By Suzanne Bowdey/Washington StandOctober 13, 2023
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"We're trying to pull ourselves together," a survivor said, looking around at the rubble, the charred and bullet-sprayed houses. What was once a buzzing kibbutz is now makeshift military base, where Israeli soldiers struggle to wade through the horrors left behind by Saturday's attack. The echoes of the massacre are all around them, in black body bags of all sizes, bloodstained walls, and the stunned look of the left behind. "We're all like zombies here," one young woman said.
This was not war, hardened soldiers on the ground would tell reporters later. This was an act of savages, of butchers. Worse than ISIS, many insisted. "I never imagined something like this could happen," IDF Major General Itai Veruv told CNN of the torture and execution of innocent children, women, and whole families. "Hand-bound, shot, executed, heads cut," babies decapitated, dazed witnesses confirmed. A slaughter.
Now, as tanks roll in and forces gather for a ground invasion of Gaza -- cutting off water, power, and fuel to the two million people living on the narrow slice of land -- rockets and drones have started pounding Israelis from Hezbollah in Lebanon. "The sirens are sounding in every town and city in the north," news outlets warn, "including the Golan Heights." As troops mass toward the south, the multi-front war that experts feared seems to have arrived.
Families whose children survived the worst of Hamas are now facing another agonizing reality -- parting with their sons and daughters, as reservists are called up to the frontlines by the tens of thousands. Together, they have one common sentiment: resolve.
Dr. Ari Sacher, one of the primary architects of Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system, sent his own sons off to war over the weekend, amazed that the army had 150% of the people they called up show up. "And what's [unbelievable]," he pointed out, is that "we were a country for the last better part of a year [that] was fraying. Many people felt that we were on the verge of a civil war. The government was trying to pass laws that would change judicial reform laws. And there was an outcry. People were saying, 'We're not going to do reserve duty anymore.'"
After Saturday's atrocities, "all of that was thrown aside," Sacher said. At a time of crisis like this, he pointed out, "one of two things could have happened: the country could have just imploded, or we could have been galvanized. And what happened was we became galvanized."
He talked about dropping one son off at the unit's meeting point, stunned by the crowd. "There were so many cars. There were thousands of cars. There was nowhere to park my car. He had to walk 15 minutes to get where he needed to get. And he was walking with throngs of people -- every type of Israeli, the Orthodox, the non-Orthodox, people with sidelocks, people that are bald with tattoos. We were all going for that purpose."
Since then, Sacher said, "There's just been an onslaught of Israelis inundating [the troops with supplies]. My sons are sending messages [saying], 'Stop bringing us food, stop bringing us supplies. There's nowhere to put it anymore.' This country has been galvanized."
And no wonder. Talking to Family Research Council President Tony Perkins on "Washington Watch" Tuesday, Sacher was somber about the task facing his people. "We have since cleared out all of the areas; we are now counting our dead. We're burying our dead. In another half hour, one of the dead from my town up north will be taken out to be buried. We are all leaving our houses and standing on the street with Israeli flags as they take him to his to his final burial place" -- a scene that will be playing out in dozens of grieving villages for weeks to come.
"And we are not looking for retribution," Sacher insisted, "because you can't ask for retribution for what happened. We're looking to rid the world of Hamas."
Others, like Carolyn Glick -- Middle East expert, journalist, political advisor, and former officer in the Israeli Defense Forces -- have been grateful to see the United States step up and have Israel's back in that effort. "[President Biden] gave an important statement [Tuesday] reinstating his full support for Israel and his readiness to aid Israel in any way necessary. ... So that was good."
But what concerns her and several other Israelis are the powerful pro-Palestinian voices inside the White House.
"Just the day before the Hamas attack, Secretary of State Tony Blinken approved another $75 million in aid to the Palestinians. And advancing the cause of the Palestinians against Israel has been a central, central focus of the Biden administration," she explained on "Washington Watch." "People like Hady Amr, who's the presidential envoy to the Palestinians, has a long history of supporting Palestinian terrorism against Israel, and he has a very senior position in the Biden administration, as does the director of intelligence and the National Security Council, Maher Bitar, and other very key people who are responsible for implementing President Biden's Middle East policies and the National Security Council in the White House and in the State Department, among other places."
So, yes, Glick cautioned. The support that America is showing for Israel "does empower Israel, but it's important to realize that Biden has also made it, "until now, a key goal of their policy to what they call integrate Iran into the Middle East through nuclear appeasement. And to that end, as you mentioned, they just approved the unfreezing of $6 billion in oil revenues from the South Koreans to be transferred to Iran."
In all honesty, she said, "Our future in this region and our existence is at stake here. ... And that means recognizing that Hamas is a proxy of Iran, as is Hezbollah in Lebanon, and that Iran is directing this entire thing. They ordered the strikes. They're paying for them. They're providing all of the ammunition and everything that Hamas needs. Ninety-three of Hamas's budget is paid for by Iran," Glick told Perkins.
"We had a Holocaust-level atrocity perpetrated against the Jewish people on Saturday," she insisted. "... And this is not just Hamas," Glick was careful to point out. "Hezbollah has 250,000 missiles pointing at Israel. And it cannot end this war with those missiles pointing at Israel or being shot at Israel. We have to end their threat against Israel -- and it goes to Iran itself." Their regime, Glick continued, cannot be appeased by Biden. It has "to be pushed back to such a degree that they won't ever try to do it again."
In the end, Glick emphasized, this is not just about the Israelis. "It's very important for our friends abroad to understand that what starts in Israel doesn't end with Israel. What starts with the Jews doesn't end with the Jews. The United States knows what jihad is, even if it's pretended it away. And if we don't defeat the forces of jihad, led by Iran, here, they will be at your doorstep as well tomorrow."