Who is Goliath?

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I went to Thanksgiving yesterday in my wife’s childhood community of Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, (affluent, gentile) and was struck by the criticisms of Israel over the Gaza assault. “Those poor people can’t escape anywhere,” said a middle-aged woman, speaking of Gazans. While a relative said the imbalance of forces between Israel and Hamas reminded her of a schoolyard bully. “Or let’s say you see your neighbor mercilessly beating his dog. And he says to you, Well he snarled at me. That’s not an excuse. Really it’s a David and Goliath situation.”

But who is Goliath? Today in the New York Times, Israelis say they are developing a missile defense system called “David’s Sling” to stop missiles that travel  more than 50 miles to reach their targets. So in Israel’s view, Palestinian militants in Gaza could be Goliath, or Hezbollah could be Goliath… In that article, Israeli ambassador Michael Oren likens the Iran-Gaza axis to the Soviet Union and Cuba in the 60s; but is that analogy accurate? Weren’t the U.S. and the Soviet Union on a par with one another? Iran doesn’t have nukes, and international bodies have not found that it is seeking them. Israel has hundreds.

I remembered running into Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld in Sderot last week, as he calmly, icily described the threat posed by Hamas to Israeli towns and cities and spoke of an Israeli military response that would be sweeping, crushing. In his neat uniform and measured speech, standing on a salient, he might have been an Allied colonel describing a pincer movement aimed at the Germany army. But we were overlooking little Gaza, 140 square miles, less than half the size of New York City. It felt grotesquely wrong.

I know, Jews are scarred by the Holocaust and by persecution in Europe. They tried to wipe us out. But that does not excuse this noncomprehension in Israel, this belief in endless overwhelming enemies, when sometimes it is just scary shadows on the wall.

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