An Eye for an Eye

One week ago on October 7, 2023, a surprise invasion of Israel by Hamas soldiers in Gaza resulted in deaths of 1,300 innocent civilians, which included beheadings of children and other horrific acts of murder, rape, and torture, leaving another 3,400 Israelis   wounded, many seriously. Twenty-seven Americans were among the dead. Between two and three thousand Hamas soldiers participated in the surprise attack.  I have not found any definitive information as to how many Hamas soldiers were killed or arrested though it appears that there were few. Most got away, taking at least 150 hostages with them, including some Americans. Hamas is threatening to torture and kill one hostage a day and post the executions on social media.

Of course, most people know all of this since it has dominated the news for a week. The unanswered question is this: Why would anyone do this? It was a deliberate act of war and a war crime, which anyone would conclude would result in immediate retribution from Israel to punish Gaza for this unimaginable atrocity. And the retribution would likely be far more severe than the initial act of aggression by Hamas. This is the way things work in the Holy Land.

This is exactly what has happened. Israel immediately cut off Gaza from the electricity it provides to the country and the fuel it provides for generators. Food and water are now in short supply for two million people. Toilets don’t flush. Lights are out. Massive bombing attacks began immediately destroying buildings of all types throughout the county. One bombing destroyed the only access to Egypt, assuring that the two million residents of Gaza would have no escape route. A blockade has been in place for years around the ports. As of today—one week after the war began—Gaza says 1,900 of its people have been killed, mostly civilians, and 7,700 wounded. If this were an eye for an eye, you might conclude that the goal has been achieved since the casualties in Gaza today are higher than those caused by Hamas in Israel.

But that is not the way things work in the Holy Land.

The “real retribution” is just beginning. Israel has announced its stated goal is to destroy Hamas completely and to assure that something like this will never, ever happen again. They have called up almost 300,000 army reservists giving them a total force of around 500,000 soldiers compared to the Gaza force of 30,000. Israel’s air force and stockpile of weapons and rockets far exceed what Gaza has plus they have a nuclear arsenal. As the bombings continue unabated, thousands of troops and tanks are massing along Gaza’s northern border with Israel. A full scale border invasion is expected to happen within days—or hours!

One way of thinking about Israel’s retribution is that it is like killing an insect with a sledgehammer. The problem is the insect is sitting on a glass table.

Yesterday, Israel gave notice to the 1.1 million residents living in north Gaza that they had 24 hours to relocate to the southern part of the country. Hundreds of thousands are leaving their homes carrying what few belongings they can handle and walking south along streets blocked by wreckage from destroyed buildings. Virtually no transportation is available. The old, the disabled and the very young are stuck in north Gaza. And where will people go once they reach the southern part of Gaza? This tiny country (the size of Philadelphia) is one of the poorest and most densely populated countries in the world. Many have described it as a “hell hole,” others “the world’s largest prison.”

Israel has announced its goal is the “total and complete annihilation” of Hamas in Gaza, which sounds to many like the total annihilation of Gaza. About half the population of the country is under the age of fifteen. The Hamas army makes up only two percent of the population though a little over half of the populaton are Hamas sympathizers. The United Nations and several organizations involved in catastrophe relief have warned that if the course of action does not change, this could lead to one of the worst humanitarian disasters of all time and possibly could involve war crimes and crimes against humanity.

So, the question I raised earlier deserves a response—why did  Hamas do something like this? It seems insane. Certainly, Hamas must have known that Israel’s response would be far more than an eye for an eye. Certainly, they must have known that atrocities like this would require Israel to engage  in a fight to the finish that Hamas has no chance of winning.

My take on this is that knew exactly what they were doing. They were setting a trap for Israel. They were setting a trap that Israel will overreact so much that the initial sympathy for Israel will turn to scorn and hatred. They are betting that the Arab/Muslim world will unite, and that Hezbollah will attack Israel  from the north and other Arab or Muslim countries will come to their aid, making this an all-out war in the Holy Land. They are betting that Iran will have their back. They are betting that the peace initiatives between Israel and Saudi Arabia will be blocked. They are betting that Hamas has a better chance of leveling the playing field if the war becomes hand-to-hand combat in a guerilla style, hunt-and-kill war. The U.S. has seen this movie in Fallujah and Afghanistan. The endings were not happy ones for us.

And so far, Hamas would appear to be right. A half million people gathered in the main square in Baghdad yesterday to support Gaza and scorn Israel. Similar demonstrations happened in Beirut and Bahrain. Even in the U.S. at some elite colleges, students are speaking out against Israeli overreaction and are supporting the Palestinians.  If Israel continues to keep the lights and water off in Gaza and if it continues to blockade the country from getting food and supplies from ships, people will begin to die from starvation. Hospitals will be paralyzed, and the vast majority of causalities will be innocent civilians. If Israel continues to blow up buildings and obliterate neighborhoods, the number of deaths will skyrocket.  There is no question that it is going to get worse before it gets better. What will happen next?

If innocent Gaza citizens are spared massive casualties, then there may be a glimmer of hope. If not, the outcome could and probably would be  grim for all involved and for the planet Earth. The goal should be to find a pathway to avoid a worst case catastrophe. When you smash a mosquito on a glass table using a sledgehammer, the mosquito dies, but the glass shatters and goes everywhere.

Make no mistake: This is a big deal. The U.S., which appropriately wholeheartedly supports Israel as do many nations in the world, needs to help steer a path toward peace and humanitarian aid for the hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, who will be hurt the most. The alternative of total mass destruction of Gaza and it’s already destitute civilian population is unthinkable.

3 thoughts on “An Eye for an Eye

  1. I remember how much we all campaigned and struggled to keep Bush and the USA from invading Iraq after 9/11… Getting in is easy, but what about getting out – and what comes after? The natural reaction after such horrific attacks is to do something. The challenge is finding the right thing, and thinking several moves (and years) ahead… In the case of Israel and Gaza, these are lifelong neighbors for better or worse.

  2. Joe,
    Some years ago a local OB-GYN, a Lebanese Christian who came to the US for his training, married an American nurse, became an American citizen, and practiced here in LaGrange until he retired, had this to say about the Arab-Israeli conflict.
    There will never be peace in the Middle East as long as there is an Israel.
    One man’s opinion, but how discouraging can it get!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.