The point of view of a liberal Israeli who has hoped for peace all his life.
This weekend Israel suffered atrocities on a scale the Jewish community has not experienced since the Holocaust. Hamas brutally massacred families in their homes, murdered children in front of their parents, raped women, butchered music festival attendees, and kidnapped countless innocent people. They then celebrated their heinous crimes online; releasing videos of unimaginable violence and parading kidnapped, bleeding women through the streets of Gaza where they were jeered and spit on. Some videos were sent directly to the families of the victims. With these acts ended the last hope for peace with Palestine in Gaza under its current leadership.
I am a hardcore liberal. I grew up in Israel and was educated by liberal parents who told me there will be peace by the time I am 18 and that I will not need to go to the army. Of course, I did. I served for three hard years, yet still believed in peace. I believed that by the time my kids turned 18 they would not need to go to the army, but they are 19 now and there is war, again.
After watching the videos of the horrific massacres followed by celebrations in the streets of Gaza, I can tell you there isn’t a single Israeli who thinks there is a chance for peace under the current Palestinian leadership. We can pray for peace, but it feels futile and empty of real hope.
Israelis have finally realized what the (elected) Palestinian leadership in Gaza was telling us all along: they want all Israelis dead. We are not humans to them. We are to be slaughtered, it says so in their charter. There is nothing short of dying or leaving Israel that will make Hamas stop trying to kill us.
I used to think this was about the occupation. That if Israel gave the Palestinians the West Bank and Gaza, there will be peace. In fact, I saw Gaza as a hopeful experiment in that regard. The Israeli army and police left Gaza in 2005 and let the Palestinians manage their own society. Since then, Israel has experienced endless waves of terrorist attacks.
There are countless historical reasons for how we arrived in this incredibly complex situation. From the displacement of Palestinians, to the Holocaust, the UN resolutions, wars and settlements, all the way back to the expulsion of Jews from the land thousands of years ago. To be honest, all that history is not really relevant. It is not relevant because of three things: It can not be agreed upon, it was done by people long gone, and it does not help us reach a solution.
There are 7.8 million people who were born in Israel, whose parents and grandparents were born in Israel. European Americans will not give the entire U.S back to the Indigenous people, the Latin Americans are not going to leave South America and go back to Europe, and the Israelis will always live in Israel. What’s done is done.
So, what is the solution?
There are several options — all super painful.
One option we’ve tried in the past is that Israel hits the Hamas hard, and we get two to three years of pseudo-peace before rockets rain down on us again. Israelis are sick and tired of this option. I expect Palestinians are as well.
Another option that died on the table is peace talks. You cannot negotiate with people that want you dead. The Israeli liberals, myself included, have failed to listen to the Palestinian leadership for over 40 years when they clearly said again and again that they will never recognize Israel and the rights of the Jews in Israel. They are not interested in peace at all. This is fueled by fundamentalism coming from Iran — any Palestinian leader that will agree to sign a paper recognizing Israel will be murdered before the ink dries.
The current option is total annihilation of Hamas, and enforcing a new Palestinian leadership willing to work hard to eradicate the fundamentalist influence. This will undoubtedly result in many Palestinian casualties as Hamas are deeply entrenched (and highly supported) in the civilian population in Gaza.
The most optimistic option is that the people of Gaza renounce Hamas, and expel them from leadership. I am still hopeful that with moderate leadership, time, and good will, we can work things out. I am not confident the Palestinians are ready to do that yet.
Most people do not live next to neighboring countries that actively want to kill you. That rape your women, kill your babies, kidnap your elderly, and massacre your families. It is easy to judge Israelis from afar. But ask yourself, what would you do if you lived under that threat from your neighbors? If your kids had to sleep in a shelter? If you saw your friend’s daughter being violated and shamed? Being liberal from afar and saying “This is not right, war is so bad” is easy. But just remember that you couldn’t even be a liberal or a member of the LGBTQ+ community or hold beliefs different from your government if you lived in Gaza. Regardless of your ethnicity or religion, you’d be put to death.
I still hope for peace, but I no longer hold the illusion that extreme Palestinian leadership in Gaza could possibly feel the same. Until they understand that peace is their only option for survival, we are at war. It will take time and there is no escaping the suffering all involved will endure. But maybe one day our children will know peace in the Middle East.