Hamas Wanted an Israel in Mourning. Hamas Got Its Wish

Much of Israel is in quiet mourning over an unthinkable possibility: That this horrible reality is the way things are going to be, off and on, forever.

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
A woman lies with her baby on the floor of the Dizengoff Center mall in Tel Aviv as a siren warning of incoming rockets sounds. July 10, 2014.Credit: Reuters

A little while before the air-raid sirens started, I was walking home with groceries. I saw a woman who works at the bakery, crossing the street. She was wearing sunglasses which looked borrowed. There was a cigarette where the unfettered smile had gone.

She didn't see me. She was leaving work after only a few hours. She walked as if carrying a load equal to her own weight. She was carrying nothing. No one had to ask where she was headed.

A funeral.

I can't tell you anything about this war that you don't already know. I can only tell you what it feels like to me.

It feels like the weight that woman is carrying.

This is week three of the war. Gaza is an unstaunched bleed. A place which has long set a standard for human misery, is worse off than ever.

We named this war after a cliff. As if we hadn’t learned long ago, that every war is a cliff. As if we wouldn't realize, once we'd stepped off into it, what that feels like. It feels like falling.

Maybe that's because, on the way down, war seems to sharpen the focus, even as it blurs the vision.

Neither peoples wanted this war. For many of us, the temptation is to place responsibility for the killing and the crimes on one side alone. But we are in this together. Both sides could have prevented this through diplomacy. Both sides, giving in to hardliners, believed they could get something they wanted, through war.

Hamas, as a start, wanted to see an Israel in mourning. Hamas has got its wish.

Much of Israel is in quiet mourning over an unthinkable possibility: That this horrible reality is the way things are going to be, off and on, forever.

Having exacted horrific, if largely unintended, civilian casualties, Israel cannot simply opt for the application of ever greater force.

But with a government divided in its goals and held at permanent gunpoint by the hard right, our leaders offer neither hope nor new ideas.

On both sides, extremists have had their way with the peoples of the Holy Land. On both sides, extremists have done everything they can to see to it that there can be no peace based on two states, nor any peace here at all, ever.

How do you know an extremist? Here's one possibility: By their inability to abide the presence and the humanity of the other side.

"We will continue to batter the homes of the Zionists until the last Zionist leaves Palestinian land," Hamas official Mushir al-Masri said last week. "All of Palestine, from the sea to the river."

At nearly the same time, Likud MK and Deputy Knesset Speaker Moshe Feiglin published an article titled "My Outline for a Solution in Gaza," in which he wrote, "Subsequent to the elimination of terror from Gaza, it will become part of sovereign Israel and will be populated by Jews. This will also serve to ease the housing crisis in Israel."

On both sides, the funerals continue. On both sides, we mourn, we seethe, we want to believe that this war will actually accomplish something. We suspect, also, that it will not.

On both sides, we wonder why the other side does not tell their extremist leaders to go to hell, so that the people can be left alone to live.

But the other side does not, perhaps, in the case of the Gazans, because they hate us much more than they blame them. And we are no better.

At some point, certainly too late, perhaps endless years and wars and childrens' lives from now, people here may finally come to learn the underlying geometry of this land and this conflict. It goes something like this:

This small place cannot hold just the Israelis, or just the Palestinians. And, since neither will go anywhere else, it's only really big enough to hold both of them.

There's another lesson, too. We reduce it to math, to body counts, to casualty graphs and condemnations. But one look at a small child during an air raid, or one long walk to a funeral, is enough to prove it:

Every life matters. Every life. Both sides.