I write this after the close of Shabbat, a difficult Shabbat. For those of us who are observant there is a news blackout of some 25 hours, but the mind doesn’t shut down.
I had hoped, once again, to share some facts about what is going on, and as well as something of my perspective. But I am finding it difficult to write, for the situation is shifting as I sit before my computer. As to perspective, I will share more after Shavuot, when perhaps the moment will be calmer.
It is 3:30 AM as I put this out, and I ask you to forgive me if there are minor errors of grammar or syntax in what I’ve written. I truly hope not!
The fighting continues in fierce intensity with a tremendous barrage of hundreds of rockets aimed at Tel Aviv and other cities along the coast starting at midnight tonight. At this point, close to 2,500 rockets have been launched at Israel since Monday. We have 10 dead.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has made it clear that we are not interested in a ceasefire – we intend to keep going. He says we want to meet our objectives before stopping. Earlier tonight he addressed the nation briefly:
“There is no operation more just and ethical than the operation which we are conducting now in Gaza. There is no country which would sit with its hands folded in face of the threat of death from missiles… (emphasis added)
“The citizens of the Gaza border area are living in hell…
“I very much appreciate the support of President Biden and the US stance in support of Israel’s right to defend itself.”
Precisely what the military’s objectives are is certainly not clear at this juncture, nor am I implying they necessarily should be.
I, along with a good part of Israel, long to see Hamas raise a white flag, following which they would no longer control Gaza. But the Arab Muslim culture is an honor culture – they never concede defeat. Nor do I have the sense that Israel is considering a ground war – terribly costly in human terms – that drags on for many months. In fact, as there are hints that Israel will agree to a ceasefire after objectives are met, this signals something less than complete victory as the goal.
Perhaps there is some other solution being sought. What Israel appears to be aiming for is the elimination of Hamas leaders (as it is possible – some attempted assassinations have not been successful) along with elimination of the bulk of their weaponry and the destruction of their tunnels.
So far the IDF is doing a fantastic job in many aspects of the campaign, although there is still much more to be done.
What is not acceptable is a situation in which at the end of this conflict the major Hamas leaders (who are deep in hiding) are left standing and manage to recoup utilizing foreign “relief” funds, so that in a few years they are ready to come at us again. Something has to change this time.
The leaders who most need to be eliminated are Mohammed Dief, supreme leader of the Hamas military, and Gaza head Yahya Sinwar (pictured), one more vicious than the other.
In a stunning operation on Thursday night, the Air Force flew 160 aircraft over Gaza City, dropping 450 bombs in 35 minutes. With this we managed to take out miles of their carefully constructed tunnel system and some of their best fighting troops at the same time. That was because Israeli forces were at the Gaza border in strength and Hamas had the impression that we were about to begin a ground invasion. Their crack troops were then sent into the tunnels, with the expectation that they would be leaping out at IDF fighters in short order. Instead they were attacked from the air.
Should there be plans for a ground invasion (how likely this is remains unclear), the destruction of a part of that tunnel system would be enormously important.
Another operation that must be noted is the Israeli attack on the al Jala in Gaza City. It housed some media offices, but the IDF issued a statement saying the building contained “assets belonging to the military intelligence of the Hamas terrorist organization,” and suggesting that the offices of the civilian media were used by Hamas as human shields. “Hamas deliberately locates its military assets in the heart of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip.”
What ensued after this were not-surprising charges – including from the UN Secretary General – about Israel interfering with free journalism, etc.
But in point of fact, declared the IDF, “the civilians who were in the building were warned and given sufficient time to evacuate the building.” The method used is “knocking on the roof” with special missiles. Two such warnings were given.
And here’s the incredible part: the owner of the building then got on the phone with the IDF to argue in Arabic that another 10 minutes was needed. The Israeli officer replied that they already had a hour, what did they need 10 more minutes for?
This apparently is with regard to another tower that was taken down by Israel. From Palestinian Authority TV:
“When they were informed that this tower will be attacked… the site was completely evacuated. The block, the street, the civilian buildings, and the residential buildings in the area – completely – including children and women, and we saw it…
“The guard who works in this tower was warned through a phone call from the Israeli Security Agency. They told him word by word: ‘Evacuate the tower and tell them that this tower will be attacked. It will be attacked any moment.’ After this conversation this tower was attacked about two hours later.”
Arab Israeli violence has increased in mixed Jewish-Arab cities such as Lod. The picture shows rioting in the (Arab) Shufat neighborhood of Jerusalem. Unrest has spread, as well, to Judea & Samaria.
I will have a great deal to say about this situation, which is tearing at my heart, in my next posting. But here I wish to make one point very clearly:
Occasionally there are media reports about Jewish violence against Arabs in the course of the unrest. But that Jewish violence is a miniscule portion of the Arab violence. It is a reaction (albeit an improper one!) to the Arab violence. What is more, the Jewish community speaks out forcefully against it.
Yet, some media are making it appear that the violence emanates equally from both sides. It is not true! References to a “civil war” are not true. The Arab violence is more in the nature of a “revolt,” or, in the assessment of the Shin Bet, terrorism, plain and simple.
This will be put down, but there is damage being done to the fabric of our society.
I wish to make the point here, as well, that it is not all Arabs who are behaving violently. There are those who are pleading for good relations. This, too, I will address in more detail.
Tomorrow night and Monday we observe Shavuot, with another news blackout. Shavuot – one of our three major festivals – marks the receiving of the Torah at Sinai. It is a time for extended study through the night and the reading of the Book of Ruth.
And so we will observe, and study, and pray. We cannot – we must not – allow our observance to diminish during this terrible time. Quite the contrary. But who could deny the heavy heart?
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.