To all those who’ve emailed me…

My wife’s family is OK; thanks very much for asking. But yes, missiles are landing and sirens are going off in Tel Aviv, and people there regularly have to use their buildings’ bomb shelters.

Of course, the main developments are further south, where at least seven hundred Israelis were murdered or kidnapped and thousands were wounded, in what’s being called “Israel’s 9/11” (ironically, I remember 9/11 itself being called America’s Israel experience). Some back-of-the-envelopes: this weekend, the number of Jews murdered for being Jews was about 12% of the number murdered per day in Auschwitz when it operated at max capacity, and nearly as many as were killed in the entire Six-Day War (most of whom were soldiers). It was also about ten 9/11’s, if scaled by the Israeli vs. US population.

As for why this war started, Hamas itself cited, not any desire to improve the miserable conditions of the people under its charge, but a few ultra-Orthodox Jews praying on the Temple Mount — a theological rationale.

This is either the worst intelligence and operational failure in Israeli history or the second-worst, after the Yom Kippur War. It’s impossible not to ask whether the total political dysfunction gripping Israel played a central role, whether Netanyahu’s ministers were much more interested in protecting West Bank settlers than in protecting communities near Gaza, and whether Hamas and Iran knowingly capitalized on all this. But there will be investigations afterward.

For now, both sides of Israel’s internal conflict — the secular modernists and the religious nationalist Bibi-ists — are completely united behind the goal of winning this unasked-for war, with the support of the world’s Jewish diaspora and reasonable people and nations, because what alternative is there?

Added: This Quillette article is good for the historical context that many Western intellectuals refuse to understand. Namely: for everything the Israeli government has done wrong, in Hamas it faces an enemy that descends directly from the Grand Mufti’s fusion of Nazism and Islamism in the 1930s and 1940s, and whose goal since its founding has been explicitly genocidal toward all Jews everywhere on earth—as we saw in the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust that it carried out this weekend.

Update: This is really, really not thematically appropriate to this post, but … an interview with me, entitled Scott Aaronson Disentangles Quantum Hype, is now available on Craig Smith’s “Eye on AI” podcast. Give it a listen if you’re interested.

56 Responses to “To all those who’ve emailed me…”

  1. Adam Treat Says:

    The intelligence failure here might be the largest intelligence failure of any western country in modern times. I think it eclipses the 9/11 and Iraq WMD intelligence failures. Which makes me wonder which Hamas allies executed this plan to evade western and Israeli intelligence. I think it must be Iran. Also, note that Russia benefits tremendously from this – taking eyes and western focus off of Ukraine.

  2. Amir Michail Says:

    The US should consider taking in all Israelis and Ukrainians as US citizens to end two major wars.

    Wouldn’t most Israelis and Ukrainians be happy to live in the US?

  3. Scott Says:

    Amir Michail #2:

      Wouldn’t most Israelis and Ukrainians be happy to live in the US?

    Many would, but by no means most.

  4. Doug S. Says:

    An extreme cynic would wonder if it is not a coincidence that the intelligence failure occurred at time when the Prime Minister of Israel was facing a backlash for trying to reduce the power of institutions that could oppose him – there’s nothing like a war for getting people to rally behind the current leadership. :/

    (To be clear, I do not actually believe any of the conspiracy theories that this would suggest. If the political turmoil in Israel had anything to do with it, it was probably because Hamas thought it saw an opportunity.)

  5. Jamie Says:

    Amir Michail and what next? Once Russia decides it wants Estonia back again are we to evacuate all Estonians to the US? And then France? And then the UK? Where do we say no, you can’t just go around conquering and bombing all the people you want because you want more land or hate Jews?

  6. WA Says:

    What a horrendous, nightmarish turn of events.

    I know many Arabs who feel no sympathy whatsoever toward Israeli civilian victims. To these heartless pricks (who I sadly think are a majority in arab countries, but hopefully not a vast majority), it’s not being Jewish that makes the victims deserving of horrific summary executions, but rather that they belong to an invading side with a history of atrocities. Despicably weak argument given that it is used to justify indiscriminate killing and kidnapping of civilians.

    My heart is broken for the victims. The only possible good outcome of this tragedy is the complete eradication of Hamas, personnel and weapons. With the Gaza conundrum solved there can be some hope for peace and reconciliation.

  7. JimV Says:

    I sympathize with Amir Michall’s feelings, but the more practical procedure would be to enter into a mutual-defense treaty with Ukraine (as I think we have to some degree with Israel). However, that seems to be a minority position among the current USA policy makers, and perhaps even among the USA population.

    9/11 was an intelligence failure because there was data available (flight training which did not include landing) which was ignored. I doubt whether Israelis would have ignored such intelligence if they had it. I don’t know how to assess whether Israel should have had the necessary data. We don’t have much statistical information on the conspiracies which were never discovered, just on the ones which were. (The breaking of the German codes in WWII was one of the successful conspiracies which lasted until the Official Secrets Act elapsed.) There may have been a failure of some sort, but I haven’t seen a specific description of it.

    There is of course a general intelligence failure of people believing in the God Hypothesis, which can be used to justify any atrocity. (Yes, this is also an un-nuanced summary of a complex situation.)

  8. extranjero Says:

    “Wouldn’t most Israelis and Ukrainians be happy to live in the US?”

    I am a Ukrainian citizen (I was a postdoc in Spain when the Russian invasion has started). Of course, it will be great to have such an opportunity. I am not so familiar with US internal politics, but, seems GOP will be against this (Ukrainians like new Mexicans, steal our job e t c). And US has quite different culture. Of course, it is a land of freedom, but I doubt can I survive without public transport as in Europe (I cannot drive a car), without public healthcare when surprising bills can not make you bankrupt (recently I got two surgeries “for free”, and I thought that in the US I would have to fight with insurance company for each dollar from the bill…).

    The better solution were to provide all needed weapons to Ukraine without delays, without this irrational Western fear of “escalation”. Does anyone say now that Israel has to stop to resist and has to find a solution in diplomatic way? Tucker Carlson? Elon Musk? Anyone? Someone says like German chancellor about avoiding “escalation”?… Strange. So, this is only due Hamas does not have nukes. Yet. If you have nukes, you can invade countries, and other countries will be full of fear of WWIII. So, it means that every country have to have nukes – for safety, or for grabbing lands. Nothing else works. This is a new reality.

    Ukraine didn’t recognize Kosovo because there was a fear that Russia will use this argument for grabbing Crimea. As we have seen, this did not help.
    Israel didn’t provide weapons to Ukraine because of fear that Russia will not like it, and Hamas supported by Russia will attack Israel. It does not work. The same as giving Czechoslovakia to Hitler for establishing peace.

  9. M.Z. Says:

    Amir Michail#2
    Ukrainians want to live in there own country governed by ukrainian (yes including ukrainians of jewish descent like Zelencki) people. Why will they want to live in country with another language, culture, etc. ?

  10. I Says:

    Another black swan, huh? This will be such a mess.

  11. Tim McCormack Says:

    Al Jazeera’s reporting of the attack (or counter-attack, depending on who you ask) cites multiple reasons:

    « Hamas said its unprecedented offensive by land, air and sea was in response to the desecration of the Al Aqsa Mosque as well as Israeli atrocities against Palestinians over the decades. »

    So not just theological, and it would be astonishing if they *didn’t* cite the blockade and other ills.

    The whole thing is horrifying, of course, in all aspects.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    War crimes by Hamas are despicable. They will be annihilated by the Israeli military, not much question about that. It is still unbelievable that Mossad didn’t see this coming.

    What is clear is that it will be a one-sided destruction of Gazan Palestinians, now that the Israeli focus and resolve is there. But starving and cutting off these Palestinians in a massive “prison” hasn’t worked, so what is next? The right-wingers will use this situation to get rid of Gaza altogether, not just Hamas. But all that violence is certain to bring out the next “Hamas” equivalent, people don’t come up with a sane government after living their whole lives in horrific conditions. In many ways, Bibi’s style of governance relies on the unstable leadership of Hamas in Gaza. Will another version of Hamas be propped up after this, or will Gaza cease to exist? I hope there’s some chance of a better solution out of this, because making the Palestinians more desperate will only cause more suffering. The average age in Gaza is what, 18? And those kids will think fighting is the solution…

  13. Edan Maor Says:

    I’m very glad to hear you, your wife and her family are safe.

    It’s been a terrible few days. It’s going to be even more terrible in the coming days, for civilllians both in Israel and in Palestine. I can only hope that casualties will be minimized on both sides as much as possible.

    As for the failure, I think it’s important to realize that not only was this an intelligence failure, it was also a failure on many other levels – preparation and planning, general preparedness, army response time, etc. It could turn out that we will look back and realize that much worse was averted, but even so, it shouldn’t have gotten as far as it did in the first place.

  14. Sam Says:

    Look, Palestine has the right to defend itself. Israeli settlers are stealing their land, Israelis are destroying their ancient heritage, they’re bombing and killing their children and depriving them of food and medicine. There are so many atrocities committed against the Palestinian people every single day in this illegal occupation. Of course Hamas has the right to respond with proportionate force. They are only giving the illegal Zionist regime and all the Zionists a taste of their own medicine. This is what decolonization looks like—sometimes it’s not pretty!

  15. extant Says:

    Glad to hear your family is safe Scott. The innocent people of the Levant are in my thoughts.

    It seems inevitable that religion will ultimately destroy human civilization. I’m deeply saddened that the legacy of our species will be ignorance, barbarism, and bloodshed.

  16. Scott Says:

    Sam #14: Israel’s government is far from blameless, but do you understand that this attack was launched from Gaza, which hasn’t had any Israeli settlers since 2005? Do you understand that Hamas murdered children, entire families, people at a music festival, people with no military relevance, not as collateral damage but intentionally? Do you understand that Hamas’s primary justification was theological, nothing to do with improving conditions for the people in Gaza (which indeed are about to get much much worse, as Hamas knew they would)? Do you understand that the Israeli Jews aren’t going anywhere, because they don’t have anywhere else to go? Or that they’re not the ones who rejected the two-state solution back when there was a peace process? Did you bother to learn any of the basic facts of the situation before commenting?

  17. Scott Says:

    Note: I’m leaving further comments from Sam in moderation. His explicit—-explicit—-position is that my friends and family members ought to be murdered, in a continuation or resumption of the Nazi Holocaust. (Though strangely, he finds it unimportant to point out that, by his own logic, most people currently living in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are “colonizers” by ancestry and hence also appropriate targets for murder.) If you’d find it unproductive to have that debate with someone about your family, then you understand my position as well.

  18. fred Says:

    How about Saudi Arabia welcoming the entirety of the Gaza strip’s population?
    They’re all Sunnis, the holy center of Islam is right there (Mecca), there’s plenty of space, and the Saudis have a GDP of nearly 1 trillion $ for a population of 32 millions…

  19. MoreDefense Says:

    This should be a wake up call to those funneling top students away from defense. There is clearly not enough asymmetry in cost effective capabilities and Israel has suffered and will suffer dearly for it. Air strikes are effective but Israel does not have enough munitions for a large scale war with heavy use. This will play out block by block and thousands of Israeli infantry will die.

    Looking at what Boston Dynamics has built its easy to imagine robotic soldiers taking unlimited small arms fire and taking city blocks without casualties.

  20. James Says:

    Hi Scott,

    After thinking about this, I come to the conclusion that an acceptable solution is just not possible. I was wondering if you disagree with my argument.

    First of all, what I mean with acceptable solution is one that:
    A: Guarantees the security of the Jewish people in Israel.
    B: Respects liberal values (i.e respects the rights of palestinians).

    The different scenarios that I can see are:

    1. Status quo. This one doesn’t respect B, since the fate of the Palestinians is basically controlled by Israel to a large degree. Palestinians should have the right to be represented and to decide their future.
    2. Israel annexes the West Bank. Three possibilities here:
    -2a: Citizenship rights are not granted to Palestinians. They would be second class citizens, and therefore it violates B.
    -2b: Palestinians become full citizens. Honestly this seems impossible. Israelis would never accept it since it could easily violate A. I don’t think an Israel without a Jewish majority would be acceptable to Israelis.
    -2c: Palestinians are forced to leave. Ethnic cleansing, clearly violates B.
    3. Two state solutions: under ideal conditions this could potentially respect A and B. BUT, with the recent developments, this option seems dead to me. Realistically, even if one was absolutely and wholeheartedly convinced that this solution can be compatible with A, it would seem impossible to convince the Israelis that this is true (am I wrong?). Plus, this does not seem to be the direction that the Israeli government has been taking these past years, under Netanyahu.

    So, can A and B be reconciled? Or is it hopeless? I’d like to be wrong, but I think that it is hopeless. There’s too much hatred at this point, I don’t see how this is solved.

  21. Yiftach Says:

    I think the levels of anger, grief, and fear in Israel are so high that the reaction will be unprecedented. In other words, people are mad with grief. I am not sure the government will even care about legal justifications for their actions and I am not sure the public and government will give much weight for the fate of the hostages (or the life of soldiers).

  22. Anonymous Says:

    fred #18, very bizarre perspective that assumes Palestinians are inherently the “foreigners” with no fundamental attachment to the land whereas those of Jewish ancestry are the “original” inhabitants that have no where else to go. In fact, neither group has anywhere else they can go, not should they be forced to choose somewhere else. Somehow both sides are guilty of this thinking but it is unproductive because neither is leaving (not should they have to). Palestinians going to Saudi Arabia…, you may as well go tell the Cherokee to go live with the Navajo. Same for Israelis going to some other country.

    Even if you take bogus biblical lineage claims seriously, most Palestinians would have as much Jewish ancestry as any Israeli, it’s just their ancestors may have converted to Christianity or Islam. In a “fair” society, Palestinians would have the “right to return” in the same way Jews do.

    Palestinians are stuck in the past on borders that simply cannot work anymore. The Israeli government is stuck trying ignore all of that past. Obviously the solution would be in between, but easier said than done.

  23. Mert Gokduman Says:

    I believe our political beliefs should not come between us in spaces of solidarity and close our hearts to each other’s pain. Though I am not unaware of post-colonialist arguments regarding the self-defense rights of occupied locations, I find Sam’s comment rather unfortunate in this manner. The civilians caught in the crossfire on both sides are the ultimate victims, and their pain should not be overshadowed by the broader geopolitics. As Dr. Aaronson mentioned Israel’s government is nowhere near innocent, particularly given the policies on settlers. However, one side’s violation of human rights is not a moral validation of other side’s methods. It is a shared agony; a collective trauma that transcends borders. The pain felt by an Israeli mother, a Palestinian father, or a concerned Middle Eastern like me is a testament to our shared humanity and the tragedy of a prolonged conflict.

    The conflict is surely rooted beyond comprehensible depth, and solutions are neither simple nor immediate. But every voice that speaks for peace, every effort to understand the other side, and every call for diplomacy is a step toward a better future. I appreciate your insights, your personal stories, and the space you’ve provided for discourse. It’s in these challenging times that such conversations become even more crucial.

    With hope and solidarity,

  24. Craig Says:

    The big question I have is how long can Gaza last without the food, water, fuel, and electricity that Israel normally supplies, given that Israel has now decided to withhold these? I am guessing not very long.

  25. Danylo Yakymenko Says:

    Condolences from Ukraine to Jewish people. Our situation is different in many aspects, but one thing is strikingly similar – militants intentionally murder civilians in a very brutal form. It’s usually warned not to “dehumanize” the enemy, but I just can’t see them differently as animals. In our case the completely unexpected part was the level of atrocities and depravity of Russians, which previously had a reputation of civilized society and have the ambition to rule the world. It seems the world has reached some peak level of civilization and now bounced back and falling with an accelerated speed. The rise of Trump’s MAGA cult in US is another vivid evidence of this.

  26. Scott Says:

    James #20: Not only do I not think a good solution is “logically impossible,” I think it very likely would’ve been achieved if Rabin hadn’t been murdered, or if Arafat had been someone else. Of course, given all the depressing things that have happened over the past 30 years, it now seems virtually impossible to get back—if you’re at the bottom of a cesspit, who cares that a path mathematically exists from where you are to the top of Everest? Then again, peace between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf states also seemed pretty unlikely before they happened. So for now, the least (most?) we can do is try to preserve the unacceptable status quo and prevent the massacre of either side, and hope that the next generation somehow finds its way back to Rabin’s vision.

  27. Scott Says:

    Yiftach #21: On the one hand, yes, Jewish men, women, and children have been massacred on a scale not seen since the Holocaust, and I could imagine Israel responding with a fury that makes all its previous retaliations look like the Care Bears. On the other hand, Israel is possibly more obsessed than any other country on earth about the safe return of its hostages, and there’s more than a hundred of them. So I genuinely don’t know what to expect, but I’d indeed (alas) be mortally terrified if I were in Gaza right now.

  28. OhMyGoodness Says:

    My sadness extends to all Israelis and my wish for the IDF is, Good Hunting. Purposeful targeting of women and children cannot be accepted.

    I read a couple publicly available security analyses and the consensus was that Hezbollah now has a truly massive arms inventory sufficient to overcome even the Israeli air defense system. I hope no escalation from that quarter.

    I just finished a 5000 year history of pharaohnic Egypt (incredibly interesting) and plan to tackle the Assyrian Empire soon. Amazing to me that an area that contributed immensely to human civilization is in such a shambles. On the other hand this area is also the wellspring of organized total warfare with little distinction between civilian and military targets.

  29. Jan Says:

    But, please, let Israel win this war without violating international humanitarian law. The whole essence of that is that if your enemy is violating it, you do *not* do the same.

  30. fred Says:


    “very bizarre perspective that assumes Palestinians are inherently the “foreigners” with no fundamental attachment to the land whereas those of Jewish ancestry are the “original” inhabitants that have no where else to go. In fact, neither group has anywhere else they can go, not should they be forced to choose somewhere else.”

    That whole “ancestry land” is really not a big argument in my book.
    Being myself an expat, I’m fine with the fact I won’t die in the land where I was born.

    Second, I’m just being practical, nobody would be forced to move obviously.
    Why aren’t all the rich Arab/Muslim countries (Qatar, the Saudis, UAE,..) giving asylum to any Palestinian who wants to get the fuck out of there and finally get a real life *now* rather than waiting another 100-200 years?

    Of course that’s never gonna happen, just as NK is China’s “starved” attack dog against the US, the Palestinians fill the same function for all the countries that want the downfall of Israel.

  31. Edan Maor Says:

    James #20, Scott #26:

    James, I think you’re right in the sense that, as Scott says, there’s no *practical* path out of this mess right now. There could be if the Palestinians had accepted deals in the past or behaved differently. This is what is so hard as a “leftist” Israeli. I’d like an end to the situation, I think we have a morally very complicated position… but I also have no alternative that we can achieve right now.

    That said, let’s not gloss over the fact that the status quo has (so far) been to Israel’s benefit, and that Israel’s decision to mostly ignore the terrible situation in Gaza and just continue as normal, is also giving Israel more and more of the upper hand. I honestly believe Israel has tried, multiple times, to reach an equitable agreement with the Palestinians, and I don’t think Israel is actively sabotaging a peace process (well, it kind of is actually), but it’s certainly not doing anything to encourage a peace process.

    I think the only way out of this mess is if Israel normalizes relations with the rest of the Arab world, the Palestinians lose a ton of their allies, and then have to give in to some demands. Not a great outcome for them, but at least this mess will end. The current war makes this less likely.

  32. Adam Treat Says:

    Scott, “On the other hand, Israel is possibly more obsessed than any other country on earth about the safe return of its hostages, and there’s more than a hundred of them. So I genuinely don’t know what to expect, but I’d indeed (alas) be mortally terrified if I were in Gaza right now.”

    Those hostages are (likely) in Gaza right now? I fear that those hostages are stuck between brutal terrorists and the Israeli government’s wrath

  33. Richard Says:

    There is an alternative to war, one not covered in James #20’s breakdown: Israel could give Gaza to Egypt. Cede the territory, let the city be part of Egypt, integrated into the Egyptian economy with free movement of people, and fully under control of the Egyptian police and security forces. Let young men leave and work elsewhere in Egypt, so you don’t have the 90% youth unemployment that always breeds violent rebellion. This would not reduce the risk of Gaza-originating terrorist attacks to zero, but it would make Israel a lot safer than any other policy.

  34. fred Says:

    As much as what is happening in Israel/Gaza is shocking and depressing,
    the Ukraine conflict, involving two supposed “brother” nations/people (that bond is now totally destroyed for generations), has really set back even more my expectations for durable peace no matter what the context is.

  35. Scott Says:

    Richard #33: The problem, as I understand it, is that Egypt doesn’t want Gaza (I wouldn’t either if I were them).

  36. Lior Silberman Says:

    People are focusing on the intelligence failure for some reason, but that’s a red herring: the main failure was *operational*. The IDF shifted practically all its forces defending the Gaza border to Judea and Samaria to protect various settler activities during the holiday. Defending the border against an enemy which we know is *capable* of committing such crimes is imperative even if we don’t have positive intelligence that it intends to do so at a particular time.

    Yes, the intelligence failure hurt. But shifting the army is the true failure, the cause of the catastrophe. Hamas started the operation by using drones to destroy some observation towers — because the soldiers who specialize in shooting down drones were instead during routine security far away. When the brave women in observation posts reported the incursion there was no reserve of ground forces to stem the tide and protect them — and they were killed or captured.

    Two retired generals took their private guns and cars and went south to fight the terrorists and rescue civilians (including their own families), because for the moment the army wasn’t doing that. Forget about the intelligence — it’s the priorities of who to defend that matter.

  37. Scott Says:

    Lior Silberman #36: Thanks—others have made that point, and it seems correct. Presumably Bibi’s ministers justified it to themselves by saying “eh, Hamas is never going to breach this giant high-tech wall anyway”? I’ve edited the post to change “intelligence” to “intelligence and operational.”

    Now that the consequences are laid bare, may Israel never again make the moral and strategic blunder of prioritizing settlements over the defense of its main population centers.

  38. fred Says:

    If there’s such a thing as “souls” and if there’s a God, he would make sure that every Israeli killed will be reborn as a baby in the Gaza strip, and every Palestinian killed will be reborn as a Jewish baby in Israeli territory. In the long run that will even things out.

  39. Adam Treat Says:

    Richard, as Scott has said: Egypt does not want them. They do not allow residents of Gaza freely into Egypt. If they wanted to they could, but they understand the security and humanitarian nightmare this would produce as Hamas would not accept this as a solution: Hamas continues to want what it has always wanted: a complete and total end to the state of Israel. Were Egypt to let Gaza residents to move freely they would then be responsible for the inevitable continued attacks on Israel by Hamas from Gaza and we would then have Egypt and Israel perpetually at war.

    The non-militant residents of Gaza who do not work for the destruction of Israel are unfortunately at the mercy of the terrorists who do. Israel has and will continue to defend itself from these militant people hell bent on her destruction.

  40. Adam Treat Says:

    The same is true of all other state solutions: re Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc. Hamas has to lose total power to carry out its task of destroying Israel otherwise there can be no peace with Hamas and Israel. The people trapped and occupied with Hamas who don’t want what Hamas is doing are victims of Hamas.

  41. Scott Says:

    Adam Treat #39, #40: +100

  42. James Cross Says:

    Yes, the attack was despicable … I lack words.

    However, I now hear the same hawks calling for a war with Iran based on what – the same intelligence apparatus that had this massive failure.

  43. Nilima Nigam Says:

    I’m glad your families are safe.

    What Hamas has done is just sickening, and evil. We should all be able to agree on this simple fact. That we cannot speaks volumes to our incoherant times.

    The deliberate targetting of civilians is illegal, and unethical. It’s as simple as that. We should be able to call it out, with no ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ to temper the outrage. Because if we cannot speak out about the murder of innocents in one case, with what face can we object in another?

    Amidst the terrible violence and the prospect of more, I have no solutions to offer. Just a prayer- may all the children of the world make it through today, and tonight, in safety. And tomorrow, I’ll have the same prayer. Weak tea, but it’s all we have.

  44. fred Says:

    While a violent death is a death, no matter how it happens, there’s still a the striking asymmetry between killing someone from a distance with a bomb/missile by pushing a button and killing someone face to face, the perpetrator and victim looking into each other’s eyes.

    With the former, one can hide behind the anonymity of distance and randomness, while the latter requires a very different type of commitment.

    For the average person, one looks more like a coward, the other looks more like a monster, and it’s easier to identify with a coward than with a monster…

    Colonel Paul Tibbets delivered the nuke on Hiroshima, killing 80,000 people in a single somewhat abstract action, but it would be obviously entirely different if he had to kill all those people one on one, in some intimate manner, having each of them beg him for their life…

    But, for the family of the victim, I’m not sure it all makes a huge difference.

  45. Del Says:

    #39 #40 #41 I agree, there is no point of negotiating with a party whose ideal is to destroy you.

    However, unless you want to simply and completely destroy the other party too (as it seems like Israel today wants too more strongly than in the past), you have to understand why your enemy is so strong.

    Richard #33 argument in his blog is quite valid (besides the obviously naive conclusion). It is very clear to any observer who has not any tie with either party: the reaction that Israel is deploying (unless they completely kill every single Palestinian in the world, which seems unlikely) it will simply make Hamas stronger, and make things worse for the future. Also, as a nation, you should not react with the same level of moral ground as a terrorist organization, killing indiscriminately as they seem to be at the moment.

    Palestinians and Israelis alike, need to realize that any solution must be based on justice and not the destruction of the other party, or on treating them as second class people. Sadly neither party even tried and as such I think the situation is hopeless.

  46. Adam Treat Says:

    Fred #44,

    “While a violent death is a death, no matter how it happens…”

    Just no. Context matters and will always matter. We don’t look at every violent death the same and never have. We don’t look at every war, every participant, every death equally and the same. Numerous German camp guards were killed when the camps were freed and they died violently. We don’t look at every violent death the same nor should we.

    I really don’t understand how your comment is relevant here other than to somehow try and equate the decapitation of whole families, the rape and horrors of Hamas with the retaliation by Israel. We don’t equate the death of German camp soldiers with the deaths of those who came to free the camps do we?

    Israel is not seeking the total destruction of the Palestinian people. They are not tasked with the goal of their utter destruction. Israel is acting defensively to an unprecedented and violent assault by Hamas that is every bit as grotesque and ideologically driven as ISIS in Syria/Iraq. Rapes and decapitation of babies. Horrors upon horrors.

    Del #45,

    “However, unless you want to simply and completely destroy the other party too (as it seems like Israel today wants too more strongly than in the past), you have to understand why your enemy is so strong.”

    This appears to be a form of victim blaming. If only Israel was nicer or didn’t do such and such, then Hamas wouldn’t be forced to rape Israeli women and decapitate Israeli babies. Hamas needs no justification for its horrors other than the mere existence of Israel. Criticizing Israel and somehow blaming Israel for Hamas atrocities is wrong.

    I wish progressives would understand two things:

    1) Hamas does not care about land. Hamas does not care about the plight of Palestinians in Gaza. Hamas is like ISIS: completely and obsessively bent on the complete and utter destruction of Israel and Jews in general and their religious zealot goals. And they are more than willing to commit every kind of horror in furtherance.

    2) Employing ‘whataboutism’ or equating Israel’s response is a category error of the same order and magnitude as equating the death of German camp soldiers with the death of American and Allied soldiers coming to free the camps IMO.

  47. James Says:

    Scott #26:

    Thanks for your response, Scott. I agree that the very least we can do is try to prevent the massacre of each side. And specially now, given the amount of people that are actively looking for this outcome, I guess it’s important to remind ourselves of this, even if we’re still feeling pessimistic.

    Edan #31:

    Thanks for your insights, Edan. I agree with your assessment of the status quo.
    About Palestine losing its arab allies, I guess it could be possible yes. However, since Palestine would be in an even weaker position, would Israel be willing to offer a deal that’s acceptable for the Palestinians? Specially when, as you say, israel has been mostly ok with the status quo.
    Even in the last peace plan offered by Trump, the state offered to the Palestinians could hardly be called sovereign…
    And also, with respect to the last attack by Hamas, it’s obvious that one objective was to kill as many Jews as possible. But I believe that the other objective would’ve been to spark conflict (Hamas thrives on this), and specifically to attack the Abraham accords. It’s likely that we’ll start seeing horrible images coming from Gaza. And since the Arab public is generally very sympathetic to the palestinians, if the situation scalates, it’s very possible that it would be too much for the Arab governments. I wonder if it could jeopardize the recent recognitions by arab states, which are arguably Israel’s most important diplomatic success in the recent years.

  48. Del Says:

    Adam #46

    If that’s what my comment sounds, then I definitely used the wrong words. I am **NOT** saying that if Israel didn’t do this or that Hamas would not be “forced” to do that other thing. Quite the contrary. Let me try to be clearer.

    First, Hamas is a terrorist organization which wants to destroy all the Jews because Hamas thinks that Israel should not exist. What they do it is they responsibly, period, and they are not “forced” to do anything.

    Second, Israel is a democratic nation, so it should not compare itself (and its actions) to the same moral grounding of a terrorist organization.

    Just for the sake of the argument, assume that Israel (perhaps because Rabin lived as Scott suggested) built a place in which Palestinians would have had liberties and freedoms, and even thrived — either as part of Israel itself or as a separate state. Would Hamas exist anyway in this scenario? I argue yes, because some people and some ideologies are diehard. Would they still perform terrorist attacks? Probably yes.

    But in this scenario (and this is my point which apparently I failed to convey), Hamas could never be as strong as it is today, because it would *NOT* be able to recruit volunteer attackers with nothing to lose in these numbers! If the average Palestinian were thriving with job and family, why would he join a terrorist organization? Saying this is saying the obvious, don’t you see it? It’s not blaming the victim. In a sense it is another way to say that the law of retaliation and conflict escalation does not work ever, and certainly not in this situation. Why? It helps Hamas recruiting more fighters by making the point to the average Palestinian that “Jews are evil, see? they are destroying Gaza, not let food or power go to regular folks and people in the hospitals”.

    I understand that saying something the victim did wrong hurts, and I’m sorry about that. Yet it’s not blaming the victim, it’s just pointing to a mistake they did (and continue doing). In the same way in which (I think here everybody agrees) is not “blaming the victim” saying that the intelligence failure in seeing the attack coming contributed to its toll.

  49. fred Says:

    Adam Treat

    either you haven’t read the entirety of my comment or I wrote it so poorly that you haven’t understood it (in which case it’s my bad).

    Clearly I agree that the manner in which a person is killed does make a difference for an outside observer who’s living by modern standards and not living in the middle ages.

    And many defenders of the Palestinian cause are failing to understand or pretending to ignore that a 100 deaths from a bomb (even a suicide bomb) just doesn’t resonate in the same way to an average Westerner than a 100 door to door executions (or rapes followed by executions) with kitchen knives.

    Anyway, moving on.

  50. Edan Maor Says:

    Del #48:

    If the Palestinians weren’t living in such horrible conditions, *of course* Hamas would be weaker-to-non-existent. I think that’s pretty much a given.

    A big part of the argument I have with people (and with your statement )is this – I don’t think there’s anything that *Israel* can do to achieve that outcome.

    I’m serious – what’s step one, two three on the plan to give Palestinians a state? Because there were negotiations several times, which the Palestinians said no to. Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza. What exactly would Israel do, other than make much larger concessions than it’s willing to (and that would destory Israel?). And without severely jeopardizing peace?

    Over and over, the *current* party in power in Gaza has shown that it prefers to use money and equipment/etc that flow into Gaza in order to attack Israel, rather than improve the material situation of Gazans.

    James #47:

    > since Palestine would be in an even weaker position [if it los its Arab allies], would Israel be willing to offer a deal that’s acceptable for the Palestinians?

    It would probably get a much worse deal than was offered to them in the past. I don’t think Israel will act very righteously here, tbh – it’s realpolitik. In that scenario, they’ll get a terrible deal because Israel will have more negotiating power.

  51. fred Says:

    Hitchens on Israel and Palestine (a warning from the past):

  52. Adam Treat Says:

    Fred, Del, Thanks for the clarifications. My comment was strident and directed because much of the conversation I see on the left/progressive side *is* trying to equate Israel and Hamas and/or blaming Israel for Hamas horrors. That is frustrating to say the slightest, but I apologize if my misunderstanding unfairly lumped your comments in with this.

  53. Vrushali Says:

    One would assume the world to appreciate your comment in #16 ” because they don’t have anywhere else to go” as just and ethical. Being a hindu with no where else to go but India I have concluded that economic and military strength is the only language the world understands. India stands with Israel now and forever.

  54. fred Says:

    Adam Treat

    no problem.

    What spurred my post was that I could already see how some people are subtlety trying to put all things on equal footing.
    E.g. the two clowns at Breaking Points lost no time to immediately put up this graph, updated every day

    While I don’t want to see the civilians in the Gaza strip wiped out, I think we all should agree that the issue is more than a question of tally, but it’s clear that some just can’t wait for the casualties on the Gaza side to take over the casualties on the Israeli side so they can go back to their typical anti-US and anti-Israel points.

  55. Jud Says:

    First, Scott, let me say I am very relieved to hear your relatives in Israel are safe. For your and your family’s friends and acquaintances who were murdered or wounded, my very inadequate condolences.

    Yes, I too wish for the days of Rabin.

    There are only two matters on which I would gently disagree with you, and they are connected. I don’t think “winning” is possible in any sense that we have formerly recognized, though if you want to count survival to fight another day as winning (because, as you say, what alternative is there?), then yes, that is possible, even likely. And is there any realistic alternative to seeking the revenge and collective punishment the Israeli population wishes to visit upon Gaza? Sadly, I doubt it. Hamas, though not strictly of Gaza (originated in Egypt, supported by Iran, got less than half the vote in the election they “won,” and their popularity has almost certainly diminished since), is *in* Gaza, and so that is where the response is taking place and will continue to do so. Thousands upon thousands more civilians will undoubtedly die, and I do not think, based on the pronouncements from the IDF and government leadership, as well as reporting on what has already occurred, that sparing them is a priority in the least – in fact, likely the opposite, as Israeli statements of operational goals like “Gaza will never be again what it was” make clear. Terrorist savagery will be met with more industrialized and impersonal brutality. A new generation of Israelis and Palestinians will grow up with the essential knowledge of who the hated enemy is.

    Rinse, repeat.

    I wish I could be as hopeful as you would like to be regarding the chances for a surprising peace, but after these events and undoubtedly more to come, I find myself pessimistic that sanity will finally prevail anytime soon.

  56. Del Says:

    Adam#52 – no worries, I understand and share the frustration.


    > I don’t think there’s anything that *Israel* can do to achieve that outcome.

    I can make a list, but the past is gone so it’s useless. For the curious, just look at what the UN asked them to do (or not do, like the settlements).

    But consider what they are doing now in Gaza. Assuming they don’t kill everybody (and that would mean *millions* of people), what do you think that the young kids who will survive next month will do? In 5 or 10 years can be *any* of them friends of the Jews? Everybody will hate the Jews and many will join Hamas. Israel should have tried to engage with the regular folks in Gaza, not punishing the whole population which arguably is by vast majority innocent. That would have been a great show of force and moral integrity, which would have certainly weakened Hamas much more that they can do with the brute force that “will reverberate with them for generations” as Netanyahu said. So here we go, we will have war and hate for generations to come, what a plan!

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