One month ago today…
I am an American Jew born in Chicago, Illinois, the same year Israel was founded,1948, so that gives me seven+ decades of experience as a person of the Jewish faith, from being a member of the class of Kohen passed down to me by my father, and, in turn, his father, etc. (“priest” from Jewish liturgy) through days as a Bar Mitzvah celebrant to a member of a noted, Chicago area synagogue to being on the receiving end of antisemitism. My professional life also brings me into contact with Israel as a member of an editorial board of a professional (medical-legal) journal headquartered there. I, as well, once had family in Israel, and during one of my trips there, I was caught up in the shelling of its northern border that originated in Lebanon (Hezbollah); in return, the Israeli Air Force bombed the electrical plant in Beirut that night. As a consequence, the transgressions in recent weeks put upon Israel and its citizens have only rekindled and inflamed my feelings about war not felt since the days of my teenage and college years during the Vietnam era.
There are not enough adjectives to describe what occurred on that October 7 day with the Hamas militants slaughtering and butchering innocent Israelis, like bludgeoning toddlers in their cribs, burning young concertgoers in their cars, raping women, and gunning down parents in front of their children and vice versa, lest we not forget seniors killed mercilessly. And then our United States’ Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s testimony before the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee on October 31 describing a father whose eye was gouged out, his wife’s breast cut off, his daughter’s foot amputated and his son’s fingers sliced off, all by a Hamas militant on October 7 before that person executed them and then thereafter dined on a meal. We thought our history books wrote off the Holocaust as a one-off; still, now, we see this pure form of evil resurrecting itself again as man’s inhumanity to man, only circa 2023.
Concomitantly, we read, see, and hear of thousands of innocent Palestinians in Gaza killed, injured, and whose lives have been displaced by destruction, knowing that Hamas remains in their midst, using them as human shields, and their strongholds tunneling underneath their hospitals and refugee camps. At the same time, politicians, even the U.N., telling us there should be a “pause”, a “delay”, even a “ceasefire”, all for humanitarian reasons in order to allow truckloads of medicines, food, water, fuel and other lifesaving necessities to pass through the Egyptian Rafah border crossing. U.S. President Biden has cautioned Israel’s leaders to not let rage consume Israel’s passion, reflecting on mistakes our country made following 9-11. Or, World politics worrying about the Israel-Hamas War expanding into a regional conflict, inflaming Iran and its Hezbollah-backed militants, and other nations taking sides. Quite an impossible conundrum to unravel.
Of course, we cannot forget about the roughly 240 or so hostages held by Hamas, also as bargaining chips, though the IDF has rescued one of its own, and foreign nationals including Americans are now being evacuated from Gaza into Egypt.
To be sure, Hamas is playing a slow-moving chess or checker’s game, having released as we know four hostages. Despite the calls for all hostages to be released, certainly before a full fledged ground invasion or a ceasefire, why would they if meaningful consideration is not provided by Israel in return? After all, disgorging human shields in the tunnels or Palestinians in harm’s way would leave Hamas “naked”, exposed to complete and utter annihilation.
It is, too, time to stop blaming Israel, like the press and Hamas-aligned groups and crowds of protesters initially did in blaming Israel for the explosion at the doorsteps of the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza, when credible intelligence and analysis thereafter showed it was due to an errant rocket fired by the Palestinian Islamic JiHad (PLJ) that originated inside Gaza. As to the criticism for Israel bombing the refugee camps when beneath it in tunnels lay Hamas command structures and individuals, where is the continued outcry for the likes of what Secretary Blinken described as noted earlier in this writing?
But whatever position or passion anyone is consumed by or will take, the gloss over all of this is the words Hamas lives by (its charter) to kill those of the Jewish faith and to obliterate Israel. As an appropriate metaphor, if one contracts cancer, the doctor does not pause or delay treatment because what is shown to be effective will cause discomfort, pain or other side effects. A healthcare provider cannot “negotiate” or issue a “ceasefire” with the disease because to do so will only allow it to grow; it will never be eliminated. So, it is how Israel looks upon Hamas.
The quid pro quo for war is human death, injury, and suffering; this is inescapable. As if in microcosm, two past examples in which the U.,S. was engaged, WWII and Vietnam, exemplify this. We entered those armed conflicts not based on an invasion of our homeland, as with Israel, knowing, however, that the cost to America would be thousands of our citizens injured, maimed, and killed. Even an inexcusable war as Vietnam wasted so many lives and not just those in uniform. So, too, must it be for Israeli soldiers and its citizenry, and, yes, innocent Palestinians, even perhaps, hostages, if Israel is to destroy its country’s “cancer”.
Is there a solution?
Despite the five principles of international humanitarian law governing the legal use of force in an armed conflict—military necessity, distinction, proportionality, humanity, honor—and Israel’s efforts to adhere to them while rejecting a ceasefire, a pragmatic solution remains elusive. Certainly, this does not include nuking Gaza attributed to one of Netanyahu’s junior cabinet members, Heritage Minister Amihay Eliyahu. Concomitantly, the Prime Minister sees a ceasefire as surrender, and alternatives like a two-state solution, even what are being termed ‘humanitarian pauses’, or prisoner swaps, won’t solve the Hamas issue. And how many lives must be sacrificed to account for the 1,400 Israelis lost on October 7 and continued threats announced by Hamas leaders and their backers to repeat the slaughter? And then once the war concludes, what happens to Gaza and its governance? Notwithstanding these issues, even Blinken’s shuttle diplomacy for advocating a pause, this present conflict reflects the brutal reality of war, where there is a devastating “eye for an eye” outcome, similar to historical events such as we in America saw from WWII, Pearl Harbor and the bombing of Hiroshima, and our own 9-11 resolve.
Despite how anyone wants to characterize it, and even hopes that not much more bloodshed will be spilled, Israel must never allow Hamas and its roots to ever take hold in Middle Eastern soil again. It is not, “if not now, ‘when?’ “, but, rather, if not now, ‘when’ will never come.