Ground war delay, another dispatch from a Fil-Am friend in Israel
My longtime Filipino-American friend–a former Army officer and retired corporate lawyer, who married the Israeli sweetheart of his youth, and moved to Israel nearly 10 years ago—is getting impatient.
He wanted a ground war to start last weekend to begin the elimination of Hamas.
He sees Hamas as the US does– a terrorist organization and an existential threat to Israel. But what does my friend know, he’s just living amid the airstrikes?
Israel, however, seems to be heeding a different message.
Reports say the move to a ground war by Israel into Gaza has slowed down. Biden’s speech last week showed support for a democracy to defend itself but cautioned Israel against being consumed by its own rage. Biden said after 9/11, the US was so consumed in the same way that it made mistakes. Israel should learn from that experience and apply it now.
Constant retaliatory missile attacks endangering innocents and a ground war will not win hearts and minds.
That explains Israel’s delay to enter Gaza, described as the world’s most densely populated area with kilometers of underground tunnels. Heading in too soon would also certainly broaden the war. The release of four hostages last week and on Monday is a sign that negotiations between (through Qatar and Egypt) appear to be working.
Could that be a real opening for peace?
I’d like to believe so, but my friend doesn’t agree.
“Clearly, the US and the major Western countries all agree to Hamas needing to be destroyed,” he said. “In its current version. The problem is: how do you kill an ideology?”
My friend is still concerned that Hamas advocates the extermination of all Jews. No animus to that degree exists between the Jews and Palestinians.
I am struck by an Oct. 11 video of a senior Hamas official shown by MSNBC. It depicts a Hamas official drawing contrast between Jews and Arabs. “The Israelis are known to love life,” the senior official said. “We on the other hand sacrifice ourselves. We consider our dead to be martyrs, The thing any Palestinian desires the most is to be martyred for the sake of Allah defending his land.”
It’s a strategic advantage of Hamas. To die is to be honored. It’s the reason Hamas puts its headquarters under hospitals and uses its people as human shields. How do you fight a people who have that kind of belief where it is an honor to sacrifice your own willingly?
Under those circumstances, how do you even begin to talk about peace.
“Maybe the best the world can do is kill such actors (as Hamas) when they arise,” my friend added. “But be prepared for new cycles of terrorism arising from time to time.”
Me, I prefer long cycles of peace. Forever peace.
Meanwhile, people are protesting around the world and taking sides.
If you are like many progressives, you are yelling, “Free Palestine.” Demanding humanitarian aid to open up and a ceasefire. But are you also siding with Hamas?
Remember what my friend said. They kill their own people as a source of pride. They govern Gaza after the Palestinian Authority failed, but to say all Gazans or all Palestinians are behind Hamas is to miss the nuance. There hasn’t been a free election in Gaza in more than 15 years, which means Hamas has a dictatorial hold over Gazans.
As I said, Hamas is not liked by all. Back in July 2023, 62 percent of Gazans wanted to keep a ceasefire with Israel and half wanted Hamas to stop calling for the extermination of Israel, according to a poll by the Washington Institute for Near East policy.
There are still people who remember the time before Hamas, when there was a sense of normalcy and Gaza had a functioning economy that was growing as fast or faster than Singapore, Hong Kong and Korea.
That’s not the case now with Hamas at the helm. But dissatisfaction has also led observers to believe there is a way toward peace if Hamas could be eliminated.
My friend says the people in his settlement wait anxiously for what’s next. “Everyone here in Israel either lost someone or know someone who did. So many stories to be shared and not forgotten,” he said.
They remember the original terrorist act of Oct. 7 in Israel and wonder why people aren’t disgusted by Hamas, and why the focus is all on the terror of the retaliatory actions of a nation trying to defend itself.
That’s why a delay in the ground war can buy time to see if negotiations can find a real opening for peace.
In the meantime, people take sides and demonize each other, even though there’s only one position to take in this dilemma that provides real hope.
That would be the one that gets us to peace.
(Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator who writes a column for INQUIRER.net’s US channel. He was the first Filipino to host NPR’s “All Things Considered.” His secret podcast is on YouTube and www.amok.com)