On Israel’s ruins

“Israel is a small country of 9.3 million people. If such a thing happened in the Philippines (with a population of over 110,000 million), more than 17,000 Filipinos would be massacred. That’s the scale. We’re a small nation. This is a scar in our history we’ll never forget.”

Thus explained Tomer Heyvi, counselor and head of the Economic and Commercial Mission to the Philippines of the Ministry of Economy and Industry of the State of Israel, over breakfast with Israel Ambassador to the Philippines Ilan Fluss and a select group of Filipino journalists.

The only other time this Contrarian was thoroughly patted down for an interview, with a metal detector prod, arms up and both hands on the wall, was for an ocular years back on the conditions prevailing at the maximum security compound of the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City.

On an overcast Friday morning somewhere in Rockwell, and after the abject failure of their much-ballyhooed intelligence and their vaunted Iron Dome defense against rocket attacks, there’s no further lowering of the guard for Israelis even in Manila. Perfectly understood for a nation at war.

“October 7, 2023 is our 9/11,” said Israel’s Deputy Chief of Mission Ester Bugan. She was referring to the 11 September 2001 terror attacks in the United States that killed 2,977 people. At the time, several commercial flights were intentionally crashed into buildings, including the seat of American military power, the Pentagon, on the orders of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Heyvi and Bugan were referencing 9/11 with the horrors this month of 1,400 of their countrymen and several foreigners being machine-gunned to death, decapitated, and, in some instances, raped by Hamas. Children and babies were not spared, including, according to one account, a pregnant mother cut open before she and her baby were gutted.

Acknowledged as the deadliest terrorist act in human history, the 9/11 attacks would lead to America’s so-called War on Terror, including the invasion of Afghanistan, the overthrow of the Taliban regime, and the downfall of Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Over two decades since images of Saddam’s gigantic statue being toppled in Baghdad captured the world’s attention, the American-led coalition forces have left Afghanistan in a huff, the Taliban is back in power in Afghanistan, and Israel — which had figured in many armed conflicts with neighboring Arab countries — is once again at war, this time with Hamas.

According to Fluss, there can be no political solution to Hamas because the group was founded on a radical Islamist ideology, calling for jihad or holy war on Israel and the Jewish people.

“Israel will exist and continue to exist until Islam obliterates it, just as it obliterated others before it,” Fluss said, quoting a passage from the Hamas Covenant.

Fluss, however, was quick to clarify that Israel’s war is with Hamas and not the Palestinian population of the now besieged Hamas-enclave Gaza Strip. Hamas, according to the ambassador, is holding hostage the population of the Gaza Strip, along with the 200 people, including foreigners, whom they kidnapped from the Israeli kibbutzim.

“We are seeing what happens when you are not ready, unfortunately,” Ambassador Fluss said of the relative success of the raids conducted by Hamas on Israeli communities last 7 October after breaching the wall that separates them from Gaza.

“So, we’re (now) ready. We’ll respond (to Hamas), retaliate, and we’ll protect Israel. We’re seeing very strong messages of support. And from that aspect, we’re urging other nations (like the United States and the United Kingdom) to put pressure on other countries not to escalate.”

Fluss conceded that Israel could ill-afford to engage Lebanon in another war as the two countries did in 2006, even as its forces had exchanged artillery and rocket fire with Hezbollah, a much bigger and more sophisticated force than Hamas, that lords it over the south of Lebanon.

He noted that during the Arab Spring that started in 2010, when Syria was on the verge of collapse, Hamas, Iran-backed Hezbollah and later Russia aided the embattled Syrian government to allow it to remain in power.

Fluss warned there would be massive loss of life on all sides if other nations sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, like Hezbollah, would come to the aid of Hamas, whose charter calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state on Israel’s ruins.

Deescalation in Israel and Palestine would be easier said than done as the United Nations has become irrelevant. The parties engaged in this long-running war of attrition, dating back centuries and more recently to Israel’s founding in 1948, would not put an end to this cycle of violence that has killed twice as many Gazans as the original Israeli victims of 10/7.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *