – The Road Warrior – chronicles these journeys through a series of short stories and essays, some of which have been republished in various magazines and newspapers. He is also the author of two award winning books. Eytan was born in Jerusalem, and has lived in South Africa, Australia, Singapore, the UK, The Bahamas, the USA and France.
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