by Steve Huntley
October 11, 2023
You have to stick with your friends. Through thick and thin. For the long run. And especially when the going gets tough. All that comes to mind with the outbreak of the Gaza war. Immediate expressions of support from President Biden, members of Congress and other nations for Israel flowed in the aftermath of the sneak barbaric attack by the Iranian-backed terrorists of Hamas last weekend.
The sudden, unprovoked, bestial assault that deliberately targeted and continues to target Israeli civilians for murder and hostage-taking — war crimes — was easy to denounce.
But it will take a long war to defeat and bring justice to these savages and crush their merciless Gaza Strip terrorist organization. And a long war will be an ugly war, one with all the death, injury, destruction and suffering characterized by warfare.
Hamas targeted civilians, aiming to kill and injure them, intended to capture grandmothers, mothers and children to use as hostages. The dead and hostages also include Americans.
Hamas massacred at least 250 civilians attending a rave concert. A family of five, the three children six years old or younger, were murdered. Chilling reports of babies beheaded, women raped.
Terrified Jews were marched to possible if not probable death paraded before a jeering crowd — an image we haven’t seen since the historical photos of antisemitic Nazi atrocities in Berlin in the 1930s.
Among the hostages may be an Evanston woman and her daughter, Judith and Natalie Raanan.
The mind recoils at the thought of the terror, fear and horror these two innocent human beings and the other hostages are suffering at this very moment.
At this writing, the Israeli death toll was more than 1,000, with most of them coming on the first day — the largest number of Jews murdered in one day since the Holocaust. At least 14 Americans are among the dead.
Israel won’t target civilians. Being a civilized state it will try to avoid civilian casualties. But the simple truth is that it can’t avoid civilian casualties, especially in the urban warfare of Gaza City. Hamas has a long, cruel history of using civilians as shields against Israeli military responses to its vicious outrages. That and the crowded streets, lanes and alleyways and the many buildings hiding killers guarantee a bloody struggle.
The death and destruction that will come to Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip won’t be the fault of the Israelis.
It will be the responsibility of Hamas, just as the millions of deaths, injuries and misery of German and Japanese civilians were the responsibility of the Nazi and Tojo regimes in Berlin and Tokyo in World War II. We should regard Palestinian civilian casualties in this war in a similar manner to the civilian suffering in World War II–tragic and regrettable but unavoidable because of the Hamas crimes against humanity.
Still, as the war drags on and the body count mounts, expressions of support now will morph into calls for restraint — by Israel, of course. Or the justified Israeli response to an unprovoked attack will somehow be distorted into “cycle of violence” rhetoric that obscures the guilt of Hamas.
Already we’ve heard that from the fringe. Brother-marrying and antisemite Rep. Ilhan Omar, D., Minn. and the frivolous Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez D.,NY, have called for “cease-fire and de-escalation.” Palestinian apologist, antisemite and open-borders advocate Rep. Rashida Tlaib found a way to attack both Israel and America: “As long as our country provides billions in unconditional funding to support the apartheid government, this heartbreaking cycle of violence will continue.” The useless UN provided a forum for calls demanding Israel “not go too far.”
Demonstrations in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta, and of course, Harvard mouthed Hamas propaganda. In New York, one of the demonstrators in the crowd of more than 1,000 held up a cell phone displaying an image of a swastika. Another carried a placard reading: “By any means necessary.”
But, as the grim toll of war mounts, others who characterize themselves as moderates, the nations that are always quick to condemn Israel and the self-proclaimed peace advocates will increasingly chime in with appeals for a cease-fire. That would only protect Hamas, and its Gaza ally Islamic Jihad, from the justice they so richly deserve.
Despite the president’s declaration of backing Israel’s war effort, the Biden administration has never warmly embraced Israel, mainly because American liberals loath right wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
After a previous episode of Hamas rocket attacks, Biden was on the phone urging a cease-fire on Netanyahu, according to a new biography of the president.
This time in a speech Tuesday, Biden expressed uncompromising support for Israel and promised immediate and continued military aid. There was no call for restraint.
Still, Biden is not a picture of strength thanks to his shameful troop pullout from Afghanistan and his administration’s ugly appeasement of Iran, most recently freeing up $6 billion to the mullahs in ransoming hostages.
Administration officials would have us believe that this $6 billion won’t aid Iran’s terrorist ambitions.
His Tuesday speech unconscionably failed to mention Iran even once. And Biden reported that he discussed with Netanyahu how democracies “are stronger and more secure when we act according to the rule of law.” A curious point. Was that a veiled warning to Israel about its conduct of the war going forward? An administration official insisted it was not.
As the war progresses and the casualty toll mounts, the White House will come under pressure from the Democrats’ far-left elements to push for restraint — by the Israelis — and for a cease-fire. It will be a test of Biden to hold the line of uncompromising support for Israel. Is he strong enough?
We’re going to see what Biden is made of.
On the second day of the Gaza war, as the battlefield successes of Israel tilted the war odds against Hamas, the terrorists issued a call for a cease-fire. At the same time, they threatened to start executing hostages.
Any call for Israel to back off will ignore the simple fact that, as outlined recently in JohnKassNews, the Palestinians have never been a partner for peace with the Israelis. Polling shows a majority of Palestinians, not just those in Gaza, favor violence against Jews. Time and again, the Palestinians walked away from generous peace proposals offered by Israeli prime ministers.
This war regrettably can be traced to one such peace offensive by Israel. In 2005, Israel closed down Jewish communities in Gaza, sometimes evicting their residents, and withdrew its military from the Gaza Strip.
The opportunity was clear. The Palestinians had the chance to build a civil society there that could live in peace with Israel, reciprocating the Jewish state’s goodwill.
But no. Soon Hamas goons won legislative elections in Gaza to establish a so-called unity government with another Palestinian faction, Fatah. The two sides were quickly at each other’s throat, violence erupted, Hamas shoved out Fatah and took over governing, if that’s the word, of Gaza.
As could have been predicted, Gaza became a terrorist statelet firing rockets and dispatching terrorist murderers into Israel. Now the Gaza regime has launched what Israelis understandably see as a combination of Pearl Harbor and 9/11.
No good deed goes unpunished.
Israel is the aggrieved party, the victim, the peaceful nation cruelly assaulted by a genocidal criminal terrorist gang.
And, by many accounts, Hamas had plenty of help in planning and organizing its attack from the genocidal terrorist-sponsoring Islamist regime in Iran.
No one knows how this war will unfold. Already the terrorists of Iranian-backed Hezbollah in southern Lebanon have fired a few rounds into Israel, threatening to open a northern front in the war. Unknown is if terrorists in the Palestinian Authority-run areas east of Israel will also join the fray.
What is now clear is that the Palestinian-run Gaza Strip is a cancer threatening Israeli lives and well-being. Israel must ensure that this war ends with that threat dead and buried.
And this war will hang like a death shroud over hopes for an independent Palestinian state.
Of course, Hamas isn’t interested in an independent Palestinian state. Its goal is a Palestinian state from the sea to the river built of a mountain of murdered Jews.
Little doubt exists that a big motive for this attack was the desire of Iran and Hamas to torpedo the growing rapprochement between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Such an entente would be a death blow to Iran’s desires to dominate the Middle East and eclipse the Saudis as the key actors in the region. Whether those negotiations will continue will be to a large degree Riyadh’s choice.
But how the Israelis respond to this crisis is their choice.
The United States should provide the moral support and military aid needed to get the job done and for as long as it takes to get the job done. That includes the day when the on-the-ground war is resolved, and Israel turns its attention to Iran.
And the administration should never hesitate to defend the Israeli choices in the court of world opinion.
Again, it will be a long, bloody, ugly fight but above all a just, righteous fight. A fight that America should back to the end. Hamas started this war. Israel must end it.
Steve Huntley, a retired Chicago journalist now living in Austin, Texas, has contributed other pieces to johnkassnews, from an examination of the secret jail for Christopher Columnbus and other politically problematic public art to an essay on Americans suffering from Joe Biden gas pain.
For almost three decades Huntley spent most of his career in Chicago journalism at the Chicago Sun-Times, where he was a feature writer, metro reporter, night city editor, metropolitan editor, editorial page editor and a columnist for the opinion pages.
Before that he was a reporter and editor with United Press International (UPI) in the South and Chicago, and Chicago bureau chief and a senior editor in Washington with U.S. News & World Report. Northwestern University Press has issued soft cover and eBook editions of Knocking Down Barriers: My Fight for Black America by Truman K. Gibson Jr. with Steve Huntley, a memoir of a Chicagoan who was a member of President Roosevelt’s World War II Black Cabinet working to desegregate the military.