An Appropriately Abject Apology
Will anyone learn from Sugarman's mistake?
Had I read Daniel Sugarman's piece in London's Jewish Chronicle when it first appeared, I would have blown a gasket. One of my biggest pet peeves is the failure of Jews living abroad to give their fellow Jews in Israel the benefit of the doubt. Or put another way, their willingness to believe that Israeli Jews have become oblivious to the deaths of Palestinians.
As related by Sugarman, he was sitting in his office watching the US embassy opening on TV when the news channel switched to a split screen format to show a scene from the Gaza border of tear gas, smoke, and people being shot. On the one side "happy faces, self-congratulatory faces; ...the Prime Minister of Israel talking about the opening of the US embassy [as] a big step towards peace"; on the other, misery and death.
And Sugarman took the bait. Well, not quite. He acknowledged that Hamas might actually want as many dead Palestinian bodies as possible to provide martyrs for local consumption and to garner international sympathy. But if so, he wondered, why was Israel so stupid as to give "Hamas exactly what it wishes" by needlessly murdering so many young Palestinians?
About the needlessness of the killings, he had no doubt, asserting as a matter of fact "there are ways to disperse crowds which do not include live fire. But the IDF has made an active choice to fire live rounds and kill scores of people." Given Israel's technological prowess, he insisted, it beggars belief to think that it could not come up with "a way of incapacitating protestors that does not include gunning dozens of them down."
For a few days, Sugarman luxuriated in the praise his anguished piece received from people he greatly admires, including from within the Jewish community.
BASHAR AL-ASSAD AND SUPREME LEADER KHAMENEI demonstrate how difficult it is to dislodge an entrenched dictator as long as he has at his disposal armed forces prepared to slaughter masses of civilians. So too does Hamas demonstrate how difficult it is for Israel to prevent a public relations victory by those willing to sacrifice the lives of their own children.
"Hamas can't cut through the fence, so it wants to get people killed in order to delegitimize Israel," says Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the United States and current deputy minister for diplomacy in the Netanyahu government. That is the same strategy both Hezbollah and Hamas have long pursued in different ways. "The main goal of their rockets is to get us to kill the people in the houses [from which they are fired]," Oren continues. "[They] do not have a military strategy. They have a military tactic that serves a media, diplomatic, and legal strategy."
The last two months of what one Weekly Standard writer called the "suicide riots" are but Hamas's most recent cynical exploitation of self-inflicted misery. Having children as young as seven rush a border fence, as Bret Stephens noted, would in any other context be called "reckless endangerment."
True, the tactic has netted any number of temporary propaganda victories, such as the eight-month-old baby who died after a tear gas canister exploded near her. (A doctor in Gaza's hospital later said death was more likely caused by a congenital heart defect.)
However she died, what does it tell us that her 12-year-old uncle bundled her up and carried her to the border? All the energy of Palestinian society is focused on destroying Israel, not building a better life. International aid and the concrete needed for construction has been diverted to build over 30 terrorist tunnels into Israel, each at a cost of approximately $90 million.
Tens of millions of refugees have been resettled worldwide since 1948. But only the Palestinians continue to endlessly scratch their wound. The Palestinians alone pass on their refugee status to their kids and their kids' kids, and, even Tom Friedman opines, "people are fed up with it."
What was the point of three times in two weeks Gazans setting fire to the Kerem Shalom border crossing, through which Israel sends medicine and fuel? Or trashing the valuable greenhouses left behind in 2007 when Israel entirely evacuated the Gaza Strip? Self-immiseration to hurt Israel.
THE ONLY THING SUSTAINING such self-destructive behavior is the complicit behavior of the international media and various "humanitarian organizations." The casualties from two months of futile attempts to breach the Gaza fence have generated greater outcries and more worldwide demonstrations than the half a million Syrians killed and the millions more displaced by years of civil war.
Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad's bombers reduced to rubble the Yarmouk neighborhood of Damascus in which hundreds of thousands of Palestinians live. But no one cared and no one protested.
For nearly 70 years Arab states have denied Palestinians citizenship and kept them in miserable refugee camps. Today, Egypt blockades Gaza no less than Israel, to prevent terrorist infiltration into the Sinai.
But only when Israel can be blamed does the language of demonic evil, the language of classical anti-Semitism, reappear. As Brendan O'Neill writes in the online publication Spiked: "If you only criticize Israel, or you criticize Israel disproportionately to every other state, and if your criticism of Israel is loaded with Holocaust imagery and talk of bloodletting, and if you boycott Israel and no other nation, and if you flatter the dark imaginings of the far right and Islamists and conspiracy theorists by fretting over a super powerful Israel Lobby, ...then, I'm sorry, that has the hallmarks of anti-Semitism."
DANIEL SUGARMAN, OF COURSE, IS NO ANTI-SEMITE, even if he unwittingly joined them briefly. Eventually, however, the weights fell from his eyes, and he realized he had been had. And once he did, he did not content himself with the usual mealymouthed apology, something to the effect of, "If my words, offended anyone, I'm sorry."
The first step in the education of Daniel Sugarman took place when a senior Hamas official boasted that 50 of the 62 Palestinians killed — over 80 percent — on the day of the US embassy opening were Hamas operatives. Subsequently, Islamic Jihad claimed three more of the slain for their own. Far from mowing down Palestinians willy-nilly, Israel had — amid smoke from burning tires, with women and children milling around and often being pushed to the front — managed to almost exclusively pick off terrorist operatives. The accolade of Col. Richard Kemp, one of the world's greatest experts on nonconventional warfare, comes immediately to mind: Israel does more than any army in history to minimize civilian casualties.
Next, it dawned on Sugarman that he actually knows nothing about crowd control or what alternatives were available to Israeli forces. Rubber bullets only work at short-range. The same with water cannons. And with tens of thousands of people rushing the border neither would have been likely to be effective. Worse, were the border to be breached, Hamas had with all its usual charm stated its intention to rip out and eat the hearts of as many Israelis as possible.
To his everlasting credit, Sugarman concluded: "A few days ago, I said I could not and would not defend Israel's actions. Now, in the cold light of day, I could not and would not see how I would fail to defend them. I said that Israel should be ashamed of it actions. But today, I am the one ashamed."
Let us hope that many Jews abroad (and not a few in Israel) learn from Sugarman's mistake without having to repeat it