Beyond the red alert

In the case of Gaza, Hamas, a genocidal terror organization, is the sovereign that must be held to account unequivocally.

Palestinians take part in a rally marking the 31st anniversary of Hamas' founding, in Gaza City (photo credit: IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA / REUTERS)
Palestinians take part in a rally marking the 31st anniversary of Hamas' founding, in Gaza City
On Tuesday, Israelis began their day sleepily, only to discover that they are under fire. Hundreds of rockets targeted civilian populations, turning back a million children on their way to schools and their parents on their way to work, in more than half the country. Schools, universities, hospitals, public offices and private businesses were advised to shut down. Clear and calm instructions were broadcast by every radio and television station, reminding civilians how to behave during a red alert siren. Public shelters were opened for all those who do not have a designated “safe space” in their homes, and apartment building main entrances were unlocked so that passersby could take refuge in the first floor of their staircases in the case of a blaring siren. Drivers and passengers on public transportation were reminded that upon hearing a siren, they must “calmly” stop and step out of the vehicle, lie down with their hands overhead and wait for 10 minutes.
Beyond the red alert, the blaring sirens should serve to remind us that the unacceptable, multi-year routine of the many individuals, families and communities along the Gaza border is, in fact, a reality for us all. The survival instinct and necessity to create and maintain a semblance of normalcy – for the sake of our sanity, our kids, our continued existence in a global reality – perhaps requires us to differentiate ourselves from others suffering daily, who are an hour’s drive away. However, we must remember the stark truth – that it is always our reality as well. It is randomly them and not us. The admirable resiliency of the civilian population on the Gaza border for nearly two decades, whose intolerable reality many of us briefly joined again yesterday, should serve as a reminder to us all.
Beyond the red alert, the blaring sirens should serve as a wake-up call as to the true intent of Iron Dome, lest it continues to do us a disservice in the war against terror, rather than protecting us from it. Israeli ingenuity that created this technology was intended to grant decision makers and the military additional time to best assess and address enemies who openly avow our destruction, utilizing civilian fear as a tactic. Ironically, it seems Iron Dome has in fact enabled local and international assessments and news reports, to say that there are “no injuries” to the Israeli side.
However, dig a little deeper and discover that there are entire communities doing all they can to survive, and with fear – in fact, the very purpose the use of terror serves. The trauma and post-trauma of children, parents, teachers and mental health providers are exacerbated with every blaring siren. Though they are resilient, at a well-understood cost of their own fear, they expect a holistic strategy, intended to address the terrorists that are an arm’s reach away. They understand that Iron Dome without clear, long-term policy, undermines all it was meant to provide over time, further empowering and encouraging continued use of terror.
Beyond the red alert, the weekly call of ordinary citizens gathering on the Gaza border to the Israeli government and the international community is: to comprehend the relevance of the Goldin case and cause of the ever-present challenges that the blaring sirens represent; to internalize the stark truth, that it is all of our reality and it is randomly them and not us driving the message; to not be fooled by the resiliency of this family, surrounded by incredible citizens of all ages, from all walks of life, religious affiliation and political standing; and to heed their call that this case and cause, along with Oron Shaul, and civilians Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, are but the canary in the mineshaft for sirens that will continue to blare so long as they are not returned to their families, immediately and unconditionally. Theirs is a test case for the imperative to protect and uphold international law, ethics and basic human decency, violated with impunity, over and over; undermining the very rights which they are intended to protect, only to be answered with silent internal and international complacency.
BEYOND THE red alert, the blaring sirens must serve to deepen our comprehension of Israel and its people. They offer insights into the spectrum between complacency and panic in Israel, which should be understood differently than in countries not under constant threat. This is perhaps an additional, currently mistakenly unaddressed layer in the widening gap between Israel and Diaspora Jewry, but that is for another day. Israel is in a perpetual prisoners’ dilemma, only deepening and broadening the imperative for it to rise from the docket of the accused, while complicating if not negating its ability to do so, in the face of the locally and internationally accepted delegitimization, dehumanization and double standard applied to it.
Beyond the red alert, the expected unconditional support for the IDF and security infrastructure, for a precise operation, surgically targeting an arch-terrorist directly responsible for multiple attacks on civilians; acknowledgment of the near-impossible self-applied ethics guiding it; and commendation of brave civilians under paralyzing threat for having the longevity of breath to keep an appearance of calm, is met with local and international duplicity, which must be exposed and condemned. Until such time, continued blaring sirens should not be a surprise. In a reality where terror-sponsoring regimes and their strategically dispersed proxies dictate reality – while benefiting from rules of a game which they do not endorse, play or respect – it is insufficient to address only the symptoms.
In the case of Gaza, Hamas, a genocidal terror organization, is the sovereign that must be held to account unequivocally. Just as in the case of Iran, the cynical double standard, enabling a genocidal regime to act with impunity, is to the detriment of their own civilians, whose rights are trampled by the very sovereign empowered to rule. This is compounded by the lip service paid – that “neither side is interested in an escalation” – deepening a false moral equation between a law-abiding, ethically bound, democratic state and a terror organization intent on its destruction, at any and all cost. The laws of war are intended to regulate conflict between law-abiding states, not conflict between a law-abiding state – Israel – and genocidal terror organizations, sponsored and subsidized by a murderous regime – Iran – which mocks, abuses and abhors the law and the values it was intended to uphold, promote and protect.
Beyond the red alert, local and international denunciations of Israel – for defending itself from an individual responsible for hundreds of attacks on its citizens; and the drawing of moral equation statements about “both parties,” rather than clear condemnation of the hundreds of rockets paralyzing the country – serve as fuel for continued success of terror supporting regimes, in the region and beyond. This double standard, which expects and accepts any country to defend its citizens other than Israel, strengthened by detestable internal voices, empowers the Iranian regime and all of its proxies to continue in their open pursuit of annihilation, utilizing any and all means, without global repercussion.
BEYOND THE red alert, just as the international community and its institutions’ failure – to demand the immediate and unconditional return of soldiers Goldin, Shaul and civilians Mengistu and al-Sayed – is the canary in the mineshaft for the State of Israel, so is Israel the canary in the mineshaft for the free and democratic world. Iran, a global state sponsor of terror, is activating its proxies on our borders to tighten its grip, while continuing to escalate its partially documented and reported uranium enrichment.
In response, the regime calling for the destruction of Israel – which openly and brutally violates its own citizens basic rights daily – was lauded just last week for “promoting and protecting human rights,” by 85% of the delegates to the UN Human Rights Committee, including the recently joined Venezuela. The deafening international silence in the face of this cynicism facilitates and empowers a regime that subjugates women, tortures human rights dissidents, executes homosexuals, and spreads hatred, war and terror across the region, encouraging other murderous regimes – watching and noting the global response, or lack thereof.
Beyond the red alert, the blaring sirens must serve as a wake-up call for the institution founded on the ashes of the Holocaust, the culmination of a well-planned and implemented process of delegitimization, dehumanization and double-standard, toward a vulnerable community. In response to what was possibly the darkest chapter of human history, the very institutions founded on the ashes of “never again” are silent witnesses and enablers of “again and again.”
Eighty-one years after Kristallnacht, marked earlier this week, the sirens are blaring. They remind us of the imperative to learn the lessons of history, and to apply the insights to an evolving reality, preventing current and future atrocities. Compounded by the double standards permitted to thrive, and continued silence in the face of global mass atrocities suffered by today’s truly vulnerable communities – most recently the Yazidis in Turkey, the Kurds and Christians in Syria – the sirens blare in a silent world, once again failing or unwilling to discern and condemn the true perpetrators of genocide, dismissing the lessons of history, and sanctioning and permitting truly murderous regimes to act with impunity.
This culture of impunity is the root of what ails our world, beyond the red alerts that are only symptoms. Until the imperative understanding is internalized and applied, locally and internationally – that the reality, approach, obligations and privileges of Israeli citizens on the Gaza border must be equal to the reality, approach, obligations and privileges of all Israeli citizens; that the reality, approach, obligations and privileges of the Goldin, Shaul, Mengistu and al-Sayed families must be equal to the reality, approach, obligations and privileges of all families; and that the reality, approach, obligations and privileges of the State of Israel must be equal to the reality, approach, obligations and privileges of every other country – the sirens will continue blaring.
The writer is part of the legal team advising the Goldin family. A legal and social activist and publicist, she is researching the topic of free speech as part of the “Human Rights under Pressure – Ethics, Law and Politics” doctoral program, and is a research fellow at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT).