Thursday, November 30, 2023

A flickering light in the middle of a nightmare

 This was published in the Waterbury Republican-American on November 29, 2023. I have updated it with a few comments placed in parentheses.

A flickering light in the middle of a nightmare


I am writing this on Friday morning, Nov. 24, while watching live the apparent release of 13 Israeli women and children held hostage in Gaza for seven weeks after being kidnapped by Hamas terrorists. They are the first of four groups scheduled to be released during a four day pause in the war Hamas started on Oct. 7. (There have now been seven groups released, each time with some drama orchestrated by Hamas, and efforts are being made to extend the pause even more. Each day it is extended is a double-edged sword, with more terrorists being released, more aid sent into Gaza to be stolen by Hamas and used to extend the war and kill more people, more pressure being exerted on Israel for a permanent ceasefire that would let Hamas survive, rearm, and perform more atrocities.)

Some children are being released with their mothers while their fathers are still being held hostage. Some children are now orphans who saw their parents slaughtered in front of them; some still have one or both parents still held hostage by Hamas, perhaps one parent murdered and the other held hostage. (In  several cases, in violation of the agreement, Hamas has released children without their mother. In at least one case, they claimed they didn't know where the mother was, but it was determined the mother and daughter had been held together until they were separated two days before the daughter's release, meaning the mother had been separated AFTER the ceasefire agreement.)

This first transfer to the Rafah crossing into Egypt was apparently delayed because when they were transferred to the Red Cross some were in such need of urgent care that it couldn’t wait for the short ambulance ride to the Rafah crossing. (In a later release, one elderly woman was released in critical condition because she wasn't given medication she needed to stay alive and lapsed into a coma soon after being hospitalized in Israel.)

At this moment, they have just passed the into Egypt and are receiving additional urgent care before being transferred Israel, where they will be evaluated and transferred to hospitals.

The children are not yet being told whether their parents are alive or dead; that will not happen until they are in the care of trained professionals, and then only if it is known whether their parents are alive or dead.

And they are the “lucky” ones.

They are not among those who were beheaded on Oct. 7, or burned alive, or had their limbs torn off so their Hamas torturers could enjoy watching them bleed to death.

They are in the first group, with the scene to be repeated on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, while their relatives are still living wondering whether their children will be returned and in what condition.

They are not among the nearly 200 innocents who will remain held hostage in Gaza, underground, not knowing the fate of their children, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, parents, grandparents.

If the lopsided deal doesn’t fall apart, 50 Israelis will be released over four days — along with a handful of Thai and Filipino citizens whose release was arranged separately through agreements between their governments and Hamas, but at a very heavy price even without the inevitable violations by Hamas, which started immediately. (Hamas has at least once attacked Israeli troops during the ceasefire and exploded at least two IEDs.)

All Israel was supposed to get according to the agreement was the release of 50 women and children and the International Red Cross being allowed to visit the remaining 190 or so hostages, give them emergency medical care and give Israel a list of their names and conditions. Not surprisingly, Hamas is not allowing that access to the International Red Cross. (When the ceasefire was extended, Hamas again committed to allowing Red Cross access and again reneged.)

Besides a temporary cease fire, which Hamas quickly violated with a volley of rocket fire for the first 15 minutes, Israel agreed to allow massive amounts of “humanitarian aid” into Gaza, including fuel. We can be sure much, if not most, of that “aid” will be stolen by Hamas and used to regroup, rearm and keep firing rockets at Israeli cities and towns, just as the massive terror tunnel complex used by Hamas was built using cement transferred to Gaza for humanitarian purposes.

Israel also agreed to stop its aerial surveillance, by aircraft, drones and balloons, of southern Gaza and also stop its surveillance of northern Gaza for six hours each day. One does not need much imagination to figure out why Hamas made that demand: it will give Hamas the opportunity to move the hostages around, eliminating the value of any intelligence about their location Israel might gain from the hostages who get released and making their rescue far more difficult.

Plus Israel will be releasing 150 terrorists, three terrorists for every innocent Israeli released. One of the terrorists to be released stabbed her next door neighbor; that Israeli woman survived but will now live in the fear that she try again, or go after her children. One must pray the Israeli security forces will keep a very close eye on all the released terrorists.

Perhaps the most problematic part of the deal is the cease fire and its timing, coming when Israel was days away from taking complete control of northern Gaza and being in a position to completely destroy the terror infrastructure there.

Pausing operations halts Israel’s momentum and will undoubtedly lead to pressure on Israel to agree to a permanent cease fire, leaving Hamas intact and able to rebuild. Already, the prime ministers of Belgium and Spain came to the Rafah crossing not to welcome today’s release of a handful of hostages but bizarrely to criticize Israel and call for a permanent cease fire.

There is also the provision that if Hamas releases more hostages, Israel will release 30 more terrorists and extend the cease fire another day for every ten additional hostages released by Hamas. As Yogi Berra observed, it’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future, but it would be surprising if Hamas didn’t decide to drag out the release of more terrorists in order to extend the cease fire and attempt to make irresistible the pressure on Israel to not destroy Hamas. (This has actually happened, with dramatics orchestrated by Hamas each time.)

We must stand with Israel and, for the good of Israel, for the good of America, for the good of the democratic world and for the good of the Gazans themselves, make sure Israel resists that pressure and help it put an end to the rule of Gaza by terror groups.

Alan Stein, Ph.D., was formerly a long time resident of Waterbury. He and his wife Marsha currently split their time between Netanya in Israel and Natick, Massachusetts. He is President Emeritus of PRIMER-Connecticut (Promoting Responsibility in Middle East Reporting) and the founder of PRIMER-Massachusetts and PRIMER-Israel.

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