For Israelis, One More Battle in a Forever War for Survival
JNS.org – In the 1930s, the Nazis declared: “The Jews do not deserve to live!” They acted on this conviction, and by the mid-1940s, 6 million Jews had been murdered.
Today, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and the Islamic Republic of Iran declare: “The Jewish state does not deserve to live!” They are attempting to act on this conviction—with rockets fired from Gaza last week, perhaps precision-guided missiles from Lebanon next year, and maybe nuclear warheads from Iran down the road.
Some of Israel’s critics acknowledge that Israel’s enemies intend to replace the Jewish state with an Islamic state, but are not overly troubled by that. Others assert that “Death to Israel!” can be accomplished without the death of too many Israelis, though how many would constitute too many they don’t specify.
And then there are those who concede that while a second Holocaust in less than a century would be unfortunate, Israelis may be able to avoid that fate by making the concessions demanded of them.
In particular, Israelis are instructed to “end the occupation.” To Hamas, that means a Jewish exodus from Israel. Some Hamas sympathizers suggest it might be sufficient if Israelis only withdrew from the territories taken in the defensive war of 1967.
But this theory has been tested. In 2000, 2001 and 2008, Israelis offered Palestinian leaders statehood in Gaza and the West Bank in exchange for peace. Those leaders said no.
In 2005, Israelis not only ended their occupation of Gaza—which, it should be remembered, they had seized not from Palestinians but from Egypt—but also evicted the territory’s Jewish communities. Hamas soon took power and began firing missiles over the border and digging tunnels under it.
Nevertheless, Israelis have continued to provide Palestinians in Gaza with water, electricity and other goods, in the hope Hamas might moderate. No such luck. Last week, Hamas fired mortars on convoys carrying humanitarian aid from Israel into Gaza.
Hamas and PIJ did not expect to exterminate Israel in the battle they began by launching rockets into Israel on May 10 and which ended with a ceasefire on Friday. But they may have thought that, by firing larger salvos more rapidly, they could overwhelm Iron Dome, Israel’s anti-missile technology.
That would have been encouraging for Hezbollah, which has approximately 150,000 rockets, missiles and drones pointed at Israel from Lebanon, and for Iran’s rulers who, in addition to supplying weapons, technology and training to Israel’s enemies, are developing more sophisticated missiles of their own.
In the event, Israel’s Iron Dome destroyed about 90 percent of the rockets threatening populated areas. Several hundred Hamas and PIJ rockets failed, falling on Gaza where they killed Palestinian men, women and children for whom bomb shelters have never been built.
Some Israelis would have liked to take this occasion to topple Hamas. But a question arises: What happens the day after?
Most Israelis have no interest in reoccupying Gaza or ruling the Palestinians who live there. So, the Israeli goal in this battle, as in the battles of 2014, 2012 and 2009, was only to “mow the lawn”—to deprive Hamas and PIJ of the means to attack again for a few years.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) surgically struck Hamas’s military infrastructure, along with the “Metro,” the elaborate and expensive tunnel network running underneath Gaza which Hamas fighters had trained to utilize in the event of an Israeli ground incursion.
Of an estimated 232 Palestinians killed, the IDF claims 200 were Hamas operatives, including 25 high-ranking commanders. But some of the highest-value targets survived by hunkering down in bunkers and/or behind human shields. Hamas managed to kill 12 Israelis.
Israel did not fare well in the information war, but that was to be expected: The institutions that constitute the “international community” are structurally anti-Israeli, as are much of the international media. Most journalists in Gaza report within the strict limits Hamas sets for them. To do otherwise would be hazardous to their health.
Tehran, Hamas and other members of the “Resistance Axis” can take satisfaction at having sparked violence between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs (or Israeli Palestinians) at a time when they had been developing increasingly productive relations.
The Resistance Axis hoped to shatter the Abraham Accords, the normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and other Arab countries. But pragmatic Arab leaders know that Tehran and the Muslim Brotherhood (Hamas is the Palestinian branch) pose as great a threat to them as to Israelis.
These 11 days in May will leave average Gazans suffering increased deprivation. Those who claim to care about them, like Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, ought to say to Hamas and PIJ: “Look, guys, there is no military solution to this conflict. So, you’ll just have to tolerate—among the more than 20 states that identify as Arab, and the more than 50 that identify as Muslim—one tiny state in which the Jewish people exercises self-determination on part of its ancient homeland. Conflict resolution is possible if—for the first time ever—you’ll negotiate with your Jewish neighbors.”
Yes, I know: That will happen when hell undergoes climate change.
Last year, marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that “Never again” means “telling the story” of the Holocaust “again and again.” Wrong, Tony. The phrase for that would be “Never forget.”
“Never again” means more. For Israelis, it means defending themselves in battle after battle in a “forever war,” ignoring those who insist that fairness requires more Jewish funerals. For the rest of us, it should mean, at a minimum, not aligning with Jew-haters attempting to precipitate another Holocaust.
Clifford D. May is founder and president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), and a columnist for The Washington Times.