Jonathan Zausmer

Tunnel vision

The Sacrifice of Isaac. Caravaggio. Uffizi, Florence

Israeli leadership has embarked on a mission to rout out Hamas, to destroy it, and destroy its leaders. Israel at large, and its citizens, are in some respects, also hostages – hostages of a government that has proved its incompetence long before this war, and more so, during the war against Hamas.

The giant errors of judgment, the obsession with destruction of Israel’s justice system, the arrogance of military and civilian leaders who looked away when every indication of a serious invasion was clearly on the table and politicians who believed they knew more than the military, the hubris that has infected every part of Israeli life – all this has created a sense of shock and disbelief, and complete dismay in the performance of leadership.

The strategic position taken by Israel’s government and the military is, briefly, the complete eradication of Hamas, no matter what the cost. This is a kind of WW2 approach, when towards the end of a seemingly unending war, the allies bombed their way to victory with massive losses and vast destruction, finally ending in an exhausted and conclusive defeat of Germany and Japan. Yet it proved itself to be correct. Both Germany and Japan were literally bombed into the ground. And later when these countries recovered, they underwent reform and change unthought of at the time.

However, in the case of Hamas and the Palestinian people, it is by no means clear that we will see a new vision emerging out of Muslim supremacist fanaticism towards a democratic empathetic world where science and social cohesion are put to work for the good of all. Add in the unfinished business, as Palestinians see it, of having been deprived of their land whether by diplomacy, or by their own stubborn errors of judgment following WW2 or by the failed path of terror so common these last few decades which has backfired horribly thus eradicating entirely any opening towards a free Palestinian state.

The massive bombing of Gaza that Israel has embarked on, in an attempt to move civilians south so as to rout out Hamas in the north, has proven so completely horrendous that it challenges the imagination of anyone outside of the conflict. Neither do we know accurately what the scale in terms of human life is though we hear that some 20,000 people have been killed. If we add to that, the human suffering caused by collateral injury and psychiatric damage, we get to figures vastly greater, for surely for every death by bombing there must be at least two or more victims of serious injury? And what of children left as orphans: will this not be a new generation of revenge? To give an estimation of the scale of this destruction – by comparison, the human cost of the war in the Ukraine which has now been waged since early 2022 with constant Russian bombing, has had a human cost in civilian lives of 10,000. Even if Hamas speaks of an exaggerated figure by more than twice the real figure, we would still be looking at a human cost of civilian deaths similar to a brutal war that has raged incessantly for two years. Let us be warned that Netanyahu and Gallant could possibly be hauled before The International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity – even if Hamas leaders who led the brutal murderous attack on Israeli civilians on the 7th October 2023, are also subject to such a procedure.

The core issue at this time however, for the people of Israel is the matter of the hostages. There are 129 hostages in Gaza as of the 24th December 2023. Parallel to that are the losses of young lives in the military which are now accumulating daily. From accounts we have heard from hostages freed so far, we know that their situation is precarious both in terms of health and possible exposure to the bombing. A full scale routing of Hamas could involve the killing of these civilians whether by Hamas or by the fierce bombing, or due to the shocking health conditions by which they are being held. And the unsettling feeling that arises in the citizens of Israel is the unasked question: are Israel’s leaders considering the fact that in an all out attempt at victory against Hamas, the hostages may well be the sacrificial lamb whether by Hamas or by incessant attacks aimed at Hamas and ending in deaths of Israelis held hostage. Is there no way we can find a path to negotiation, to a cease fire, to a logical solution such as an all for all exchange of hostages for prisoners? The lives of our innocent civilians are at stake here. Have they become the sacrificial lamb? I do not hear nor predict a voice from above.

And if indeed the leader of Hamas, Yahya Sinwar, is finally found and destroyed, does this mean the end of Israel’s war against Hamas?

I see neither a ram nor an angel on the horizon.

About the Author
Originally from South Africa, Jonathan made aliya in the seventies, and lived and worked on a kibbutz for several years. He has a graduate degree in business from Boston University and is a managing partner of an Israeli based business. He was a co-founder of the Forum Tzora peace action group and participates in the Geneva Initiative workshops. He is the author of the book “Valley of Heaven and Earth”.
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