The viciousness of it all caught everyone off guard, even Gazans I know.
Now that this brutality is being returned in spades by Israel, it does not catch anyone off guard, especially Gazans. For them, brutality is what they have come to expect.
If one side does it to universal condemnation which it surely must, then how does the other side do it with applause, American support and arms, and the world baying for Hamas blood. When one says Gaza, one has to mean Gazan children, 850,000 of them, caught in the crossfire. 583 are already dead since Saturday. Israel has averaged almost 100 a day so far. What a sacrifice of the innocents. How many more?
Israel thinks just like Hamas, that violence is the path to victory and in pursuing it, puts all Gaza and Palestine at risk once again, but it is Israel who is at risk in a scary new way. Some are calling it Israel’s 9-11 but that is a poor comparison because the enemy is within, and next door, not 8000 miles away. That level of threat so close is intolerable.
Gazans will count the dead as always. They have no choice. But will Israel endure another 100, 500, 1000, or 5000 casualties? I never experienced Israel as stoic. I wonder if, like Northern Ireland, Israel will eventually cry enough of blood. Mothers will form a political party and demand their kids come home alive. Families of the hostages will give up war just to have their kids return. One cannot celebrate victory by creating a new national graveyard, or adding to the list of dead heroes.
But the blood lust is up. “Cry Havoc, release the dogs of war,” said Marc Anthony in the play “Julius Caesar.” If war can win, Lincoln thought, make it bloody, overpowering and brief, and declare a gentle peace, but Israel v Hamas feels like another Vietnam and a quagmire. Its Israel that has the most to lose. Gaza has little left to gain. What is life in a cage? This time, they will die standing up, not running away like in 1948.
It will be bloody and cruel and like any war, longer than anyone might anticipate. The longer it goes, the less Israel might stomach loss because in the end, after 75 years, the project to create a safe and deserved home for the Jews, has failed. That, not another Gaza war, is the catastrophe.
As much as one can hate Hamas, they didn’t change their tactics or their intention. What changed is that the Israel government which the people elected, not once but five times, thought they could manage the systemic oppression of 5 million people and not have to watch their backs. Bibi has allowed the religious right to undermine any rule of law and escalated the war on Palestinians in the West Bank killing over 200 before October 7. The soldiers that should have been on the border with Gaza were in the West Bank celebrating in the illegal settlements. The ordinary, innocent citizens of Israel were left defenceless. No one can defend Hamas, ever, but who left the door open?
That was the hubris that gave the enemy the opportunity, and it is that same hubris that catapaults Israel into war, one they have to win, but one that everyone will lose.