The war in Gaza: Israel’s high wire act with not a net in sight

December 15th, 2023 by Tom Lynch

We are all trying to make some sense, where sense cannot be made, but still we try, out of the deepening tragedy in the Gaza Strip, which is more and more reduced to rubble, and where today the Israeli Defense Forces admitted accidentally killing three of the many hostages it had been determined to rescue. IDF soldiers mistook them for Hamas militants.

After the Hamas barbarity of 7 October, we have seen pro-Palestinian demonstrations praising Hamas on our college campuses and around the world, and, in a weird juxtaposition, we have watched patriotic preening in the U.S. Congress where Members of the House of Representatives have suddenly discovered it pays to condemn antisemitism.

Meanwhile, those same Members let Ukraine twist in the wind, a veritable Russian piñata. Doesn’t matter a Ukrainian defeat would upset the international balance of power and convince a Moscow madman he really is the second coming of Peter the Great. No, it’s more important to exact draconian southern border concessions from Joe Biden. I don’t know why, but I’m still surprised that a bunch of congressional amateurs are having the time of their lives lining up to throw muck into the gears of international diplomacy.

If that’s not enough, this week we were treated to an American President strongly telling our long-time ally to pull back, slow down, end the bloodshed, only to get a sharp stick in the eye for his trouble from Israel’s Prime Minister, who is happy to keep taking boatloads of money from U.S. taxpayers, because he knows we’re not about to turn off the spigot. We seem to need him as much as he needs us.

Friends, this is like parachuting into prime time at a humongous Rap music free-for-all; it’ll make your head spin.

I think it is impossible to appreciate this all-out horrendoma if one does not examine the history that got us here — and I’m not talking about “recent” history.

Jews and Arabs have lived in Palestine more or less collegially for more than 2,000 years. At the time of Jesus, Palestine, then Judea, was part of the Roman Empire, although Rome left governance of the area to its “client kings,” who were Jewish. Herod the Great is a good example. He ruled a stable Judea, as did his sons following him.

Then, in CE66, the Jews revolted and drove the Romans out from Jerusalem. They set up a new government and stabilized the country. In 69, the Roman Emperor Vespasian sent his son Titus, himself to become Emperor following his father, to quell the revolt and destroy Jewish opposition. In the year 70 Titus captured Jerusalem, burned the Temple, and the Jewish state collapsed, although the fortress of Masada was not conquered by the Roman general Flavius Silva until April 73.

Titus returned to Rome, a bona fide hero. His father gave him a victory celebration through the city, where Titus paraded the spoils from his conquest, including captured Jews, now Roman slaves, and the Temple’s Holy Menorah. If you visit the Roman Forum you will see the Arch of Titus, one of the three major surviving arches. The interior of this arch shows the humiliation of the Jews. The Jewish defeat of 70 begins the Jewish diaspora that lasted until 1948 and the creation of the state of Israel.

The Middle East, and Palestine, was relatively stable until the end of the first World War.

As part of negotiations to divide up the spoils of that war, the League of Nations created the British Mandate, and Britain assumed control of Palestine.

Looking back, you could be forgiven for thinking Britain was the dog that caught the bus. Arabs who had helped win the war (remember Lawrence of Arabia?), had been promised the land by double-talking British generals. However, in 1923 Britain and the League of Nations moved the goalposts.

A crucial piece of the British Mandate was its incorporation of the Balfour Declaration of 1917,  in which the British government committed itself to a “national home” for the Jewish people. In part, the Balfour Declaration also states, “… it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”  

The British left in 1948, and Israel became an independent state, whereupon, under the agreement that created Israel, Egypt took control of Gaza and Jordan got the West Bank. However, Palestinians in what was the new State of Israel revolted, and a civil war, the first of many such battles, ensued. Many Palestinians, 750,00 of them, made the long march to Gaza, under the protection of Egypt. And there they stayed. But they never forgot.

From the Balfour Declaration until 1948, Israelis and Arabs had been fighting. The University of Central Arkansas has compiled a chronology of the hundreds of attacks by both sides, which shows how turbulent and vicious the fight was for the land that is now Israel.

If you study the history carefully, you will not be the least surprised at the ferocity of the current war. It is an extension of the long, dark night that is Judea, Palestine, and now Israel.

The only way out of this calamity is for Palestinians and Israelis to stop fighting and negotiate a two state agreement. Both sides have to give, but we seemed to have reached the point where the immovable object has encountered the irresistible force.

Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu says he will not stop until total victory. This, by the way, is the same Netanyahu who has done all in his power over the last 15 years, both publicly and privately, to ensure there will never be an independent state of Palestine.  This is the same Netanyahu who cut a deal with Qatar to send hundreds of millions of dollars to Hamas to use in its governance of the Strip, thereby weakening the Palestinian Authority. Much of the money that reached Hamas went to its military wing and led to the horror of October 7th.

If any of you think this can ever end well, I want some of whatever it is you’re smoking.















It seems to me that one can neither appreciate nor understand the current ongoing tragedy without considering the history that led to it, and I’m not talking about “recent” history.

What we now know as Israel was called Palestine and was part of the Roman Empire during the time of Jesus, although the Romans exercised more of an oversight role, leaving governance to its “client” kings who were Jewish. As long as kings like Herod and his sons after him kept stability in the region, Rome took a hands-off approach.

But that all changed in CE66 with the First Jewish Revolt during which the Jews expelled the Romans from Jerusalem, defeated a Roman punitive force under Gallus, the imperial legate in Syria, and set up a revolutionary government throughout Palestine. However, the Roman Emperor Vespasian sent his son Titus to put down the revolt, and in CE70, Jerusalem fell, the Temple was burned, and the Jewish state collapsed.

Titus returned to Rome to a hero’s welcome and a grand parade, in which captured Jews and the spoils from Solomon’s Temple were displayed. If you visit the Roman Forum you will see the Arch of Titus, one of three great arches still existing. Titus’s triumph over Jerusalem are depicted on the inner side of the arch, as well as his parade’s captives and the Temple’s Menorah.



Earlier this week, I described the political misjudgments and misguided priorities that led to Great Britain losing her American colonies over the course of the 18th century. In setting out this tale of missed British opportunities, I sought to show how our Republican-controlled Congress, like the British Monarchy and Parliament in the 18th century, is now sleepwalking its way to losing Ukraine to Russia in order to score a short-term political win while simultaneously embarrassing the Biden administration.