“Chutzpah” comes in several different styles, some pleasant, others not. On the positive side, chutzpah manifests as “audacious ambition or self-confidence.” Great good can come from daring to dream big dreams or attempting the seemingly impossible. From the battles of the Maccabees connected to the story of Chanukah to the success of Jewish modern warfare, Jewish survival in Israel has frequently hinged on the “chutzpah” of Jewish military leaders attempting the daring. It has been said that at the United States Military Academy of West Point, instructors of military history cannot explain and therefore do not teach many of the battles of the Six-Day War. The decisions made by the Israeli military, most notably the sorties of former general and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, were so risky and odds-defying that the West Point military history department has deemed them as having little educational value on the grounds that “how can one teach a miracle?” Clearly, the success of this kind of “chutzpah” is achieved through G-d’s sanction and assistance.
Then, of course, there is the more conventional, derogatory understanding of the word “chutzpah.” The best definition I have heard of the word is illustrated by the fictional story of a young man who, after being convicted of murdering both his parents, prior to sentencing, begs the judge for mercy on the grounds that he is an orphan. Hamas is just such an “orphan.”
Over the last two months, and at an accelerated pace since the beginning of December, Hamas has been expanding its arsenal testing, sending dozens of trial mortar shells, rockets and missiles into the coast off Gaza. Reports also indicate that though some of the humanitarian aid now being allowed into Gaza with the easing of restrictions at both the Egyptian- and Israeli-controlled checkpoints is, in fact, making its way to rebuilding Gaza and to the area inhabitants, shockingly, much of the cement and building materials is being diverted to illegal use by Hamas. Predictably, the cement and other materials have gone to rebuilding Hamas’ network of tunnels, primarily those exiting into Israel. Hamas is not building new tunnels, but rebuilding the tunnel system destroyed during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza over the summer.
There are clear reasons for Hamas’ decision to focus on the tunnels into Israel. Though the tunnels leading into Egyptian-controlled areas are more lucrative for purposes of smuggling goods and provide a better source for importing weapons, Egypt has been much more severe than Israel in cracking down on Hamas’ smuggling operations, creating a “no-man’s land” buffer along the Philadelphia Corridor of some 1500 meters (nearly a mile) from their border, destroying thousands of Gazan dwellings in the process, and uprooting tens of thousands of Gazan civilians, which amazingly came with the support and blessing of Palestinian Authority President Abbas. This has not received much international attention because it was Egypt’s initiative, but had this security measure been undertaken by Israel it would have been the sole focus of the media and further occupied the U.N. with anti-Israel resolutions.
On Friday, the third day of Chanukah, Hamas pivoted its missile launcher 180 degrees and fired a salvo into Israel. This was the third time since Operation Protective Edge ended in August that Gazan terrorists have fired a rocket into Israel. Perhaps, inspired by Chanukah and the spirit of the Maccabees, Israel retaliated for the first time since the end of last summer’s war. Prime Minister Netanyahu, while attending a Chanukah candle-lighting ceremony with IDF soldiers at the Kosel, said, “Israel’s security takes precedence over everything and I will not ignore the firing of even one rocket; therefore, the air force responded to this firing by destroying a cement factory that served to rebuild the tunnels that we hit in Operation Protective Edge. Hamas bears the responsibility for any escalation. We will safeguard Israel’s security.”
This is all background to a Hamas spokesman running before the world to cry his version of “I am an orphan.” He said, “The Israeli attack yesterday night on a Gaza site is a severe escalation. Hamas has warned Israel against the repetition of such irresponsible actions and calls on the international community to prevent acts like the last Israeli aggression on Gaza.”
This exchange between Israel and Hamas was preceded by a volley of words at a rally in Gaza City earlier in the week, warning that “the fight is not over.” The terrorist spokesman warned, “We are saying to all sides, if the siege on Gaza and the obstacles for reconstruction remain, there will be a new explosion. We hold the enemy fully responsible for an explosion if the reconstruction does not begin.”
And when rockets rain down from Gaza, as they inevitably will, and Israel finally has had enough and does respond, and a new war breaks out, as it undoubtedly will, Israel will pummel Gaza as it has and will again. The terrorist state then will cry to the world, “I am an orphan.”
That is the definition of “chutzpah.”
When the world shows this “orphan” mercy, as it always does, that is the definition of “stupid.”
Meir Solomon is a writer, analyst, and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel, with his wife and two children. He can be contacted at email@example.com.