The Rockets of August



August is usually associated with the “dog days,” when  time seems to stand still and the chaos and tumult of the other 11 months dies down. But the surface calm of the month often masks issues that can boil to the surface at a moment’s notice. 

In 1962, the Jewish-American historian Barbara Tuchman published her Pulitzer Prize-winning history of the run-up to World War I, titled “The Guns of August.”  The seeming security of the empires and other Great Powers proved to be deceptive in 1914; soon the planet was plunged into the War to End All Wars, whose romantic origins proved to be a horrible series of mistakes that paved the way for the even more destructive World War II. 

If world leaders want to stave off another catastrophe today, they must take strong and effective action to end the escalating conflict raging across the Gaza-Israel border.

For months, Hamas, the terrorist group that runs the government in the Gaza Strip, has fomented nonstop violence across its border with Israel, sending kites that have been lit on fire across the border where they have destroyed thousands of acres of Israeli land and have threatened the lives and safety of Israeli residents in places such as Sderot and Ashkelon. 

The violence has reached levels not seen in that area since 2014, when an all-out war between Hamas and Israel claimed more that 1,700 Palestinian and 70 Israeli lives and wounded hundreds more.

In May, when Israel was marking its 70th anniversary of independence and celebrating the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, Hamas and its Islamic Jihad allies massed thousands of Palestinians along the Gaza border, with the stated goal of running across the international border and killing or maiming as many Israelis as possible.

The government of Egypt, under the leadership of President  Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, has played a constructive role on several occasions in arranging a cease-fire, or period of “calm,” as Hamas prefers to call it.  Egypt, Jordan and other moderate pro-Western Arab nations are anxious to reach a deal between Hamas and Israel to end the violence and then to launch an international effort to rebuild the shattered infrastructure of Hamas, construct an airport and seaport, and lay the groundwork for a long-sought two-state solution.

But just as the latest Egyptian mediation efforts seemed most hopeful, Hamas and Islamic Jihad launched more than 150 lethal rockets into Israel, bringing the total number of Hamas rockets to 650 since the cross-border violence started in May.  

Various Jewish groups, including the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis, have condemned the violent attacks by Hamas against areas with civilian population centers. At least one Israeli soldier has been killed in the latest violence, and at least 31 people were evacuated to hospitals.

The JCRC takes special note of the “traumatic escalation in attacks” that has coincided with efforts by Egypt to negotiate a long term cease fire. 

We join the JCRC in the hope that cease-fire talks can get back on track and that the violence will end as a prelude to not just a period of uneasy calm, but a start of meaningful negotiations toward relieving the suffering of the people in Gaza. 

Then, renewed efforts can begin moving toward the two-state solution that continues to be the best option and the best foundation for a lasting peace.