The moral world falls at the end game in Rafah

Feb 17, 2024
Israel and Palestine crisis and middle east conflict or Israeli and Palestinian questions with two opposing sides as pencils drawing a question mark as a dispute concept with 3D illustration elements.

People in the West are Gaza-war weary. You see it in fewer reports, articles and commentary. It is an understandable by-product of the complicity-cum-impotence of Western civilisation in the face of Israeli barbarism.

The non-Israeli barbarians of the world are taking note at what they can now get away with.

The vile and pointless Hamas terrorism of a single day, 7 October 2023, gave way to a week, then weeks, then months of continuing Israeli revenge in the form of mass murder and wholesale destruction – in short, a war of alleged genocide.

A nation once renowned for its subtlety, its stealth, its calibration, its intelligence – in both senses of the word – resorted to an equivalent form of unrestrained brutality.

Nothing, so far, has stopped the Israeli cabinet, already condemned by many as war criminals. Nothing, so far, has caused the murderers in Hamas to capitulate. Terrorists on one side. War criminals on the other.

The allies and intermediaries of each are humiliated or impotent or both.

The Islamic world, by its silence. The Arab world, by its fear of Western retribution. The Western world, by its handwringing complicity. The Third World, by its distance and poverty.

Only China and Russia can be satisfied at what is going on in Gaza. They will reap the benefits of the rage in the Arab street when the denouement arrives and the final atrocity counts are tallied.

The Israelis think that they are at the end game in Rafah and will not stop now.

If nothing in this world as we know it could restrain them for four and half months, with 28,000 dead, 12,000 of them children, 70,000 wounded, thousands of them limbless children, 2 million starving, and not far short of that homeless, nothing will stop them now at Rafah.

Not the US, and its confused President. Not its unconvincing Secretary of State. Not the League of Nations masquerading as the United Nations – an institution beyond recognition to its founders. Not third party humanitarian, or even military, intervention, neither of which will happen.

One might expect serious Hamas ammunition and resistance to be exhausted sometime in March 2024, following further bombing and shelling in and around Rafah causing some thousands more civilian casualties.

The Egyptian border crossings will be breached by force of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fleeing in complete turmoil.

That final phase of the operation will end in appalling atrocities, field executions and lawless mayhem.

Taking a lesson from the recent rescue of 2 hostages from an upper room, the remaining hostages will, of course, have been murdered by their Hamas captors, even if it is the last thing they do.

A state of satanic moral equivalence will have been reached between Hamas and the State of Israel.

A cataclysmic humanitarian situation of dystopian horror will then be apparent. The Israeli Defence Force will stand back but not leave Gaza. The Israelis will facilitate, but not themselves offer, international humanitarian assistance – on the Egyptian, not the Gaza, side of the border.

Then the border will be permanently, and unbreachably, sealed.

The world, which has effectively acquiesced up to now, must surely understand that to continue to passively acquiesce, even in the face of such monstrosities, will make monsters of us all.

Can anything be said or done at this stage that might avert such a world?

Only if one assumes that the broader Israeli society, as distinct from the governing cabal, has retained some grasp of civilised standards, some ethical capacity for humanitarian insight, some willingness to feel revulsion for what they are being transformed into, and some willingness to stage a Maidan Uprising to rid themselves of the alleged war criminals in their midst, and start anew.

In Israel, none of that is likely now.

By the end of March 2024, the world will be a different place, its norms, values, and expectations transformed.

One might expect Putin to go all out against Ukraine.

Who would object then, and on what moral basis? The authority of the UN, the power of the Biden presidency, the European conscience, will all have been squandered, from squeaks to silence, given such prior acquiescence and complicity in genocide, yet again.

The consequential moral injury inflicted on Israel and on the West will be profound and will last for generations.

Much as you might think that torture and execution of anyone would be anathema to any Christian, given what the powerful of his time did to their leader, so too you would have imagined that persecution unto genocide of any group would be both intolerable and unimaginable to Judaism and the Israeli state.

But not in relation to Palestinians.

Israelis as the leading persecutors of the 21st century is a badge that will define Israel even as it dictates its politics and international relations for generations.

Never again will it be possible for a Yiddish writer like Sholom Asch to write,

“God be thanked that the nations have not given my people the opportunity to commit against others the crimes which have been committed against it… I simply cannot imagine it succumbing to the same frightful beastliness.”

And then, on reflection, prefiguring Netanyahu and his invocation of Amalek, Asch added that it was not impossible that, if tempted by opportunity, they “would have wrung from the words of Moses and the Prophets and the Mishnah the right or the duty to do unto others as others had done unto them”.

Hamas, terrorists and murders themselves, will have been transformed into legendary heroes.

They will be seen as the ultimate exponents of fearless asymmetric warfare against one of the most advanced war machines in human history that was equipped with every conceivable form of deadly weapon and surveillance technology, on the ground and in the air, which the US could supply.

Who can doubt the appalling inspiration that this will be to ISIS/Islamic State to continue to believe that “our day will come”?

Finally, tens of thousands across the world, for months, have been producing millions of words in appeals to Israel and Western powers to intervene to stop the war in Gaza and find a better way than barbarism.

While we know poet WH Auden’s aphorism that poetry changes nothing, and photographer Mstyslav Chernov’s regret that, “You can’t stop a bullet with a camera”, we also remember Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” that exposed the poisonous filth of the American meat industry and led to life-saving, world-wide, reform of food standards.

Western civilisation has long retained a deep-seated commitment to the idea that, ultimately, the pen – rationality – is mightier than the sword. But not in Israel, not in Gaza, not where Palestinians are concerned.

We face a future where writing is a futile and time-wasting form of persuasion – ruthless and extreme armed violence will seemingly sooner change the minds of those it hasn’t murdered.

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