The Middle East: Again.

Terry Schwadron
4 min readMay 8, 2024

Terry H. Schwadron

May 8, 2024

On Sunday, things in the Middle East remained in dangerous stalemate, with threats of more Israeli invasion into southern Gaza to rout four remaining Hamas terror battalions. Once again, warning leaflets were falling from the sky ordering 100,000 Gazans in one portion of Rafah, where they had fled from the north, to move again before Israeli ground forces arrive with tanks and troops.

There were frantic phone calls from Washington and other world capitals to urge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to show restraint in attacking an area with a million or more civilian refugees. A defiant Netanyahu told the world to pound sand, that it was his mission to wipe out Hamas once and for all.

Amid apparently lost threads of negotiation, Hamas spokespeople popped up to say that they had accepted a ceasefire agreement — one apparently of their own partial hostage-exchange dreams, but not as the result of negotiation. Or maybe it was a signal that there can be a bit of a deal.

Whatever strange political theater all this represented, it was a mirage, despite immediate cheering that spread like wildfire among civilians on all sides.

By Monday night, there were Israeli tanks on self-described limited operations in reprisal for some reported Israeli military deaths. It may have been short of the full ground attack still to come, but the practical effort was to shut off the humanitarian aid gates to Rafah, where at least a million had come to seek safety and to flood the area with armor again. Now those left homeless were packing up tents and moving. again. to designated humanitarian safe zones just outside the main target areas.

Even so, tendrils of interest in temporary ceasefires spurred more talk about talk, while all the action was hurdling anew towards bloody violence.

The most important word: again.

Confusing? You bet. Maddening? Yes. Does any of it point to resolution? No.

Contradictions Everywhere

Throughout these tense days of clashing statements and actions, the remarkable thing was the insistence of every single party to be right and therefore oblivious to whatever other thoughts might be on the table — though maybe that’s been the same throughout the months that have preceded.

It’s a reminder of the blinders that come with rage and the need to win at all costs. And it is spilling out in our own handling of protests and in other countries’ treatment of Jews or Palestinians just for ethnicity.

Not only can’t we learn from history, but we also can’t learn anything from current day images of destitute hostage families, of hunger and homelessness, of civilian vulnerability to weapons of increasing ability to damage and kill. The Israeli government is making things yet more difficult by moving to shut down operations of Al Jazeera’s news operation, for example, which they find overly supportive of Hamas — a clear rejection of a basic freedom for a democracy.

Away from the Middle East, we’re hearing reports of Russia running exercises on the use of tactical nuclear weapons against Ukraine or a North Korea that can’t feed itself finding the constant wherewithal to launch seemingly endless and alarming test missiles just to rattle the neighboring cages.

Whether the word is from the UN, allies, enemies or from Gazans themselves, the clearest conclusions from the clashes underway in the Middle East are that the military response is not contained. The direness of famine and lack of humanitarian aid has reached overwhelming proportions, but that word does not seem to affect the Israeli war plan. Hamas must know it can get a ceasefire right now by returning hostages, but won’t do so, and won’t even say if the hostages whose bodies they are offering are still alive.

The world wants a permanent solution, but only is getting a permanent cycle of violence.

At home, the protests that take up these causes mirror the same lack of dialogue, the same insistence on order over resolution of outstanding issues.

What we’re left with are an unending newsreel of images of tanks and hunger. Those

air-dropped leaflets promise safe zones with tents, mobile hospital, and food aid, but the aid entry through Rafah is closed, though 60 Israeli aid trucks went into northern Gaza. No one knows when the invasion will come, but all accept the certainty that there will be an attack that will be bloody, even with the likely outcome militarily unresolved.

Mostly, we can be certain that sending armored troops against Gaza is a guarantee of more generations of Palestinians bound to attack Israelis as oppressors, and more Israeli reprisals from an increasingly deaf, rightist coalition government that seems to value land grabs in West Bank over long-term peace proposals.