War to the knife
Last updated 10/17/2023 at 9:31am
The explosion of intense violence in Israel is a savage spasm in a long-standing frontier conflict. It is often said that “they’ve been fighting each other there for thousands of years,” but that’s not really an accurate depiction of the conflict between Jews and Palestinian Arabs in the land that is now the state of Israel.
The current conflict has its roots in the 19th century, in the Zionist movement, which sought to establish a Jewish homeland in a Middle East then under the dominion of the Ottoman Empire. The settlement of Jews in Palestine, which got underway in earnest after the destruction of the Ottomans in World War I, was self-consciously a frontier project. As The Jerusalem Post notes:
“Before becoming a state, Israel’s frontier was marked by purchasing vacant land and swamps for reclamation projects. Palestine was known by Jews as The Yishuv, the settlement, because all of it was just that. Nation-building made everyone a pioneer. Settling the land was the essence of Zionism; the frontier was everywhere.”
They call this phenomenon “settler colonialism” these days, and it’s a term of opprobrium — despite the fact that it’s been the engine of history in all places for all time. The morality of the phenomenon — if there is any — depends on whether you are among those seeking “new” lands and a better life, or among the displaced.
Israelis and Palestinians have crafted different stories around one very complex set of historical events and circumstances. The state of Israel was born in blood in 1948, in the long and dark shadow of the Holocaust. The founding of a national homeland for the Jews, many of them refugees from the most hideous of pogroms, was regarded by hundreds of thousands of displaced Arabs as Al Nakba — The Catastrophe.
There is no conflict anywhere that so completely and tragically lives up to William Faulkner’s aphorism that “the past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
The 1948 Arab-Israeli War, which combined conventional and partisan operations, was savage, replete with massacre and deadly ambush. A subsequent history of settlement, occupation, resistance, and terrorism created a red thread of continuity and persistence that has extruded itself in the shocking violence of Hamas’ raid into Israeli territory on Saturday, October 7.
Frontier warfare throughout history and across the globe is made up of infiltration, captive-taking and brutal slaughter. At this writing, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) is in the early stages of a massive punitive expedition. It is easy to decry the cycle of violence these acts represent — and it is terrible, indeed. Yet it is simply how frontier warfare has always played out. Attack and retribution. Warfare as blood feud.
The murderous terror and horror of the Hamas attack — the worst slaughter of Jews since 1945 — cuts like a bloodied sword through the gordian knot of the history of Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
There is no ambiguity here.
Hamas is an apocalyptic Islamist jihadi movement, pouring out its hate in an orgy of slaughter that no civilized person can endorse, excuse, defend, or accept. Hamas, regardless of how they justify themselves, is an enemy not only of Israel, but of the West. Read their covenant if you doubt it. Hamas is an enemy of humanity, including the Palestinian people — particularly those in Gaza whom they are now using as human shields.
Those who urge “restraint” and “proportionate response” on the Israelis — if they’re pleading in good faith — don’t understand the enemy they are facing. The events of October 7 demonstrate in the starkest way possible that Hamas is a threat that Israel can no longer contain and tolerate. “Proportionate response” — whatever that means in this context — will allow Hamas to survive, which means they will strike again. Israel won’t tolerate that, nor should they. Nor should we.
The world is unstable and very dangerous right now. What is happening in Ukraine and in Israel should be a reminder that genuine evil exists in the world, and if we want to survive as a civilization, we’d better be able to see it clearly and fight back.
Hamas raised hell and put a chunk under it — and they will be extirpated. It’s now war to the knife — and knife to the hilt. We can only hope that the destruction of these nihilistic terrorists will allow a new day to dawn in that troubled land.