‘What planet are you living on?” I longed to ask an acquaintance this week. Her bleeding heart is large and in the right place, but it beats at a pace completely out of rhythm with our reality.
“Why don’t Israel and Hamas just sit down and talk instead of killing each other?” she asked, with astonishing naivete for someone who lives in the Middle East.
A London-based radio interviewer asked me a similar question last week.
“Why don’t the US and al-Qaida talk?” I countered and immediately heard a smug voice with an unmistakably “Gotcha!” tone asking whether I was comparing Hamas with al-Qaida. Controlling the urge to inquire whether he thought a comparison with the Boy Scouts was more fitting, I took a deep breath – followed by a silent sigh – and pointed out that Hamas and al-Qaida are both Islamist, jihadist terrorist organizations and, yes, they are fundamentally the same.
For the sake of the acquaintance, in case she still has any illusions, this is not some kind of schoolyard fight that can be resolved when a teacher steps in. One side has no qualms about killing the teacher, the principal and other pupils. The other wants to get a decent education, grow up and use what it has learned for the benefit of all.
There have been many moments recently when I have wondered what planet we live on – and about the future of that planet. Increasingly, it feels like Israelis have been inhabiting a parallel universe. I don’t find it difficult to explain most of Israel’s actions during Operation Protective Edge. I find it hard to understand the enemy. So much hatred, such dedication to bringing about the downfall of Israel. It has reached nearly inconceivable levels.
This summer will be remembered as the summer when Israelis were reminded there is always an enemy out there just waiting to pounce. The threats change – as do the creative means Israel comes up with to counter them – but they do not go away. And the world is too scared – or too indifferent – to help. As a friend put it: The world likes dead Jews, it’s Jews who defend themselves that it finds hard to take.
Forgive me for sounding paranoid. I have spent days looking at photos of terror tunnels and learning of Hamas plans to use them to steal into Israel, kidnap or kill as many civilians as possible and abduct the bodies of the victims. The harder I try to wrap my head around that, the more my head hurts.
Tunnel after tunnel after tunnel, all carefully constructed, month after month, with the sole purpose of causing death and destruction.
If the abduction and killings in June of the three Jewish teenagers hitching a ride home from their studies caused decent people to wonder what new low our enemies could sink to, last month we discovered the answer in the form of terror tunnels leading to a kibbutz kindergarten and dining room, among other places.
A psychologist explaining on Israel Radio how to handle the new situation warned against discussing the tunnel threat with young children.
That our children, from North to South, all know how to respond during a rocket attack should be shocking. And it is enough. They should not be exposed to the idea that the ground could simply open up one day and they could be kidnapped by a monster. It’s hard enough for adults to understand, after all.
Among the smartest use of memes to explain the current conflict from where I am uncomfortably sitting are two images: One shows a young girl’s bedroom with pink, white and flowery decor; soft toys on the bed – and a big hole in the floor. The slogan “MONSTERS DO EXIST” is painted on the wall. The other meme depicts a masked jihadist, Kalashnikov in hand, emerging from a manhole in New York with the slogan: “Just try to imagine terror tunnels under your streets. How would you react?” These and similar images are a good attempt to bring the message home, but when your home is thousands of miles from the Middle East and your nearest neighbors are Canadians, even post-9/11, the extent of the threat of terror tunnels is hard to fathom. Let alone trying to explain it to island nations like Britain. The Englishman’s home is famously his castle. It is built with a moat around it, not a terror tunnel underneath.
Also, the desire not to know is stronger than the desire to understand. If Israel can be the bad guys – as it always has been – then you don’t have to deal with everything that facing jihadist terror movements implies. It is more comfortable – and far more politically correct – for Londoners to try to forget 7/7 when terrorists abused the Underground to carry out an atrocity in 2005.
Never has the “pro-Palestinian” collaboration between the far Left and the Islamists been so pronounced or so peculiar. The tunnels excavated from inside homes, hospitals, schools and mosques in Gaza put all the nearby civilian population at risk. And there is increasing evidence that some of the dangerous digging was carried out by children. Where is the outcry about their rights and the dangers they faced to satisfy the bloodlust of Hamas and Islamic Jihad? The world can’t stand the pictures of the dead and injured children in Gaza (some of whom were killed by Hamas’s own errant rockets, by the way). And rightly so. It is an outrage. But the blame should be placed on the terror movements that have triggered and prolonged the hostilities, serially breaking “humanitarian cease-fires” and holding their own population hostage.
Even if, for argument’s sake, we were able to find a way to talk to the terrorist organization which has sworn to kill us, how on earth would we be able to trust its word? How healthy is the society that hides its weapons under hospitals? And what do you think the kids are learning in UN-affiliated schools where rockets are stockpiled? “We condemn the group or groups who endangered civilians by placing these munitions in our school,” said UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness, after the third such case was revealed. “This is yet another flagrant violation of the neutrality of our premises. We call on all the warring parties to respect the inviolability of UN property.”
Gunness carefully did not cite what group or groups were using its facilities as an ammunition depot. He doesn’t mind if he creates the impression that Israel sent soldiers down the tunnels to plant evidence.
While remaining calm when interviewed by Israel’s Tzinur Layla program on Channel 10, spokesman Gunness was seen to unprofessionally break down and cry at the end of an Al Jazeera interview. I interpreted it as a plea for more sympathy – and Qatari riyals.
I don’t blame the average Gazan for not complaining too loudly – Hamas has been known to stamp out protests with summary executions (and I suspect that the deaths are then added to the list of purported Israeli atrocities). I do, however, point an accusing finger at all those around the world who are free to protest and choose instead to indict Israel. They are doing nothing to stop the bloodshed, and certainly nothing to “Free Gaza,” despite the slogans on their banners.
While Israelis face the threat of very real kidnappings at the hands of terrorists, the Western world seems to have become a willing hostage of those same terror movements.
President Barack Obama might think he is making the US safer by standing by the Muslim Brotherhood, appeasing nuclearizing Iran, and dropping or humiliating its natural allies in the Middle East. He’s wrong.
Hamas does not need to keep its rocket arsenal to defend itself; it wants the weapons to attack others. That is what the billions of dollars of aid has been spent on. Israel is the first to come under attack, but we won’t be the last. Witness the atrocities against Christian communities wherever the jihadists have taken control around the globe.
Calling Planet Earth: SOS. Don’t take action for the sake of the Jews; do it for your own sake. We only have one world. Make it safer by uniting against terror. A strong Israel isn’t the problem, it’s part of the solution.
The writer is editor of The International Jerusalem Post.