Gaza War: Silly Sauce

(Scroll down to see earlier posts starting January 14th.)

Given certain remarks in the news lately, I thought it might be silly season, but not everybody is silly. Upon careful investigation I learned about Silly Sauce. Like beluga caviar, it is only for a select few—but not the rich. Only political leaders who can’t resist sipping it and don’t mind brain fog.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) first alerted me. He must have sipped some from his hip flask before going down to the Senate floor on March 14th. It was an interesting speech, touching to me in many ways. He said he was speaking for “a silent majority” of “mainstream Jewish Americans” in his “nuanced” view of the Gaza War. He’s a landsman of mine; I went to the next high school over from his a few years earlier. We grew up in the same culture of Brooklyn-Jewish love for Israel in the time when its survival was unlikely. “We love Israel in our bones.”

But, “What horrifies so many Jews especially…is that Israel is falling short” of “distinctive Jewish values.” What exactly are those? He recounts the history of the conflict and the “perfidy” of Hamas in a way that most Jews, including Israelis, can accept. He blasts the right-wing thugs in the Israeli cabinet and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as “obstacles to peace.”

Fine. But he gives Bibi Netanyahu special attention. Almost all he says about Bibi would be endorsed by the great majority of Israelis. Eighty-five percent disapprove of Bibi, and a growing number support early elections—which Schumer crossed a line to call for.

But here’s the silly part: Schumer calls Bibi too an obstacle to peace, which implies that without him the war would be different. It would not. If 85 percent of Israelis dislike Bibi, about the same percentage approve of how the war is being conducted. Replace Bibi with Gantz or Gallant, and you will get the same war, the same operation in Rafa, the same checking of aid trucks for weapons. The vast majority of Israelis want the war to continue until Hamas is completely disabled.

Apparently Chuck then passed the Silly Sauce on to Vice President Kamala Harris, who said on ABC News last Sunday, “Let me tell you something. I have studied the maps. There’s nowhere for those folks to go.” She was talking about Rafa and why she categorically opposes an IDF incursion there.

Excuse me? You studied maps you were looking at for the first time, of a place you’ve never been, and you give orders to IDF generals who have been operating there for months? That’s just silly, even if you were holding the maps right side up. Someone who loves the Vice President should tell her that it’s possible to advocate for peace without making herself ridiculous.

As I write this, the IDF is clearing and securing parts of Gaza to give the more than a million people there places to go. Let’s stop repeating nonsense about evacuations being impossible. In advance of hurricane Katrina, 1.2 million people were evacuated from metropolitan New Orleans. Also, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant—no devotee of Bibi’s—has been in high-level meetings in Washington all week. I’m guessing a major purpose of this visit is to craft a plan acceptable to U.S. officials to evacuate Rafa, conduct operations there, and dismantle the last battalions of Hamas.

Which brings us to our next big piece of silliness. Bibi must have chugged a big slug of Silly Sauce before he reacted with “righteous” outrage and, even sillier, canceled the trip of two other cabinet members to Washington, in response to America’s abstaining for once instead of vetoing a UN resolution. The resolution that enraged Bibi so much calls for an immediate cease-fire until the end of Ramadan (April 9th); an unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas (that is, no prisoner exchange from Israel); and an increase in humanitarian aid for Gazans (which is increasing every day). True, it does not make the cease-fire contingent on the hostage release, and it does not mention October 7th. But really, abstaining from a call for a two-week cease-fire justifies a slap in the face to your greatest friend? A resolution that is anyway unenforceable? After your friend assures you there is no change in his policy?

Tell us, Bibi, which part of Biden do you dislike most? The aircraft carriers he sent to your offshore waters in October along with a stern warning to those who might want to attack you? His showing up in Israel in the first days of the war, an unprecedent act of friendship and comfort? The constant stream of advanced weapons and ammunition he has sent you? That he calls himself a Zionist? The vetoes of every UN resolution taken about Gaza until this abstention from one that is both mild and toothless?

Fortunately, the reaction in Israel forced Bibi to take an antidote to Silly Sauce and within a day restore the trip of his cabinet members to Washington. When there, they will do the same thing Gallant has done: explain why Israel can evacuate Rafa; explain why operations in Rafa must continue until Hamas is done; and present a plan for finishing the war that the Biden administration can accept.

By the way, the abstention will make it easier for the U.S. to veto the next three or eight or ten silly UN resolutions, ones that would really threaten Israel. And a word to Chuck: “Jewish values” include self-defense.

5 thoughts on “Gaza War: Silly Sauce

  1. Mel, your posts on Gaza have been interesting to read and I look forward to them. I have to take issue with some of this post, however.

    “As I write this, the IDF is clearing and securing parts of Gaza to give the more than a million people there places to go.”

    That’s an incredibly generous framing of what the IDF is doing. They have destroyed schools, hospitals, apartment buildings, mosques, cemeteries and banks. Many homes have been burned or bulldozed. To quote the ADL Abraham Accords Champion Jared Kushner when asked last week about Gazans refugees who would want to come home after the war, “I’m not sure there’s much left of Gaza at this point.”

    “But here’s the silly part: Schumer calls Bibi too an obstacle to peace, which implies that without him the war would be different.”

    He’s been an obstacle to peace long before this war. Don’t forget that Bibi propped up and supported Hamas precisely because it made it harder for a two state solution to happen. I don’t know how you can say nothing would change when we have already had ceasefire agreements on the table with full hostage releases that Bibi has rejected.

    “and an increase in humanitarian aid for Gazans (which is increasing every day)”

    Is it increasing at a rate that will prevent starvation? Israeli spokesman Eylon Levy was just fired for lying to the UK about the amount of aid coming into Gaza. The Washington Post reported that protesters are blocking aid with bouncy castles set up at the crossings, which the IDF has done nothing to stop. Meanwhile the State Department has said famine is likely already present in Gaza as of last Friday. And of course there have been multiple mass killings of people trying to get aid, including one yesterday where 12 people were killed at Kuwait Roundabout. The Roundabout is an aid distribution hub which has been attacked 10 times this month alone.

    Why is the US taking two months to build a port when people are starving now and trucks are lined up for miles at the border crossings? If starvation is not the intention, much more needs to be done.

    • Dear Anon, Thank you for your thoughtful comments. Since you have helpfully quoted me three times, I will try to answer you with numbers representing the three quotes.
      1. You are quite right, Israel has destroyed “schools, hospitals, apartment buildings, mosques, cemeteries and banks.” In fact, according to a just-published UN-World Bank report, as summarized by Al Jazeera, 290,820 housing units have been destroyed. According to the UN OCHA, 32,643 Palestinians have been killed as of today. I see no way out of the inference that at least 90 percent of the dwellings were empty. Why? Because the IDF warned people, gave them a chance, to evacuate, and didn’t kill them. Your point seems to be that the 1.2 million people in Rafa have no buildings to move back to. Quite right. But the vast majority of them are now living in tents. When they evacuate they will take their tents or move to tents elsewhere within Gaza. Yes, some will be moving for the fourth or fifth time. Very stressful, but it’s better than being killed. New Orleans evacuated 1.2 million residents to avoid their being drowned by Hurricane Katrina.
      2. Sorry, but: woulda coulda shoulda. You, like several private comments I’ve gotten, tell me all about how things would have been different if a different government had been in place before the war. I agree completely. Probably there would have been no October 7th, or it would have been much smaller, leading to a much smaller response. Furthermore, Israel would have been a better and more coherent democracy. But our 20-20 hindsight does us no good whatsoever. I was writing about, and we all have to think about, what we do next. I read Schumer’s speech carefully and I am sure many listeners and readers took away the message that the war will change if Bibi is removed now. If he is (which he might be soon), the new government will still evacuate Rafa, conduct operations there, and eliminate Hamas as a threat. I will grant you that the post-war Gaza would benefit from someone other than Bibi in power. But the US and others are taking care of that planning.
      3. Humanitarian aid is not increasing nearly fast enough, and despite the fact that Israel is not the only obstacle to the increase, it needs to do more. Aid from the air and the sea will increase greatly, but the most important increase still has to come by truck. Israel must do more there. The trucks are not lined up for miles, but they are lined up. They are attacked when inside Gaza by armed gangs and by Hamas. This does not obviate Israel’s responsibility to get food in, but it makes it a lot more complicated. As for why the US is taking two months to build a port, that’s above my pay grade, but I doubt many ports have been built much faster anywhere.

  2. I have to say that I am devastated by the IDF’s admitted killing of seven World Central Kitchen aid workers with direct hits on three of their vehicles, clearly marked, carrying food to hungry if not starving Gazans. I had donated 200 meals before these tragic killings, and I donated another 200 just now. WCK has none of the vicious anti-Israel taint that attaches to UNRWA and Doctors Without Borders. Israel has made other mistakes, including killing three of its own hostages as they escaped from Hamas waving a white flag. But this mistake is much, much worse, both as a humanitarian tragedy and as a wound to Israel. There need to be substantial reparations to both the family members and WCK. Mel Konner

  3. Hi Mel, thanks for your response. It’s such a frustrating, sad, scary and maddening time. I don’t have any answers but I’ll keep hoping for a peaceful resolution for everyone. I hope you keep your posts up as I really enjoy your perspective on this conflict even if I don’t always agree. I’ll try to comment if I have something useful to add.

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