In 1916, in an attempt to restore revolutionary relevance, Pancho Villa of Mexico attacked a border town in New Mexico to elicit an American response. President Woodrow Wilson complied. He sent an expeditionary force to Mexico, led by General John Pershing, who drove out Villa and his revolutionaries for 11 months while restoring order to our border. This provided valuable tactical experience for Pershing and his forces for the WWI command he would assume the following year.
One hundred and five years later, Hamas, funded and equipped by Iran, a terrorist organization committed to its charter for the destruction of Israel and the assassination of Jews, skillfully seized an opportunity to reach the Palestinian “street” and to belittle the position of the Palestinian Authority by launching rockets over Jerusalem against Israeli “oppressors”.
Since then, at the time of this writing, more than 3,200 rockets have been launched indiscriminately against Israeli civilians. Israel responded vigorously, sending nearly 1,000 airstrikes and land strikes, killing dozens of Hamas commanders and degrading miles of tunnels that were used to store military resources and troops and serve as a launching pad for attacks on Israel.
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What caused this conflagration in the first place? Like a Rube Goldberg craft, it was the confluence of a number of factors.
The simultaneous end of Ramadan and the celebration of the reunification of Jerusalem, with hateful rallying cries from both sides, created an explosive situation that led to riots. In response, Israeli police raided the Al Aqsa Mosque, creating another flashpoint. Hundreds of people have been injured or arrested.
Adding to the effect of the PA’s cancellation of the elections, which thwarted Hamas’s likely victory and disrupted the likely outcome of the upcoming Israeli election, Hamas has brazenly called for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from East Jerusalem. which has been rightly ignored. Rocket fire at Jerusalem then ensued, expanding to include all of Israel.
Hamas’s opening was underpinned by the controversy over the expulsion of Sheik Jarrah, where a court determined that several houses in a neighborhood in East Jerusalem were legitimately owned by Jews expelled by the Jordanians during the War of Independence of 1948. Until the Six Day War united Jerusalem, no Jews were allowed to worship in East Jerusalem; synagogues were set on fire and cemeteries desecrated. As an olive branch, the court allowed Arab residents to rent the space. It was only after their refusal to pay the rent that the court authorized the eviction process. This decision created a cause famous for Palestinians and Western progressives.
But as law professors Avi Bell and Eugene Kontorovich argued: “The laws involved are the same that any homeowner would rely on. There is only one objection in this case: the owners are Jews. Western progressives want this neighborhood to be Judenrein, a condition that even the Jewish state must uphold. Meanwhile, Palestinians who sell land to Jews in any Palestinian Authority-controlled territory are severely punished. Are progressives protesting against this ethnic cleansing?
What are some of the lessons to be learned?
As in previous wars, Israel seeks to protect civilians through civil defense, the Iron Dome system and the warnings it gives to civilians in Gaza before attacks. In contrast, Hamas sees this war as a win-win: the more Israeli civilians killed, the better. The more Gaza civilians living in building complexes housing military assets killed, another plus. This is because the media is posting the rubble and lamenting Israel’s “disproportionate” response, ignoring Hamas’ use of civilians as cannon fodder.
Hamas will now attempt to supplant the dying PA as a protector of Palestinian rights. If he succeeds, the search for a two-state solution is pipe dream.
Israel’s resilience, the 90% effectiveness of the Iron Dome, Israel’s tactical success in degrading the miles of Hamas tunnels – built by international funds diverted for humanitarian purposes – send a clear message to the world. ‘Iran and Hezbollah. The message is that Israel will not be intimidated.
US support for the Israelis has, to this day, been consistent, despite vocal complaints from progressives. The big question on the horizon will be whether the United States will demand Israel’s acquiescence to the Iran deal as a price for its support. Or will Iranian support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad deter the United States from making a deal with Iran? This country is the world leader in the promotion of terrorism.
The riots in Israeli towns with large Arab populations, which have left people dead, injured, burning synagogues and extensive property damage are disheartening. It will take a lot of soul-searching on the part of Arab and Jewish leaders to heal this divide in the heart of Israel. This may require greater investment in the Arab sector and curb the activities of extremists, including the Kahanists of the latter days.
Finally, the precedent role of an Arab party as kingmaker in Israeli politics has dissipated with the return of Naftali Bennet to the Likud coalition. As this war has put security at the forefront, it seems likely that a right-wing government will prevail.
As in any crisis, Israel may have made mistakes. But in the hour of need and the righteousness of its cause, we must support the Jewish state as we stand together in Sinai.
Max Kleinman of Fairfield was the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest from 1995 to 2014 and he is the president of the Fifth Commandment Foundation.