It is a genuinely unfathomable horror. While the claims made by the Hamas terror organization that runs the Gaza strip should be taken with skepticism, there’s little doubt that the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry wasn’t all that far off in the tally as I was writing this: 8,796 deaths over the past three weeks, among whom were 3,648 children.
There’s no way to independently verify those numbers and no way of knowing how many of the dead were Hamas combatants. Even so, the enormity of the bloodshed and suffering among the two million people who occupy the Gaza strip is not disputed by any credible observers in the humanitarian agencies, the news media or the Israeli Defence Forces.
And there’s little that can be done about it. Hamas has now agreed to allow more than 500 foreign nationals and dual citizens to leave Gaza, along with an unspecified number of the sick and injured, by way of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. That’s some small bit of good news. But after having been drawn into Gaza by a series of bloody provocations over the past decade and a half, Israel is now determined to demolish Hamas once and for all, and it’s going to be awful.
Just how matters reached this terrible juncture is a fairly straightforward story. After the 1967 war, the Egyptian enclave — less than one-tenth the size of Prince Edward Island — was seized by Israel, which ruled Gaza until 2005. That’s when the Gaza strip was turned over to the Palestinian Authority, which lost control of it to Hamas in a bloody civil war two years later. It’s been a living hell for Israelis, and for anyone in Gaza without the right Hamas family connections, ever since.
On Oct. 7, thousands of Hamas fighters breached the border and carried out a sickening rampage, littering the towns and kibbutzim of southern Israel with more than 1,400 corpses. Israeli society, from the left to the right, made its decision: Enough is enough.
That’s a snapshot of how we got here, but just why “the conflict” was allowed to fester and metastasize is a story that’s not so straightforward. It involves the cruel obstinacy of Arab police states, the Iranian regime’s determination to wipe Israel from the map of the world, a deep cynicism among right-wing Israeli politicians, and a Euro-American political culture that has failed to bring its immense resources to the cause of Israeli-Palestinian peace.
The most successful mobilizations in the western world since the Oct. 7 pogrom have been grotesque celebrations of the massacres. The lumpen sloganeering at pro-Hamas rallies, the hounding of Jews in the streets and on campus and the ubiquitous high-society justifications of “decolonialism” by any barbarism necessary — none of this has anything to do with the security and well-being of the Palestinian people. But that’s the “pro-Palestine” movement for you, which has never been anything of the kind.
The outbursts that have so shocked the conscience of Canadians since Oct. 7 derive from an alibi of Palestinian solidarity that has been allowed to establish itself as a cover story for historical revisionism, conspiracy theory and a raw antisemitism. It has hideously disfigured the “Left,” and that would be bad enough.
What’s worse is that the activism that calls itself anti-Zionist has been allowed to stand in the way and suck all the oxygen out of every room where a genuinely pro-Palestinian, pro-peace movement could have flourished. In the liberal democracies, the pitiless glorification of the Palestinian “resistance” has required a smothering of any effective alternative movement that might have assisted Israelis and Palestinians in the work of building a sovereign and democratic Palestinian republic alongside Israel.
While the movement’s excesses are quite suddenly in the limelight now that the Israel-Palestinian tragedy has entered its bloodiest moment in half a century, its obscenities had already embedded themselves as the prerequisites for progressive-radical status and identity in all the comfortable neighbourhoods of the NATO countries.
Its worldwide Israeli Apartheid Week antics, begun in Toronto in 2005, spread through the western world.
In 2010, its Gaza flotilla” stunts with the MV Mavi Marmara “humanitarian aid” hoax left nine so-called peace activists dead and provided no relief to the people of Gaza. Sponsored by the Foundation for Human Rights and Humanitarian Relief, the Free Gaza Movement was openly affiliated with Hamas and enjoyed a partnership with the suicide-bombing advocate Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
In the “Global March to Jerusalem” of 2012, posh anti-Zionists from Vancouver to Istanbul joined hands with the Khomeinist regime in Tehran, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
If there is one barely discernible glimmer of hope that might emerge from the catastrophe enveloping Gaza at the moment, it is not just that Hamas will be smashed and irreparably ruined. It is that those of us in the privileged “West” might have a good long look at what we have allowed to happen to ourselves, and that the so-called pro-Palestinians (not really pro-Palestinian at all) who have been showing up so prominently in the news pages will be at last quarantined, expelled and purged from every public institution, every private corporation, every university faculty and every trade union where they have been permitted to flourish.
It’s a dim hope, but it’s all we’ve got to go on right now.
Terry Glavin is an author and journalist.