Saturday, June 08, 2024

The Redemption of Noa Argamani

The Israeli military announced today that it had successfully rescued four hostages from Hamas captivity, including Noa Argamani. Argamani was a particularly high-profile hostage because video of her abduction was one of the first pieces of footage Hamas released after October 7, showing her pleading with her captors "don't kill me!" as she was taken from the Nova music festival massacre and separated from her boyfriend (whose whereabouts remain unknown).

The Israeli operation which freed Argamani and her compatriots also reportedly killed approximately two hundred Palestinians, according to Hamas figures. These, as always, do not distinguish between civilian and military casualties; we can safely assume there is plenty of both (it is apparent that there was a significant military presence guarding the hostages).

Two days after October 7, I quoted Noa's father Jacob saying the following:

Let us make peace with our neighbors, in any way possible. I want there to be peace; I want my daughter to come back. Enough with the wars. They too have casualties, they too have captives, and they have mothers who weep. We are two peoples to one Father. Let’s make real peace.

That quote came at the bottom of a post titled "What Will You Say 'No' To?" It was a warning to Israel supporters that they needed to decide, then and there, what sort of response or retaliation would not be justified in the wake of Hamas' attack, citing specifically Yoav Gallant's threat to starve out Gaza's population. There's plenty that Israel justifiably could do in response to Hamas' attack, but what would we not support Israel doing? What is too far? What must be taken off the table?

Was it not unfair to level that demand mere days after October 7? Maybe it was, though if Jacob Argamani could think along the above lines, then I'd argue so could anyone. Unfair or not, however, I said that we had to think about those questions then, because 

we just witnessed in real-time a catastrophic failure to grapple seriously with this question on the part of those who've pledge to stand with Palestinians and Palestine. Suddenly forced to decide whether, in the wake of occupation and besiegement, a Palestinian response of "a systemic campaign of house-to-house kidnappings, rapes, and executions" is a valid one, we saw far, far too many individuals unable to say "no" (or at least, say it with any level of decisiveness). This failure stems directly from the tempting broth that assures us that, if the provocation is severe enough and the injury severe enough, no amount of "response" could ever be disproportionate. And so we see that, if you refuse to let yourself think that anything could be "too far", there's no end to the depths of hell you may find yourself apologizing for.

Eight months later, that post is deeply embittering to read. None of this had to happen. Most obviously, October 7 didn't have to happen and the hostages didn't need to be taken. Yet even now, writers like Adam Shatz cannot help themselves in describing the "exuberance" over October 7 as a "prison breakout," "a daring assault on Israeli bases that devolved into hideous massacres" (it did not "devolve" into anything; the sowing of terror and death amongst Israel's civilian population was the primary tactical goal of the operation -- there is essentially no evidence that the primary or even significant targets of Hamas' operation were military bases). Likewise, the warnings to the Israelis that their righteous fury over October 7 did not license the imposition of an indiscriminate siege and turning the entire Gaza Strip into a free-fire zone fell on deaf ears, and now the entire nation is on trial for genocide.

Nobody paid heed, and nobody has seemed to have learned anything. In the months that followed October 7, there were innumerable opportunities to turn off this path, with plenty of blame to go around for why we didn't, but the main culprit is simple: both Israel and Hamas want this war to keep going. Obviously there are some conditions where they'll accept peace; but those conditions are quite far apart, and so for the most part they're both happy to keep the war going rather than deal with the fallout of an actual deal

So now tens of thousands of people are dead, and for what? Noa Argamani is home, but Noa Argamani started at home! Noa Argamani being home was the world on October 6! We're back to where we began, except with unfathomable death and destruction and trauma for uncountable numbers of people.

I'm happy and relieved and overjoyed that Noa Argamani has returned home -- the redemption of Noa Argamani is an unqualified and unadulterated good. But that joy is tempered by the fact that none of this had to happen at all. We could have lived in a different world.

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