The Death of Hope With War in Israel, Chaos in Gaza  

It is folly. But it is the kind of folly that has defined this conflict, defying common sense and good intentions for 50 years

A group of people in a dim shelter, including women, children, and a dog.
People take refuge Saturday in a shelter in Tel Aviv, Israel. (Getty Images)

The Gaza Strip is one of the most hopeless places I have ever been in my life. 

Most of us will never step foot there, but if you’ve been, you won’t forget it. The corrugated tin roofs perched on rickety huts that people call home in the sprawling refugee camps. The open sewage. The poorly paved roads. The lack of basic infrastructure. The undernourished children.

But most of all there is the despair and anger in the eyes of adults, that always seems close to the surface. I was there as a young reporter in the late 1980s and again in the 1990s as violence flared anew. That persists today, as the attack on Israel that broke out this weekend made clear.

What is so striking, tragic in fact, is the obvious reality that Gaza could be a gem. This strip of land crowded with 2 million people — many still categorized as refugees five decades after the conflict in question — sits along the Mediterranean Sea, where it’s easy to envision a thriving port. A fishing industry. Resorts with beautiful beaches and tourism. An international airport. 

None of that has ever happened for Gaza. 

Instead, the current Islamic authoritarian government — Hamas (officially categorized as a terrorist organization by the United States) — spends its limited resources on other matters. On Saturday, it mustered its strength and treasure and focus to launch an attack on Israeli civilians. To slaughter 260 young people attending a music festival in the desert. To hunt down families on farms and kill them in their homes. To – if early reports are to be believed – rape women. To take more than 100 hostages, including the elderly, people with dementia, tiny children. 

The mind reels at the barbarism on display, and true to horrific form, celebrated in some Palestinian quarters and, officially, in Iran. Also at the hopelessness of the gesture, because Hamas cannot vanquish Israel, of course. Cannot eliminate the Jewish state, as is its stated intention. And its attack only invites retaliation by one of the best equipped armies in the world. 

A man with medium-toned skin sits casually on a bench amid a scene of destruction with shuttered businesses and a car with crumpled doors, debris across the ground.
Palestinian citizens inspect damage to their homes caused by Israeli airstrikes on Oct. 8, 2023 in Gaza City, Gaza. (Photo by Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images)

As the Al-Jazeera anchor asked an Israeli expert on its air on Saturday: “How humiliated are Israelis right now?” As if that was the point.

It is folly, in fact. But it is the kind of folly that has defined this conflict, defying common sense and good intentions for 50 years and a dozen administrations. 

This is an action that will live in infamy, and stain the Palestinian cause yet again. It will probably spell the end of Hamas, as Israel will not rest until it has eliminated every member of this organization that so brutally attacked its civilians. This new cycle of violence, after so many cycles before it, will – I fear – convince the last pie-eyed optimists that peace is not possible between Israel and Gaza.

You cannot begin to understand this one action without understanding the hubris, greed and entrenched emotion around what belongs to whom; whose victimhood is more virtuous; and what injustice is the real injustice. 

I began my journalism career with the hope of understanding, and then explaining and telling both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I studied Hebrew, then Arabic, and jumped into the then-Palestinian territories (now Palestine) to seek to understand the root of the problem. If the world could see for themselves, if the stories could be told, I thought, a reasonable outcome would happen. 

But it’s not a communication problem, it turns out. It’s a political problem by people who do not want to solve it. This was true for too many years for Yasser Arafat. It is true for Hamas. 

In the ensuing decades, Israel has shifted from spunky underdog in the minds of many, to flawed regional power, to evil oppressor. None of those identities are right. Israel is complicated and full of disappointments, an exercise in the dastardly human condition.

But Hamas – I can’t find the gray there. They mirror the nihilism of Al-Qaeda, ISIS and the like. They have shown their colors.

My 89-year-old father is in Israel, visiting with my older brother and his family for the Jewish holidays. I am not that worried about them; they are in the middle of the country. 

Instead, I worry for the death of hope. I mourn for the dead and wounded, for the kidnapped, the tortured. And I mourn for the suffering that will be visited on so many Palestinians who have no control over their own destiny. I mourn for the despair in the hearts of so many who would dream of peaceful coexistence. 

Comments

11 responses to “The Death of Hope With War in Israel, Chaos in Gaza  ”

  1. Alex Avatar
    Alex

    Free Palestine!

    1. Briefed Avatar
      Briefed

      How about this: when did PALESTINIANS exist? They are not in the BIBLE… HISTORY… speak up people.
      HAMAS invaded aka TERRORISTs… and they are here on this no borders soil…so enjoy l00 to l,000 at your abode 2:31. What cha donna do when they come for you…oh judge jury executioner thousands of milles away from ISRAEL as if there on-the spot..dictating what for whom?! Amazing…Remote VIEWING revealed the latest gimmick of the century#

      1. Jack Thorne Avatar
        Jack Thorne

        This argument is fallacious, and seems to be suggesting if you aren’t in the Bible you deserve to be wiped out.

        It’s like saying “where were the ‘Native Americans’?” before we labelled them as such. The people of Palestine have lived there for thousands of years.

        Also, how can Hamas ‘invade’ anything when the Palestinians are the occupied peoples (as laid out in international law and UN resolutions).

  2. Lynn Green-Bennett Avatar

    אמ ישראל חי
    Very balanced.
    NEXT PART PRIVATE
    Is it Larry or Mitchell he’s visiting & is everyone ok? Meant for Sharon Waxman. (I was at the house you grew up in many many times in High School—we were on Washington between Claver & Elmdale & Larry was with Sharon E then) Please do not post. My sister, Ronna Green Zaken is the same age as Larry. 

    1. Sharon Waxman Avatar
      Sharon Waxman

      Hi Lynn! Yes, it’s Larry whose family is there. 

  3. Lynn Green-Bennett Avatar

    אמ ישראל חי
    Very balanced yet passionate article.
    [Please do not post. NEXT PART PRIVATE to Sharon W. Is it Larry or Mitchell in Israel & are they ok?(I was 2 years ahead of Larry & Sharon E— grew up on Washington—& spent many summer evenings at your house.) My sister, Ronna was in Larry’s class & her daughter, Remy Zaken, was in Spring Awakening on Broadway & won a Tony.]

  4. Peace above all else Avatar
    Peace above all else

    This article is propaganda. It doesn’t acknowledge the Israeli occupation and apartheid. It talks about Israeli lives as sacred but doesn’t account for the Palestinians murdered by Israeli – it sees humans on one side and monsters on the other. This constant angling and repositioning of the truth (aka lying) is the reason why this fight will not end. Neither side can humanize the other. Both sides only see themselves as victims and compartmentalize away their own culpability and blame. Hamas is wrong. But so is Israel. Neither deserves to be punished like this. But both continue to punish each other and murder countless innocent civilians in the process. The problem is complicated but the answer is simple: both sides must end the victim narrative and must take accountability for their own atrocious behavior or this will never end. 

    1. Sharon Waxman Avatar
      Sharon Waxman

      This article is my view based on years of reporting on both sides of the conflict. Don’t insult those efforts by calling it propaganda. Disagree if you like. I object to name-calling. I object to all civilian slaughter. I also object to 9-11, even if I don’t agree with all American foreign policies. SW

    2. Feinberg Lois Avatar
      Feinberg Lois

      No. Your article is propaganda. The Israelis let the residents of Gaza vote and they voted for monsters. They were not occupied by Israel.
      It states what could have been the fate of these people if Hamas had cared about improving their lives, but they only cared about destroying Israel.  The effect was destroying themselves.

  5. Navaho Land Avatar
    Navaho Land

    Dear Ms. Sharon, your pro-Palastinian position is clear and embarrassing. “if early reports are to be believed”. Yes, it’s hard to believe, but this is Hamas. You should know, as to your great knowledge of the Palestinians.

  6. Jack Thorne Avatar
    Jack Thorne

    I love how the problem to this conflict is the “Islamic authoritarian government”, and not the 56 year illegal occupation, and the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and into refugee camps that preceeded it. Everyone in Gaza has roots in villages and towns around the territory that they were ethnically cleansed from in 1948, this includes one of the villages they attacked that has since been annexed by Israel. Gaza since has been occupied and blockaded, both illegally under international humanitarian law, for decades.

    Solving this awful conflict requires journalists to do more than victim blame, and address the root causes of it: the ethnic cleansing, occupation, and brutalisation and violence mete out on the Palestinian people, who are consistently refused basic human rights and self determination under a horrific, murderous Israeli state that continues to annex more Palestinians to sate its rapacious appetite.

    This journalist who spent time in Gaza should have actually spoken to Gazans.

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