By Stephen Golub, October 15, 2023
Amidst all the thoughts and feelings I had as 9/11 unfolded, the one that hit hardest was utter dismay at how incredibly cruel and savage people can be to each other.
That’s how I feel this week. Over 1,300 Israelis slaughtered – most of them civilians, many of them babies, children or elderly – with over 150 more taken hostage. Given America’s much larger population, this would be the equivalent of 50,000 people murdered here in a single terrorist attack, or seventeen 9/11s.
In the Hours and Days Ahead…
I won’t deeply delve right now into what’s going on and what’s to come as Israel takes the fight to Hamas in Gaza. There will be time enough for reasoned, complex or bitter debates about who’s to blame for that humanitarian calamity.
And, before seeking to see some light in this situation, I won’t deny that matters will most likely get much worse before they even have a chance of getting better.
More specifically: Within hours of my publishing this post, Israeli tanks and troops may be surging through Gaza. Or Lebanon-based Hezbollah, “the world’s most heavily armed non-state actor,” may open up a second front, raining many of its estimated 130,000 rockets down on Israel. Or the mounting violence and Palestinian deaths on the West Bank – 53 since October 7 – could explode into a full-fledged conflict there. Or some Palestinian citizens of Israel proper could rise up. Or the United States, or Iran, or both, could be drawn into the conflict.
Or all of the above.
Against this backdrop, why in the world speculate about something positive possibly springing from this horrific situation?
Because, despite the intense despair we all feel, we need to think about what happens to Gaza after the havoc ends.
So, even though it’s massively, monstrously outweighed by the October 7 massacre, what good could conceivably come of this? Two things.
First, Hamas has discredited and disgraced itself as a savage terrorist organization that cannot be trusted and must be crippled to the extent possible.
This seems painfully clear today. But up until October 7, and despite its many bouts of combat with and rocket attacks against Israel, certain experts and Israeli officials entertained the notion of a “pragmatic Hamas” that had evolved past its genocidal 1988 Covenant, a document that channels the notoriously fake Protocols of the Elders of Zion and other antisemitic attacks. These officials included the former national security adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Will Hamas necessarily vanish from the scene in the wake of Israel’s likely onslaught? We’ll see. Its ideology will live on after many of its leaders and members are killed. What’s more, the New York Times’ Thomas Friedmanand other observers wonder whether Israel will walk into a trap if it launches a full-fledged invasion of Gaza. Hamas and its ally Iran may well welcome such an attack, valuing the propaganda victories that could flow from the potentially massive Palestinian and Israeli deaths to which they’re indifferent.
Regardless, it’s crucial to at least and at last clearly see Hamas for what it is. In the words of one Palestinian human rights activist: “The world knows Hamas now as terrorists who have committed depraved atrocities that would even make ISIS blush. But the people of Gaza already knew them…[as] monsters for years.”
Second, the atrocious intelligence, preparedness and response failures by the Netanyahu government – which, to be clear, I’m in no way equating with the Hamas butchery – could well result in his political demise after this war’s deadly dust has settled. As an Israeli former deputy national security adviser puts it, “The only good news is that the magnitude of the debacle will likely hasten the downfall of the criminally negligent and fundamentally illegitimate government in office in Israel today.”
Over the course of his many years dominating the country’s political landscape, starting long before he launched his current assault on Israeli democracy, Netanyahu has inundated the West Bank with settlements that undercut the relatively moderate Palestinian Authority there and sabotage the possibility of Palestinian statehood. He has explicitly vowed to block such statehood; he tolerated and even propped up Hamas in certain respects in pursuit of that goal.
In the interest of his evading justice and jail, last year Netanyahu brought into his government far-right religious zealots who prioritize West Bank domination over human rights, national security and national unity. They include his national security minister, previously convicted of supporting a terrorist organization, incitement to racism and many other charges.
Given that so much blood was spilled barely a week ago, is it too soon to point a finger at Netanyahu and his ilk? The brother of an Israeli soldier killed battling the Hamas invasion does not think so: “The bunch of imbeciles leading the country we live in, the country where my beloved little brother was killed protecting the homeland that forgot us — not because it was inevitable but because this disgraceful government is involved in everything it should not be involved in. My beloved brother was murdered by hate-filled terrorists, but those who disgracefully opened the door for them are the Israeli government, from the minister of national security and his messianic friends — clowns who busy themselves creating violent, idiotic slogans — to the prime minister, who is doing everything in his power to disintegrate the State of Israel.”
Could a peaceful two-state solution emerge in partnership with the Palestinian Authority, which recognizes Israel but is corrupt and ineffective? Quite possibly, though not inevitably. And for at least the near future, that possibility weakens in the wake of massive Israeli and Palestinian trauma. But until Netanyahu and his messianic allies lose control of the government, we may never know.
No Equivalence. But Both Must Go.
Let me again be clear: Like that slain soldier’s brother, I’m not equating the Hamas mass murder with the Netanyahu government’s conduct and policies, as execrable as they are. Hamas shows how horrifically low humanity can go.
Moreover, I’ll readily admit that in these unbearably dark days, the possible glimmers of light I’m pointing to lie way beyond the horizon, if they’re there at all.
But after the death and destruction are done or at least diminish, we must seek whatever good, whatever solutions, can emerge from the ashes.
We don’t have any alternative.
. . .
In the name of love, I’ll share a couple of post-October 7 U2 concert videos honoring the October 7 victims. If you’re able to access the first, you may need to go to your downloads to actually view the clip, along with the tear-inducing message and photos associated with it. The second lacks that additional information. But it is easier to access, and the band’s moving words and music are still worth viewing.
This post was produced by Benicia resident Stephen Golub. Steve blogs about domestic and international politics and policy, including lessons that the United States can learn from other nations, at A Promised Land: America as a Developing Country. If interested, you may sign up for future posts by subscribing to the blog.
Read more from Steve by visiting his blog or clicking any of the links below.
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