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Israel Lost

Tina was literally banging on the coffee table. The teacups rattled and a few biscuits slipped off the silver plate on the table.

“How could they do that?!” Tina exclaimed for the third time.

We were sitting in Edan Levy’s home in McLean, Virginia this Sunday, watching Clarissa Ward reporting from Gaza on CNN. Tears started coming down Tina’s cheeks. Hadassa, Edan’s wife, moved to console Tina.

I must admit the scenes on the large television screen were horrifying. My own eyes were watering – an unusual event for a person who lived through two wars in 1967 and 1973.

Watching children with amputated legs, half their faces burnt, eyes lost, heads damaged and more, was gut-wrenching.

Edan turned the TV off. There was a long moment of silence.

David Morrison, a well-known art collector living in NY, was wiping his glasses with his handkerchief. His wife Diana, sitting beside him on the couch, was fiddling with her bag.

Tina was shaking and Hadassa was hugging her. Sam Hunter, Edan’s partner and the reason I was here for this Sunday brunch, got up from his seat and walked out of the room, leaving Edan, Hadassa, Tina and her son Rob, David and Diana plus myself sitting in Edan’s beautifully designed winter garden structure with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking a massive well-designed garden.

Edan broke the silence and, in his deep sombre voice, said: “Israel has lost.”

David reacted by explaining that what we saw was collateral damage and the fault was all due to what Hamas did on October 7. Tina reacted angrily, almost shouting that what we saw was unacceptable under any circumstance.

“Murdering children and innocent civilians is not excusable… plus never forget destruction begets destruction,” Tina said, wiping her eyes.

Tina, a famous designer, composed herself and explained that she had been to Israel and the Palestinian Territories at least six times and found both Israelis and Palestinians very similar. She explained that she benefited from their culture in her designs, but after what she had seen, she was never going back.

Hadassa said: “What Hamas did was barbaric and unleashed the Israelis.”

Tina responded that Israel, a nation-state with a powerful army, dropping thousands of dumb bombs, was not only more barbaric but undertaking clear and present genocide. She added I cannot believe as a human being how the world is blind.

Sam walked back into the room and took his seat. David responded to Tina saying that she was too harsh and unable to understand the Israeli state of mind.

“State of mind,” Tina retorted, “how can you say that?” She started in her seat, staring at David, explaining that facts speak for themselves. “First,” she said, “yes, Israel lost 1300 Israelis in horrific circumstances plus hostages, but killing and murdering more than 30,000 Palestinians of which 9000 are children is ethnic cleansing… Second,” she added, gesturing with her fingers, “the false narrative of minimizing Palestinian civilian lives and pinpointing Hamas terrorists are blatant lies… Third, promising to continue this genocide will not end Hamas but will give birth to horrors for generations to come… Fourth, I am ashamed watching America sinking all ceasefire attempts and encouraging Israel under a false guise of the right of self-defence.”

Sam responded by saying that, sadly, Tina not only had a valid viewpoint but that what was underway was nothing less than a catastrophe that undermined Israel’s moral standing and human logic. He added that Netanyahu historically will be recognized as the worst Israeli leader because he gave birth to Hamas, financed Hamas, undermined the Palestinian Authority, refused to negotiate with the Palestinians, not even to recognize them, and led the path to make Israel an apartheid state with gun loose settlers.

David shuffled in his seat, and as he was helping himself to more coffee from a side table, I joined him and asked him: “Don’t you see that this ongoing carpet bombing and war cannot end well but will definitely create severe hardship for generations?”

David shook his head in denial and said no. He added that it is a necessary phase of history.

Walking back, taking our seats, I said to David: “Don’t you see that a just and sustainable peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in the favour of both Israelis and Palestinians?”

Hadassa said: “It seems too late for that.”

Rob, who must have been in his thirties, tall and athletic, reached towards the plate of cookies and quietly explained that we must understand Israeli society. Israeli culture is built on every citizen being a warrior and cannot accept anything but victory, whether that’s good or bad. Whether it’s right or wrong. It does not matter to them.

Rob continued: “I lived amongst Israelis and served in the IDF. We were never wrong, even when we were,” he emphasized in explaining the Israeli mindset. “Moreover,” Rob added, “with the U.S. supporting Israel 110 percent and our tools of the Holocaust and antisemitism, there is little we could not get away with. All that is needed is to raise the flag of the Holocaust or antisemitism, or now even anti-Zionism, and all must fearuttering another word of criticism of Israel’s actions.”

I asked Rob: “But is not peace in the interest of all Israelis, and would end this warlike non-stop stance?”

Rob shook his head. Tina, Rob’s mother, looked at her son and said: “How can it be that it is a good thing for young Israelis to be always drafted, always on call, trigger happy and stressed?”

“It’s a state of mind,” Rob explained. “It will take different wise leaders, not Netanyahu plus generations of peace to change.”

Diana joined the discussion, reminding everyone of some facts: “I am a dual Israeli- American national, but I do remember Israeli military murdering over 100 Americans on board of the navy ship Liberty in 1967. I also remember in March 2003 an Israeli bulldozer murdering Rachel Corrie, a young American activist protesting the demolition of Palestinian homes… I also cannot forget Sherin Abu Akela being murdered by the IDF. Sherin was a journalist covering an IDF raid into a Jenin refugee camp.”

Sam added that young Israeli soldiers have become trigger-happy and violence-ready . All you have to do is watch videos of how the IDF treats children, women and the elderly, not to mention stripping every able Palestinian man completely naked, tying their legs and arms, and keeping them on the ground blindfolded for hours, breaking their spirit and degrading them even if they have no relation to Hamas. “What they don’t seem to realize,” Sam added, “is that it is nothing less than a recruiting machine for future terrorism.”

Rob said the IDF is so trigger-focused it shoots before asking questions. It just shot three Israeli hostages carrying a white flag.

Edan finally stood and said: “We were all invited here to enjoy a Sunday brunch before the holidays. I had hoped we would be in a merry mood and look forward to a forthcoming year of happiness, but sadly, what is happening in the world is daunting. Ukraine, what we have been discussing in Gaza, the conflicts in so many parts of the world… It’s sadly a dark tunnel ahead of us, and unless we wake up and take visionary, courageous action to bring peace and justice, the future for the next generations will be worse.”

Tina asked if there were no bright insights. I jumped in, suggesting that from the ugly state of affairs in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there is a ray of hope that can bring light. It can give Israel security, bring the hostages home, bring an end to Hamas and give the Palestinians their own home.

David smirked and asked: “How?” Edan waved him quiet.

“It has to be a grand-design, one-step deal, not a political process. It must all happen together and not in endless steps that get derailed.

To achieve Israeli security and have all the hostages released, Israel must commit to giving the Palestinians a demilitarized nation-state comprising Gaza, Naqab, and most of the West Bank. The settlers’ issue is not to remove them but to resettle them all together in the northwest part of the West Bank attached to Israel, clearing the rest of the West Bank for Palestine.

East Jerusalem would be the capital of Palestine … all religious sites would be governed by their religious institutions like the Vatican, Azhar etc… no activism allowed, and policed by UN and Israeli police.

As for Hamas in Gaza, Israel would cease fire and Hamas would lay down its arms. Israeli, US and MFO would clear Gaza of all armament.”

I presented a two-page plan. It included no Palestinian Authority on Hamas but a firm Palestinian technocrats governing a two-year transitional period towards a functioning state.

Everyone peered at the plan I placed on the table where Tina had banged it earlier. Only David stayed in his seat.

The plan detailed steps ensuring Israel’s safety, the release of hostages, the end of Hamas and the birth of a truncated but viable Palestinian state with a port and airport.

Rob asked questions which I responded to. Sam commented that such a plan needed visionary leaders like Sadat and Rabin, not what we have now. Rob added that Bibi wants to eradicate the Palestinians and not give them anything – and definitely not a state.

Hadassa and Diane commented that anything is better than what is ongoing now.

Edan returned to his seat and said quietly: “Israel has lost the moral high ground. Not only that, we have witnessed Netanyahu do to the Palestinian people what the Nazis did to our parents and grandparents, and that brings us deep sorrow. Let us pray, Jews, Muslims and Christians, here and now, for wisdom and peace.” We all bowed our heads, and silence ensued.

About the author

M. Shafik Gabr is a renowned leader in international business, innovation, investment and one of the world’s premier collectors of Orientalist art, and an accomplished philanthropist.

During his career, Gabr established over 25 companies plus three investment holding companies including ARTOC Group for Investment and Development which, established in 1971, is a multi-disciplined investment holding company with businesses in infrastructure, automotive, engineering, construction and real estate, over the past three years focusing on investment in technology and artificial intelligence.

Gabr is the Chairman and a founding member of Egypt’s International Economic Forum, a member of the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum, a Board Member of Stanhope Capital, an International Chairman of the Sadat Congressional Gold Medal Committee, and a Member of the Parliamentary Intelligence Security Forum. Gabr is a Member of the Metropolitan Museum’s International Council and serves on the Advisory Board of the Center for Financial Stability, the Advisory Board of The Middle East Institute, and the Global Advisory Council of the Mayo Clinic.

Through the Shafik Gabr Social Development Foundation, Gabr is helping to improve elementary-school education in Egypt, introducing students to arts and culture and promoting sports and physical fitness for youth. The Foundation has its first Medical and Social Development Center in Mokattam, Cairo, offering free medical and health services. In 2012 Gabr established in the US the Shafik Gabr Foundation which supports educational and medical initiatives plus launched in November 2012 the ‘East-West: The Art of Dialogue initiative promoting exchanges between the US and Egypt with the purpose of cultural dialogue and bridge-building.

Gabr holds a BA in Economics and Management from the American University in Cairo and an MA in Economics from the University of London.


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