By Alan Stein
There’s plenty of blame to go around for the mistakes that enabled the Simchat Torah massacre by Hamas on Oct. 7. They were made by the United Nations, the European Union, a succession of American administrations, several Israeli governments, the Israeli military and Israeli intelligence.
One would think those entities – except for the United Nations – would be busy trying to learn from their mistakes in order to prevent a repetition, but many, including European countries and the Biden administration, appear unwilling to reflect on how they contributed to the worst attack on the Jewish people since the Holocaust while rushing to double down on the fatal mistake of repeatedly rescuing Hamas and sending “humanitarian assistance” unsurprisingly used by Hamas to prepare for their next brutal terror war.
Since Israel vacated Gaza in 2005, ending anything that could, justifiably or not, be called an “occupation,” it has been bombarded by rockets and targeted by countless terror attacks, including mortar fire, cross-border incursions, cross-border terror tunnels planned to terminate under schools, and explosive-laden kites, balloons and condoms designed to be carried into Israel by the prevailing winds.
In 2006, 2008-9, 2012, 2014, 2021 and 2022, the terror attacks from Gaza caused so much death and destruction Israel was forced to take significant action.
Each time, Israel quickly came under heavy pressure from the international community to prematurely agree to a ceasefire before it could do to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad the sort of damage America worked to inflict on Al Qaeda and ISIS.
Each time, the United States was among those pressuring Israel into agreeing to measures supposedly designed to help innocent people in Gaza, the same people who elected Hamas.
Israel was always given assurance of ironclad safeguards to make sure the aid got to the people rather than Hamas, only to have an estimated 90% of the cement sent to Gaza for rebuilding homes, schools and hospitals taken by Hamas to build tunnels and murder schoolchildren. When Israel developed technology to discover the cross-border tunnels and destroy them, Hamas used the cement to build tunnels to protect its “fighters” within Gaza; undoubtedly, many of the hostages it took have been taken to those tunnels as human shields.
Pipes sent to rebuild the water and sewer systems were instead cut up and used in the construction of rockets and rocket launchers.
Israel allowed the entry of thousands of Palestinian workers so they could earn money to feed their families, strengthen the economy in Gaza, and improve the lives of the people there, but many took advantage of their work permits and instead murdered Israeli civilians.
Hamas even attacked the crossings where goods were transferred into Gaza, killing the very workers bringing humanitarian assistance to Gaza!
Israeli leaders share blame primarily for repeatedly giving in. Had they not succumbed to the pressure, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad would have been far weaker and incapable of successfully carrying out the Simchat Torah Massacre. It is ironic that while Israel is so often criticized for being hard-line right wing, its most serious mistakes have been in being too soft and too willing to agree to dangerous “confidence building measures” in hopes the Palestinian Arabs would reciprocate.
There are many other ways in which Western democracies have unwittingly strengthened Hamas and other terror groups. At the top of the list is the way they have appeased and strengthened the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Much of the many billions of dollars released to the Iranian regime, against the advice of Israel, has gone to Iran’s terror proxies and assisted Russia in its invasion of Ukraine. Our naïve errors have not only gotten Israelis killed, but also gotten Ukrainians killed. Repeating those mistakes would reinvigorate Hamas.
The only real leverage we have over Hamas is the ability to prevent the transfer of food, fuel, water and electricity to Gaza so Hamas won’t be able to continue to build and launch rockets. Hamas doesn’t care about the welfare of the people they use as human shields, but they do care about (a) murdering others, especially Israeli Jews and (b) their personal bank accounts and welfare.
I have little confidence that if Hamas was forced to decide between (a) releasing all the hostages without further harm in return for receiving humanitarian assistance or (b) not releasing the hostages and letting everyone in Gaza suffer, they would choose (a), but giving them that choice is the only realistic possibility for saving the lives of the hostages.
Presently, most governments, including our own, are trying hard to avoid forcing Hamas to make that choice. During his solidarity visit to Israel, President Biden announced $100 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority and Gaza. Since then, at least one of the UNRWA warehouses storing “humanitarian assistance” slated to be distributed to “civilians” in Gaza was stormed and looted. Can anyone doubt a significant portion of those supplies aren’t now in the tunnels under Gaza helping to sustain and strengthen Hamas terrorists?
For the sake of the hostages, and for our own long term safety, we need to insist there will be no pause and no goods of any kind will be transferred to Gaza until all the hostages are released without further harm. Everyone needs to stand firmly with Israel and help it destroy Hamas, after which Gaza will have to be “de-Hamasified,” the way the allies de-Nazified Germany after World War II, and prepare for the even more crucial battles with Hezbollah and the head of the snake in Tehran.
May God provide our leaders with the wisdom needed to get us out of the situation which they helped create.
Alan Stein, Ph.D., was formerly a long time resident of Waterbury. He and his wife Marsha currently split their time between Netanya in Israel and Natick, Massachusetts. He is President Emeritus of PRIMERConnecticut (Promoting Responsibility in Middle East Reporting) and the founder of PRIMER-Massachusetts and PRIMER-Israel.
A version of this op-ed was published in the Waterbury Republican-American on October 29, 2023.
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