A Fearful Symmetry and a Futile Strategy

Red Jahncke (Photo courtesy of the author)

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Palestinians cry “From the river to the sea,” while Israelis seize and settle the land from the sea to the river. An Israeli cabinet minister and his father, a rabbi, suggest the option of nuking Gaza and eradicating Palestinians, unavoidably evoking the Final Solution and the Holocaust.

The massacre at Kibbutz Be’eri, where 130 Israelis were slaughtered by Hamas on October 7th, recalls the 1948 massacre at Deir Yassin, where Jewish guerrillas executed over 100 Palestinian men, women and children.

Hamas and Hezbollah seem tragic descendants of last century’s Jewish guerillas, the Urgun and Lehi.

Hamas terrorists kill babies with their bare hands, while Israeli pilots drop bombs that blow Gazan babies to bits.

The genuinely equivalent term to Islamophobia would be Jewishophobia. In the Mideast, the equivalent term to antisemitism is anti-Palestinianism or anti-Arabism.

Israel accuses Hamas of hiding among innocent civilians in Gaza and using them as human shields. What guerilla movement has ever worn uniforms or operated from military bases? Mao Zedong said famously “The guerilla must move among the people as a fish swims in the sea.”

War has a fearful symmetry.

The Gaza War has a tragic futility.

How can Israel’s strategy in Northern Gaza be pursued in the South? As the IDF attacked in the North, Israel urged one million Gazans to evacuate to the South to avoid what has now eventuated, namely the total obliteration of the North.

Now that Israel is preparing to invade the South, where are two million Gazans to evacuate? Back to the un-survivable wasteland up North? Or are they to stay in place and be subjected to the same barrage as visited upon the North? Neither option is conceivable under any concept of humanity.

Yet, if the total-obliteration strategy was necessary in the North, how can it not be in the South? If devastation was necessary to eradicate Hamas in the North – if even it has, how can it not be required in the South? Otherwise, Hamas fighters will simply flee to the South to survive?

Is not Israel’s “strategy” futile? Does the unlimited supply of powerful weapons constitute U.S. support of Israel? Or are we complicit in Israel’s slaughter of innocents with those weapons, all in a horrific exercise in futility? What’s the endgame? No nation is stepping up to police post-war Gaza or to provide tens of billions to rebuild it. That leaves Israel to grapple with the Pottery Barn Rule, with the likely result that Gaza will not be rebuilt.

What’s more, Israel’s long-running national security strategy is futile.

Ever since the British issued the Balfour Declaration in 1917 calling for a Jewish homeland in Palestine, violence has characterized the Jewish-Palestinian relationship. From Israel’s independence in 1948 (the Nabka, to Arabs), there have been three wars between nation states in 1948, 1967 and 1973. There have been many battles in Southern Lebanon, including the Israeli incursion all the way to Beirut in 1982. This is the fifth Gaza war since 2005. What could be the third Intifada may be emerging today on the West Bank.

After three-quarters of a century of non-stop violence, violence is clearly not the solution. Israel’s fundamental national security strategy against Hamas is misguided. Hamas is not a band of 30,000 guerillas; it is an idea, however perverted. It is the idea of freedom in a genuine homeland for Palestinians. If, as is highly likely, Hamas survives the current cataclysm, its version of the idea will survive. If not, the idea will be reconstituted in another group until Palestinians enjoy genuine freedom. Indeed, the other group already exists in terrorist form, namely Hezbollah.

While Hamas and Hezbollah advocate the annihilation of Israel, their dogma has never been tested against a reality of Palestinian civilians achieving and enjoying genuine freedom. It is time to test that notion. Palestinians enjoying peace and tranquility in their own homeland from the river to the Green Line is the best way to defang the terrorist movements. How many families living in genuine peace will offer their children to be suicide bombers? To be terrorists? To live in tunnels in Gaza or caves in Southern Lebanon? Peace is the greatest threat to terrorists. It is time to carry out the threat.

This column appeared originally on Real Clear Policy.