Dmitri Shufutinsky

Rafah: Israel’s ‘Smyrna Moment’

As hostage-ceasefire talks with Hamas continue and Israel prepares for a possible operation in Rafah to destroy the terrorist organization, it’s time that decision makers in Jerusalem not just look to the future, but to the past. And that means exploring the megali-idea (Great Idea) of Greek leader Eleftherios Venizelos, and what it meant for the modern Greek State.

In the era after World War One, it was clear that the Ottoman Empire would never be able to survive. Eleftherios Venizelos, the Greek Prime Minister, came up with a fantastic way to realize the great national dream: the redemption of Anatolia by its indigenous Greek population. Following the brutality of the 1915 genocide against Christian Assyrians, Armenians, and Greeks by the Muslim Turkish population, it became clear that the descendants of Anatolia’s original populations could no longer be left in the hands of the descendants of an invading foreign horde.

In a plan supported by Grecophile British government officials, Greece was to take control of the ancient Hellenic town of Smyrna–now an ethnic melting pot–and fairly administer its non-Christian population as well. Interethnic tensions and the cleverness of the Turkish Independence Movement–lead by none other than the revolutionary Mustafa Kemal–ultimately ended this megali-idea. Both domestic Greek infighting and the betrayal of its hesitant Western allies (including the United Kingdom) lead to the “Great Idea” ending in an ancient city on fire with its native inhabitants slaughtered, raped, and butchered en masse. In just a matter of a few years, two bright independence movements for indigenous people–Greeks and Armenians–were extinguished. On the one hand, Turkish genocide rendered both movements extremely weak and lacking in manpower. On the other hand, the spinelessness of Western powers led to both being subsumed, one by Turks in Smyrna–now Izmir– and the other by communist, Soviet conquerors in the newly-created Armenian homeland.

While all of this was occurring, a third indigenous movement further to the south of the Ottoman Empire’s ruins, was struggling to be born. After years of bloodshed, it resulted in the Jewish State of Israel–the land of the Hebrews, redeemed after two millennia of being occupied by foreign invaders. Sadly, it seems that to this day, our alleged leaders have learned nothing about the importance of self-reliance. Much as in the post-WWI era, too many failed leaders in the government echelon are prioritizing the opinions of hesitant and jellyfish-like “thought-leaders” in the West instead of the bare necessities of our nation.

Already, Hamas has made it clear that it has no intention of accepting the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. It’s made clear that it wishes to carry out more October 7th-like pogroms against our people. It has killed numerous of our hostages, while releasing propaganda clips to make us believe most of them are alive, spread the internal discord that already existed before the war, and force an Israeli surrender pressured by the International Left.

Should Israel continue down the path of giving undue weight to the Thomas Friedmans, Joe Bidens, and Chuck Schumers of the world, Never Again will become Again and Again. We will have demonstrated that we are not an independent country; that the radicals in Western societies can get their way through anti-democratic and antisemitic riots; and that our primary concern is for the lives of our enemies rather than our own future generations.

Shall we fail to conquer Rafah and annihilate the ideology of Hamas–the way the Nazi German or Imperial Japanese ideologies were annihilated in Berlin, Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki–Jerusalem will eventually turn into Al-Quds the way Smyrna became Izmir.

Netanyahu is not a leader to make such a change. As it is, he already allowed Hamas to survive for too long–long enough to prepare for October 7th, funded by Qatari cash he allowed into the Strip for the sake of an artificial quiet–and an equally-artificial legacy of “Mr. Security.”

It is high-time that Israelis start making fundamental changes in the way they view the Right-Left paradigm. Netanyahu cannot bring peace, yet neither can Gantz–who, may I remind you, encouraged the facilitation of Gazan work permits into the very kibbutzim they butchered. Neither can the peace-processing of Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert, or even Yitzhak Rabin. If this is to be a war that “transforms the Middle East,” it must be one that will be remembered for generations to come. So far, only two meet that bar: the First World War, and more importantly, the Mongol Conquest of Baghdad.

If Israel is to avoid the fate of Smyrna–if we are to persist and truly restore deterrence–we must enter Rafah, save the hostages, and destroy Hamas. The price will be high and difficult–it will be higher yet for Gaza, and as history tells us, high prices often change minds and destroy radical ideologies.

Now is a moment for deciding: are we to give undue weight to failed attempts and appeasement of our friends, who so often prove fair-weather? Or shall we survive to truly be a “free people in our land–the land of Zion & Jerusalem”?

About the Author
Dmitri Shufutinsky is a freelance reporter with the Jewish News Syndicate, and a Junior Research Fellow with ISGAP. He made aliyah to Kibbutz Erez through Garin Tzabar in 2019, and served as a Lone Soldier in the IDF. Dmitri is an ardent Zionist and a supporter of indigenous rights, autonomy, solidarity, and sovereignty. He currently lives in Hadera, and a graduate of Arcadia University's Masters program in International Peace & Conflict Resolution.
Related Topics
Related Posts