The Perils Of Scandalizing Context

Israeli diplomats, including Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan, are furious with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for saying what everyone else with even a passing interest in the Mideast has said repeatedly in recent days. After condemning "unequivocally" the "horrifying and unprecedented" attacks Hamas committed against Israel on October 7, Guterres, in a speech at a Security Council meeting early this week, said it's "important to also recognize the attacks by Ham

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16 thoughts on “The Perils Of Scandalizing Context

  1. GREAT piece. It captures in a fraction of the words what a Foreign Affairs article would do half as well in ten times as many words.

    It takes a leader of significant intelligence, foresight, stature, and some grace to recognize and act on the concept that sometimes demonstrating goodwill to your adversary creates a more secure homefront. This In addition to the simple humanity of treating people with some basic dignity and not dehumanizing oneself to the barbaric level of Hamas.

    A few questions for you H. How does Israel then eliminate Hamas? Secondly, do you believe that Netanyahu is trying to go full-bore because of his administration’s failure to act upon the intelligence? The recent news reports are increasingly showing that the Israel knew something was up. I know this is vague and hard tomcat on, but I wouldn’t put it past him to go all-out in response to some failures on the leadership.

    It could be a game-changer if Israel did take the high road here.

  2. I agree with your assessment of Hamas’s goals. I also agree 100% w/ your descriptions, in this and other articles, that the Palestinians have been oppressed for many years. Years ago, I spoke frequently about such issues w/ my Palestinian friend. I called her immediately after hearing about Hamas’s attack to find out whether she was in the area; she’d just left the week before. She was understandably enraged that some news reports were using the term “Palestinians” interchangeably w/ “Hamas.”

    I hesitate to say “Israel caused” the oppression b/c it’s unclear exactly which other groups and States (besides Israel) bear responsibility for the Palestinians’ oppression. Surely, Hamas’s approach to “governing” Gaza contributed to the Palestinians’ plight. Hamas is supported by Iran, whose leadership has sworn to eliminate Israel. Full stop. Hamas did not lead an effort to galvanize support among Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, other Arab nations, or the US to facilitate a transition to a freer Palestinian State. It’s laughable to even suggest Iran thought about it. I’m not suggesting the governments of Israel and the US are blameless; they should have taken steps in the direction of a freer Gaza and a Palestinian State. But wait…Maybe they were. A trilateral US-Saudi-Israeli security deal purportedly would have included concessions by Israel to the Palestinians. Saudi Arabia’s MBS needed such concessions to placate the Palestinians and achieve his goals (not b/c MBS is at the forefront of advancing human rights). One of MSB’s goals: To obtain an American commitment to defend SA against Iran. As you pointed out, Hamas killed, captured, raped and otherwise brutalized civilians in an attack designed in part of terminate such negotiations. It’s ludicrous to suggest Iran was not responsible.

    So, what to do? I agree that attacking Gaza will kill many civilians and Israelis and serves Hamas’s and Iran’s short-term objective: Make Israel a demon in the world’s eyes. But Iran’s actions in the region threaten the security of many ME nations. So do terrorist attacks by Hamas. Should we imagine a time when all concerned parties will come together, hold hands, sing “Kumbaya” and live in peace forever? Not exactly a reasonable vision. The logic motivating Israel leads to the conclusion that Iran’s leadership must go. Without knowing exactly what it will look like—and assuming it has not already started—the likelihood WWIII is increasing quickly.

    1. H, I’m interested in hearing your take on this drumbeat that it is Iran who backs Hamas, and therefore whatever Hamas does is at Iran’s direction. The narrative in the media seems to be that Iran is the only backer of Hamas, that no one else is involved. But that makes no real sense to me. Hamas is a Sunni Arab organization (as opposed to Hezbollah), and Iran is a Shiite country. It is far more likely that Hamas gets its financial support (plus any other support) from the Saudis (Sunni Arabs) than from Iran. Even when Israel displayed all the weapons they confiscated from Hamas fighters after the attack, they admitted there was nothing in the arsenal that would indicate it came from Iran. The story that Hamas gets all its support from Iran makes no sense, other than it makes Iran the boogeyman and absolves the Saudis of any bad press here. Do you have thoughts on this?

  3. As I read the quoted material about context and the role of Hamas in the interactions between Israel and the neighboring Palestinians, it seemed that one way to think about this latest killing and unrest is that in many ways it represents a long simmering situation that is turning into a revolution by the Palestinians. This is one of those metaphors that, while it can be a fair representation from a distance, close up it loses itself in the words needed by the discussion. With this same metaphor in mind think about Trump in 2016. In his way he was Hamas, trying to represent a constituency he discovered was so disgruntled about their lot in life that they would accept any champion for their cause, no matter who or what it was. Jan 6 was the culmination in the first attack. The US never did overcome the opposition in the tunnels in Vietnam and ultimately left the playing field. Israel is going to have the same problem. People living in the ghetto of Gaza are also dug in and will be impossible to remove. And what Trump left behind will also be very difficult to erase, no matter how misguided they are. Like children with an irrational idea in their heads, getting them to understand reality is virtually impossible. I am sure Trump knows he lost, twice actually, I also know he knows he can keep riding his private hobby horse indefinitely because his unhappy followers are still very unhappy.

  4. Sometimes all the alternatives are bad, and you have to choose the least bad alternative. I think Netanyahu has put Israel in such a situation.

    The “least bad” alternative, from Israel’s point of view, may be to enter Gaza, eliminate Hamas as an organized military force, occupy Gaza, and try to get the (relatively more moderate) Palestinian Authority into power there while the US tries to work with the other Arab countries ex-Iran to choke off financial/humanitarian support for Hamas and support PA in Gaza. PA (and, I imagine, the Palestinian street) will demand statehood as the price of cooperation. Many reasons to believe this will not work. There will be high casualties both civilian and IDF. I can’t see any “less bad” alternative, from Israel’s POV, nor an alternative that doesn’t, over time, result in even higher civilian casualties.

    The POV of peace activists, Palestinian civlians, Arab countries, etc is different. Israel is the tactical decider at this moment, and it will decide based on its POV.

  5. Excellent piece. A two state solution (now, not a goal for the future) should be a requirement of continuing US support/aid to Israel and Gaza. Israel will have to give up some land to make this happen in a sustainable manner, but if they don’t, it is quite possible that the future for Israel will be even worse than it is now.
    If the parties involved don’t behave after a fair, two-state solution; then the misbehaving parties have to know that the punishment will be severe.
    I don’t know how the US prevents military/humanitarian aid from ending up in the wrong hands- this happens almost everywhere the US has given/gives aid.

    1. What does “severe punishment” mean? Severe punishment of a regime in a place like Gaza cannot be delivered without civilian casualties. If the requirements are no airstrikes, no ground invasion, and un-interrupted aid/fuel delivery, what punishment is possible?

  6. Great article, I must say that this crisis has proven to me that if you want to get the real picture you can’t rely on US based news sources. Since Israel has been carpet bombing the West Bank and Gaza Since Oct 7, they have killed almost 5000 Palestinians. So as far as proportionality is concerned, Israel should stop now. I recent survey of the Global South has shown that more countries support the Palestinians than Israel. Because of the rabid racism of the Israeli’s, the only solution can be a two-state solution and to give back any settlements made after the Oslo accords in 1995. I know Israel wants to blame the Palestinians for ‘Electing’ Hamas, there is truth in that, but I could also say that Israel shouldn’t have elected a far-right candidate, Netanyahu, who started building more settlements. Israel wants to have all the property in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip that cannot be allowed to happen.

    1. I guess it depends on whether Israel is engaged in measured punishment or trying to eliminate Hamas as a military threat. I would guess the Israel government and the bulk of Israelis think the latter. If so, it is a war, and there is no “proportionality” in wars.

  7. Other than the terrorists, no one over there wants to upset the status quo. The kings like being kings, the ones with good jobs want to keep them, the religious leaders want to be loved and worshiped and respected. Don’t make waves, they think. But those who have nothing think anything is better than this!

  8. Important commentary, thank you.
    Because I think we can only under-estimate the dynamics taking place, not only in the region geopolitically, but also from the nature of the way we, globally, do “society”. A popularity contest, full of compromises with the aim of pleasing everyone instead of finding the most adapted creative solution.
    What we see there, we suffer from in any society in the world. THe only reason we are not suffering to the extent that Israelis and Palestinians are is because we were not setup near as badly. It’s just luck for the most part. I mean, just look at it, the USA has not great stress when compared to these two countries, we’ve exterminated and fully submitted the people that lived here before us, it’s really smooth sailing. Yet, our government is pathetic, and manages our affairs every day a little worse. So if we can’t have our shit together in a smooth sailing situation, it tells us that the day the shit will hit the fan, we will be in trouble.
    And with all this, the only way to better, if there is one, is to confront and name reality. And context is reality, it is essential.
    But there again, our whole system is based on some people making decisions, and others bearing the consequences. Making decisions without having to deal with its reality.

    Reality never lets you down.

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