I admit: A tragedy is unfolding in Gaza.
And, I also admit: In Israel, it's the least of our worries.
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In Israel, we don’t deny the destruction currently taking place across Gaza, the unfortunate civilian casualties, the living hell that much of the strip has become — all, of course, as a result of Israel’s response to the unprecedented Palestinian terror attacks on October 7th.
We are fully aware that winter is right around the corner, meaning daily life will get even worse for Gaza’s people, and we don’t lose sleep knowing that they are undergoing immense suffering, regardless of who’s to blame.
What’s more, we are not trying to sugarcoat or circumvent these inconvenient truths. We are very much at peace with the consequences. Why?
Because, after witnessing the testimony about a woman murdered by a sharp object inserted into her genital area, our empathy evaporated.
After seeing the testimony about an eight-year-old girl whose hands were amputated and left to bleed in fear — and by the time help arrived, she couldn’t be saved — our empathy evaporated.
After hearing about another woman who was raped in the terror attack, had to undergo an abortion, and is now hospitalized in a mental health facility, our empathy evaporated.
After learning of an infant who was placed in an oven and baked to death, our empathy evaporated.
After being told that a pregnant woman’s abdomen was cut open, her fetus beheaded, and then she was murdered, our empathy evaporated.
After seeing footage of a children’s room splattered with blood, perhaps from babies who were beheaded, our empathy evaporated.
After hearing about a woman who was raped during the massacre, her breasts mutilated and used as a football before she was shot in the head, our empathy evaporated.
And then, just mere days after one of the world’s most heinous terror attacks engulfed Israel, we were made out to be the “bad guys,” the “bully,” the “oppressor,” the “occupiers.” Crowds across the world celebrated this so-called Palestinian “act of liberation” and even called for our deaths and the destruction of our country.
Ironically, the Jews have done more to “liberate” the Palestinians than Palestinian leaders have done themselves. In one anecdote, the Arab population dramatically increased after Zionists eradicated malaria from the region in the 1920s.
Since the State of Israel’s founding in 1948, we’ve tried to accommodate the Palestinians every which way — territorial concessions, peace agreements, financial aid, work opportunities, and more — but nothing seems to work. If anything, these gestures had the opposite affect: more vile terrorism against mostly innocent Israeli civilians.
So we put up checkpoints and walls to better protect our borders, just as any country would reasonably do. Our politicians and security establishments let us down on October 7th, but we know that doesn’t change the very intentions of so many Palestinians: to exact as much hurt and spite on as many Jews as possible. This wasn’t the first time, and it probably won’t be the last one.
When terror groups hijack territories like they’ve done in Gaza, using it as a launchpad for Islamic jihad, significant military action is the only way, despite the risk to innocents. If Israel did not respond in the ways it has, there would also be a paramount risk to innocents — the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who live in towns that border Gaza.
If you’re asking us to deny our own citizens the same right that you would fight for on behalf of others, well, that’s an awkward act of self-sabotage — and more of a you problem than an Israel problem.
Surely, we understand that this will make some people feel uncomfortable, particularly those who were raised within the constructs of “safetyism” — where parents endeavor to overly protect their children from potentially harmful situations.
As these children mature into adults, they become acculturated to avoiding anything that may seem challenging or burdensome, ultimately putting them at risk of developing what social psychologist Jonathan Haidt calls “fragility of mind and emotion” — lacking resilience in life and in relationships as a result of being protected from anything difficult or uncomfortable.
Israelis have literally been born into difficulty and hardship. Many of them know that, despite their most sincere intentions, the idea of true peace with the Arabs is an illusion, an imaginary assumption that has no basis in reality. Partial peace is possible, meaning peace mixed with terrorism, which will exist provided Israel has sufficient deterrent power. On October 7th, this deterrent power either collapsed or was on a lengthy hiatus.
The closest Israel and the Palestinians got to “partial peace” was in 1993 and 1995, when they signed the Oslo Accords, a pair of agreements aimed at achieving peaceful coexistence and fulfilling the “right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.” Yasser Arafat, the Palestinians’ leader at the time, said of the Oslo Accords:
“I am not considering it more than the agreement which had been signed between our Prophet Muhammad and Quraish, and you remember the Caliph Omar had refused this agreement and considered it ‘Sulha Dania’ (a despicable truce). But Muhammad had accepted it and we are accepting now this peace accord.”1
In other words, Arafat compared the Oslo Accords with the Hudaybiyyah peace treaty, a 10-year truce between Muhammad and the Quraish Tribe of Mecca, which Muhammad broke two years later when he attacked them and conquered Mecca. Arafat even went as far as to tell a Palestinian journalist:
“I am entering Palestine through the door of Oslo, despite all my reservations, in order to return the Palestine Liberation Organization and the resistance to it, and I promise you that you will see the Jews fleeing from Palestine like mice fleeing from a sinking ship. This will not happen in my lifetime, but it will happen in your lifetime.”
Still, Israel adhered to the Oslo Accords, withdrawing its troops from Gaza in 1993. The Palestinian National Authority was promptly created to administer self-rule over 98-percent of the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza, while receiving an estimated $25 billion in financial aid from the U.S. and other Western countries, the highest-per-capita assistance in the world. But the money ended up going to places not named peace or prosperity for the Palestinian people.
“Instead of creating the independent and robust civil institutions necessary for good governance, promoting peace with Israel, and improving the lives of its people, the billions of dollars of international aid were used to create a corrupt dictatorship focusing on enriching its elites, inciting its people against Israel, advocating terrorism, and waging a massive international campaign to demonize, delegitimize, and destroy the Jewish state,” according to Ziva Dahl, a Senior Fellow with the Haym Salomon Center.2
Then, in 2000, at the Camp David Summit, the Israelis were willing to give up 92-percent of the West Bank, as well as its sovereignty in parts of Jerusalem’s Old City and in Jerusalem’s Arab-majority neighborhoods — unprecedented concessions.
Arafat not only declined; he refused to make a counteroffer, and the Palestinians launched the Second Intifada, marked by an onslaught of suicide bombings against Israelis, resulting in more than a thousand Israeli casualties, the third-most in Israel’s history, and 70-percent of which were civilians. It was at this time that the Palestinian Authority started incorporating Islam into its political rhetoric, adding jihad to its agenda.
Meanwhile, in the Gaza Strip, Hamas continued to gain steam after being founded in the late 1980s. Following Israel’s complete withdrawal from the enclave in 2005, elections were held in Gaza. Hamas reportedly won and violently expelled the Palestinian Authority from the strip in 2007, en route to creating a deeply Islamic society rooted in ambitions to establish a caliphate in the Levant.
For example, in Article 7 of its charter, Hamas describes itself as “one of the links in the chain of the struggle against the Zionist invaders.” The charter also includes a hadith (an Islamic commandment) suggesting that the Day of Judgment would not come until the Muslims fight and kill the Jews.
This is all to say: The assumption that real peace is possible between Israel and the Palestinians, peace like the one between the U.S. and Mexico or between Spain and France, is an assumption that has no basis. The Jewish enemy will always be present, and they will always wait for us, while examining our weak points, waiting for revelations of our weakness, and then attacking.
Hence, October 7th. Hence, the destruction, civilian casualties, and living hell in Gaza. And hence why many Israelis, myself included, accept the situation for what it is.
But the impetus for our position does not stem from being “pro-Jewish” or “pro-Israel.” Our position is rooted in knowing that the Israeli military is deeply grounded in humanitarianism. As the joke goes, we thought about responding proportionally, but our soldiers didn’t want to go into Gaza to rape women, behead babies, mutilate bodies, and burn entire families to death.
The Israeli response has been robust, yet surgical. If we truly wanted to erase Gaza, we would’ve done so just a few days into the war. Such capabilities are not in question.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t evil Israelis and lovely Palestinians (and vice versa), but this is not a dispute between two peoples. It is a dispute between two cultures, where ethno-social constructs are the primary source of conflict.
Our culture celebrates life. We get excited when flowers bloom in the desert and a new museum opens. Unfortunately, we cannot say anything remotely similar about our enemies and their supporters, who predominantly cheer on death and promote boundless hate.
As Golda Meir, the former Israeli prime minister, used to say: “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.”
Until that day comes, the tragedy unfolding in Gaza is the least of our worries.
“The Oslo deception: New evidence.” JNS. https://www.jns.org/israel-palestinianconflict/palestinian-authority/23/9/13/318598.
“Palestinian kleptocracy: West accepts corruption, people suffer the consequences.” The Hill. https://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/foreign-policy/306179-palestinian-kleptocracy-west-accepts-corruption-people.