In Israel-Hamas War, World Gets Third Shock In Three Years

Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said Israel will “change the Middle East” in the course of retaliating against Hamas for attacks which killed more than 700 Israelis over the weekend. “We are already in the midst of a battle that has only just begun.”

His remarks came as Israel ordered a “complete siege” of Gaza. “No electricity, no food, no water, no fuel,” as Defense Minister Yoav Gallant put it. Some 600 Palestinians were already dead in the enclave, where homes, markets and mosques lay in ruins following furious airstrikes. Gaza’s health ministry claimed the IDF was “directly and systematically” targeting ambulances.

As sure as night follows day (and as sure as the Middle East will forever be plagued by senseless religious violence), I’ll receive an irritable email every time I mention casualties in Gaza or lament the objectively tragic plight of Palestinian civilians. Someone complained first thing Monday morning, in fact, and such complaints will be an ongoing occurrence for the duration of the war.

I want to be clear about two things. First, I have friends in Israel. I’ve known them since I was 27 years old. I spoke to two of them over the weekend. One of my mentors as a young professional was orthodox. I would’ve spoken to him as well, but he tragically passed away three years ago. Second, a civilian is a civilian. The life of a non-combatant in Israel killed by a Hamas rocket isn’t worth more (or less) than the life of a five-year-old Palestinian killed in an Israeli airstrike. Just like the life of someone who died on 9/11 in Manhattan isn’t worth more (or less) than the life of a farmer killed by American troops in Afghanistan. That should be self-evident to everyone.

My point on Monday morning in emphasizing the very high odds of a historic humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza wasn’t to elicit sympathy (because, frankly, your sympathy isn’t going to bring back the recently dead loved ones of grieving Palestinians or Israelis), but rather to prepare readers for a potentially world-changing event should Netanyahu decide that the time has come to rid Israel of the Hamas menace once and for all. His remarks on Monday were a testament to his intentions in that regard.

The cost of such an effort will be high, not just in terms of what’s guaranteed to be an escalating death toll in Gaza, but also in terms of US military support and, quite possibly, more domestic friction in America, where high profile politicians on both the far-left and far-right have been accused of anti-Semitism. I could name those politicians, but I assume I don’t have to. The accusations, as leveled against the far-left in America, are generally misplaced. It’s not a people (or a religion) that some high profile Democrats take issue with, it’s a government and the policies of that government towards another people. By contrast, anti-Semitism (and in some cases, overt, out-in-the-open anti-Semitism) is a fixture of the online, “new right” echo chamber in America. And anti-Semitic dog-whistling is a tactic regularly deployed by right-wing fringe figures with social media followings that overlap voter blocs within the new American right.

Support for Israel (the state, the people and the government) is regarded as sacrosanct in the political center. If sacrosanct isn’t quite right, then suffice to say not supporting Israel isn’t seen as politically viable. Failing to come to its aid in a crisis is a total non-starter, which is why the Biden administration and America’s malfunctioning legislature looked poised to quickly put aside differences in order to ensure that whatever Israel needs for the war effort, Israel gets. “The American effort to supply Israel with new military assistance took a step forward, as Biden administration officials briefed Congress on specific weapons the ally is seeking from the US,” Politico reported. “During the unclassified call, officials told lawmakers that America’s closest ally in the Middle East urgently needs precision-guided munitions and more interceptors for the Iron Dome air defense system.”

A quick look around right-wing, tabloid-style websites and fringe portals known to traffic in anti-Semitic tropes, suggested the profit motive (i.e., the desire to maximize web traffic) entailed playing up the terrorist angle in the immediate aftermath of the weekend attacks, and also intimating that Joe Biden somehow facilitated the tragedy or was even complicit in it. But it’ll be interesting (in a very sad sort of way) to see how America’s far-right, and the web portals which cater to far-right constituencies, “balance” their penchant for monetizing anti-Semitic propaganda with the kind of gung-ho Islamophobia that sells just as well, if not better.

In the halls of power, the debate won’t be a debate initially. But, as the humanitarian toll climbs in Gaza and advocates for the Palestinian cause (of which there are many) begin to explicitly tie American weapons and money to the crisis, the discussion will become more contentious. To be sure, rural constituencies and undereducated voters in red states won’t be swayed by images from Gaza, no matter how horrific. Still, if this turns into a months- or even years-long war effort, pressure will mount on the White House and congressional leaders to at the least tie funding and arms to peace negotiations.

In the meantime, Iranian and Russian misinformation networks around the world will work tirelessly, day and night, to sow confusion and chaos, and where it’s possible to leverage the war in the service of dividing American society, those networks will take full advantage. Such opportunities will present themselves at every turn, and there needn’t be a coherent message. Indeed, incoherence is an asset for misinformation campaigns to the extent it creates a sense of confusion, chaos and, ultimately, mistrust.

Coming full circle (and dismissing, for now, conspiracy theories about the political “convenience” of this deadly distraction for Netanyahu), Israel’s not wrong to believe that these attacks carry a special significance, and thereby demand a definitive response. The Wall Street Journal, while purporting to detail the planning process, noted that although “Iran has long backed Hamas, as a Sunni Muslim group, it had been an outsider among Tehran’s Shia proxies until recent months, when cooperation among the groups accelerated.”

That’s a very important consideration. The Sunni-Shiite divide has a solid claim on being the most intractable point of contention in a world where contentiousness predominates. If that divide is now completely subordinate to shared enmity vis-à-vis Israel, it’s alarming and raises the specter of a Hezbollah assault from Lebanon in the event Israel enters Gaza. That sets up a quandary for the IDF: If you enter Gaza and tie up your troops and Hezbollah invades from the north, you’re stretched thin in a two-front war. Hezbollah, as most readers are probably apprised, is no walkover on the battlefield. Far from it. If you’re the IDF and you don’t enter Gaza, then you can’t really address the Hamas threat.

Note that according to the Journal‘s reporting, the planning process for the attacks was overseen directly, in person, by Ismail Qaani. When Qaani succeeded Qassem Soleimani upon the general’s assassination in January of 2020, some suggested the Quds Force was permanently degraded. Soleimani was, by most accounts, the most dangerous intelligence operative on Earth and a field commander with no peers. Qaani’s resume is long indeed, but to call him a poor substitute for Soleimani was to materially understate the case. If the Journal‘s reporting is accurate, though, it suggests Qaani isn’t completely inept at the helm after so many decades as a deputy.

This all comes at a time when Bashar al-Assad has emerged mostly victorious from Syria’s decade-long civil war thanks in no small part to Tehran, Hezbollah and Vladimir Putin. Assad showed up in China last month “in search of friends and funds,” as the Times put it.

As the Journal went on to say, in the same linked article, “The strike was… aimed at disrupting accelerating US-brokered talks to normalize relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel that Iran saw as threatening” to the extent “expanding Israeli ties with Gulf Arab states could create a chain of American allies linking three key choke points of global trade — the Suez Canal, the Strait of Hormuz, and the Bab Al Mandeb.”

Although the attack on Israel was unprecedented in some very bad ways, and while it might’ve indeed marked the third world-changing event in three years, there’s unfortunately nothing new about the loss of human life in defense of religion and “sacred” territory. To employ one of countless indecorous quotes from Soleimani’s unlikely executioner, “blood-stained sand.”


 

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14 thoughts on “In Israel-Hamas War, World Gets Third Shock In Three Years

  1. I see Russia having something to gain from this attack as well and I wouldn’t be surprised if they played a part. Now US arms will have to be divided across potentially 3 fronts. With the far right controlling the unstable house, those arms are more likely to support Israel than Ukraine. And of course with all of these distractions, how close is China to following through on the threat to Taiwan? Now where to US arms go and how much are we willing to lend? Ukraine may be without US support going forward.

      1. You have to wonder if Putin is somehow involved in this. He believes that he can win in Ukraine if he can get the US to stop providing weapons to them. He would quite happily condone yet another war to help himself gain victory (no matter the cost of human life).

  2. This is an excellent summary of the state of affairs from many different angles (political, media, historical, current players, etc.) and possibly worth the entire annual Heisenberg subscription fee for this one post.
    Surprisingly, a lot packed into this post in an uncharacteristically (for H), brief word count.

    1. Yes, I agree with everything H has written above. I do not take sides here (as I am I’ll informed) but I do feel regret that the US is providing missiles that may be fired at innocent women and children.

  3. “The accusations, as leveled against the far-left in America, are generally misplaced.”

    Do you read Bari Weiss and her The Free Press in Substack? If not, I’d urge you to do. I’m sure that you know who she is, but for the benefit of others, Ms. Weiss was an Editor with the NYT. She was also also in the Editorial Board. She noisily quit a few years ago to protest what the NYT Editorial Board had become.

    Ms. Weiss is Jewish and solidly Democratic. Her new media company has done excellent work on the discrimination and suffering that Jewish college students are subject to on many of America’s college campuses. The students on these campuses are overwhelmingly hard-left.

    Sure, the hard-right is full of scum with their repugnant anti-Semitic views (amongst other odious characteristics). But, I’d offer up that the younger progressive left is guilty of much of the same behavior on America’s campuses.

    1. I wouldn’t read Bari Weiss’s Substack if my life depended on it. And no, the Progressive left cannot be compared to America’s hard right. That’s totally ridiculous and plainly suggests you haven’t spent any time looking around in some of the seedier corners of the internet where America’s far-right congregates and shares their “views,” unfiltered. It’s not just “repugnant,” Patrick. Some of it is unabashed, unapologetic Reich glorification.

        1. Thank you for your further comments. And, you are correct in that I do not traffic on the hard-right pages. Make no mistake, I was neither defending their behavior nor claiming that such behavior is equivalent to the progressive left.

          I will refrain from any further discussion regarding Ms. Weiss and end by stating that my real point here is the significant increase in discrimination and vile behavior that many Jewish students currently suffer daily at the hands of the tolerant left on numerous prestigious American campuses. The hard right and whether Ms. Weiss is the worst does not change that fact. I feel for those kids.

          Thanks.

          1. Before you take Weiss’s reporting on alleged campus bullying as gospel or comment on it in a public forum, I strongly suggest you read up on the history of her crusade in that regard. There’s a long and important backstory. You (desperately) need the context, Patrick. Seriously. Research it. I won’t weigh in on who’s right and who’s wrong, or otherwise express any opinion in that regard, but suffice to say there are those who would tell you that Weiss is, in fact, the bully and that she set about trying to destroy the careers of Arab professors and is herself the poster child for that which she so frequently decries. Again, I’m not saying one way or another whether such criticisms have merit. What I’m suggesting is that you might (might) be reading what some critics (not me, necessarily) would describe as “soft propaganda” from someone with an avowed, long-standing agenda. Please (and this goes for everyone), I beg you to do your research.

          2. H: I’m actually replying to your comment below. For some reason the Reply button did not pop up on your latest post.

            I will do so. I appreciate your additional color. Like many of your readers, I strive hard for accuracy and awareness.

            All the best.

  4. A really good post and informative extra comments. I had two thoughts when I finished reading all of it. First, does anyone seriously think that a world that operates like this, with no adult leadership, has any chance to fix its climate and energy problems, or anything else for that matter? Seventy years ago my mother told me for the first time that world civilization will eventually end with a huge war in the middle east. Nothing has changed my belief that she was probably right.

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