Uncategorized · April 5, 2024 6

A Sad Reflection on Our Unwillingness to See the Horror of Gaza

Marty Levine

April 5, 2024

Almost 6 months have passed since Hamas forces invaded Israel, killed about 1,200 people, and took hundreds more as hostages. 

I recognize that on that day Hamas did not just fight an oppressor’s army as an act of liberation.  I recognize that the rapes and other abuses that occurred are not excusable. I recognize that the killing of civilians going about their lives is not a just act of liberation.

 I also know that what occurred on October 7th shocked and frightened many of Israel’s citizens. Their belief that their government and military had the Palestinian situation under control was shattered. I recognize that the horror of that day touched almost every Israeli citizen directly and personally. The sense of safety and security that allowed Israeli Jews to live their lives while ignoring the conditions of the Occupation was shattered, leaving fear and uncertainty in its place.

I know that many American Jews experienced that day alongside their Israeli families and friends, and they were also left worried and fearful of a less certain future.

I know, sadly, that for many in my Jewish community starting my article with these sympathetic words is necessary if I want to ask them to consider what is being done in their name.

Almost six months after it began here’s how Haaretz’s daily recaps the results of Israel’s response to that one day of violence.

Israel declared war after Hamas killed at least 1,200 Israelis and wounded more than 3,300 on October 7. In Gaza, the Hamas-controlled health ministry reports that at least 32,845 Palestinians have been killed. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad hold hostage more than 129 soldiers and civilians, dead and alive, including foreign nationals

Even this liberal news source fails to mention the more than 70,000 Gazans who have been wounded, and the utter destruction of much of the infrastructure that is necessary to support the lives of the more than 2 million people surviving in Gaza without food, water, medical care or safe housing. Not mentioned are the hundreds of Palestinians killed on the West Bank or the aggressive efforts to move West Bank Palestinians from their homes and fields that began shortly after October 7th.

For so many supposedly progressive Americans and, of most concern to me, so many supposedly progressive American Jews, their reaction to the shock of October 7th has made it possible for them to ignore the horror of Israel’s response. They have accepted that Israel’s stated objective of destroying Hamas is justifiable at any cost because of what occurred on that one day. They have been able to close their eyes, and ears and shut down their moral compass, as they support Israeli actions that they would be condemning if they were the act of any other nation. Including the United States.

Their need to “stand with Israel” is so strong that it closes minds to any challenge to their conclusion that what Israel is doing, and how it is conducting its war, is necessary and just.

They forget that on October 6th they were condemning the Israeli Government as a threat to Israel’s democracy and saying that Israel needed to be saved from that government. Nowy are linking arms with it. Now that government and its Prime Minister are deserving of their full support and trust. They forget that Hamas did not spring up out of a black hole on October 7th and that there is a long and complicated history of what proceeded that day in Gaza and Israel/Palestine. They ignore the complicated relationship between Palestinians and Israelis and the nature of the decades of occupation. As I noted days ago they have decided that because there were terrible things done by some Palestinians on October 7th, they are free to erase the broader context of this moment.

This is a “1619 moment” when a disturbing and too often ignored history like our country’s historic, embedded racism intrudes on the present. Recognizing that history, that context, forces us to challenge some of the basic assumptions we have built our lives and our identities upon. One can begin the difficult process of introspection, learning, and reframing how we should go forward. Or one can shut down the process, block out what disturbs us, and keep on living as we have lived.

And those who go down that latter path too often have one more thing they feel driven to do, attack the people who dare to challenge them with context and history, who ask them to reconsider some basic beliefs and convictions.

And so those, like me, who have come to see Israel as an apartheid state are viewed as enemies not worthy of a place in the public arena.  Those, like me, who no longer believe a “2-state solution” is possible, are not just political opponents but are antisemites. 

The positions we are taking challenge the mythology of Israel’s democracy because we recognize that for millions of Palestinians, there is no democracy under Israeli rule.

The positions we are taking challenge the belief that it is possible to have a Democratic Jewish nation when it has millions of non-Jews as its citizens or subjects.

The positions we are taking challenge the view that continued oppression and brutality can ever destroy the voice of the oppressed nor will it guarantee peace and safety.

The positions we are taking ask others to honestly consider whether Israel’s war in Gaza is just or if it falls outside the pale, and if these are acceptable actions for a nation that claims to be a democracy and a beacon of freedom.

We have challenged them to stand up for their progressive principles by calling for an immediate ceasefire and for our nation to stop supporting Israel with weapons and international diplomatic shields.

In response, I hear a never-ending demand that we damn Hamas for its cruelty. That we hold them accountable for the brutality of their actions – for the rapes and murders they have committed.

And it is a never-ending demand.

On October 10th I published these words “There is no excuse for the horrors that are emerging as the story of the day. Killing children has no justification. Killing civilians has no justification. Taking men, women, and children as hostages has no justification. Celebrating the death and destruction of others has no justification. The Hamas fighters who did this cannot be justified or excused.”

No chorus of “Dayenu” (it would be enough) was heard. Perhaps because I did not specifically condemn rape? Or, more likely, I was not agreeing with Israeli policy and actions.

My experience has been mirrored by so many others, advocates for the Palestinian people and leaders of humanitarian groups trying to protect the innocent victims, have been attacked by Progressive Jewish leaders because their condemnations of Hamas on October 7th were not judged to be enough.

We have reached a moment when I must conclude that the need to support the fantasy of a just, humane, and democratic Israel is stronger than the commitment to protecting the humanity of all people. The need to protect that fantasy Israel is stronger than the cries of the wounded children having arms and legs amputated without anesthesia. The need to push off the angst of uncertainty that seeing reality will bring is stronger than the commitment to justice for all.

Last week Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy reflected on the reality of Israel that we are seeing in its devastation of Gaza :

This is an awful situation. First, we did away with peace as a value, as a goal and vision, and now we’ve turned the war into a value we must fight for against the whole world. The few against the many, we’ll fight for our right to war. The few against the many, we’ll fight for our right to kill and destroy indiscriminately.

The greatest threat to Israel now is stopping the war. Where will we go? That war is the most satanic human invention has been forgotten. Make peace, not war – that’s for the gullible and the stupid. Continuing the war is what unites Israel in a tight bond. We’re ready to pay any price to continue the war, including ruining relations with the United States, not exactly a renowned peace seeker, which is also demanding: Enough.

It’s the lust for war, and nothing else. Not only is nobody forcing it on us, not even the horrific October 7 – we chose it, of all the nations. And we of all the nations choose to continue doing it, without any resistance in Israel. We must have Rafah, and then Baalbek, and then we’ll return to the north of the Gaza Strip because we must. We have to do it. And then Tehran will be a must as well, because there’s no other choice.

Six months is long enough for me to conclude that this is the reality of too many in my American Jewish community.

I fear for our future.