The younger brother of Meir's closest friend has been wounded and is in the hospital. (Meir is our oldest son). Nechama, our daughter, alluded this evening to Tomer Bohadana. When I didn't understand the allusion, she patiently explained, as sometimes must be done for old geezers, that in the Lebanon war of 2006 Tomer Bohadana was flown from the front with injuries he wasn't likely to survive. As he was raced into the emergency room at Rambam hospital in Haifa, a medic staunching the flow of blood from his jugular vein, he was still conscious enough to notice a TV crew, and he gave them a V-sign and the semblance of a grin. "And ever since then, Abba, in case you haven't noticed, whenever a wounded soldier on arrival at the hospital sees a camera, they all flash Tomer's V-sign" (which originally was Churchill's, but who's counting).
I hadn't noticed. Much as I pride myself on being a seasoned observer of Israeli society, here's an entire cultural symbol of tremendous significance for these young heroes, which I'd never even heard of.
Tomer Bohadana, by the way, having had his 1.5 second of fame, fully recovered from his injuries and went back to his anonymous life - but what a 1.5 second it was, apparently.
Sometime this afternoon we killed dozens of Palestinian civilians in a school. The Palestinians claim more than 40 dead civilians, the BBC says it was 30. The IDF says mortar shells were fired from within the school, and even names the two Hamas men doing the firing; both were killed and must be counted among the dead. (I continue to be amazed by the level of micro-intelligence the IDF is working with). These dead civilians are added to the many dozens, perhaps even a few hundred who have been killed so far. Which is horrifying, and terrible. I'm a father, my children now all responsible adults, but I can remember fondly when they were younger. I think I can imagine the terror of the Palestinian parents in Gaza, and I can feebly feel the pain of those losing children. So can any Israeli. Contrary to what the Guardianistas tell you, we're human beings, not monsters.
There's another fundamental difference between us and the antisemites: we know the Palestinians as people.
I can't speak for the citizenry of Tel Aviv. But I can say it's unlikely there's a single adult Jew in Jerusalem who doesn't have some sort of personal relationship with one or more Palestinians. These are not generally close friendships, but they can be many years old. There's Muhammad the janitor, Ashraf the gardener, Dr. Tibi the gynecologist at the hospital (before he became a politician), there's the co-worker at the bakery, that perpetually smiling fellow at the delicatessen...
I'm not claiming there's full educational and thus social equality, and that's a complex issue for another day. But we know them, and they know us, often by name. The enmity is between people, not theoretical constructs.
The hatred spewed by the Guardianistas is theoretical. They know no Jews, certainly no Israeli ones, and haven't the remotest interest in what they might think and feel. How can they, when Israelis are colonialists, invaders, thieves of land, captives of their history etc etc etc? Seeing real Israelis would complicate the theories, perhaps even sully them, and we can't have that, can we.
Yet the Guardianistas know no Palestinians, either, nor do they care. If they were Tamils, say, and a war that had killed 70,000 people was finally being brutally ended, they'd get a brief mention in the Economist, but never ten or twelve articles a day in the Guardian. If they were Algerians after the Colonial French had left, they could be massacred with impunity for years, more than 100,000 of them, and while they would get mentioned it would be perfunctory, with no indignation and never any shoe-throwing demonstrators. Never. The Palestinians are coddled because they are the enemies of the Jews; were they not to be, they'd be of no interest. Or rather, they're already of no interest, except as anti-Israeli props.
This is not beneficial even for the Palestinians.
Our troops currently fighting in Gaza are finding an astonishingly complex web of tunnels beneath the ordinary buildings the locals live in. These tunnels couldn't have been dug without the connivance of the populace, the owners of the kitchen cabinets which hide the entrances. The thuggish Hammas murderers are surrounding themselves with Palestinian children as they move from place to place, correctly assuming our troops won't deliberately target children. The parents of the children see this happening. In spite of the fighting, dozens of trucks with supplies are going into Gaza, even today; the goods aren't being distributed, they're being hijacked by the Hamas strongmen. The civilians see this happening.
I don't know Arabic, beyond a word here or there, and I don't have sources in Gaza to give me information, so I can't tell what's going on. Is the populace so fanatic in its hatred that it's willingly supporting Hamas, eager to pay any price as long as it hurts Israel? They may; or some may. Stranger things have happened. Populations indeed can lose all moral compasses, and the Palestinians have a track record. But one shouldn't be deterministic. It is conceivable that parts of the Gazan populace can see what's going on, and wonder if Hamas is such a blessing.
The strongest indication for this, in my mind, comes from the West Bank. Israel is punishing Gaza as never before; even Operation Defensive Shield in 2002 wasn't like this. If the cycle-of-violence theory, and the hitting-Hamas-will-further-radicalize-Palestinians theory were so pat and clean, why are the Palestinians on the West Bank mostly quiet, at least so far? Is it conceivable they've made their own strategic decision, to turn their backs on their worst demons, try to get their own society functioning, and see if this can lead to a better life?
Because if they have, there is hope. Not for Peace in Our Time just yet, but perhaps a road that might lead to it might be found.
If the demons can be banished.