srael makes war under the cover of a legacy of victimhood. With impunity and at times indiscriminately, it attacks all that its Palestinian enemies possess with a relentless ardor that has much in common with an old concept coined by its one-time mass murdering enemies, blitzkrieg. A monstrous terrorist attack is met by actions intended to exterminate its desperate rival, the militant organization Hamas. To the table of this effort, now many weeks old, Israel as always brings its own legacy of Auschwitz extermination and a view, judging from the ferocity of what it has labeled “mighty vengeance,” that it can and must conduct a cleansing exercise to ensure this holy virility gets unrestricted military due.
Ceasefires are, to the Israel of today, an unwarranted gift to an enemy that in September killed more than 1,000 Israelis and also took hostages. That hospitals are bombed as part of the reprisal makes no difference since the grandparents of 21st century Jews were exposed to far worse in 20th century Europe. So it is that now, the death of a single Israeli Jew, is calculated as requiring the death of ten times that number of adversaries, an equation ironically last used by the Nazis who, if attacked in an occupied city, killed ten or twenty of the local population. Ask Prague and Rome about mighty vengeance and the consequences of reprisals.
Israel’s disproportionately heinous campaign does in no way relieve Hamas of its moral and military responsibility for awakening the always-ready and American-backed juggernaut. Yet in the miserable context of Middle Eastern reality a question arises: what can this Palestinian opposition group, desperately outmanned and outgunned, do to nag a nation eager to push its settlements deep into pieces of land once the property of greater Palestine? Is it not inevitable, as was the case with Ireland and then Northern Ireland, that miniature guerilla armies, desperate in their own right, strike blows against the empire? Is it not obvious in the age of resented immigration that the West and the United States has little patience for Muslim darkies (an epithet thought but never spoken)? Did the U.S. not cultivate a wide-ranging anti-Muslim rhetoric in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks? Did it not create an environment in which all Islam was radical Islam, as if an entire faith could represent evil?
In this regard, America and Israel are great friends, both eager to put an end to the Palestinian “problem” in any way possible.
At the same time, it is hard to imagine 20th century Washington, very much in the Cold War and also very much aware of Stalin’s atrocious excesses, standing pat as Israel conducted a Sherman’s March campaign of the kind it has adopted now. A 20th century American president would very likely have been more forceful in demanding an end to World War II-style bombing and pushing very visibly for a ceasefire. But 9/11 ruined America’s sense of balance and diluted its efforts, once standard, to bring Israeli wrath to heel. Now Hamas, like Hezbollah and Iran, must be taught lessons at all costs, an approach that allows for the indiscriminate and the disproportionate. In this series, Israel is the good guy.
If only there were a good guy – on either side.
In the early days of the Vietnam war, Curtis LeMay, a decorated American aviator and retired general, famously insisted that the United States could win the war in that country outright if it only used air power without remorse. North Vietnam, he said, should be bombed back “into the Stone Age.” Soon B-53 bombers began daily raids destined to continue for years. But the Vietcong, that era’s guerrilla equivalent to Hamas, time and again found ways to rise up from the urban and jungle rubble. The Stone Age never came.
Nor will it come to Hamas, no matter how intense the Israeli campaign.
As was the case in Vietnam, the enemy Israel faces is not merely a terrorist organization out to murder Jews but a nationalist movement pledged to the future of Palestine, no matter the method or the cost in human life. This war is not about one state defending itself and its people but about two such states, one far smaller than the other and ostracized by the West, its desire to be free of Israeli oppression derided as a figment of some terrorist imagination.
It is an ugly portrayal, and a false one, but this is of no consequence to Israel, busy as it is transforming Gaza into a Stone Age landscape soon to belong wholly to avenging Israelis who will proudly display their trophy. Obtained, they will say, in self-defense.
A brick-in-the-wall line the West will accept but Hamas and Hezbollah will not, setting the stage for a sequel to what we are witnessing today.