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Life in Israel is suddenly stranger than fiction

#1 NYT bestselling novelist Don Bentley shares his perspective on Hamas slaughter and Israel’s new war

An Israeli officer at the scene of destruction caused by Hamas terrorists when they infiltrated Kibbutz Be'eri, near the Israeli-Gaza border, southern Israel. Oct. 15, 2023. (Photo: Yaniv Nadav/Flash90)

I lie for a living.

Lies about spies, terrorists, politicians, and international plots that threaten the world order.

Lies that haven’t yet happened, but perhaps could.  

Early in my career as a novelist, I was obsessed with which details to get correct and which to let slide.  

Seeing my distress, a writer friend gave me a piece of advice never let the truth stand in the way of a good story. 

But in my wildest musings as a thriller writer, I could have never imagined the horrific truth of what has happened in Israel over the past week.

Fact has now eclipsed fiction.

Full disclosure: I love the nation of Israel and her citizens.  

I grew up reading Bible stories about God’s chosen people and imagining the places described in the Old and New Testaments.  

As an adult, I visited the Holy Land multiple times and count many Israelis as friends.  

My latest novel, Tom Clancy Weapons Grade, features an imaginary Israeli special operations team populated with characters named for my Israeli comrades.  

I did this as an homage to their days as warriors.  

While they’d all served in the Israeli Defense Forces, or IDF, two of them had fought during the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah war.

One of them had been seriously wounded.     

While writing the book, I assumed that my friends’ days of fighting were long over.

I was wrong.

Last Tuesday, I spoke with a dear friend who is also an IDF reservist.  

He’d been on duty since Saturday and was exhausted.  

He’d called me in part to stay awake during his drive home.  

We talked about many things, but it was the scenario he offhandedly relayed at the end of our conversation that stuck with me.  

While setting up a strike against a target in Gaza, he noticed children playing nearby.   

Palestinian children.

My friend delayed the strike until the children were out of harm’s way.

His enemy uses these same children as human shields.

The difference between combatants couldn’t be more pronounced.

On one side of this conflict is a diverse, vibrant democracy populated by Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze, and many others.  

A people who love life and who desperately want to live in peace with their neighbors.  

On the other sits a death cult that slaughters babies, rapes women, mutilates the dead, and kidnaps helpless grandmothers.  

You would think that the stark difference between these opponents would provide the world with the necessary moral clarity to address this conflict using binary terms like good and evil.

And you would be wrong.

Even as 150 people are still being held hostage in Gaza and Israeli casualties have climbed to 1,400 dead, the victims are being blamed for the carnage exacted against them.  

In London, demonstrators marched with images of Hamas paragliders fastened to their backs. 

The same paragliders who helped murder over 260 defenseless concert goers.  

In the U.S., university student groups marched or signed letters in support of Hamas and the atrocities the terrorist organization committed.   

If this were a novel, I’d cite the plot’s unbelievability as reason to stop reading.    

But this isn’t fiction.

Before writing this piece, I texted my IDF friend asking what he would say to Americans if given the opportunity.  

His answer was as simple as it was profound: Provide Israel with the munitions needed to replenish their quickly vanishing stores, a buffer against Hezbollah, and the latitude to do what is necessary in Gaza.

In a novel, this conflict would end cleanly and quickly.

But this is real life.

Hamas is actively preventing noncombatants from fleeing the coming destruction in Gaza.  

Faced with an enemy intent on extracting as much human suffering as possible, the IDF has little choice but to incur civilian casualties.

Innocents will perish.

When this tragedy happens, the same people who pin pictures of killers to their jackets will rush to draw moral equivalencies between Hamas and Israel.

Don’t let them.

One side of this conflict delays military operations to save their enemy’s children.

The other wants to murder them.

Every drop of Israeli and Palestinian blood that will be shed in Gaza should be laid at the feet of a single culprit.


As Israelis gird themselves for the coming battle, they use words like never again. This is because Israelis remember another story.  

A tragic one.  

A story in which six million Jews were wiped from the face of the earth.  

As Americans, we must stand with our brothers and sisters in the Middle East’s only democracy, not just now but in the coming days of darkness.  

We can have a hand in how this new story ends.

Let’s write it together. 

Don Bentley is a #1 New York Times bestselling novelist.

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