A Sense of Failure in Gaza

Terry Schwadron
4 min readDec 4, 2023

Terry H. Schwadron

Dec. 4, 2023
With attempts at negotiation shunted aside — even for hostage-for-prisoner exchanges that both sides want — the provocation of more Hamas missile aimed Israeli cities and the retaliatory military strikes against Gaza are back in full force.

Two months in, including the break for the release of 100 hostages grabbed from Israeli soil, mostly women and children, for three times as many Palestinians who had been jailed in Israel, and we’re back where we were before the pause. Only now, Israeli might is aimed at the southern half of Gaza, where Palestinian civilians from the north had been advised to flee from bombardment of homes and hospitals.

Despite entreaties from the world and specific counsel from Joe Biden and U.S. advisers, it is impossible to see any real restraint being taken in the resumption of aerial war; the Gazan health ministry is reporting hundreds of Palestinian casualties as Israel seeks the Hamas terrorists hiding among its own civilians.

Frankly, it feels as if there’s been another terrible failure to reckon with the moment. You can blame one side or the other, or both, or just the pounding of war on daily life, but none of it addresses the failure of seeing either the immediate consequences of more death nor the futility of perpetuating the blood rivalries at work here.

Why Hamas, having seemingly achieved notice and concern for a Palestinian state, prefers to hold another 137 hostages endlessly and to provoke more Israeli war-making is beyond reason, speaking only to its continuing mission to kill Jews. And for Israel, caught among a desire to free its citizens, to punish Hamas, and to survive a shaky internal government that insists on the most aggressive tactics, the question is what exactly resumption of bombing a population that is basically trapped will achieve.

Futile Efforts for More Pause

From all accounts, the U.S. advice on devising ways to make the hunt-Hamas efforts more precise are falling on deaf ears. The dominant view among Israeli officials seems to be that military pressure against the entire population is the only useful goad to its goals.

Still, for the several days of pause, the United States, Qatar, Egypt, and others apparently worked feverishly, if futilely, to bring reason to an emotional conflict. Again, by all accounts, negotiators from Hamas, who cannot even vouch for the current location of hostages and will not produce even proof of life, cannot abandon war for the prospect of regional peace, though Israeli demands for assured security include a host of non-starters for anyone trying to suspend conflict further.

Military officials are reported to be frustrated by efforts to sanitize and limit the conduct of war, Arab neighbor groups and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank are unwilling to label Hamas as terrorists or to abandon any push to seek further conflict with Israel; United Nations personnel are frustrated about not being able to distribute humanitarian aid, which necessarily has once again been cut back. Still, 100 trucks crossed into Gaza with aid, and nearly 900 foreign nationals left Gaza into Egypt.

Israeli officials, who have by now identified 800 tunnels under schools, hospitals, and civilian areas in Gaza, with 500 sealed or destroyed, insist that Hamas has fled south along with civilians. Among the areas being targeted was Khan Younis, the largest Gazan area in the south, to which civilians in the north had gone. Bombs obviously are a crude and impersonal weapon that cannot separate militant from civilian, and so we are headed for a repeat of the first weeks of destruction.

The absurdity of Israeli warning leaflets and electronic messages to civilian phones that no longer have power to run them is an apt metaphor for the whole situation. The most recent reports suggested that Israel was prepping for ground invasion into the south, leaving civilians with virtually no safe haven.

The Information Wars Resume Too

Through all of this, the information war for international hearts and minds also resumed, with hardened feelings on all sides evident amid reports of misplaced personal violence and violation along ethnic lines met up with a Congress that is growing recalcitrant about providing aid either for military or humanitarian uses.

The voices of a generationally motivated global protest against the perception of an occupying Israel oppressor were growing — and leaking into hate-filled attacks on institutions and individuals.

Individual statements or individual institutional changes — cancellation of a tv show with a Muslim host, for example — again are being seen as an expression only of “taking sides” in the Middle East, as if normal business operations were not involved.

Replacing reason was politics — politics among Palestinians for control of an out-of-control militancy, politics among Israeli coalitions that see staying in office as more important than addressing the humanitarian crisis that has emerged, politics in the United States from a citizenry that wants to use one side or the other to bludgeon the parties in power.

Adding fire to all of this was an uneven international response. We saw Turkey’s Recep Tayyip

Erdogan continuing to sidle up to Hamas, while Russian, Chinese, and other powers were maneuvering to take national advantage of the chaos. Iran was continuing to fuel its international militia groups to target U.S. bases in the region, drawing some proportioned military response.

Only those who see chaos as a goal could be enjoying this moment.

For the rest of us, the resumption of warfare as it is being conducted is a compilation of the worst that we can expect of ourselves.