October 7 Was No More An Act Of War Than Was 9/11
The blog has been about little else than the Israel-Hamas conflict. Nothing else seems to matter to me right now.
To understand why requires a look back in time, my time. I am the child of the Americans who witnessed the Holocaust either in person or vicariously in safety in America. My parents were indeed in the United States after the war even though my Dad served in England and often told the story of waking up on June 6, 1944 to the sounds of hundreds of airplanes over head in London bound for the European continent.
My parents felt the sting of anti-Semitism personally. My father couldn’t find a job after he graduated from college after having returned to Ohio University following the war on the GI Bill and marrying my mother. Even in New York, anti-Semitism was constraining his opportunity, but he eventually found work and raised his family.
Throughout this time, ever since two months before I was born, there was the state of Israel. It was our hope that finally, after two thousand years, we would have a place for the times when we had no place else. And it was our traditional place since Moses led us there.
Many today want to blame Israel for displacing Arabs from land they occupied in 1948 and again in 1967 so the Jews could have a homeland. This is, as far as I can tell, true. I have seen the homes of Jews today with Arabic letters over the doors in East Jerusalem. Those used to be Arab homes. Their owners were displaced in 1967.
Jewish settlers are taking over significant tracts of land in the West Bank. They are warring with the native Arabs there, too. There is conflict everywhere in the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. The wars begun before 1948 continue. It is hard to carve out a Jewish democracy in this area, without accommodating the Arabs who lived there, too. But a “right of return” for the Palestinian Arabs to what is today Israel will never happen. Israel must remain a Jewish state even as 20% of the population of Israel proper is Arab now.
Ever since October 7, when about two thousand Hamas terrorists crossed into Israel from Gaza and slaughtered 1400 Israelis, most civilians, and kidnapped about two hundred others, the world is trying to make sense of what Israel should do.
The two editorials from The Wall Street Journal on October 23 make a couple of things clear.
The piece by Israel’s former ambassador to the US Michael Oren represents the sentiment of most Israelis, I believe, as reflected in an email I received from our Israeli guide. Hamas in Gaza must end even if that means more violence. Furthermore, as the other piece by Andy Kessler says, “those defending Hamas in the name of anticolonialism are being discredited.” The demand on college campuses to “free the Palestinians” does not have much traction in the halls of power in Israel or in Washington. If the Arabs who lived in the current land of Israel, but who left in 1948 or 1967 think they are coming back, they are wrong. Now, remember, 20% of the Israeli population is Arab now. They’re the ones that didn’t leave and many are prosperous—but not all. Many professionals in Israel are Arabs.
Israel has some really hard choices to make and would be well-served by taking some lessons from the manner in which the United States responded to 9/11. I vividly remember the bloodlust in my heart that day. I wanted revenge for the 3000 killed and was more than willing to give up some of my freedoms so that the government could track the terrorists down. I thought the Afghanistan expedition was a righteous cause and was even convinced that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. I was wrong.
The events of 9/11 were not acts of war. They were massive crimes. Crimes are not handled well by armies. Crimes are for the police. Perhaps a bit of circumspection in lieu of revenge would have kept us out of the quagmire that was Afghanistan and the continuing mess in Iraq.
The events in Israel of October 7 were not acts of war. The people who killed, raped, and kidnapped Israelis cannot be considered soldiers and the group they represent cannot be considered a country, especially when the real enemy IS a country-Iran. Finally, as the United States discovered in Afghanistan, if you go into a foreign entity to dislodge those in charge, you then become the one in charge. Israel does not want to govern Gaza again. If Israeli troops enter Gaza looking to eliminate Hamas, they will probably kill a lot of innocents, lose a fair number of their own, and inherit a pile of rubble of their own making. How smart is that? It may feel righteous. It won’t be right even as it is happening right now.
October 7 was a heinous series of crimes. Those caught should be prosecuted and those who planned this from Gaza, Beirut, Qatar, and Tehran ought to be quietly sought and dealt with. Capture and trial would be best, but if the methods depicted in Stephen Spielberg’s Munich must be used, so be it.
America is being tested along with democracies everywhere. There is only one such place in the Middle East and that is Israel. The cure cannot be worse than the disease for the Israeli people, even though they want revenge and think that they can and must eliminate Hamas in Gaza. A better plan might have been to try using any intermediary possible to get the hostages out. All of them. Then the world must determine what should happen to Gaza and its people. Gaza should not become an Israeli problem yet again and the liberal voices in the western world that deem Israel a colonizer ought to brush up on their history, especially Israeli history.
It took a great deal of patience and effort to secure the state of Israel in 1948 and many battles since to keep it. But it is the only place we have to go, so it must remain the Jewish state. However, it has not been led wisely in recent years. It is time for the Israeli people to elect a government that can work with the Sunni states to secure the rights of the Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank by installing real leadership there. And, it is the job of those Sunni states to make sure nothing like October 7 ever happens again. To do that, the Sunni states will have to stand up to the great Shia state in Iran and say enough is enough. Or the people of Iran could do that. They too thirst for a free country of their own—like the Jews did for 2000 years.