And other thoughts about this awful situation.
As a paying subscriber, I think this one is worth moving outside the paywall.
This is a very nice piece. But I think it overlooks an important part of Israeli "strategy" that has contributed to all this, and this is Netanyahu's constant undermining of Fatah and gradual stealth-ethnic cleansing of the West Bank. The settlers love him for it. But generally speaking, historically, if you are in some sort of anti-insurgent campaign against people with a strong fanatical element, you find the less fanatical branch and offer them some recognition, some normalcy, so as to isolate the nutjobs and possibly even get the realists on your side against them. The Netanyahu government seems to take the opposite approach.
My parents were in their twenties when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. My father was in the Army and went on to fight in the war. My mother did her part by working on bombers with many other women. I seriously doubt they sat around talking about the failings of the US government after Pearl Harbor. I can only imagine what either of them would have done if someone tried to defend the Japanese. My father often said "you had to be there to understand war". The allies won because they knew both Japan and Germany had to be crushed, and they went scorched earth. If someone is too squeamish for that, they should stay home and pretend to live in a world where people don't murder children. The stories from Israel are gut wrenching. Hamas targeted civilians. They chose to slaughter families. There is no equivalence. None. Hamas did this. Not Israel. Not the United States. Not Joe Biden. Hamas. Their stated goal is to eradicate Israel and the Jews. Israel is going to respond accordingly.
I hope to see many people planting trees in Israel.
I agree completely with you that anyone who cries "Hooray Hamas" in the US should be shunned and abjured. How many of them actually are there? You've pointed out that many are students--and that many students are dumb about world affairs. They also haven't lived through the YEARS of back and forth in the eternal lava bed that is the Middle East, having to evaluate each piece of new horror from either side for its antecedents.
I also think that the people MOST in favor of Hamas are the probably the same ones who marched shouting "Jews shall not replace us" and similar Anti-Semitic white nationalists. Their rejoicing is just quieter, but I'll bet they have toasted this week with many a non-Bud-Light brew.
What is scaring me in discourse in the US right now is the LEAP of assumption that so many are making that anyone who tries to examine that complexity --and even suggest that Israeli policies have often been as counterproductive to peace as anything heretofore identifiable as a "Palestinian policy" --must be Pro Hamas. Hamas clearly has gone way beyond the bounds of anything like a policy and is no better than any terrorist organization. It's "destroy Israel" stance has been just as dreadful as the "destroy Palestine" stance of some ultra-rightest Israelis, but the moving into Palestinian territory by some Israeli "settlers" is nowhere nohow comparable to this attack.
It's bad enough when an individual gets lambasted on Substack or Facebook for daring to suggest complexity. But I find the attacks on Tlaib, for example, really terrible. I have read her statement and there is no whiff of support for Hamas. Somehow any criticism of Israel at all is beyond the pale and MUST mean one is Anti-semitic. (Waiting for someone to get me going on the "viral" Fox video.)
I support rooting out Hamas, preferably by narrowly targeted attacks on the actual members. I do not support bombing residential buildings nor cutting off water, fuel, electricity and food to the Palestinian people. We have managed to "behead" ISIS and Al Qaeda without killing off the entire countries they arose from (in the case of Al Qaeda we got the wrong damn country and spent 20 years and countless lives being stubborn about it) and though they are still active they are not nearly the imminent threat that once they were. I agree that our response to 9/11 went WAY too far, particularly in Iraq, and did nothing but weaken us in the eyes of the world, particularly the latter-day howlings of trump and his "Muslim ban." Israel's current path seems to me to put them in danger of the same thing, just as Hamas has endangered the actual cause of the people they claim to "represent."
And yes I blame Netanyahu and his incredibly short-sided policies. So do a lot of Israelis. I don't see anything at all "pro" Hamas in that. I hope that in the Unity coalition there are cooler heads to not only care about all civilians but who take the lesson or the Post 9/11 world as to the futility of going on full bore Shock and Awe.
"We should have moved heaven and earth to kill al-Qaeda and then stopped and moved on. No need to remake the entire Middle East. And then, if other terrorist groups came forward and tried shit, we’d kill them too."
That's what many of us wanted to do. But politics intervened. No way would red-blooded Americans have settled for a measured response. That's why Israel's response is already so disproportionate that it's arguably a war crime. The politicians in Israel have to exact vengeance on the Palestinians. Not on Hamas, but on the whole people of Gaza. Not for military reasons, but because the voters demand it. It's tragic.
I hope the people you love are safe & far from harm, Ben.
I think what I’ve tried to express in my own conversations with people about the attacks is that we should absolutely be horrified, but we shouldn’t be surprised. Palestinians have had everything taken from them one by one, and they do not have the military, economic, or diplomatic power to push back in any meaningful way. I think that terrorism is awful and ultimately self-defeating but it’s the only card they have to play, so someone is going to play it. Israel can and will invade Gaza now, and I’m certainly not going to object, but it isn’t going to make anything better and it’s certainly not going to destroy hamas. Gazans will see hamas as the only group that defended them, and the only group that could give a bloody nose to the people that blockaded in Gaza. Israelis say when you ask about letting Palestinians have their own state that they can’t do that because Palestinians will attack them, but it sounds like a lot of Palestinians only want to attack them because they can’t have their own state. It’s really in Israel’s own interest to do this, so they can wall off Palestine and then both can go about their own separate business. If they continue this way, their fate will be that of white South Africa, a powerless minority. Either way, I don’t think we should be sending billions of dollars to Israel or Palestine, getting involved here does us no good.
What wonderful words! You wrote this in a way that even a fucking moronic idiot should be able to understand just exactly why they are wrong. As a Jew, as a liberal, as a freedom loving American I could not agree more with your words.
The truth is you should be a New York Times columnist.
Great piece, Ben.