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VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: One sick and surreal war in the Middle East

There is something surreal, even sick about the current Gazan war.

Throughout European and American cities and campuses, tens of thousands of Middle East immigrants and students and radical leftists chant nonstop, “Free Palestine from the river to the sea.” More recently, they are also yelling, “Israel, you can’t hide, we caught you in genocide.”

Consider the hypocrisy of that dual messaging.

Hamas and its supporters are openly and eagerly calling for the genocidal end of Israel by wiping it out from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Yet at the same time they also claim it is Israel that is committing genocide — the very current self-described agenda of Hamas and its expatriate community of devotees!

The war has become crazier still.

Hamas and its megaphones abroad also blast Israel daily for retaliating for the Oct. 7 butchery of some 1,400 Israeli infants, children, women and the elderly. They further demand that Israel must be selective in its airborne targeting of the Hamas killers, who burrow beneath hospitals and mosques while using civilians as shields.

Hamas takes for granted that a supposedly heartless Israel nevertheless will be reluctant to strike the Hamas terrorists when and if they are surrounded by civilians. Indeed, Gazans are put in more danger by Hamas than they would otherwise be by the Israel Defense Forces.

Yet the world accepts that Israel itself would never employ such a ruse of using civilians to shield its cities from indiscriminately fired Hamas missiles. The world further knows that if Israel ever employed such a barbaric tactic, Israeli civilian shields would attract — not deter — Hamas rockets.

Hamas’ apologists insist that Israel warn civilians in advance to keep clear of Israeli bombs. Yet at the same time, daily Hamas launches rockets into Israel. And no one in the international community lectures Hamas to drop leaflets or text Israeli civilians that Hamas rockets are on their way into their vicinity.

Instead, the only purpose of Hamas rockets is to indiscriminately strike and kill Israeli civilians.

So the real issue is not about the principle of civilian deaths — given Israel is damned when it tries to avoid noncombatants and Hamas is cheered on when it deliberately targets them. Instead, the asymmetry is explained by the efficacy of the Israeli response and impotence of Hamas rocketry.

In other words, Hamas cannot stop the IDF from hitting its targets, while Israel can knock down far more Hamas rockets. And so Israel is being blamed for being too effective — or “disproportionate” — in its bombing, and Hamas is rewarded for being too ineffective in its rocketing.

There are other sick paradoxes in this war.

Hamas started the conflict by sending death squads of 2,000 killers into Israel at a time of peace to surprise murder more than 1,000 Israeli civilians. There was no pre-civilizational, unspeakable atrocity that the butchers did not commit — torture, beheading, rape, mutilation and necrophilia. The terrorists were followed into Israel by a multitude of opportunistic Gaza civilians, who in turn joined in the violence and looting.

Back in Gaza crowds reviled and tried to harm Israeli captives bound as hostages to trade for jailed terrorists in Israel.

In sum, the population that once elected Hamas into power and cheered on its bloodletting — as long as there was yet no Israeli response — now claims to have no connection at all with Hamas. Yet the world assumes correctly that the people of Israel are inseparable from its military.

The surreal paradoxes of this war still do not end there.

In its mass murdering spree of Oct. 7, Hamas butchered more than 30 American citizens and perhaps another 13 still are unaccounted for — and are likely hostages inside the tunnels of Hamas in Gaza. Yet the Biden administration has not forced Hamas to return kidnapped Americans, much less responded to its killing of U.S. citizens.

Why then despite all the rhetoric of solidarity, is the United States constantly pressuring Israel to be measured in its retaliation against the Hamas terrorists in Gaza, pressure that will make things only easier on Hamas? Why are we seeking to restrain those who are trying to destroy the killers of Americans, and indirectly aiding those who murdered them? And why is the global elite community siding with the murderous aggressors and not those seeking justice for the murdered?

Lots of reasons.

There are 500 million Arabs in the world, and nearly 2 billion Muslims — but only 9 million or so Israelis. Nearly 50 percent of the world’s oil reserves are found in the Muslim Middle East.

Westerners, like tiny Israel, are considered too rich and powerful, while non-Westerners are romanticized as blameless, victimized underdogs.

But the best way of understanding this war is that Israelis are Jews and the ancient plague of antisemitism is again sweeping the globe.

Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and a classicist and historian at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. Contact at authorvdh@gmail.com.

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