The amount of rhetoric is almost overwhelming. Most of it carries the tone of outrage, condemnation and warning. The lofty towers of judgement has made everyone sound like the Almighty, commuting from Mount Sinai. When Piers Morgan and his ilk start sounding like the Archbishop of Canterbury, then you know something is not right. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury is not sounding like the Archbishop of Canterbury.
It is ironic that people so eager to point out that this is not a religious war are sounding so religious. And even getting evangelical, demanding that the confession of faith in Israel must begin with condemnation of Hamas. Its the first question every journalist asks their guests.
How did every commentor so suddenly become a moral philosopher, so certain about what is right and what is wrong? And everyone’s hidden theologian is also coming out of the closet with solemn declarations of what is good and evil. Even the President has weighed in, but he was of course following Archbishop Bush after 9-11, who suffered a similar catastrophic epiphany to go bomb Iraq.
Add to this torrent of autospeak words, we have the usual comparisons and the lazy metaphors. One Israeli leader said “we will fight them on the beaches” and another compared Gazans to animals and Israel’s President said that every Gazan is guilty. Channelling Churchill, Goebells and Hitler in the space of a few days is mind boggling stuff. Have we lost all sense of proportion?
Some pretty horrible things have gone down in our world. Hiroshima, and the Irish Famine and the Covid plague, and in that league, October 7th is horrible enough, but for a terrorist attack, the scale more than the intent is what astounds us. No one is surprised that Hamas would do this. No one. They are terrorists and terrorists usually sow terror whenever they can. Being diabolical is their MO. They never pretend to be the Red Cross. The shock is that they were allowed to do it. Israeli security left their citizens unguarded for 7 hours?
But is this the second holocaust??? Are we seriously comparing 1300 dead to 6 million? And the second Founding of Israel, based on a second Nakba? Well, that comparison might grow more relevant by the day. In 1948, 700,000 Palestinians were dispossessed and 550 villages ethnically cleansed. Forcing 1 million refugees from the North of Gaza to move to the South sends a stern reminder to Gazans of their first Nakba. And there are even plans afoot to shift the surviving Gazans to the Sinai, making refugees of refugees of refugees. That would be some feat, to repeat the injustices rather than repeal them, and think that fixes the problem. But that is the historic redux the Israeli’s are trapped in. They can never break out into their own future.
The words that matter are not those of the critics, the pundits, the retired and failed retinue of bedraggled and discredited State Department experts or ambassadors. Not even the retired IDF generals who are showing up in every second think tank in Washington DC. Who knew we had so many? Shouldn’t you be at home right now?
No, the words that matter are the ones that are being made flesh before our eyes. In fact, they are not words, and some of them are quite beyond words. What are the actions of the players in this crisis saying? Some speak as loud as the bombs dropping on hospitals and the rockets firing on kibbutzem.
1- Violence is the only way to deal with Violence. For all the protestations from leaders that non-violence is the only way to a peaceful resolution, that seems to be out of the question now. More and people are crying for a cease-fire at least, but the answer they are getting is a stern No. Violence is the only way. And don’t they know that this is the message they are sending to Hamas, Hezbellah and Iran? It is war, no matter what it costs us or them. Forget about words. We will write our message in the blood of innocents, either hostages or Gazan children. We don’t seem to care.
2- Violence is the only way to get the world to pay attention. On October 6th, the word Palestine was on nobody’s lips. The 5 elections that Israel has held gave the people a voice on the issues that mattered and Palestine or the occupation did not matter. It was what Bibi was doing to democracy that had people protesting, not what he was doing to the Palestinians. President Biden was elected and Palestine – Israel was never on his agenda. There was nothing to gain politically to even attempt to roll back Trumps betrayals. The PA office in DC never reopened nor did the Consualte in Jerusalem. Palestinians remained without a voice. And no one cared. The only focus was the Abaraham accords that left Palestine once more out of any negotiations. Harvard’s new negotiation style, leave out one of the parties. Much easier to get to Yes.
With October 7th, the issue comes roaring back and now, the stakes are much higher. Palestinians might have failed at dipolomacy, but when has the world ever awakened to the plight of an occupied and tortured people so rudely. It does not matter much what side we are on. Hamas’ attack forced us to care, and take sides. Now we care big time. And everyone’s deeper loyalties are exposed.
Our reaction also sends a dangerous signal. Plead humanity, plead UN resolutions, plead justice, plead common sense, plead international law, plead anything, but no one pays attention until you make war. Now, have I got your attention? Tragically, Yes. It is a basic human logic that if you do not stop hurting us, the only way we have left is to hurt you. And it has worked, in the short term at least.
3. Violence is what got us into this crisis and we think violence will get us out of it. There is some crazy thinking going on here, aided and abetted by leaders who should know better. Its a repeating pattern. There is violence on the streets and so, lets bring in more police with more guns. There is danger in the schools from shooters so lets arm our teachers. There are refugees flooding our borders so lets separate families to deter them and show we are strong. The tactics we are applying are doubling down on what is so patently going wrong, and never addressing the cause. The solution is the problem.
If we think wiping out Gaza is going to erase Hamas as a fighting unit, we might be right, but if Hamas is an ideology fed from the violence that the Palestinian people are being subjected to, every day, week, month, year, since 1948, then what on earth makes us think that violence is going to eradicate the hate? One would logically think, the only way to stop the violence is to stop the violence. The only way to stop the killing is to stop the killing. The only sure way to stop the hating is to stop the hating. Words don’t matter anymore when you have just lost 26 members of your family, bombed into eternity and 12 of them were kids. Words mean nothing when you are a family waiting to hear news of the hostages that include your grandfather and whether they can be freed or be safe in the middle of a war that no one wants to end, not even declare a ceasefire to allow hostages to get out and ambulances to get in.
4. The leadership that got us into this crisis is being tasked with the responsibility getting us out of it. The protestations of our Israeli Leader who only two months ago, was being condemned by the world and half of Israel as a dictator, a criminal, a liar, a corrupt son of Satan, and all the rest, is now our best friend, someone that President Biden embraces as Israel’s chief grief counsellor. And did Bibi have a conversion or is he fighting his own war, for his own freedom and his own survival? How many more people will we allow him to kill to keep himself out of jail?
Will people remember the tango between Bibi and Hamas, and how war with Hamas is Bibi’s go to method whenever he needs to sure up his power? Will people remember that Bibi channelled a billion dollars to Hamas to ensure they remain rivals to the PA? Hamas probably put plaques on their tunnels to remember his largesse. Yes, that is the valiant leader that Israel is stuck with right now to defend them after he deserted them. Good Luck with that.
But again, Bibi’s words about solving the problem- remember he incited the assassionation of Rabin, and Biden’s idle words about Two State and humanitarian pauses, they are all hollow words that melt into the mists of treachery. No one is listening. All we are listenong to right now is the bombs and the cries of sheer terror and the words of our statesmen, war war war war. That is what they asked for, and that is what they will get. Make war of it and you will make more of it. Whatever else is unpredictable about violent conflict, that much is as sure as the today’s sun setting on any hope for sanity.