Shtetl-Optimized’s First-Ever “Profile in Courage”

Update (Oct. 11): While this post celebrated Harvard’s Boaz Barak, and his successful effort to shame his into disapproving of the murder of innocents, I missed Boaz’s best tweet about this. There, Boaz points out that there might be a way to get Western leftists on board with basic humanity on this issue. Namely: we simply need to unearth video proof that, at some point before beheading their Jewish victims in front of their families, burning them alive, and/or parading their mutilated bodies through the streets, at some point Hamas also misgendered them.

The purpose of this post is to salute a longtime friend-of-the-blog for a recent display of moral courage.

Boaz Barak is one of the most creative complexity theorists and cryptographers in the world, Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science at Harvard, and—I’m happy to report—soon (like me) to go on leave to work in OpenAI’s safety group. He’s a longtime friend-of-the-blog (having, for example, collaborated with me on the Five Worlds of AI post and Alarming trend in K-12 math education post), not to mention a longtime friend of me personally.

Boaz has always been well to my left politically. Secular, Israeli-born, and a protege of the … err, post-Zionist radical (?) Oded Goldreich, I can assure you that Boaz has never been quiet in his criticisms of Bibi’s emerging settler-theocracy.

This weekend, though, a thousand Israelis were murdered, kidnapped, and raped—children, babies, parents using their bodies to shield their kids, Holocaust survivors, young people at a music festival. It’s already entered history as the worst butchery of Jews since the Holocaust.

In response, 35 Harvard student organizations quickly issued a letter blaming Israel “entirely” for the pogrom, and expressing zero regrets of any kind about it—except for the likelihood of “colonial retaliation,” against which the letter urged a “firm stand.” Harvard President Claudine Gay, outspoken on countless other issues, was silent in response to the students’ effective endorsement of the Final Solution. So Boaz wrote an open letter to President Gay, a variant of which has now been signed by a hundred Harvard faculty. The letter reads, in part:

Every innocent death is a tragedy. Yet, this should not mislead us to create false equivalencies between the actions leading to this loss. Hamas planned and executed the murder and kidnapping of civilians, particularly women, children, and the elderly, with no military or other specific objective. This meets the definition of a war crime.  The Israeli security forces were engaging in self-defense against this attack while dealing with numerous hostage situations and a barrage of thousands of rockets hidden deliberately in dense urban settings.

The leaders of the major democratic countries united in saying that “the terrorist actions of Hamas have no justification, no legitimacy, and must be universally condemned” and that Israel should be supported “in its efforts to defend itself and its people against such atrocities.“ In contrast, while terrorists were still killing Israelis in their homes,  35 Harvard student organizations wrote that they hold “the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence,” with not a single word denouncing the horrific acts by Hamas. In the context of the unfolding events, this statement can be seen as nothing less than condoning the mass murder of civilians based only on their nationality. We’ve heard reports of even worse instances, with Harvard students celebrating the “victory” or “resistance” on social media.

As a University aimed at educating future leaders, this could have been a teaching moment and an opportunity to remind our students that beyond our political debates, some acts such as war crimes are simply wrong. However, the statement by Harvard’s administration fell short of this goal. While justly denouncing Hamas, it still contributed to the false equivalency between attacks on noncombatants and self-defense against those atrocities. Furthermore, the statement failed to condemn the justifications for violence that come from our own campus, nor to make it clear to the world that the statement endorsed by these organizations does not represent the values of the Harvard community.  How can Jewish and Israeli students feel safe on a campus in which it is considered acceptable to justify and even celebrate the deaths of Jewish children and families?

Boaz’s letter, and related comments by former Harvard President Larry Summers, seem to have finally spurred President Gay into dissociating the Harvard administration from the students’ letter.

When I get depressed about the state of the world—as I have a lot the past few days—it helps to remember the existence of such friends, not only in the world but in my little corner of it.

210 Responses to “Shtetl-Optimized’s First-Ever “Profile in Courage””

  1. Vladimir Says:

    On a similar note, you may be interested in this tweet by Inna Vishik:

  2. Ilya M. Says:

    Not to be nitpicking, especially at this hour, but it is hard to see why the 35 Harvard student organizations who issued the shameful letter are necessary “left-leaning”. There are a few that are obviously so, but the majority claim some religious, ethnic, or racial identity.

  3. Scott Says:

    Ilya M #2: Fine, I took that out, because it wasn’t particularly relevant. If you read the letter, it clearly reflects a radical-left worldview, one in which any act of violence is justified (including, apparently, beheading babies in their cribs) if it’s directed against a “colonial oppressor.”

  4. Julia Says:

    Thank you Boaz for your courage and integrity, and thank you Scott for highlighting this.

  5. David Katz Says:

    Sorry, but I’m struggling to identify a substantive difference between 1. This letter from the Harvard student organizations, and 2. Your previous post! Like the anti-Israel students, you blamed this attack on the Israeli government. You blamed Netanyahu and Israeli settlers. While the bodies were still warm, you were using this horrific attack as an opportunity to grandstand about your anti-Netanyahu, anti-settler politics. Support or oppose Netanyahu, that politics should have made ZERO appearance in your take on the atrocities committed over the weekend, as families are still trying to find their loved ones who were stolen into Gaza. It’s really nasty, in my opinion, to try to opportunistically use this attack to push your personal anti-Netanyahu politics. We need to rally around our leader, not argue with one another.

    Also: You insinuated in a comment on the other post that the Israeli army shouldn’t have protected the settler communities in the West Bank. You seemed to suggest, therefore, that if it was settlers in the West Bank who were butchered, raped and abducted, rather than young hippies at the music festival, they would have deserved it. Is this true?

  6. John Says:

    Thank you Boaz, from the bottom of my heart. I’ve been in a state of shock the past few days as a grad student down the road in Cambridge. I am dumbfounded at what appears to be a sizeable number of intelligent people openly endorsing the slaughter of children and the elderly (and much worse), because they somehow think it moves the needle on social justice. This should frighten everyone.

    Reading your letter today, along with Larry Summer’s biting remarks, gave me the first hope in some time that leadership in academic institutions has not reached a terminal stage of cowardice and moral bankruptcy.

    It is remarkable how difficult they seemed to find calling Hamas terrorists, given the language in the countless emails I’ve received from admin about white supremacy the past two years. This was Claudine Gay’s opening statement in the first letter she sent out: “We write to you today heartbroken by the death and destruction unleashed by the attack by Hamas that targeted citizens in Israel this weekend.” And that was the extent of her criticism.

    That is insane.

    I hope this can be the start of a trend towards something better in American universities.

    Thank you Scott for highlighting this, I hope more will do the same.

  7. Udi Says:

    The Harvard students letter is horrible not just because they are ignoring the horrific attack of the Hamas. What is horrible is that they fail to understand that the Hamas has no interest in improving the lives of the Palestinian people. The Hamas leaders know fully well that this vicious attack has no tactical value. What Hamas gains from this attack is to perpetuate the conflict by strengthening the extremist on both side.

    We, as Israelis should also understand this. We should hunt down the people responsible for these atrocities while doing everything we can to minimize the suffering of innocent Palestinian.

    Beyond that we should work to give Palestinians a hope for a better life. It won’t be easy. Reading this Harvard letter is very discouraging. Still, we must strive for peace. In the words of Yitzhak Rabin:

    “We must fight terrorism as if there’s no peace process and work to achieve peace as if there’s no terror.”

  8. Scott Says:

    David Katz #5: In the wake of 9/11, I was filled with love for the United States of America and its everyday heroes and its Constitution and founding ideals, even as I despised George W. Bush and the idiocy and inattention of his administration that had allowed 9/11 to happen. My feelings in the wake of Israel’s 9/11 are exactly analogous: love for Israel, love for the humane vision of Herzl and Ben-Gurion and Rabin, love for the Israelis who rushed south and risked or lost their lives fighting the attackers, and also hatred of the Netanyahu government for allowing this to happen among its many other historic failures. I believe that a large fraction of Israelis feel similarly right now. If you can’t wrap your mind around such distinctions, then the failing is yours, not mine.

    As for whether it was a good idea to move IDF soldiers away from the Gaza fence, whose very design assumed their presence, and instead have them defend the far-flung West Bank settlements favored by Ben-Gvir — how about if we let Israeli voters decide that in the next election, hmm?

  9. Patrick Says:

    I personally don’t think that the president of Harvard should (or should be expected to) issue a statement repudiating the message sent out by the Harvard student groups. The purpose of Harvard is to facilitate high quality research and to educate students, not to have an opinion on political or military conflicts in the middle east (though I of course know that some professors’ individual research may involve such conflict). The president of Harvard, at least in their official capacity, should only issue statements that are directly connected to these goals.

    On top of that, I value universities as places which are truly dedicated to free expression of ideas, even ideas I find appalling. I am sad that this ideal has been degraded over the past decade and I am sad both in cases where I agree with the censured speech and in cases (like this one) where I don’t. I do think there are some limits to this: if a teacher had made an announcement similar to the student groups’ message while teaching then I think that would be a problem. But students expressing misguided ideas should not be denounced by the administration.

    The problem, as I see it, is that university administrators have become so addicted to putting out statements which signal that they follow all the latest political fashions that when they don’t put out a statement, it also sends a message. I would like to return to a world where nobody knows or cares about the president of Harvard’s exact opinion on geopolitics, but only on their opinion on how Harvard should be run.

  10. Israeli far-left mathematician Says:

    Scott #3: “If you read the letter, it clearly reflects a radical-left worldview, one in which any act of violence is justified (including, apparently, beheading babies in their cribs) if it’s directed against a “colonial oppressor.””

    FWIW this worldview is rejected by the vast majority of the radical-left in Israel. We are as devastated as everyone else in the country. Wokeism as exemplified by the Harvard letter is a sociocultural and psychological perversion that is a byproduct of social media and late capitalism more than it is a byproduct of Marx, Bakunin or whatever. The fact that wokeism has become synonymous with leftism in the US is no less than a disaster for the humanist left. I speak for the vast majority of the far-left in Israel when I say that we want nothing to do with that (and I believe the same holds for many “true” leftists, i.e. non-American leftists who cared about politics way before the era of Trump and Twitter). We are disgusted by any association with people who support the brutal rape of God-knows-how-many-women while getting you cancelled on Twitter for the slightest accusation of sexism.

  11. Mayer Landau Says:

    Scott #8 and David Katz #5: This idea that the reason the Gaza border was undefended because the Israeli army was all in the West Bank, was started by the news outlet Ha’aretz. This argument seems to me to be specious. First, it is false. The bulk of the operational Israeli army, including most of the armor, was deployed on the northern border. Second, assuming the Israeli army totally withdrew from the West Bank to the 1967 lines, the operational load on the Israeli army to protect those longer lines would be immense and probably beyond its capability in manpower. Such an inadequate deployment would invite a surprise attack, but much larger in scope than the one from Gaza. By deploying inside the West Bank, and supporting settler communities inside the West Bank, the Israeli army’s deterrence effect and control of the West Bank borders is magnified in comparison. Third, this is a classical whack-a-mole problem. There are two ways to solve it. One might be to draft more people to increase the size of the army. That has two issues, you are drafting people who do not want to be drafted and you incur increased cost. And, Israel has so many vulnerable points, that it might not be ever able to get the army big enough to cover all these points. A second way, is to arm the population. In 1948, the town of Be’eri held out against the Egyptian army for four months while surrounded and isolated. They were eventually relieved. In 2023 the town of Be’eri could not hold out even for one hour against a much smaller force. The difference between 1948 and 2023 is that in 1948, the entire kibbutz was armed and participated in its defense. In 2023, almost no one had arms. If the citizens on the Gaza border were armed, there might not have been the resulting carnage. They could have held out for six hours until the army arrived. In Israel, according to Ha’aretz, the places with the highest gun ownership are settlements in the West Bank, where a few towns approach a third of the population, but most are below 10%. For comparison, my home state of New Mexico, a blue state, has gun ownership at 36%. New York State has a gun ownership rate of 15%. Most Israeli towns have near zero gun ownership. This near-zero gun ownership encompasses not only Gaza border towns, but also towns on the northern border. Conceivably, a Hezbollah unit could invade a border town where the Israeli army was absent and kill a lot of people before the army showed up. Because the standing Israeli army is small and cannot cover all vulnerable areas, a better solution is arming the civilians, at least in the border communities. Obviously, the fact that this is not done in Israel points to a profound ideological difference between Israeli and American views on guns.

  12. Max Madera Says:

    I am devastated by what has happened in Israel, and I mean (in view of Harvard’s letter one needs to clarify everything, apparently even to the supposedly most intelligent people) the terrorists attacks on Israeli people. The moral stance where some “intellectuals” put themselves is appalling. I live in Spain and regretfully we have people just like that here too. Everywhere. Under certain circumstances you may understand the hineous crimes of a Palestinian terrorist. Even forgive some of them. But this people at Harvard (or Spain)??? What can you do with them? What has alienated the humanity of this people?

  13. JimV Says:

    I’m old enough to remember Yasir Arafat, but also old enough that my memory doesn’t work well–but it is my recollection that he rejected a proposed settlement (of the I-P conflict) because he believed that if he agreed to it he would be assassinated.

    I have a brother-in-law who is a native American and one of the best, most productive people I know. It seems to me our native Americans have even a stronger case against colonists than the Palestinians have against Israelis. Somehow, over a long time, we have learned to get along. The difference seems to me to be that neither side had a prevalent religion or ethos which strongly justifies murdering innocents. (Not that there weren’t individual exceptions.)

    If I were Harvard’s president, I would want to assign the various student groups to write papers comparing the USA colonist-native american history with that of the I-P conflict.

  14. Scott Says:

    Patrick #9: In Boaz’s view, and mine, the relevance to Harvard is simply that Harvard has a large number of Jewish students with friends and family who were personally affected by the devastation in southern Israel, and who are traumatized and afraid, just like Americans were after 9/11. A statement by their fellow students celebrating the “resistance” that just shot their relatives for being Jews, burned down the safe houses where they were hiding, and then paraded the mutilated bodies through the streets to wild cheers—that seems like it could reasonably be interpreted as a statement to Jewish students that “you’re next,” and seems worth denouncing by a university administration if anything ever is.

  15. OhMyGoodness Says:

    It is so alarming that these students are not wholly atypical results of the elite US educational system.

    Many here know the local history better than myself but the archeological record suggests that large scale warfare was conducted in this area 3100 BC with the pre dynastic Egyptian outpost abandoned and villages being replaced by fortified cities. This is long before Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It has been an extraordinarily violent area since the Paleolithic. I understand the hope that if things had been done differently there would be peace now. There is no guarantee the result would have been dramatically different and all that matters is the current situation and the path forward.

    Hamas is the elected party in Gaza and the polls I have seen indicate they still enjoy majority support in Gaza. I don’t believe it should be implied that it is a small number of terrorists holding the Gaza population hostage. It is their elected government.

    Israel is tasked with overcoming 50 centuries of tribal conflict and I personally doubt that can be done without protracted violent actions but couldn’t be happier if I am wrong.

  16. Doug Says:


    Well, it works like this, I think. You might have an idea like
    >Support or oppose Netanyahu, that politics should have made ZERO appearance

    But, if you don’t keep your eyes fully open and your head on your shoulders, the ‘ZERO politics’ people might say some things like
    >We need to rally around our leader

  17. David Katz Says:

    “As for whether it was a good idea to move IDF soldiers away from the Gaza fence, whose very design assumed their presence, and instead have them defend the far-flung West Bank settlements favored by Ben-Gvir — how about if we let Israeli voters decide that in the next election, hmm?”

    Once again I ask you: If terrorists (Hamas has cells throughout the West Bank) stormed a settlement “favored by Ben-Gvir,” raping and slaughtering hundreds of innocent women and childten, and murdering babies still at their mothers’ breast, would you say the victims deserved it, because they were ultra-orthodox settlers who don’t align with your “humane secular vision?”

    Because it sounds like you are saying this, because it sounds like you’re saying that Haredi settlements aren’t worthy of protection, or that their inhabitants are less worthy of protection than other Israelis. It sounds like you’re saying this, so if this doesn’t adequately describe your position, please do explain!

  18. fred Says:

    I hope that the well deserved sympathy expressed by most of the Western world towards the Israeli people in response of the horrors they’ve been subjected to by Hamas won’t be interpreted as a carte-blanche to raze Gaza.

  19. Scott Says:

    David Katz #17: I think that the West Bank settlements shouldn’t exist at all, except possibly ones very close to the 1967 border that could’ve been part of a negotiated settlement. I also think that the people living in those settlements, including 100% innocent children, don’t deserve to be slaughtered by terrorists. So, it’s complicated: as long as the settlements exist, I think that the vast bulk of their defense would best be done by the settlers themselves, the adults among whom knew exactly what they were signing up for, and had the option to live in pre-1967 Israel and rejected that option. I think that the first priority of the IDF ought to be defending pre-1967 Israel’s main population centers and preventing a second Holocaust in them, with defending the settlements a distant second. I daresay that these opinions are widely shared within Israel and within the IDF.

  20. David Katz Says:

    I’m sort of in shock here, so just to reiterate:

    I asked, “Are you okay with terrorists raping and slaughtering women and babies in a settlement?”

    And your answer was “it’s complicated.”

    I was hoping for 100% condemnation: “I condemn all violence against the settlers.”

    But no: you don’t think their lives are worth defending. You think their lives are less important, less valuable, than the lives of Israelis in Tel Aviv.

    Whenever you unravel the beliefs of a “liberal, anti-Netanyahu” Israeli, this is what you find: a terrorist sympathizer, someone who accepts violence against conservative israelis and settlers because that’s what they deserve, that’s what they “signed up for.”

    Do you understand how disgusting your views look to a normal Israeli?

  21. Scott Says:

    David Katz #20: No, I just think that the best way to protect the lives of the settlers would be to evict them from their settlements and relocate them into Israel proper, so that the IDF would have a clear, contiguous border to defend. I also know several hundred Israelis, almost all of whom are closer to my position than yours (well, many of them are way to my left!). The Bibi-ists, like the Trumpers, have this funny “dark matter” character, where they somehow have sufficient numbers to inflict their ideologies on whole nations (high birth rates?), even though you usually only encounter one when they come to your blog to call you “disgusting” or whatever. Speaking of which, I think we’ve reached a natural endpoint here; further comments from you will be left in moderation.

  22. OhMyGoodness Says:

    Fred #18

    To my view the last war that had a positive impact on global progress was WW2. It was fought to unconditional surrender. I looked years ago and as I remember about 20% of the male population of Germany died in the war and slightly lower percentage of Japanese males.

    I don’t believe frozen conflicts are in the interest of global progress. I believe Hamas has crossed the Rubicon and need to be addressed to unconditional surrender and whatever that entails in the way of military action should be pursued. I have every confidence that Israel will not target innocents but support fully whatever military actions are required to eliminate Hamas as a future threat to innocent women and children. I am sure there will not be an analogue of the RAF attacks on Dresden but if necessary to methodically raze Gaza then they should raze Gaza.

  23. Vladimir Says:

    Scott #20

    > I just think that the best way to protect the lives of the settlers would be to evict them from their settlements and relocate them into Israel proper, so that the IDF would have a clear, contiguous border to defend

    As you may know, this was *precisely* the reasoning behind the eviction of settlers from the Gaza strip in 2005. As you may also know, for Hamas – as well as a large part of the Ivy League, apparently – all Israeli Jews are settlers.

  24. Patrick Says:

    Scott #14: I don’t agree that the statement by the Harvard student groups can be “interpreted as a statement to Jewish students that ‘you’re next.'” I would be somewhat surprised if any current Harvard student launched an unprovoked physical attack on another student over this, and really shocked if such a physical attack was coordinated by a large number of students who signed the statement (rather than the action of one or a few mentally-disturbed individuals). Perhaps things would be different if the students who signed the letter were in full control of the government and military, but that is not the case here.

    I think the analogy to 9/11 is apt: after 9/11 the vast majority of Americans were not in any significant physical danger, but because they felt scared they supported laws and social norms that restricted civil liberties and free speech. In this case, I don’t believe that Jewish Harvard students are in any significant danger of being physically attacked by other Harvard students (though if they visited Israel they might well be in physical danger from terrorism or warfare perpetrated by Hamas). The two situations are not at all the same scale: the president of Harvard denouncing some current students is far removed from the Patriot Act or the post-9/11 “patriotic” version of cancel culture. But I believe the principle is the same.

    I realize that you probably strongly disagree with my position. I have found over time that I have a much higher threshold than most other people for considering speech to constitute a threat to physical safety. Usually this puts me in conflict with people on the far left (or even just on the left), but occasionally, as in this case, it puts me in (partial) agreement with such people.

    Also, to be clear, I find the actions of Hamas morally reprehensible and I think it is appalling that some people are supportive of what they have done. But I also don’t think such support is prima facie equivalent to a threat of physical violence and I don’t think the president of Harvard needs to denounce such speech. If you are really worried that the statement put out by the Harvard student groups constitutes a threat of physical violence, perhaps the president of Harvard could specifically denounce such an implication (e.g. “it is never acceptable for Harvard students to threaten physical violence towards other Harvard students on account of their race, ethnicity, religion, personal beliefs, or for any other reasons”).

  25. Scott Says:

    Vladimir #23: Yes, I’m aware of all of that. My question is, why even give Hamas or the Ivy League a say about who’s a “settler” or where the borders are? Following the collapse of the peace process and the intifada, why couldn’t Israel have chosen a near-67 border unilaterally, and then declared that it would defend Jews with all its might but only if they’re on the Jewish side of it?

  26. Scott Says:

    Patrick #24: While it’s interesting to contemplate the fantasyland where university presidents scrupulously refrain from commenting on anything outside their campus fiefdoms, maybe you and I could at least agree to the conditional statement that, in the world that actually exists, where university presidents regularly issue statements about the climate and George Floyd and Ukraine and everything else under the sun, of course it’s appropriate for them to deplore violence targeting civilians in Israel and Gaza — all the more so if they have students whose families are directly affected by that violence. This has a stronger claim than most to being an apolitical, bare-bones moral or civic sentiment (like “voting is good” or “racism is bad”) — or at least, what would’ve been considered an apolitical sentiment in an earlier time.

  27. Jon Says:

    Some may be interested in this podcast re: “woke” vs “left”; it’s an interview of Susan Neiman by Nahlah Ayed: . As pointed out in #10, equating the two is a big mistake.

  28. Adam Treat Says:

    OhMyGoodness #22, “I am sure there will not be an analogue of the RAF attacks on Dresden but if necessary to methodically raze Gaza then they should raze Gaza.”

    Unfortunately. Hamas must be destroyed utterly. An organization that sponsors rampant killing of babies and raping of women while parading dead bodies through the streets must not be allowed to remain on this earth. This organization is entirely willing to rampage through Israel slaughtering innocents only to retreat back into Gaza behind other innocents by putting them in the line of fire between themselves and Israel.

  29. Vladimir Says:

    Scott #25:

    > Following the collapse of the peace process and the intifada, why couldn’t Israel have chosen a near-67 border unilaterally, and then declared that it would defend Jews with all its might but only if they’re on the Jewish side of it?

    “Couldn’t” is exactly the right word. In 2005 roughly 10,000 settlers were evicted from the Gaza Strip; at the same time, there were “close to a quarter million” (quote translated from Hebrew Wikipedia) in the West Bank. If you know what that time was like here, its reverberations in Israeli society to this day, surely you can appreciate that a 20-fold increase in the problem’s difficulty (actually a much larger increase, since forcibly evicting a town of 10,000 people is much harder than doing the same to one hundred 100-people villages) would’ve made it completely impossible.

  30. ira Says:

    David Katz #5

    There is a way that Netanyahu is definitely responsable — not for Hamas being a mass-murdering, fascistic, theocratic, kleptocratic mafia — but for the fact that it still survives and is as strong as it is. The reason is an open secret in israrel, and is not contoversial in the least: he wanted to prop up Hamas so as to weaken the PA, and thus not have to negotiate with the PA over an independent Palestinian state.

    From Benjamin Netanyahu’s lips at a Likud meeting in 2019, *“anyone who wants to thwart the establishment of a Palestinian state needs to support strengthening Hamas.*

    The documentation is ample. Here is some

    ‘Why Did Netanyahu Want to Strengthen Hamas?

    ‘Between 2012 and 2018, Netanyahu gave Qatar approval to transfer a cumulative sum of about a billion dollars to Gaza, at least half of which reached Hamas, including its military wing.

    ‘According to the Jerusalem Post, in a private meeting with members of his Likud party on March 11, 2019, Netanyahu explained the reckless step as follows: The money transfer is part of the strategy to divide the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Anyone who opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state needs to support the transfer of the money from Qatar to Hamas. In that way, we will foil the establishment of a Palestinian state (as reported in former cabinet member Haim Ramon’s Hebrew-language book “Neged Haruach”, p. 417).

    ‘In an interview with the Ynet news website on May 5, 2019, Netanyahu associate Gershon Hacohen, a major general in reserves, said, “We need to tell the truth. Netanyahu’s strategy is to prevent the option of two states, so he is turning Hamas into his closest partner. *Openly Hamas is an enemy. Covertly, it’s an ally.”*

    or from ‘The end of the Netanyahu doctrine’

    ‘In 2018, for example, he agreed that Qatar would transfer millions of dollars a year to finance the Hamas government in Gaza, embodying the comments made in 2015 by Bezalel Smotrich (then a marginal Knesset member, and today the finance minister and de facto West Bank overlord) that *“the Palestinian Authority is a burden and Hamas is an asset.”*

    (if you speak Hebrew, here is the clip of Smotrich saying this in 2015

    ‘Netanyahu wants Hamas on its feet and is ready to pay an almost unimaginable price for it: half the country paralyzed, children and parents traumatized, houses bombed, people killed,” Israel’s current information minister, Galit Distel Atbaryan, wrote in May 2019, when she was yet to enter politics but was known as a prominent Netanyahu supporter. “And Netanyahu, in a kind of outrageous, almost unimaginable restraint, does not do the easiest thing: getting the IDF to overthrow the organization.

    ‘“The question is, why?” Distel Atbaryan continued, before explaining: “If Hamas collapses, Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] may control the strip. If he controls it, there will be voices from the left that will encourage negotiations and a political solution and a Palestinian state, also in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] … This is the real reason why Netanyahu does not eliminate the Hamas leader, everything else is bullshit.”

    ‘Indeed, Netanyahu himself had effectively admitted as much a couple of months before Distel Atbaryan made her comments, when he declared in a Likud meeting that *“anyone who wants to thwart the establishment of a Palestinian state needs to support strengthening Hamas.* This is part of our strategy, to isolate Palestinians in Gaza from Palestinians in Judea and Samaria.” [The Likud meeting is the one reference in the Ha’aretz article in 2019]

    Galit Distel Atbaryan is Israel’s current information minister

    Once again, from Benjamin Netanyahu’s lips at a Likud meeting in 2019, *“anyone who wants to thwart the establishment of a Palestinian state needs to support strengthening Hamas.*

  31. Anonymous Says:

    ira #30 while most liberal Israelis might agree, many of the Jews I have known in the West in academia are far from united in believing that theory. That may be part of the issue for some in understanding the context behind what happened.

    Nonetheless, I think it is clear that the traditional myth of conservatives as being better at focusing on national security has been blown away with Bibi’s poor leadership. I just hope Israel doesn’t get the likes of Dick Cheney and co. in leadership in the aftermath of this disaster.

  32. Am Yisrael Chai Says:

    I found these tweets amusing:

  33. Ari T Says:

    I so support you Scott. The reaction here by leftists or just some common people is appalling: “Israelis got what they deserved.” Like WTF? Seriously?

    During WW2, Red Army invaded Finland and my grandfather’s brother died 30km from his home basically defending it. Karelia was annexed and taken by Soviet Union. Imagine now if Finnish Defence Forces went over the border to rape women, kill children, kill civilians etc. Then then video it to internet and say this will continue until Karelia is returned. That is just absurd, and downright evil.

    This is quite like the kind of stupidity that allowed communists to murder so many people. Evil wins when good people do nothing. Its so easy to criticize Israel when none of these moralists actually have to make these life-and-death decisions they face. If they would be in their shoes, I’m pretty sure they’d be doing mostly the same. Or maybe not — left has history of totally stupid suicidal ideas.

    The letter to Harvard was great. I hope it gets more signatures.

    On the pedagogic side, I wonder if Israel is actually doing something concrete that would prevent Palestine to become a state, and become wealthy. Because it looks like me a common story from Africa, where billions are poured in, but instead of developing, they use money for war and blame others for their problems. But I may not have all the facts. I am also very happy to understand details who Palestinians have rejected any decent proposals.

    I have also used Singapore, Hong Kong, possibly South Korea examples of countries which didn’t have rich natural resources but became rich with hard work. Is there a reason this wouldn’t be possible for Palestine if they really wanted to?

  34. s Says:

    > Namely: we simply need to unearth video proof that, at some point before raping their thousand Jewish victims, beheading them in front of their families, burning them alive, and/or parading their bodies through the streets, at some point Hamas also misgendered them.

    Wow such snark. Hamas is obviously terrible and idk wtf the Harvard orgs were thinking, but is it really helpful to frame trans rights as an arbitrary wedge issue or as the only thing leftists care about? It seems like that’s what Boaz was doing here. Obviously being misgendered would be so small as to be insignificant compared to the other things going on, or to be just an irritant exacerbating an already horrible time. I have numerous trans friends/acquaintances living in Tel Aviv, luckily not in the most actively targeted areas, and they’re holed up in their shelter spaces hearing explosions, worrying about the attacks intensifying, being frustrated they can’t go out and live their daily lives, not currently focusing on their transness or experiences with gender in particular. cause who would have the mental bandwidth for that right now?

    I know Boaz’s tweet was calling out leftist orgs not making fun of or dehumanizing trans people, but it still seems like trans people were used as the butt of the joke – like caring about our rights is a mere distraction. Human rights issues deserve constant focus; I don’t think we should be trivializing or politicizing them because there are more important things going on. Like it’s fine, trans rights can go on the back burner, we’ll all be okay. In that regard I understand making fun of the leftist orgs because trans rights being associated with leftism is probably one of the worst things that’s happened for trans rights, politically speaking. Still wish we hadn’t gotten to a point where our rights are part of any joke (said every minority ever).

    All of this said, Israel has overall pretty great trans rights, healthcare, and social inclusion. Nowhere is perfect. But a Hamas takeover would 100% certainly be a setback for trans rights in the entire region. (Hopefully this is obvious, since a Hamas takeover would be a setback for human rights in general, and furthermore, since Hamas espouses religious and cultural ideas that are particularly regressive to trans rights, compared to Israel being quite progressive with regard to trans and other human rights, from a global perspective). If that was the point Boaz was making then I can get behind the tweet.

  35. Netanyahu sucks but does not support Hamas Says:

    ira #30: Netanyahu is very restrained, and tried to buy peace and quiet by dealing with Hamas. He just said this crap to convince more hawkish people in Likud. People have said this for a while, Israel didn’t do enough to stop Hamas in Gaza when it was forming.

    While there is some truth to this, the reality is that a critical proportion with veto power (probably a majority) of the Palestinian people are rejectionists who do not want Israel to exist in any borders. That’s the core of the conflict. It’s always been like that, and it always will be unless something huge changes. And the reality is that the moderation of Fatah and relatively decent Fatah-Israel relations is to a large extent a *result* of Hamas (and other rejectionists like PIJ and PFLP). Hamas’ first suicide bombing was in April 1993, and Oslo I was completed in August 1993. Abbas is more moderate than Arafat. One reason is that Hamas strengthened and Abbas moved toward Israel in response. If Hamas accepted a two-state solution, PIJ would throw them off of buildings and would have the support of a critical proportion of the Palestinian public.

  36. Udi Says:

    Scott, I don’t understand your insistence of attacking “leftists”. In the American two-party system, Democrats are considered “left” and Republicans are considered “right”. Boaz Barak was making fun of DSA San Francisco. DSA San Francisco does not represent the Democratic party. It actually seems to be very much opposed to Joe Biden.

    By labeling DSA San Francisco as “leftists” you are associating them with the Democratic party and in doing so you are hurting the moderates in the Democratic party.

  37. OhMyGoodness Says:

    Adam Treat #28

    I unreservedly agree with your stated objectives. Never again must be fully provided by whatever tactics the IDF adopts.

  38. DR Says:

    Thanks to Boaz for the courage. And you too. Take care of yourselves.

    I see this false equivalency all over the place…

    “..false equivalency between attacks on noncombatants and self-defense against those atrocities.”

    I think precise reasonable essays such as this, written beautifully, is a great way to counter the false equivalency.

    And the same with Boaz’s tweet.

  39. Brett McInnes Says:

    I’m a big fan of proof by contradiction. So: since the Left has been driven to this startling level of disgusting, repulsive immorality by its rabid opposition to COLONIALISM, perhaps now would be a good time to ask: was colonialism really all that bad? I’m starting to think it must have something going for it…..

  40. Dan Park Says:

    Scott #19: On the contrary, I think the settlements on the West Bank should remain.

    Settlers can’t leave the West Bank since there’s every indication that the Palestinians will elect Hamas to power if the settlers do leave. Not only will Hamas launch terrorist attacks into Israel from West Bank, they’ll also invite foreign (Iranian) armies to set up bases in West Bank. Again it’s the basic problem of security.

    The Israelis (and the Palestinians) are stuck in a dilemma that can only be resolved by the Palestinians acknowledging Israel’s right to exist. Everything is downstream of this one fact. Withdrawing from West Bank will not assist with this goal, as the historical record clearly shows. Palestinians opposed the recognition of the state of Israel when Israel didn’t control West Bank and Gaza, and they opposed it after Israel had it. It simply makes no difference. History shows that every time Israel walks away, they get territory for terror. Same story when Israel left Lebanon – taken over by Hezbollah. The pattern is clear. Why then should Jewish settlers be cleansed from West Bank? Arabs live among Jews in Israel – why not Jews among Arabs in West Bank?

    Every conversation on this subject needs to start with the question: How do we get Palestinians to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist? The answer to this question is not unilateral territorial withdrawals. What is the answer? Well, the Abraham Accords, possibly.

    The Palestinians hope to vanquish the state of Israel and not make peace with it is based largely on the assumption that eventually the rest of the Arab world will help out and destroy the Jewish state. When that hope is taken away then you have realistic solutions for co-existing. A realistic compromise will be struck much more readily when the conflict between Israel and the Arab world is effectively solved. It’s a complete paradigm shift and the pathway that has been laid out through the Abraham Accords.

  41. ira Says:

    Anonymous :Comment #31

    This is not a theory of western academics. What I presented is documentary evidence from the horses’s mouth: from Bibi hoimself, from two current ministers in his government, and from a Major General allied with him, all from only a few years back.

    And the context is quite rational: from a ‘maximalist’ Israeli persepctive, it made perfect sense. The international community definitely would pressure Israel to negotiate with a nationalist secular organization that recognized Israel, and had ceased terrorist activities (PLO/PA), while understandably it would not do so with regard to a fundamentalist Islamic organization that didn’t recognize Israel’s right to exist and did carry out terrorist attacks.

    In fact, the policy started before Bibi was PM, when in the late 80s/early 90s Israel started to allow Qatari money to be transferred to Hamas, so as to bolster them against the PLO.
    At the time relations between Gaza and Israel were good, notably in the medical community.

    After the murderous bus suicide bombings of the mid 90s, Gazans were reported as saying that they had warned Israel about the true nature of Hamas, especially about the group’s leader Sheikh Yassin, who was not only a Palestinian nationalist, but a virulent Jew hater.

  42. Scott Says:

    Udi #36: This is purely a question of terminology. Within the academic environment where I’ve spent my life, or (say) the online communities that have cared enough about me to spend their time attacking me, “leftist” means “way to the left of most of the Democratic Party.” It means the people who focus almost all of their energy on hating moderate Democrats, capitalism, tech bros, utilitarian ethics, male STEM nerds who make awkward passes at women, Zionism/Israel, “merely technological” solutions to climate change (like nuclear energy), and anyone within their own tribe who said or did anything heretical. Hatred of Republicans is considered such an obvious given that it’s barely even worth mentioning.

    Can you suggest a better term than “leftist” for this group?

  43. Scott Says:

    Brett McInnes #39: I’m happy to consider the merits or demerits of the things now called “colonialism” on a case-by-case basis, rather than reasoning by slogan!

  44. Scott Says:

    Dan Park #40: Your theory about the Abraham Accords is interesting and not something I’d heard before.

    But the part of your narrative that I fail to understand is the connection between evacuating the settlements and empowering Hamas. As I remember it, Hamas came to power in Gaza because George W. Bush pushed Gaza into holding elections before there was any democratic tradition there, and once it was in power, Hamas made sure that there would never be a second fair election. And if Jewish settlements had remained in Gaza, it’s not as though they would’ve been a calming or pacifying influence that would’ve caused Gazans to reject Hamas! So, what gives? How does having settlements help with anything here?

  45. Scott Says:

    s #34: I try hard to avoid misgendering people, using any pronouns other than the ones they prefer. All the same, I daresay that any of my trans friends would rather be misgendered a thousand times than shot or beheaded in front of their families.

    The black humor comes from the fact that the same people who attach so little importance to the worst imaginable violations of human dignity, also attach massive importance to violations that are purely verbal or even unintentional. For them, it’s entirely a question of who’s committing the violation, and whether they’ve mentally categorized that person as “oppressor” or “oppressed.”

  46. William Mills Says:

    Scott #44

    That’s true. Hamas wiped out their rivals (Fatah) after the election and took complete control of Gaza.

    It’s worth noting that they never had a majority of the vote in the elections either.
    Hamas received 44.45% of the vote and won 74 of the 132 seats, whilst the ruling Fatah received 41.43% of the vote and won 45 seats.

    Many (most?) palestinians despise Hamas but unfortunately there’s nothing they can do about the situation. The sooner Hamas are wiped out completely, the better.

  47. ira Says:

    Netanyahu sucks but does not support Hamas #35

    Bibi’s bark has always been louder than his bite, as is well known in Israel. He has always been cautious in the use of force, even more so than people much to the left of him politically.

    At the same time, the central policy of Israel towards the Palestininans has been the tried and true method of divide and conquer: separate as much as possible the five distinct Palestinian communities — Israeli citizens, Jerusalemites, those who live in the West Bank, Gazans, and the Palestinian diaspora — from each other. Each of these communities has a different relationship to the State, with different rights.

    Indeed, Sharon’s disengagement from Gaza in 2005 was explicitly done towards separating the West Bank from Gaza, as his advisor Dov Weissglas said,

    ‘This whole package called the Palestinian state has fallen off the agenda for an indefinite period of time. The plan provides the amount of formaldehyde required so that there will be no political process with the Palestinians.”

    None of this controversial.

    And none of it has anything to do with Hamas being a mass-murdering, fascistic, theocratic mafia.

  48. JimV Says:

    As I’ve written before, I prefer “jerkist” to “leftist”. There are jerks on the left and on the right. How they behave is more important to me than what they claim to believe in.

  49. Patrick Says:

    Scott #26: I more or less agree with you here, which I tried to signal with the last paragraph of my initial comment: “The problem, as I see it, is that university administrators have become so addicted to putting out statements which signal that they follow all the latest political fashions that when they don’t put out a statement, it also sends a message.”

    However, even though I agree that if university presidents are going to put out a statement about every domestic and international political event then they should put out a statement about this, I still feel a bit uncomfortable. Imagine we lived in a world where political corruption was rampant but Jewish politicians were subjected to much more scrutiny than others. It might be appropriate to say “in the world that actually exists, where almost all politicians get away with corruption, we shouldn’t prosecute Jewish politicians much more than others,” but that statement would still make me feel uncomfortable. It would be better to work towards a world where no politicians commit corruption.

    Aside from that, I do think there is some difference between the Harvard president denouncing Hamas or signalling support for the Israeli victims of Hamas’s attacks and the Harvard president specifically denouncing students at Harvard who support Hamas. Both have analogies to other statements issued by universities in the last few years, but the latter type of statement makes me more uncomfortable than the former.

  50. fred Says:

    Sam Harris on the current events, “The Sin of Moral Equivalence”

  51. Patrick Says:

    Also, I want to say that I completely agree with comment #45 about the dark humor of treating verbal slights more seriously than physical violence.

  52. Boaz Barak Says:

    Thank you very much Scott for this not-really-deserved but much appreciated post! I’ve been so consumed with thing this week, that I did not get a chance to comment. I can report however that this morning we sent the letter, signed by more than 350 faculty, to Harvard President Gay and its leadership. See

    I didn’t read the comments but from skimming saw some people talked about my dark humor joke about pronouns. Those who know me well would know that I have people very close to me who are non-binary, and this was not meant at all to disrespect non-binary or trans people. It was more about expressing frustration at political organizations or movements that seem to have evolved to such refined levels of morality – which I appreciate! – but forgot the basics of right vs. wrong.

  53. someone Says:

    Scott, while I recognize that there are many issues with settlements and the behavior of some settlers, your premise that Israel will be easier to defend when settlements are evacuated is, in my opinion, incorrect, or at least questionable. Protecting Israel proper is significantly easier when there is presence of Israeli troops in the West Bank (and Gaza, as it was before). This is easily evidenced by the fact that much more of the violence in recent years came from Gaza, than from the West Bank. Having rockets launched from the West Bank, or terrorist breaking through from there would be a security nightmare incomparable to today’s situation in Israel. So unfortunately the army needs to stay there if you worry about Israel’s security. An opinion that I heard a lot in Israel from people with first hand experience is that it’s much easier for the Israeli army to be present (in Gaza/West Bank) if the settlements are around (at least the large ones), because they provide fortified bridgeheads from which the army can act. There is food, water, shelter, ammunition storages, etc there that the army can use. I am not trying to discuss here the morality of the settlements, which is a completely separate question, just the plain practical question of defense of Israel proper. That said, I agree that removing some isolated/small settlements that are located in difficult places may improve the situation (again, only in terms of Israel’s ability to defend itself, ignoring all other factors).

  54. OhMyGoodness Says:

    Fred #50

    I had low expectations and so was pleasantly surprised by your podcast link (I don’t know much about Sam Harris).

    He mentions in passing that maybe these conflicts have little to do with religion and my belief is that is true. I never agreed with the adage that so many have died throughout history fighting about religion. They died in tribal conflicts and if it hadn’t been religion it would have been about something else just as it was before many of the major religions were founded.

    Couldn’t agree more that there is a gulf of ethical difference between collateral fatalities and the purposeful targeting of innocents.

    The more information that is released the more I am outraged.

  55. fred Says:

    I have to say, as an outsider, those images of injured Gaza kids (burned and shaking) who can’t get proper care are already too much for me.
    How about letting them evacuate those kids to Egyptian hospitals or something?

  56. OhMyGoodness Says:

    Fred #55

    Egypt includes Hamas on its terrorist organization list. I have no doubt the Israelis will provide first class medical care for injured children superior to what would be received in Egypt.

  57. Udi Says:

    Dan Park #40: Your theory about the Abraham Accords is misguided. The purpose of these accords was not to convince the Palestinians that they do not have the support the Arab world. The purpose was to normalize Israel control over the west bank. It was all part of Netanyahu’s great plan that led to disaster that came out of Gaza last week.

  58. fred Says:


    “I never agreed with the adage that so many have died throughout history fighting about religion.[…]
    They died in tribal conflicts and if it hadn’t been religion it would have been about something else just as it was before many of the major religions were founded.”

    Right, everything is about tribalism.

    The entire human history is a long inverted tree where branches are created and rarely merge back into one another (except for the rare inter-racial or inter-religion marriages, a beautiful thing in my book)

    E.g. first there was the Jewish religion, then branching from it, Christianity, then branching again, Islam (600 ad)… all having way more in common than one would think (Jesus is an official prophet for Muslims, all have some version of “hiding” a woman’s hair, all have an obsession with “an eye for an eye”, etc).

    Take a homogeneous population of dudes, and, soon enough, they’ll find artificial ways to “tribe”, like support a soccer team rather than another, and use it as an excuse to beat the shit out of the “other” guys.

    Even more fundamentally, that’s how evolution works, a species branch within itself and very soon the branches are so incompatible that they can’t merge back.


  59. Scott Says:

    someone #53: Fine, let me flag whether settlements are a net positive or net negative, for the narrow goal of detecting and averting attacks, as an empirical question to which I don’t know the answer. What does anyone else think?

  60. fred Says:


    right, Egyptians don’t want a flood of Palestinian refugees or Hamas, and I don’t know the practical logistics of just accepting wounded kids (the parents having to let them go), and I think I heard Israel won’t let them open their border (not sure if that’s accurate or matters).

    The other option are those US warships near the coast… imagine the amount of goodwill that would create if the US was evacuating those really badly injured kids and taking care of them (like they did in Afghanistan or Iraq)… of course I’m not sure if Hamas would let that happen (I doubt it).

  61. John von Neumann Says:

    You know what Israel needs?

    Many clones of John von Neumann.

    John von Neumann insisted that the Weizmann Institute get a computer. He foresaw Israel’s amazing success in computer science in the 1950s. He is buried in Princeton. We should be able to spend a trillion on a Manhattan Project for human cloning. Let’s do it.

    We need von Neumann clones for Israel and von Neumann clones for America.

  62. John Says:

    Scott #42: After the events of the past several days, I think we need to start referring to them as the “fringe” left again.

    As in: “In the days following the Hamas terrorist attacks that systematically targeted and brutally murdered 1000+ innocent civilians, the fringe left held rallies to celebrate the atrocity.”


    “After the fringe left exposed themselves as vicious anti-Semites, the Ivy League schools the fringe left inhabits faced heavy public scrutiny. Donors, alumni, and trustee boards had much to say.”

  63. Anonymous Says:

    One of the great ironies of Hamas-supporters justifying the killing of literal babies and grandmas is that even the most strict Wahhabist interpretations of Islam clearly denounce the killing of innocents in war. You can rightly support the Palestinian cause for alleviating their miserable condition all day, but not this. I can’t wrap my head around those who justify these killings. Why are they morally inconsistent?

  64. Denis Begun Says:

    Scott, I doubt Oded would agree to be labeled post-zionist. I think (see e.g. “On the Possibility of a Humanistic Justification of Zionism” on his page) that like many in Israel he searches for an contemporary understanding (definition, if you will) of zionism that doesn’t stand in apparent contradiction with secular humanism. Alas, the understanding endorsed by the majority of Israelis does not appear to possess this property.

  65. Richard Gaylord Says:

    i understand that the Harvard administration, by dissociating itself from the students’ letter without condemning it or Hamas is an act of cowardice but i don’t see why Barak’s truth-telling tweet is an act of moral courage. He risks nothing by his tweet (i assume that he is tenured and therefore safe from retribution by Harvard).

  66. David Brown Says:

    @John von Neumann Says: “You know what Israel needs? Many clones of John von Neumann.”
    Think about the following:
    I say Professor Milgrom of the Weizmann Institute is the world’s greatest living scientist — on the basis of overwhelming empirical evidence. I think that people, especially Israelis, should understand MOND’s empirical successes. Think about the following:
    Milgrom, Mordehai. “The modified dynamics as a vacuum effect.” Physics Letters A. vol. 253, issue 5-6, pages 273-279.
    If dark energy creates a negative pressure with an effect on spacetime, then is it possible that dark energy creates negative inertia in the quantum vacuum by means of a MONDian 5th force?
    In the standard form of Einstein’s field equations, replace the –1/2 by
    –1/2 + MOND-data-function-caused-by-negative-inertia. Establish the hypothetical data function by studying the astrophysical data.
    Does Israeli need to fully identify the best Israeli scientists, engineers, and technologists?

  67. manorba Says:

    just wanted to say:

    1) what Hamas has done will be remembered as one of the low points in history. i would be utterly depressed if i hadn’t already lost any faith in humanity.

    2) from an outside and historical perspective, it sure seems that the west bank settlements have been a turning point. they just rendered any peace process impossible.

    3) i now admire prof. Barak even more.

  68. Concerned father Says:

    Boaz Barak #52,

    I was pissed by this sick joke, but thanks for taking the time to add this comment, especially when you’re dealing with much larger horrors.

  69. fred Says:

    The fringe left hopes that a public and uncritical support of the Palestinian cause (e.g. any form of violence is legitimate) will secure them the votes of the local Arab immigrant communities (vast in Europe), which they see as the new proletariat, and the Jews are the incarnation of capitalism.

  70. Scott Says:

    Richard Gaylord #65: I agree that it was only a microscopic act of courage, which risked nothing more than denunciations by left-leaning colleagues, students, and friends at Harvard. It was nothing compared to, for example, the courage displayed by those Israelis who personally rushed south to battle Hamas when the army wasn’t arriving. And yet this is already more courage than so many of Boaz’s academic colleagues have shown (my own doesn’t count, since I’ve already been denounced loudly enough that it doesn’t matter anymore 😀 ). If others had the same micro-courage—which maybe they will, if we encourage it!—it would make a difference.

  71. Eitan bachmat Says:

    It’s very simple, those that think that Hamas was justified in its attack, also by the same logic think that bin laden was justified in 9/11 and that the 2015 Paris attacks were justified,
    Not sure what to say to such people or that I want to say anything to them.

  72. Theorist, Israel Says:

    Udi, #57, I’m afraid that your theory that “Natenyahu’s had a great plan to secure the hold of Israel over the West Bank and this led to the massacre” sounds rather conspiratorial, and does not have any semblance of proof.
    The Saudi peace plan is a big deal for the area, and it shouldn’t be placed in any kind of a conspiratorial-framework. It is an immediate gain for Israel, that both the right and left would accept. When explanations are simple we shouldn’t look for hidden motives.
    Your additional statement that the massacre is a result of Netanyahu’s apparent conspiratorial “great plan” is not convincing, because these kind of massacres happened all throughout the Jewish existence in Israel, e.g., in 1929, and during the 2000’s (though, fortunately on a smaller scale).
    We should look at this massacre as part of a larger context, and not restrict ourselves to small partisan bickering at this point I believe.

  73. Udi Says:

    Theorist #72: Have you read ira #30? Netanyahu’s doctrine is not a conspiracy theory. Smotrich spelled it out very clearly on television. From his point of view Hamas is an asset. After the events of Saturday, I do not understand how this man is still a minister in the Israeli government. He should have been kicked out already.

    I do agree with you that we should look at the larger context. The larger context is that beyond this battle, we need to decide if we want to continue on this path of despair or if we want to search for a peaceful solution of coexistence with the Palestinians.

  74. ira Says:

    Israel’s previous support for Hamas is worse than I knew.

    Listen and weep.

    Blowback, How Israel Helped Create Hamas

  75. WA Says:

    Ok so babies were not decapitated by Hamas as Bibi and Biden claimed, thank god. It was soldiers apparently. Whichever it is it’s heinous and gut wrenching. These details matter because the barbarity of the attack is being used to motivate a decision to “remove all restraints”. Truth is indeed the first casualty in this ugly war. I want Hamas gone but not through falsely accusing them of terrible deeds just so that the IDF can act unchecked and exact its own set of horrors on civilians.

  76. Theorist, Israel Says:

    @Udi #72,

    I’m afraid your comments are unrelated or do not provide proofs for your earlier claims in #57.
    For instance, Smotritch’s statements do not bear any relevance to what Netanyahu “big plan” is, since the two are in different parties.
    Your claims that he should be expelled from the government are also quite unclear. This misses the point that Israel is a democracy, and one cannot simply expel an elected party leader from the government or parliament.

    Finally, your lessons from 75 years of Israel trying to settle the Arab-Israeli conflict in peaceful means, by accepting the UN partition plan (1948), the attempted genocidal wars in 1967 and 1973, the Oslo accord in 1993 which should have led to the two-state solution (unless broken by Arafat), Barak’s offer for a Palestinian state in 2001 to Arafat in the midst of a terror war, and finally the agreement of PM Olmert to partition Jerusalem and for a Palestinian statehood in 2006, is slightly peculiar. It is now quite evident that except for the annihilation of the Jewish state, Palestinians will not be satisfied. Indeed, there is no sign of any concession the Palestinians are ready to make at this point, and anyone who casually browses social networks and global media is immediately struck by the adamant refusal to accept the mere existence of Israel in any borders by around 99.99% of pro-Palestinian and Muslim activists.

  77. Scott Says:

    Theorist, Israel #76: Bibi certainly can be blamed for heading a coalition that includes hateful racist extremists. I don’t see it as extenuating that the alternative — namely, relinquishing power and letting Gantz or Bennett or Lapid or someone else head the country — was personally unacceptable to him.

  78. MK Says:

    I did ctrl-F and found no occurences of the word “genocide” in this thread. Scott and others – what’s the correct term for the ongoing Israeli bombing of Gaza, then?

  79. Scott Says:

    MK #78: Genocide is what Hamas did last week, what it always said it would do, and what it would do to all Jews everywhere as soon as it had the power, just like the Nazis before it, with of course the very enthusiastic participation of your fellow Poles. What you’re seeing now is the military response to Hamas’s genocide. As in all wars, innocents will tragically die. Unlike in the attack that provoked this, that will be a byproduct, rather than the goal. Even so, it will be on anyone with basic humanity to watch the situation and criticize the Israeli government for failures in its justified-a-billionfold response, just like we’d criticize the American government or any other government.

  80. MK Says:

    > As in all wars, innocents will tragically die. Unlike in the attack that provoked this, that will be a byproduct, rather than the goal.

    As far as I understand, the indiscriminate bombing and cutting off supplies, power etc. is deliberately and intentionally targeted at civilians to terrorize the Palestinian population. Collective responsibility and punishment. This is not a “byproduct”. We Poles know very well what happened with Warsaw in 1944 and can recognize it when we see it again. Of course, Hamas is genocidal, no question about it. So what? There is no law of physics saying that only one side of the conflict can be perpetrating genocide at any given time.

  81. OhMyGoodness Says:

    MK #80

    I am trying to sort through your analogy. You are saying that the Jewish population of Warsaw was killing German women and children and posed a security risk to the German state that could not reasonably be accepted by the German military? Seems as though there are violations of the laws of analogy here.

    The goal is not to terrorize the population of Gaza but to eliminate the security risk of Hamas that has posed, and will pose, a security risk to Israel that cannot reasonably be accepted. The impacts on the civilian population of Gaza are only pursuant to the military objective of eliminating Hamas.

  82. MK Says:

    @Scott #79: “with very enthusiastic participation of your fellow Poles.” Maybe read some history first?! Yes, there were Poles who collaborated with Nazis, and there were also brave ones who risked their lives while trying to save Jews. Please show some respect instead of resorting to generalizations.

  83. Scott Says:

    MK #82: I have the most profound gratitude and admiration for those Poles who tried to frustrate the Holocaust and save Jews. But, speaking of respect, I confess that I found it disrespectful that you would falsely accuse the Jews of perpetrating a genocide, and moreover from a country that was at the center of the actual genocide against the Jews.

  84. Zen Says:

    Dear Scott, first of all, as a person of Muslim faith, let me tell you that we are equally horrified as you all are about the events last week (and continuing humanitarian disaster unfolding). I have no problem to unequivocally condemn these atrocities. What I notice in the aftermath is some shift in sympathy towards Israel’s side among my immediate families and friends.
    And they’re not wine drinking secularists, but pious people who follow their faith. Our position is very clear – these violence is unacceptable and there is no whataboutism possible here.

    This positive sentiment is probably also due to improved trade and cultural exchanges between Israel and some other countries in the region, but I’m wary of putting patriarch Abraham’s name on what is essentially a defence cooperation deal.

    But lack of whataboutism is also not a reason to pretend that the conflict is “unprovoked”. There is always a provocation. To quote from your other post — “few ultra-Orthodox Jews praying on the Temple Mount — a theological rationale” — this may not be a big deal for many, but remember that no believing Catholic would like Vatican getting desecrated either or a Hindu won’t like their temples getting desecrated. Also as we sympathize with the victims, but it is distasteful to overlook the suffering of Palestinians (not saying you or Boaz do that, but unfortunately media does that)

    But no provocation is a license to kill and acting uncivil, and that is where we all agree.

  85. Adam Treat Says:

    I have a hard time listening to those pleading on behalf of Palestinians who time and again point criticism at Israel while Hamas is literally putting roadblocks in the way for Gaza civilians trying to move south. Videos of Hamas soldiers in full tactical gear surrounded by babies and children. They make no effort to hide that they consider dead Palestinians a win for propaganda because people like MK above buy this absolutely godawful chum hook line and sinker.

    If you truly are on the side of innocent Palestinians, then your outrage and condemnation should be directed for Hamas who is holding them hostage right now along with Israeli hostages. Yes, Israel is bombing Gaza – where we *know* innocent *Israeli* hostages are too. Yes, Israel is not allowing food and supplies into Gaza to thwart Hamas – where we *know* innocent *Israeli* hostages are too. Is Israel insane and committing “genocide” against its own hostages? Of course this is laughably stupid to say.

    No, innocent people in Gaza – whether Palestinian or Israeli – are being held hostage by Hamas who are making no effort to hide this. So anyone advocating on behalf of these innocents who is not rightly putting their condemnation and outrage at Hamas I think is highly suspect and surely doing the innocent people of Gaza no favors.

    Remember, Hamas had *years* to build thousands of rockets but we are told that Gaza contains no bomb shelters whatsoever for the civilian population. Hamas does not care about them in the slightest. Hamas surely understood that bombs and rockets would be coming back after they committed these latest atrocities and had years to plan to try and mitigate and protect civilian population: BUT THEY DID NOTHING!

    No, Hamas is the enemy of all innocent peoples in Gaza and Israel and anyone – like MK – in this thread who can’t see that and instead directs all their energy/criticism elsewhere truly is blind.

  86. Zen Says:

    #32 Brett McInnes

    “I’m a big fan of proof by contradiction. So: since the Left has been driven to this startling level of disgusting, repulsive immorality by its rabid opposition to COLONIALISM, perhaps now would be a good time to ask: was colonialism really all that bad? I’m starting to think it must have something going for it…..>”

    I find it ironic that in a post where there are several mentions of Holocaust (6 mill. victims estimated), a casual comment that attempts to trivialize colonialism is made. I’m personally coming from a part of the world which was under European colonial rule for 400 years.

    My ancestors did not die by small pox or measles (unlike natives in Americas) as they probably had resistance to those diseases, but they did face no small amount of violence and exploitation.

  87. Scott Says:

    Zen #84: Thanks for your comment. If all Muslims and Jews thought about these things as you did, I believe there could be peace tomorrow.

    Of course, the Orthodox Jews’ perspective is that the Temple Mount was their holiest place at least 1500 years before the Dome of the Rock existed, so why shouldn’t they be able to pray there alongside Muslims? Having said that, as a secular person who values the peace of the world, I indeed support the compromise that’s existed since 1967: Jews get the Western Wall, Muslims get the Temple plaza.

  88. Yiftach Says:

    Let me first say that I detest the Israeli government and the person heading it. I also think that fractions of the Israeli public are not morally different from Hamas. However, that does not reduce the moral responsibility of Hamas. Moreover, practically, Israel can no loner tolerate the existence of Hamas on its borders. Hamas turned to an existential threat to the state of Israel. So I honestly wonder, what can Israel do now to deal with it? Is there a way to get rid of Hamas without the killing of thousands of people? No one here seems to have any suggestions. It all seems the obvious that killing thousands of people is bad.

    I also want to emphasise that the claim that settlers contribute to the safety of Israel is a lie. It is based on the false assumption that removing the settlers is the same as removing the IDF.

  89. MK Says:

    @Adam Treat #85: I agree with you and others that Hamas is a force of evil here holding Palestinian population hostage. I don’t understand why you construe that I can’t see that. What I fail to see is how this justifies massive killing (or starving, cutting off medical supplies etc.) of same hostage population. To me, this doesn’t seem like a calculated response to surgically root out Hamas (which is going to be very ineffective anyway). It’s more blind rage and collective retribution, which I find morally reprehensible. Are Palestinian lives somehow worth less than Israeli?

  90. Yiftach Says:

    @MK No doubt there is rage. Is it blind? Do you think you can stop this rage from exploding? Forget about punishing the people responsible, is there any way to stop them from repeating their action without a massive military operation in which thousands will die? How? Also, how many of the Palestinian are hostages and how many are supporting the action of Hamas? The idea that the Palestinian population is completely innocent and and that they are just captured by this few horrible people is condescending. (This is also true to Israel, the majority of its population is responsible for the actions of its government.) Let’s not lie to ourselves.

    BTW, people keep talking about legality I guess, in reference to the international law. There is no law if nobody enforces it. (This does not mean there is no morality!) With the genocides going on all over the world (Ukraine or China and now Israel for example) I find ridicules the expectation that one side will follow some law while the other side is exempt (practically).

  91. Udi Says:

    Theorist #76: You wrote: “Israel is a democracy, and one cannot simply expel an elected party leader from the government or parliament.” Are you even familiar with Israeli democracy? In Israel, the prime minister does have the power to expel any minister from the government. Smotritch’s party could vote on a motion of no confidence, but they probably wouldn’t because with the expanded coalition, this motion would probably not pass.

    This is all theoretical. In practice I have no expectation of Netanyahu doing the right thing. I was just stating my amazement about how we got to the point that Hamas kills more than 1000 Israelis in a single day and a person that considers Hamas as an asset is allowed to stay in the government. A government, whose stated goal is to destroy this very asset.

  92. OhMyGoodness Says:

    MK #89

    When have large scale military operations ever been surgical in the sense of without consequence for the impacted civilian population?

    The EU participates in various embargoes and open ended currency sanctions, that inhibit for the long term, a countries ability to import medication and food. These actions are widely regarded as righteous. When the European area (not EU itself) felt threatened it cooperated to deny access to the SWIFT system that effectively limits access to all imports including medication and food. When Israel takes effectively similar action for a limited period (not open ended) then crimes against humanity cry goes up from specific segments of the EU.

    The proposition that anyone is starving in Gaza is preposterous.

  93. Zen Says:

    “Of course, the Orthodox Jews’ perspective is that the Temple Mount was their holiest place at least 1500 years before the Dome of the Rock existed, so why shouldn’t they be able to pray there alongside Muslims? Having said that, as a secular person who values the peace of the world, I indeed support the compromise that’s existed since 1967: Jews get the Western Wall, Muslims get the Temple plaza.”

    probably. I’m not an expert in this as few Muslims outside the region manage to Al-aqsa. At the moment, I do not think there is much to be gained by fighting over this small corner, so I tend to agree with you. If such a world exist, it may be a win for Muslims as well, given that that’d allow more people to visit there.

    In any case, I do not believe that the timing of the attack has something to do with this all. It is geopolitical calculus such as torpedoing the deal with Saudis, and power politics rather than the mosque.

  94. Rahul Says:

    I think Universities should just stay out of this business of making statements on geopolitical issues. To the extent that an university has a teaching function there is no need to comment on such conflicts.

    From a research and intellectual perspective individual academics who work in areas such as international relations, law or political science would legitimately have different perspectives and it is somewhat silly for a university to distill this into some sort of consensus view.

    The rest of us who work in areas not directly related to scholarship on the conflict are of course allowed to have our views but it would be great if those are clearly stated as such and not as a University position.

    I just find it silly when we give so much credibility to views of student bodies. These students who passed the resolution, who would ever consider them an authority in the outside world had they not had the borrowed heft of the Harvard brand? It would be so much better if student bodies did not feel compelled to issue statements on every event that happens especially when they realise it is outside there limits of direct expertise.

    If the New York City Ratcachers Association passed a resolution applauding or condemning some geopolitical act in Taiwan do we have reason to pay them much attention?

    To that extent it is our ( and the media’s) fault that we pay such statements so much importance.

  95. Scott Says:

    Rahul #94: From one perspective, you’re of course correct — a bunch of Harvard student organizations have no more “authority” to opine about Israel and Gaza than does the New York City ratcatchers’ association (is there one? 🙂 ). From a different perspective, though, it’s an implied threat: “As Hahvahd undergrads, we are future leaders of the Western world. And unlike our elders, we think that gleefully broadcast genocidal butchery of Jewish children is totally awesome, and you should expect us to act on that belief as soon as we’re in power.” That’s why it’s essential to show these undergrads that their action is not costless.

  96. Rahul Says:

    Scott #95:

    To be clear I probably would have had the same criticism of the students organisations had they issued a proclamation condemning the Palestinians.

    Basically I object to the principle. Student organizations have a different mandate and neither the goal nor competence to comment on such issues. Of course, there’s free speech but there’s no reason for Universities to give their support, funding or brand name to student organizations to indulge in this sort of propaganda. Students are free to come together do it using their own time, money and resources without using any Harvard branding.

    Public discourse would be a lot better if we all stick to our spheres of competence.

  97. Rahul Says:

    Scott #94:

    There is indeed something akin to the New York Ratcachers Association! Who knew! 😂 hope I didn’t offend them with my comment.

  98. MK Says:

    @OhMyGoodness #92: Total blockade vs sanctions making imports somewhat more difficult is a difference in degree. Such differences matter. A lot. No one in Russia has problems with fuel and drinking water. Can the same be said about Gaza as of today?

    > When Israel takes effectively similar action for a limited period (not open ended)

    It seems you happen to know the time limit of Israeli blockade. Please share this info with us.

  99. OhMyGoodness Says:

    MK #98

    So now now starvation morphs to thirst and no fuel-progress of a sort. Availability of medication is an issue in Russia so acts to terrorize the innocent sick are acceptable to your conscience but forced reduction of fossil fuel consumption is a crime against humanity? I thought the EU excelled at just that for its own citizens.

    I am willing to wager anything you choose that the blockade will be lifter prior to people starving in Gaza. It is just a reasonable expectation of the future. I suggest if I am right you apologize here in a post and vice versa.

  100. Rahul Says:

    The biggest question now seems about how much is too much in terms of proportionality of the response.

    Granted that the Hamas attack was evil and the immediate provocation till what point does it justify the Israeli response? Asking civilians to leave Gaza in 24 hours? Stopping water and electricity? Bombing the city to rubble?

    I think reasonable people should be asking themselves this question. At some margin does our assesment of which side is evil change?

    Looking at the current Israeli response my feeling is they are coming rather close to the line.

  101. OhMyGoodness Says:

    MK #89

    Are you familiar with the SWIFT system and what the impact is on international transactions of being barred from this system. It impacts the innocent citizenry with the intent of regime change. The EU also participates in the trade embargo against Iran that includes fuel and medication.

    Stated purpose-regime change.

  102. Rahul Says:

    One point I struggle to understand is given what Palestinians are going through, if there were hypothetically poll taken now do they still support Hamas?

    I mean does the average Palestinian support Hamas coz they see it as the only way out? Or is it fear? Or does Hamas no longer have the popular mandate?

    Or have we dehumanized them to the point that they can overlook the barbarism of Hamas compared to the reference of what the Israelis have done to them?

  103. Tomas Says:

    The Babylon Bee had the rare funny headline: “Harvard Student Leaves Lecture On Microaggressions To Attend ‘Kill The Jews’ Rally. “

  104. JimV Says:

    USA Defense Department consultant Dr. Adam Silverman has a background post ( ) which made me feel somewhat better informed, and might answer some questions which have been raised here.

  105. ira Says:

    Udi #91

    > In a single day and a person that considers Hamas as an asset is allowed to stay in the government. A government, whose stated goal is to destroy this very asset.

    In the most minimally democratic country, any PM under whose watch such a thing happened, would immediately resign with his whole government. No questions asked. He and his whole government have no more legitimacy. Sof Pasuk.

  106. Anonymous Says:

    Imagine Gaza was a district of Tel Aviv, with some terrorists hiding among civilian population of whom many support the terrorists, but many other residents being Jews. Would you feel that the current responses’ civilian cost was justified? What would you feel was an appropriate reaction to such a terror attack in that situation?

  107. Vrushali Says:

    In spite of the devastating terrorist attack on their own soil, there are people here who are analyzing every move of Israel, conveniently forgetting that what Israel is doing is called a response. Is Israel supposed to accept that their citizens will be periodically murdered for being Jewish, so that the world gives them a certificate of being “peace lovers?”

  108. OhMyGoodness Says:

    Vrushali #107

    not accept

    and I couldn’t believe any stronger that not accept is the proper answer to your question

  109. Scott Says:

    Anonymous #106: That’s a strange hypothetical. What happened in Israel wasn’t just a “terrorist attack,” but an invasion and declaration of war by a separate political entity on its border. So, Israel is now fighting the war that that other entity started. If a thousand civilians had been murdered by a terrorist group based in Tel Aviv, the logistics of the response would obviously look very different, but the ethical principles I’d want Israel and its government to uphold and would hold it accountable for failing to uphold would be exactly the same.

  110. someone Says:

    Rahul #100: people talking about proportionality of response miss the point completely. This is not some sort of revenge, retaliation or punishment. In order to survive Israel has to ensure that this never happens again. There is only one way to do this, and it’s complete elimination of Hamas. This is largely understood by many around the world, including president Biden who said it explicitly.

    Unfortunately, Hamas is deeply embedded within Gaza’s population. It is wrong to think of it as a terrorist organization that holds some people hostage. Hamas is the government of Gaza. It runs daycares, schools, universities, health system, social security, everything. It’s the biggest employer in Gaza strip. Almost every family in Gaza has members who work for Hamas. On top of that, Hamas cynically uses Gazans as human shields. It is well known that one of the main Hamas headquarters is located in the basement of Gaza’s main hospital (Shifa). Despite knowing this Israel never tried to bomb it in order to protect the civilian population. Hamas has build huge amount of fortifications throughout Gaza, including a huge system of tunnels, where missiles, ammunition, and their headquarters are located. These tunnels typically have openings in civilian high-rises, and stretch throughout Gaza.

    In these conditions, in order to achieve its military goal (destruction of Hamas) without gigantic losses among its soldiers, Israel has to destroy many of these fortifications from the air. Asking the residents to evacuate is an attempt to save their lives, and time is of essence in any war. Israel has been postponing its ground operation in order to allow more civilians to evacuate already.

    I don’t know of any country, and of any army in the world that could do this differently (achieve the goal of eliminating Hamas but spare the civilian population more than Israel is trying to do so). If you are calling this evil then you are either ignorant or there is a problem with your moral compass.

  111. someone Says:

    Rahul #102: all indications that we have is that as of Oct 7 Hamas was enjoying an overwhelming support among the people of Gaza (and of West Bank), and so was their attack on Israel. This is not because “we” (whoever it is) dehumanized them. They are being brainwashed practically from age 0 that their main purpose in life is to kill the Jews. There are endless examples of TV shows for children like that, lots of videos of cute little girls reciting poems of how they will kill the Jews etc. There was one famous case when the Palestinian equivalent of Micki Mouse (called Farfour) was killed by the Jews in one of the shows, and as he was dying he was asking the children to avenge his death. Summer camps in Gaza are run by Hamas, and they are essentially military training camps, even for very young children. There is also lots of similar propaganda directed at adults. If you are asking your questions in good faith, you may want to browse MEMRI website ( who translate TV programs from around the Middle East into English.

  112. Scott Says:

    Tomas #103: Yeah, it makes me wince to observe that The Babylon Bee is much much better than The Onion on Israel! The Onion’s big headline- ” ‘The Onion’ Stands With Israel Because It Seems Like You Get In Less Trouble For That”—completely willfully misses the main dynamic here, which is that spineless organizations just “deplore the violence on both sides.” Organizations with spines comment on the specific thing that happened last week—namely, Hamas’s murders of more than a thousand mostly-unarmed men, women, and children—either to condemn it or (as in the case of BLM and Democratic Socialists of America chapters) to excuse or celebrate it, which is a different kind of “spine.”

  113. Scott Aaronson Fan Says:

    Scott, do you still believe in a two-state solution? Yes? No? It’s complicated? Why or why not?

  114. fred Says:

    Scott #112

    But for people who are neither Jewish, Arab, Muslim, Palestinian, Israeli, condemnation of the recent Hamas attack doesn’t automatically imply being okay with whatever the Israeli government or Arab governments decide to do about it, and neither does it automatically imply that they should take a side in a decades long conflict where little to no progress towards peace has been made.

    Take the Eritrea vs Ethiopia conflict, with an estimated combine death toll of potentially 600,000 people, how often have *you* blogged or thought about it?
    And if I then point out a particular horrible act of this conflict, say, a massacre committed by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, how confident would you then be to definitely throw your entire support to the other side in this decades long conflict, and then go public about your support?

  115. Scott Says:

    Scott Aaronson Fan #113: Yes, that still seems like the only way out to me.

  116. AG Says:

    My personal sense, for what it is worth, is that the special military operation in Gaza not escalating into a war involving at least Iran and the US is rapidly approaching a very low order of probability. So I am inclined to the view that Israel might be less certain (than is generally assumed) to go ahead with the massive ground offensive in Gaza in the end.

  117. Rahul Says:

    Someone #110

    The gist of that argument is something like this.

    My citizens were killed by Hamas terrorists. I want to wipe out Hamas. It it impossible for me to selectively target Hamas at least not without accepting casualties of my troops.

    Hamas does not play by the rules. So I won’t either and it’s fair game to kill, injure, displace civillian populations in massive numbers.

    Proportional response is not a yardstick I will consider.

  118. Edan Maor Says:

    Zen #84: Thank you for your thoughtful comments. As an Israeli Jew, one of the amazing things for me coming out of this is that there is seemingly *more* condemnation within the Arab and Muslim world against Hamas, than within some corners of Western Academia.

    Scott Aaronson Fan #113: I think a two state solution is the only realistic option, personally. But I don’t think there’s any way to get there from here.

    As a fairly liberal/leftist Israeli, I am against a lot of things this government has done and very against a lot of the ways Israel has treated this situation.

    That said, I also think that fundamentally, the Palestinian side is the “real” problem, because they refuse to acknowledge that the only way out of this situation is with Israel continuing to exist as a safe and Jewish country.

    I think lots of things were mishandled over the years, and Israel has done very bad things to the Palestinians. But fundamentally, I think the way Sam Harris and others put it is exactly right – if the Palestinians were willing to put down their arms and accept that they won’t get everything they think they deserve, there’d be peace tomorrow. Israel simply has no similar lever to pull – as can be seen by multiple times that Israel has extended its hand in peace and was rejected, as can be seen by Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza and the outcome of it being tragically played out, as can be seen by Israel having made peace and being in the process of making peace with many of its other enemies and having the peace unbroken and in place for many years.

  119. Edan Maor Says:

    MK #89:

    > I agree with you and others that Hamas is a force of evil here holding Palestinian population hostage. […] What I fail to see is how this justifies massive killing (or starving, cutting off medical supplies etc.) of same hostage population. To me, this doesn’t seem like a calculated response to surgically root out Hamas (which is going to be very ineffective anyway). It’s more blind rage and collective retribution, which I find morally reprehensible. Are Palestinian lives somehow worth less than Israeli?

    I want to be clear. I think Palestinian lives are worth the same as Israeli lives. I think all lives are worthy. I even think that, if we had a way to save the *terrorist’s lives*, we absolutely should (and worth noting that the terrorists who did the attack are being treated by Israel).

    I absolutely agree with your moral claims. I only disagree on your *factual* claims. *If* you are correct, and Israel is simply exercising blind rage and collective retribution, I would be against it. But that’s *not* what’s happening.

    Israel *has to* be able to stop Hamas. It is *very hard* to do that, because they are entrenched in Gaza and entrenched within the civilian population, very much on purpose. Israel I believe is showing restraint – the bombings are absolutely not targeting civilians. Civilians tragically are killed, but that is collateral damage, and is *the fault of Hamas itself*, because they are using civilian as human shields. This is incredibly well documented.

    And I will remind you that, the new goal of rooting out Hamas aside, even if that weren’t the immedaite goal, *they are still firing rockets at us*. They are a country that is actively fighting a war against Israel, actively trying to kill Israelis as we speak from within their territory. Israel absolutely has a right to try and stop this, and I believe that’s all its doing. Israel has asked the people of Gaza to leave so they don’t get hurt in the fighting, because there’s just no other way Israel can assure their safety. It is Hamas that is trying to prevent this, because *they don’t care about the civilians*.

    The Israeli government is one I highly dislike, and has made bad statements. But look at the actions committed. People say that Israel is turning off their water supply, and not giving enough time to evacuate. People say 24 hours isn’t enough time. But it’s been 3 or 4 days since then – Israel *has* given time to evacuate. People in Gaza are *not* dying en masse of thirst. Israel *is* supporting humanitarian aid to some extent. Hamas has committed and is committing two crimes here – against the Israeli, sure, but also against their own population that they are in charge of. They are not taking care of them, and using many resources to attack Israel and leave the Gazan population in bad conditions and undefended.

    An Analogy – If bank robbers storm a bank and take hostages, then start shooting at the police from within the bank, so the police come in guns blazing and kill the robbers, but also unfortunately some of the civilians inside – it is *tragic* that the civilians died, but it is *all* the fault of the robbers, and not the fault of the police.

  120. Rahul Says:

    Scott #112

    I think it should be possible for some of us to condemn the Hamas attack as a horrific deed of the most brutal kind and yet question whether the response from Israel is proportionate? ( of displacing hundreds of thousands and reducing to rubble a large portion of city, stopping water etc)

    Two wrongs do not make a right. It’s not about moral equivalencies but just questioning the scale and proportionality of the response. Forget humanity but is this response even in the best interests of Israel itself?

    Does it get Israel more support and goodwill from the global community or less? Does it increase or decrease the probability of a future attack of a similar kind.

    And it should be legitimate to ask these questions even when I point to Hamas as the instigator here of the most brutal kind.

  121. Interested in ai Says:

    someone at #110 said: This is not some sort of revenge, retaliation or punishment. In order to survive Israel has to ensure that this never happens again. There is only one way to do this, and it’s complete elimination of Hamas.

    Of course it’s possible to eliminate the physical weapons and assets of Hamas – the tunnels, guns, rockets etc. But importantly Hamas is a belief system, a political ideology, that exists in the minds of people.

    You can’t eliminate ideas, only convince people to change their mind. Ideas can’t be killed. You can of course kill people who share the same physical location as those who don’t share your ideas, but that is immoral.

    Ideas grow and spread based on shared experiences, education and propaganda. And how many people in Gaza through their lived experience of being bombed and left without fuel, electricity, food or water are going to change their beliefs and adopt the Israeli view of the world? The rational answer is none.

  122. Yoni Says:

    Scott #115

    What about the three state solution? Seems far more plausible to me. In particular because two of the three states could be sorted in a heartbeat (if Hamas / Gazans are willing to drop contingency of sorting the West Bank situation on accepting peace).


  123. Scott Says:

    Rahul #120: Of course it’s legitimate to ask such questions about the scope of the response. I’m asking them; the IDF is asking them; Jews around the world are asking them. Did I say anything to suggest that one shouldn’t ask?

  124. Rahul Says:

    Scott #123

    Maybe I misinterpreted your comment about organizations with and without spine.

    Of course, in a broader sense another commentator above regards proportionality of response as a silly metric.

    That was the sort of reasoning I was responding to.

    On a specific matter, I would love to hear specific responses to what other commentators ( including you) consider the limits of a proportional response. I mean if someone murdered my son and I went tomorrow and murdered the murderer most modern jurisdictions would not regard that as proportionate.

    The question is when nations do similar things, where do we draw this line. If a terrorist murders a 1000 citizens would it be ok to bomb the enemy till the last terrorist died irrespective of collateral civilians casualties?

    How do we even approach that problem? Is there a prescription or framework to deal with this? I am sure I’ll get some glib, evasive replies.

  125. someone Says:

    Interested in ai #121: we have a counterexample to your claim. In fact 2. One is the West Bank, where the Israeli army is present and things are much quieter. Not a single rocket was fired from there in many years. Second is Gaza from before the Israeli army left it. In both cases there were lots of bloody conflicts and bombings in the past. Quite possible that once the Gazans disconnect from the daily propaganda they consume on TV and in schools things will move in a much better direction. I really wish there was any different way out of the current crisis but there isn’t any.

  126. Scott Says:

    Yoni #122: What are the three states?

  127. someone Says:

    Rahul #117: not at all what I’m saying. If you are reducing the Oct 7 attacks to “some of my citizens were killed and so I have to eliminate Hamas” then you are completely misunderstanding the current crisis and also the history of the Jewish people and of Israel. Many of us have families who died in the Holocaust and in the many pogroms throughout Eastern Europe and Middle East. The whole point of the state of Israel is a promise that it will never allow for anything like that to happen again, and that it will always be there as a safe haven for Jews throughout the world who are running away from such events, which do tend to occur every x years in one place or another. This attack was the biggest and most horrible Jewish pogrom since the Holocaust. We literally got to see in real time what our great grandparents had to endure, and it was horrifying. As we speak, hundreds of hostages that Hamas captured are undergoing unspeakable horror, including rape and torture. So please do tell about “proportional response” to people who are trying to defend themselves and their families from such horrors.

    Without the complete elimination of Hamas it is now clear that such pogroms will continue, and that Israel will no longer be able to serve its purpose of providing a safe haven for the Jews. For us (Israelis and Jews) it’s a disaster that goes far far beyond your cynical “some our citizens were killed”.

    I am curious though to hear your suggestions about the resolution of the current crisis: do you suggest that we just leave things as they are and then go through a pogrom like this without complaint every couple of years? Would you consider that a “proportional response”? What’s your alternative?

  128. HasH Says:

    As an agnostic born and raised in a Muslim family in a Muslim country, I express support for Israel’s One-State solution, emphasizing ‘equal rights and protections for all individuals living in the region, irrespective of their religious or ethnic affiliations,’ (Mr. Roger Waters of Pink Floyd). However, not in this manner, Israel, not like this. You cannot combat Hamas by stooping to the same level. Bombing a hospital is unacceptable.
    When examining historical chronology, I believe that Jews are incredibly successful business people, unique in terms of their academic achievements due to their high education and diligence, and countless educated scientists are gift to all humanity. However, when reviewing the same historical materials, it’s evident that they are terrible at ruling their country.

  129. Yiftach Says:

    Regarding proportional response, proportional to what? Some people think this is either revenge or punishment. I am sure some people in Israel feel like this. So what is proportional a few thousands?

    However, the main point is defence. Many in Israel believe that Hamas is an existential threat to Israel. If so, then the proportional should be with respect to the size of the threat. So how is Israel supposed to stop the Hamas from committing more atrocities? Also, how is it supposed to deter others (say Iran, Syria, Hezbollah) from thinking they can get away with similar attacks?

  130. OhMyGoodness Says:

    someone #127

    Very nicely written but for many now facts and reality are powerless against ideology and slogans.

  131. Scott Says:

    HasH #128: Alas, a one-state solution will never be accepted by Israel’s Jews, as long as the ideology that led Hamas to do what it did remains prevalent. And I don’t think most Palestinians want it either. Would you also accept a two-state solution?

    I’ll agree that, with the exception of modern Israel’s founding generation and possibly Kings David and Solomon, there’s scant evidence that Jews are very good at ruling their own country.

  132. Vrushali Says:

    Rahul #120 Are you saying Israel should focus upon collecting the goodwill of global community ? Has any nation ever progressed in any field by prioritizing “what will others think about my nation”? Also has any nation been at any loss at all because the “goodwill giving global community” thinks badly of it?

  133. HasH Says:

    Scott #131
    I know you are right, that the one-state solution is utopian 🙁 Similarly, irrespective of the level of violence, there is no region globally where the guerrilla (or “terrorism,” depending on one’s perspective) movement has been eradicated. Guerrilla forces eventually achieve their objectives and persist in creating terror in their geographical areas until a resolution is reached. There isn’t a single instance where a “paradise” country has been established through mass violence; such an approach remains utopian.

    Israel’s BEST foreign policy initiative to date is arguably the comprehensive “Abraham Accords,” which they entered into with Arab countries individually. Given the shared heritage of Arabs, Kurds, and Israelis as distant cousins, these accords marked a significant step toward creating optimal conditions for coexistence in their shared history. The reconciliatory efforts with the Arab countries and Kurds, when listed, present a positive outlook. Meanwhile, as the entire Atlantic Pact applied pressure on Russia at the Ukrainian front, depleting financial and ammunition reserves to the point where aid struggled to pass through Congress, Hammas attacked with tons of weapon (they say mostly US origin weapons from Afganistan or Ukraine). Arab countries lack the economic and military strength to execute this conspiracy plan. The timing of these events raises suspicions of coordinated intelligence efforts involving Putin and Xi Jinping.

    If we don’t condemn Israel and advocate for a peaceful solution where no one from either side dies, they label us as ‘traitors’ and ‘godless leftists’ here. It’s not a problem. From ancient times to today, we cannot be on the same side as Assyrians, Babylonians, Romans, Persians, Arabs, Mamluks, Ottomans, who have slaughtered Jewish clans, uprooted them from homes, prevented their return, and hindered them from living in peace in their homeland. Of course, even under the most severe conditions, we will side with those who, despite their painful history, yearn for their homeland, praying, ‘L’Shana Haba’ah B’Yerushalayim.’ Being a leftist revolutionary requires this where I live. We can NEVER align ourselves with the Hamas line.

  134. Ergot, Peace Says:


    I’m honestly disappointed by the shallow nature of your take. You aren’t grappling with the profound complexities of this situation.

    Let’s look at this situation from a philosophical perspective; though not ignoring its political dynamics, history shows us that every act is a reaction to antecedent provocation. To isolate Hamas’ actions without comprehending or recognizing the beleaguered population they represent would be to negate half the argument.

    Is violence always condemnable? Undoubtedly so. However, we must ask ourselves why such violence manifests at all? Could it be born out of hopelessness or frustration that stems from decades-long suppression?

    The UN Human Rights Council accuses Israel of imposing “an apartheid regime” upon Palestinians within their territories as well as within Israel itself – an accusation made in no uncertain terms reeks of grave injustice and systemic racism. Look further and you’ll find innumerable accounts by Amnesty International pointing out state-sanctioned crimes perpetrated by Israeli forces, like forced eviction in Sheikh Jarrah — doesn’t this give rise to self-defense under international law?

    There seems to exist this persistent narrative where Palestine is painted solely as an aggressor while Israel is envisioned purely as being on the defensive end. This narrative is nothing less than deceptive propaganda crafted by those who hold power over media narratives.

    Aside from genocidal policies towards Palestinians which are systematic violations on human rights and international law (and remember: genocide does not only include mass killings but creating conditions leading towards complete obliteration) there appears almost no willingness nor urgency shown by the international community when Palestinian lives are systematically endangered.

    Most importantly what we need right now are policies based on empathic ethical perspectives rather than those driven by power dynamics or geopolitical gains – a concept perhaps difficult for power-seated leaders to grasp but of paramount importance in reality.

    So, as much as I condone violence, it’s crucial that we recognize the deep-rooted causes of such actions. This is not a justification for any attack on innocent civilians from either side, but a plea for understanding toward a people long-oppressed and continually denied their inherent rights.

  135. Scott Says:

    Ergot, Peace #134: We can go as far back in history as you want! Yes, Gaza has been under a blockade that’s a humanitarian disaster. It was placed under that blockade because it was taken over by Hamas, which has loudly pledged to murder all Jews everywhere as soon as it has the power, and which has consistently acted on that pledge (from long before this October).

    Was there an alternative? There was, and (I dare to hope) still is. Palestinian leadership could’ve accepted the two-state solution that was offered at many points, most famously in 1948 and in 2000. I feel sick thinking about the historical contingencies that prevented this outcome—e.g., it probably would’ve happened in 2000 if Rabin hadn’t been assassinated, or if Arafat had been someone else. Even after everything, two states remains the only solution that makes any sense to me.

    Or do you advocate a different solution? Is your “solution” that all the Jews just leave? (To where?) That they be placed at the mercy of the people who just murdered 1,400 of them and proudly posted videos of it? If that’s what you want, out with it! Otherwise, if you want a Palestinian state next to Israel, then you want the same thing I do, leaving only the difficult “engineering problem” of how to get there.

  136. AG Says:

    The right to exist of Jewish people, however questionable it might appear to some comrades, is sacrosanct and secure enough. Perhaps.  What is at stake is the continued existence of the internationally recognized Jewish state.

  137. Edan Maor Says:

    Rahul #124:

    Firstly, I’ll agree with Scott -of course you should be able to ask questions about what Israel is doing and if it’s justified. Israelis internally are unsure of the answer and loudly arguing about it (though some things are more obvious to us than to outsiders).

    You do specifically frame it in terms of proportionality, which I think is a very incorrect way to think about it. E.g. you write:

    > On a specific matter, I would love to hear specific responses to what other commentators ( including you) consider the limits of a proportional response. I mean if someone murdered my son and I went tomorrow and murdered the murderer most modern jurisdictions would not regard that as proportionate.

    If what Israel was doing was just trying to “murder the people who murdered our citizens” for revenge, I think that would be proportionate, but I don’t think it would be moral in the general case, because I don’t think killing *anyone* is moral if you can help it.

    What Israel is doing is not that. We are waging a war on people trying to kill us, actively trying to kill us – in the days since the attack, I’ve had to run to a bunker every day, multiple times a day, as rockets were *fired at me* trying to kill me.

    During any way, the question isn’t whether you kill the “proportionate” amount of people on their side as died on your side. That’s an immoral question. The question is, what are the actions you have to take in order to make sure your side is safe. That’s the only really moral question. You shouldn’t take any actions that are unnecessary, but you *have* to take all actions that *are* necessary to stop people from threatening you.

    Unfortunately, in this conflict, there’s a big problem – Hamas itself has the avowed mission of killing all Israelis. It certainly seems like the only way to stop the threat is to destroy Hamas. And because of the way they are embedded within Gaza (including using human shields), it is incredibly hard to destroy them without killing a lot of civilians. Israel should use any means it can to minimize death of civilians (and death of Hamas militants too! No unnecessary killing).

    But all the deaths that stem from Hamas *shooting at me while standing next to a civilian on purpose*, all those deaths are the fault of Hamas.

    Proportionality has, in my opinion, nothing to do with this.

  138. Scott Says:

    NOTE: “Ergot, Peace” replied with a long torrent of sarcasm and invective when asked directly what their desired end-state was, which I interpreted as a tacit admission that their desired end-state indeed involves the expulsion or murder of all Israeli Jews (otherwise, why couldn’t they have answered plainly?). They are banned from this blog.

  139. Rahul Says:

    Edan Maor #137

    I respectfully disagree. I think any discussion must consider the yardstick of a proportionate response.

    Even if we agree that this Israeli response has more to do with national safety than revenge. You ask “what are the actions you have to take in order to make sure your side is safe” and say that this in some way makes proportionality irrelevant. I disagree.

    This brings into question what is the meaning of absolute safety. Suppose we know for sure there’s a terrorist organisation that hates us with genocidal hate. Let’s assume this is Hamas. It may even be morally justified to kill each one of their terrorists.

    The practical question always is that if for killing that last one terrorist that we would need to do to ensure absolute safety would it be justified to kill 100 innocent civilians.

    That’s the root cause of bringing up the issue of proportionality. Take a specific case of India vs Pakistan. Pakistan has been for the last many decades encouraging terrorist strikes in India. Of course those are evil and brutal. Till the terrorists survive we will keep having attacks and absolute safety will not be achieved.

    Does this allow India to say assassinate a terrorist. Sure. Maybe while doing so a few innocent civilians die? Maybe I say that is still OK.

    But now if the strategy involves bombing a town and killing a 1000 innocents to get one terrorist. I would cringe and disapprove. And this stands irrespective of the fact that the terrorists were unethical and started using civilians as a shield. The innocents still don’t deserve to die.

    Note I am not some idealistic hardliner that says no civilian must ever die. I accept some collateral damage as an unfortunate side effect.

    However I am pragmatic and resist the conclusion that you draw that once safety is invoked or an existential need then proportionality has no business being used as a metric.

    I disagree. It’s a matter of each of us ruminating what level of collateral damage we are comfortable with.

  140. Another courageous anon Says:

    Scott #138,

    That’s a shame if you’re right about that. Hopefully that’s an over interpretation. A more charitable reading is that the two-state solution is, sadly, just beside the point. Did it helped stopping violence that Liban is a free country that Israel feel free to bomb?

    [My own take if you care: just stop violence. If you’re Palestinian, try non violence the way afroamericans fight everyday. That’s not magic, but their track record is better than yours. If you’re Israelian, make your actions look like police trying to save the maximum number of *Palestinian* hostages (provide shelters, open humanitarian roads, protect them from terrorist attacks and your own haters, forgive hate speechs and don’t feed them, measure the success of your state as a function of the number of Palestinians with access to a decent civil life). That’s not magic, but at this point even the old white leaders in South Africa had a better track record than yours.]

  141. Edan Maor Says:

    Rahul #139:

    I think we mostly agree, honestly. I think we’re only apart on two things. One is minor, in that we’re using language a bit differently – of course I don’t mean that we can achieve absolute safety, and of course you’re right that it doesn’t make sense to kill 1000 civilians in order to kill 1 terrorist. (Though again, I think if you’ve decided killing some terrorist is a must, you *have* to try to minimize civilian casualties as much as possible, it’s not *just* a numbers game, the morality you’re weighed against is what your alternatives are).

    The other thing we’re apart on is what I mean when I talk about safety. This is what people who are *outside* of Israel, don’t feel in the same way that *we* feel, IMO. You’re talking about killing 1 terrorist, who would presumably kill X people, and wondering how many civilians would be ok to kill to save those X people from terror attacks.

    Here, we have an existential dread. Our worst-case scenario *isn’t* Hamas carries out another terror attack and more people die. Our worst-case scenario is that our country is conquered and *everyone* dies. We’re facing a scenario like the Allies in World War 2 – we’re not comparing body counts of the bombing in England vs. the bombing in Germany, we’re saying “if we don’t stop Germany at all costs, the world will be taken over by the Nazis”.

    Now, it’s arguable how realistic this scenario is, but I think this is something that Israelis think is *very* realistic, and outsiders don’t even really consider when thinking cost-benefit. Israel has been attacked *many* times, is surrounded by neighbors that hate it, is 2 metres from Gaza, which for all intents and purposes is a foreign government with the stated mission of destroying Israel. One of the *only* reasons that Israel has some measure of safety is that we are more powerful than our neighbors, and they all know it. (Another is having fortunately reached peace with several of them.)

    But remember that in the midst of this situation in Gaza, where they are *still firing rockets at us*, we’re *also* very very close to having *another* enemy attack us from another direction, which would put is in pretty bad danger. Probably not existential danger, but definitely danger.

    So when I’m talking proportionality, I’m not saying “is it ok to kill 1k civilians over there to save 1 over here”. I’m thinking “is it ok to attack another country in order to deter them from *trying to conquer you*, if the price is 1k civilians over there”. It’s a very different conversation IMO.

  142. someone Says:

    Rahul #139. Since you insist on sticking to numbers, here is one: it is estimated that the number of Hamas military (people who are armed and trained as soldiers) is around 30,000, out of 2 million population of Gaza. If the goal is to secure Israel from future pogroms by Hamas, how do you define a proportional response in this case?

    Also, keeping in mind that all casualty numbers from the Palestinian side that we hear are currently given to us by the Health ministry which is part of the Hamas government, and so are the estimates of how many of them are civilians, how do you reach a conclusion that Israel’s response is disproportional, and, as you say in one of your comments, in terms of evilness approaches what Hamas has done?

  143. One State Solution Says:

    Scott #131: Obviously a “one state solution” as envisioned by the BDS types is no solution at all, but a recipe for either an unfree regime where a minority holds all of the power (more likely) or a second Holocaust.

    How about paying off Egypt a ton to annex Gaza, annexing the West Bank, giving everyone in the West Bank Israeli permanent residency like in East Jerusalem, abolishing UNRWA and paying off host countries to take the refugees, deNazifying the West Bank, and setting a fixed date after which everyone born after that date in the West Bank gets citizenship? Say, 2050, 2067, 2100, 2123, take your pick.

    Given that Arab TFR in Israel dropped below in Israel and West Bank TFR is soon set to do the same, and Gaza is out of the picture, this is definitely consistent with maintaining Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. By the time those people turn 18 the TFR trends will ensure that most of the Israeli electorate remains Jewish, easily.

  144. Anthro Major Says:

    Well, as interesting as your perspective seems to be, I must impress upon you the fact that it reeks of a computational epistemology, characteristic of computer scientists who attempt to impose a myopic and reductionist lens on complex anthropological issues.

    While you circumscribe the issue into aspects of ‘offer’, ‘acceptance’ and ‘problem-solving’, we must understand that human social structures, such as those pertaining to politics and power, don’t operate within such constructs that mirror your typical programming. The anthropos in Anthropology refers to humans and all their nuanced behaviors, something I’ve studied extensively in my academic pursuit.

    You’re completely overlooking the socio-economic, historical and cultural factors at play in the Israel-Palestine conflict—a consequence of simple reductionism, which further exemplifies the importance of actual professional anthropologists in unpacking these layers of human complexity.

    For example, using an anthropologic lens, the proposed two-state solutions in 1948 and 2000 were not mere ‘offers’, but involved multifaceted socio-political contexts, deeply rooted in power struggles, colonisation, displacement, and religious discrepancies. It’s an erroneous assumption to equate the rejection of these proposals to a particular personality trait of Yasser Arafat or the unfortunate assassination of Rabin, attributing historical contingencies to individualistic factors. This is a classic case of atomism—an analytical procedure characteristic of quantitative scientists, which is unfitting when assessing anthropological matter.

  145. Scott Says:

    Anthro Major #144: Your comment is either LLM-generated or might as well have been. Banned.

  146. Vrushali Says:

    Edan Maor #141 Don’t you worry about “we” outsiders not understanding. I am a Indian and hardly had a jewish acquaintance even. But I totally understand your existential problem. Anyone can see this,its that obvious. Actually believe me everyone really knows what you are saying but want to pretend to be ignorant. Jewish people have the right to live, the right to practice their religion, and they MUST have a country they can call their own. Right now these very things look threatened. Does one need to be a enlightened person to understand this? But some people with vested interests will never agree.

  147. OhMyGoodness Says:

    Vrushali #146

    I agree with nearly everything you wrote except for attribution to vested interest. Many are just running a part of the leftist programming that much of Western education has devolved into.

    I look at the Aljazeera website everyday and track the Gaza hospital story. Yesterday it was filled, beginning to end, with articles condemning the “Israeli hospital attack”. Today it focuses on US support for the “Israeli narrative”. Facts have been extinguished in much of the global media by “narratives”.

  148. Avi Says:

    I feel many people are not understanding cause and effect here when they think Hamas is the main roadblock for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

    Half of Gaza’s population are children. Like previous generations of Palestinians, they have only experienced miserable living conditions, blockades, and destruction in their lives. Whether you believe it is fair or not, those traumatized children will grow up to hate Israel because Israel is the one dictating the hardships in their lives and dropping bombs on their cities. When you look at Hamas, you are seeing grown up versions of those kids.

    People often say that Hamas teaches kids to hate Israel because they are Jews. But this fails to address why that philosophy is so readily accepted? It is just a way to channel their hatred for the death and destruction they see. Nonviolent economic resistance clearly does not work (cf the BDS movement), and most Palestinians in Gaza do not want to actively participate in violence so they resign to live in their horrible living conditions. The remaining join Hamas or similar organizations. Bombing and blockading Gaza to get rid of Hamas only clears way for another violent and incompetent organization to spring up in their place. In 15 years those kids will grow up and the angry among them will fight Israel, probably even more indiscriminately than the current iteration.

    Moderate Israelis who want peace should remember this context. Bibi et al have clearly admitted to nurturing organizations like Hamas as they believe it to be in Israel’s best interest because it removes the possibility of united Palestinians and a Palestinian state. Israelis shouldn’t accept this narrative as it clearly doesn’t work and has backfired in the worst way possible.

  149. fred Says:

    Striking how little has changed in 100 years, although now on a bigger scale:
    very interesting video by “The Great War” (a channel dedicated to WW1) – “How Zionists Came to Palestine Under British Protection”

  150. Vrushali Says:

    Avi #148 You are saying that Israel is responsible for the poverty in Gaza and hence Gaza people harbor bad feelings for jewish people. This can only be true if all those who are affluent , staying in completely different countries do not harbor bad feelings about jews. If they still do, then clearly your reason that Israel is making people hate Israel is wrong. One doesn’t need to be a mathematician to see whats going on here and who is responsible for that.

  151. Adam Treat Says:

    Whole families – parents + two six/seven year old children – were tortured (think missing body pieces) by having hands tied behind back and made to watch. Think parents having to watch children being tortured – an eye plucked out, fingers cut off – or children having to watch as this happens to their parents.

    In the end? A bullet for each of them.

    That is Hamas. That is what Israel is fighting. Maybe that can sober up the talk about proportional response.

  152. Keep Whining About Your Shoah Says:

    Oy vey, it’s literahlly anuddah shoah!!!!

    Holohoax 2: It’s as transparently fake as the original.

    Just another scam for the money-grubbing kikes to take our hard-earned sheckels.

    You’re such a pathetic, gross, hook-nosed little kike. No doubt you’re rubbing your grubby hands together thinking about all the sheckels your Elders of Zion are gonna get now.

    I’m sorry about your six gorillion beheaded babies, or whatever it’s up to now 🙁

  153. Scott Says:

    I’ve let through #152 so readers can see a small sample of what I’m now dealing with.

    Judging from the news, this is indeed more-or-less the reaction of a large part of the world, including even at elite college campuses. And understanding that provides a great deal of insight into how the original Holocaust was able to happen—namely, with the enthusiastic support of part of the world, and the indifference of much of the rest.

  154. fred Says:

    “And understand that provides a great deal of insight into how the original Holocaust was able to happen—namely, with the enthusiastic support of part of the world, and the indifference of much of the rest.”

    World wide indifference is indeed a constant.
    1915, the Armenian genocide, 1 million deaths.
    1975-78, the Khmer Rouge killed 2 million people, i.e. 25% of their own population wiped out.
    1994, the Rwanda genocide, 600,000 deaths, i.e. 2/3 of the Tutsi minority wiped out.

  155. Rahul Says:

    Scott #153

    You mention “enthusiastic support of part of the world, and the indifference of much of the rest” towards the anti Jewish sentiment.

    Is this pretty much a deep rooted, anti semitism which has been around for centuries as a legacy? Or does public perception change in time?

    I mean, can we through our actions and policies do stuff to reduce anti semitism or is it futile to try and it will stay with us like an invariant?

    Even more specifically does or should Israel judge any of its actions against the yardstick of “would this reduce or increase anti semitism”. Or is it better to do what’s right in each situation and anti semitism would anyways do what it always has for centuries.

  156. Anon Says:

    There are many groups who struggle for an independent state. Many of them live in much worse conditions than Palestinians. If any of them carried out a similar attack, everyone would react with outmost disgust. But when it is against Israeli civilians, for whatever reason (unconscious antisemitism?), they are not condemned. A lot of these who are not condemning HAMAS likely also think that Israel should not exist and Jews should leave their homes and go live somewhere else. That is really frustrating.

  157. Anon Says:

    For peace between Israel and Palestine, we need leaders on both sides who can forcefully standup against the extremists on their side, Palestinian radicals like HAMAS, and Israeli radicals like settlers. Those leaders do not exist right now. We might desire a peace but the conditions do not exist currently.

    HAMAS did not attack the radical Jewish settlers within Palestine’s UN 1948 borders, but peaceful socialist communities within Israel’s UN 1948 borders.

  158. MK Says:

    Can someone comment on the ethnic cleansing currently going on also in the West Bank? E.g. violent settler incursions on which Israeli security forces turn a blind eye.

  159. OhMyGoodness Says:

    The generally unrecognized asymmetries of Israel’s situation are astounding. It is a tiny sliver of land (about 8,000 sq miles), half of which is the Negev dessert, on the edge of a relatively massive Arab world. The area of just Iran is 630,000 sq miles for example. It doesn’t have significant natural resources and has about 2,000,000 Arab citizens compared to a small number of Jewish people still residing in the Arab countries.

    By usual measures of social welfare it far outpaces its neighbors, top 5 globally for education, top 5 globally for medical care, etc. In spite of this, rather than be taken as a model for governance by its neighbors, it is targeted for the most heinous crimes imaginable.

    Leave me out of the development of an ethical proportionality equation. Whatever it takes to accomplish the military objectives against Hamas is the right proportionality in my view (similar to Adam Treat).

  160. OhMyGoodness Says:

    I don’t have enough personal knowledge to reach a conclusion but believe some of the criticism of Israeli governance from the US should be subject to the adage-Perfect is the enemy of good. The overall story of modern Israel, as seen by this outsider, is maybe a whisker shy of a miracle.

  161. Vrushali Says:

    Rahul #155, Anon #157 That we are dragging Israel into the cause of this hatred against the jews itself shows what a failed species we are. Lets not go searching for water on mars and all that non sense if we are trying to justify this kind of hatred against an entire community. I agree and have always believed the two reasons Dr. Aaronson gave for the holocaust. Once again lets not get into Israel , its policy or whatever into this. Its more disgusting than this hatred. Someone in a previous post described an extremely cruel situation of a hostage family. Who are we even, that it takes this level of cruelty to be painted for us to develop the feelings of empathy. And all this because they are jews. What a hopeless species. Like its said in the Gita ,Sri Krishna needs to come and save us we are a lost cause.

  162. fred Says:

    Vrushali #161

    “What a hopeless species. Like its said in the Gita ,Sri Krishna needs to come and save us we are a lost cause.”

    According to Hinduism, isn’t the world, with all its joy and misery, just a play for God to entertain itself, not as a cruel external spectator, but as the tortured actor at the center of all of us?… God is simultaneously the innocent victims and their ruthless executors.
    And of course it made sure we/it forget it’s all just a play?
    So the drama we see right now and we’ve seen over and over through history is really there by design.

  163. PublicSchoolGrad Says:

    OhMyGoodness #159,

    One could make the same arguments about South Africa during apartheid vis-a-vis its neighbors. Statements like that, made without examining the background and context of the situation, add little to the discussion.

    Incidentally, the way that was solved was through international pressure. That does not appear to be happening in this case. I fear that the end result will be catastrophic for the Palestinians

  164. OhMyGoodness Says:

    PublicSchoolGrad #163

    Sorry but an unacceptably poor analogy. Israeli Arabs have full rights of citizenship and seats in the Knesset. Around 70% of Israelis are Jewish so majority not minority. Hamas has steadfastly denied the right of Israel to exist so not an internecine conflict. South Africa had abundant resources and was not a global leader in health care nor education. This may make for good leftist slogans but unreasonable as an analogy.

  165. Asdf Says:

    Scott #26:

    Their selectivity in what they comment on, is very revealing.

    See recent comments by a UC Davis American Studies professor. I hesitate to post it here, as I don’t want to give them easy publicity, but anyone interested can find it on Twitter.

    There’s value in knowing the selectivity of the university’s responses to such tweets too.

  166. OhMyGoodness Says:

    It was never puzzling to me why some of the earliest hominid skeletons were found in South Africa, such a good physical environment for hominids even until today. The political and social environments however are still very bad. Botswana on the northern border has very good governance but SA is not at all good.

  167. Fred Stopper Clock Says:

    I’m not trying to be rude by saying this, but…the saying goes: “If everyone is an asshole to you, you’re the asshole.” The story of the Jews is a story of endless persecution—antisemitic hatred in virtually every European country from the early middle ages to the present day, too many pogroms to count, the Nazi final solution, of course, and after the foundation of Israel, a dozen Arab countries have attacked you guys, some of them multiple times. Is this all just a giant cosmic conspiracy against you guys? Or, more simply, are Jews just a bunch of scumbags who always piss everybody else off? Occam’s razor strongly suggests the latter. Or perhaps you have another explanation in mind?

  168. Scott Says:

    Fred Stopper Clock #167: Again, leaving your comment up so readers can get a taste of what I’m now dealing with, and how much of the world (including the part that reads science blogs and considers itself morally sophisticated) is really, genuinely pro-Jew-killing.

    Personally, I turn your logic on its head. Since it is plainly not the case that the Jews “deserved” their millennia of persecution and genocide, we therefore conclude that your proposed maxim, “if everyone is an asshole to you, you’re the asshole,” is as false as false can be.

  169. Fred Stopper Clock Says:

    You consider yourself morally sophisticated, and yet you’re really, genuinely pro-Palestinian killing. Chew on that.

    As for the kikes: Can you explain why they endured a “millenium of persecution and genocide” from **so many different** people? Isn’t my explanation the simplest? Do you have another explanation, or are you just going to whine about antisemitism?

    Let me give you just two examples of atrocities the kikes have committed:

    1. The kikes owned and ran all the slave ships that brought my enslaved ancestors from Africa to America. They owned the slave trading companies. They sold my ancestors because of their disgusting, filthy greed. Doubtlessly, when my great-great-great-grandfather was loaded off the slave ship some greedy greasy kike was rubbing his hands together thinking of all the money he’d make. Kikes had no qualms making money from slavery, because they see “the goyim” as dispensable tools in their money-making schemes.

    2. Almost all the disgusting male celebrities who creeped on actresses post-MeToo (Harvey Weinstein, Louis CK, Matt Lauer, etc etc etc) were kikes. Kike men are predatory towards gentile women, who they think of as “goyim” that they are free to rape and assault. The thought of Harvey Weinstein, that disgusting, fat, greasy, greedy, hairy kike rubbing his filthy habds all over vulnerable young women makes me sick. For what it’s worth, I think the Nazi laws prohibiting gentile women from having sex with these filthy creeps was an unequivocal good.

    Just from these two examples alone, the universal impulse to deal with the Jewish problem is intuitive and obvious.

    I’m a fervent anti-racism advocate, and I’ve seen firsthand how the kikes who own the real estate in NYC discriminate against Black and Latinx tenants. That was my first exposure to the jewish problem.

    Now I’m in France, raising money for Palestinian children in need. What have you done?

  170. Adam Treat Says:

    Scott #168,

    I hesitate to steel man your argument as the conclusion of “false as false can be” is so entirely justified, but want to point out that the premise isn’t entirely correct vis a vis “everyone.” A huge number of the world rightfully recognize the absolutely remarkable talents, personalities, morals, histories, skills, and overall virtues of the amazing number of individuals who count themselves Jews and call them incredibly valuable friends and nothing short of a blessing on this earth and think the assholes can go to hell.

  171. AG Says:

    Some of the comments to this post can be described as antisemitic (in their effect, if not necessarily in their intent). Some (and this is true more generally about the people loudly protesting the right of Israel to defend itself) are by “people of good will”, who protest against any “injustice/inhumanity” anywhere and oppose the use of force in any form by anyone. In addition, and this, I think, is the category addressed in Boaz Barak’s tweet, are those whose animus is primarily “anticolonial”. To this group, being a “US proxy” is perhaps Israel’s gravest sin; in comparison with which Hamas’s spotty record in the realm of “gender liberation and equality” pales.

  172. WA Says:

    MK #158: Sure. I’ll hazard a comment, despite my best judgement.

    I would not call this ethnic cleansing, but part of a campaign to steer the demographic makeup of the region. This campaign is a core part of Israeli policy over the past 80+ years.

    I think it is justified, at least somewhat if not fully, by the fact that demographics pose a grave threat to the identity and security of Israel. It’s easy to forget how tiny this nation and its population are, and how real the threat of defeat and genocide by its fanatic enemies is. Combine that with recent Jewish history and the case for this policy is quite strong.

    The Palestinians can at least in principle be absorbed into the ambient sea of Arabic populations. The reason that hasn’t happened is that Arabic countries over the past 80+ years have adopted a policy of not accepting displaced Palestinians into their countries. The main motivation behind this was to hamper Israel in its attempt to change the demographics, and to keep the Palestinians as a thorn in Israel’s side. Otherwise, if left unchecked, it was argued, Israel would expand next into the territories of its neighbors with the blessing and support of the world’s superpowers. It’s not uncommon to hear old arabs warn of Israel’s ambition of a territory “from the river to the sea” — the river here I suppose is the Euphrates, and the sea the Mediterranean (this phrase is also used as a palestinian slogan to mean something else, with the river in that version being the Jordan river). In this world view the palestinians are the arabs’ first line of defense against western expansionism. Nowadays the motivation has shifted a bit and it’s mostly about the economic and security challenges of hosting large numbers of troubled refugees.

    Let’s step back for a moment and appreciate how novel this dilemma is. In any other epoch of human history Israel with its superior army and allies would have eradicated the palestinian population through genocide, enslavement, or at best forced displacement or servitude, and then might have as well expanded into its hostile but weak neighbors continuing to spread its demographic by force. The only reason the situation seems so complicated in modern days is international law and human rights, abiding by which requires careful maneuvering and long-term strategic planning to achieve the same outcome that would have been achieved in a year or two in the olden days.

    Speaking of ethnic cleansing and genocide, one should note that in a scenario where the defeat of the Israeli army is even a remote possibility, the people who should worry about genocide are not only the Jewish folks of Israel but also the millions who will undoubtedly turn into radioactive dust before that happens. Let’s all pray nothing like that ever comes to be.

    And let’s all take a moment to think about the innocent people who recently met terrible fates in the kibbutzim and in Gaza and elsewhere.

  173. Scott Says:

    Adam Treat #170: You’re right, of course, and I didn’t mean to suggest otherwise. Even beyond (for example) those extraordinary gentiles who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust, there was always the silent majority that simply became infected by the disease of antisemitism and wished the Jews no ill will. I only meant to say that, supposing everyone did hate a particular person or ethnic group, it still wouldn’t mean that everyone was right.

  174. fred Says:

    That’s just my 2 cents as an non-Jewish, I hope I won’t offend anyone.

    Each religion typically sees itself as special, some variation of “we’re the chosen ones”, but,
    unlike Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, …, Jewish people have zero interest trying to “expand” and convert anyone, which they may see as a positive (i.e. if we leave you alone, you’ll leave us alone), but this can create the perception of a wall for the outsiders.

    I’m not religious but I’m always curious of other traditions.
    For example, walking in NYC, it’s not rare to come up across little “recruitment” booths set up by Muslims, giving away the Koran for free and ready to engage in conversations.
    If you walk into a Buddhist temple in NYC, the entrance typically has a ton of free books as well, and everyone is welcome to walk around.
    When I grew up in Europe, we were practically chased and cornered by Jehovah witnesses, and some Jesuit teacher of mine once told us “if I ever find a better religion, I’ll switch!” (that’s too extreme in the other direction, haha).
    On the other hand, a few times, orthodox Jews have walked up to me and asked me if I were Jewish (apparently to perform some sort of ritual on me), and when I said no they just immediately walked away with no explanation. Once it happened when I was walking with a Jewish coworker, and he felt obliged to go through the ritual. I really had no idea of what was going on (all was said in Yiddish or Hebrew), and dared not ask my friend afterwards what it was all about (I was afraid that, as a new Jew, my questions might offend or be inappropriate).

    That’s why I’m always super interested when I come across a TV series or a movie that shows what it’s like to be American and Jewish and shows up the traditions a bit, like recently The Marvelous Mrs Maisel (which had some pretty funny scenes in the temple).

  175. PublicSchoolGrad Says:

    OhMyGoodness #164,

    Your post was comparing Israel to its neighbors. While SA was not as developed as Israel, compared to its neighbors it was far more developed and wealthier. By the way, the arab citizens of Israel may have the same rights on paper but the situation is similar to the status of black people in America before the Civil Rights Act.

    As to your proportionality argument, it sounds like a call for genocide. Israel can kill every Hamas member, but as long as it keeps the status of the Palestinians as it currently is, something else will spring to take its place. The only way to stop it completely is either through genocide/expulsion or through a negotiated political settlement.

    I suspect Israel will not waste this crisis and will use it as an opportunity to grab more territory or expel more Palestinians.

  176. Why Am I Dragging Myself Into This... Says:

    @PublicSchoolGrad #175

    “but the situation is similar to the status of black people in America before the Civil Rights Act.” No it really really isn’t and you should revisit the basics of what you think about the situation, if you think so. This is not to say that the situation is perfect – just that the comparison doesn’t hold any water.

    Seeing an Arab doctor, professor, lawyer, you name, it is a quotidian experience in Israel. Did a White person the US prior to the Civil Rights Act expect their doctor to be Black?

    A quick search shows that
    “In 1940, when 9.7% of the total population was Black, 2.8% of physicians were Black — 2.7% of were Black men and 0.1% were Black women. By 2018, when 12.8% of the total population was Black, 5.4% of U.S. physicians were Black — 2.6% Black men and 2.8% Black women.” In contrast, 46% of new doctors in Israel are Arab/ Druze.

    Arab representation in the Knesset (parliament) is rather close to the number of Black congressmen *today*, not in 1950. Peak fraction was probably in 2020, with 15% Arab MPs. This congress has 62 Black members, for 14.25%. Or should we compare to the – what? 11? Black senators ever?

    Arab judges are (slightly) *over*-represented in the courts among people with a law degree.

    Prior to the Civil Rights Act, black policemen couldn’t, in practice, arrest Whites in many places. This is not at all the case for Arab policemen, though Israel does need many more Arab policemen (and there are programs trying to incentivize such).

    Black people were famously not free to sit in the front in buses. Not at all the case for Arabs in Israel.

    Shopping in Arab areas is common – how many Whites frequented Black shops?

    Inter-racial marriage statistics are a bit hard to get, but my reading is that the US has around 1-2% White-Black marriages today. Before the Civil Rights Act, these were straight out illegal in many places. Israel has 10% inter-religion/ ethnicity marriages, though an up-to-date breakdown is hard to hunt down. Certainly Arab-Jewish marriage is not illegal (though I can imagine some difficulties – but then as an ex-USSR immigrant, I too had some!).

    I can go on and on, but I think the point is clear.

    There’s a reason 80% of the Arab population expressed its support for Israel after 10/07.

  177. MK Says:

    WA #172: thank you for your comment and stepping beyond pure ideology. But:

    > I would not call this ethnic cleansing, but part of a campaign to steer the demographic makeup of the region.

    Exactly the same, word for word, can and has been said about numerous ethnic cleansings. The rationale you give has also been used time and time again: by the Serbs, Hutu, pick your favorite ethnic cleansing. It’s always about realizing some (perceived) strategic interest of the party doing the cleansing, realizing some “desired demographic makeup”, mixed with ideological hatred for the cleansed group.

    You are correct in noting that the only thing that stops Israel from a full on genocide and extermination is the international community.

  178. OhMyGoodness Says:

    PublicSchoolGrad #175

    SA was simply an extractive economy with minority governance and with abundant mineral deposits in place. It is the antithesis of what Israel has done on both accounts.

    WA #172

    I agree with your historical context but your statement of objectives faces opposition from the high fertility rate of Israel’s neighbors. Iran’s fertility rate has however dropped precipitously, presumably as a result of the embargo. Recently Iran has been allowed to sell oil into China in sizable amounts. Their fertility rate may start to climb back to baseline if oil sales are allowed to continue.

  179. physics_student Says:

    OhMyGoodness #101

    >> The stated purpose is regime change

    How is it going with Iran? The stated purpose may be regime change, but the real reason behind such sanctions is the urge to do __something__ without having the resolve for difficult actions that would make a real difference (like giving ENOUGH heavy weapons to Ukraine IN TIME, or even closing the sky, or at least preventing the god damn Russian political elite from enjoying their stolen wealth in the EU/EC countries). But, naturally, it is much easier to target the civilian population of authoritarian states: it can’t fight back and it can’t bribe the decision makers.

  180. Rahul Says:

    Edan Maor #141:

    I am glad that we mostly agree. It is fruitful when such discussion reaches a common point.

    I just wish the Israelis and Palestinians reach such a conclusion. 🙂

  181. OhMyGoodness Says:

    PublicSchoolGrad #175

    Extractive economies with abundant mineral resources require little sophistication. Cheap labor plus valuable resources equals gold mine so to speak.

    I had more contact with SA during Zuma’s presidency (quite the colorful person). Ramaphora amassed his fortune from mining (unsurprisingly). Ramaphora’s big scandals to date include having security forces end a mining strike with 30 miners shot and killed with many reportedly shot in the back. Numerous others were wounded. Also, I don’t know details but the US claimed SA was helping Russia with arms acquisitions.

  182. Del Says:

    The conclusion of this article shows that there’s no hope, sadly.

  183. Scott Says:

    MK #177:

      You are correct in noting that the only thing that stops Israel from a full on genocide and extermination is the international community.

    The great puzzle for your position is that Israel is already resigned to the “international community” being automatically against it. So if it wanted to exterminate the Palestinians and it’s had the power to, then in half a century why hasn’t it?

    On the other side of the ledger, the only thing that stops Hamas and its allies from a full-on genocide and extermination of Israel’s Jews is the military might of Israel itself, and to a lesser extent the US. The “international community” could be expected to stand by and do nothing, just like the last time.

  184. OhMyGoodness Says:

    physics-student #179

    I agree with your comments mostly. My comment was to point out that the EU participates in embargoes that target innocent citizens and in Iran that has resulted in lack of medicines for the critically ill. Israel stopping fuel deliveries to Gaza pales in comparison. I also was willing to wager that food deliveries would resume and that starvation in Gaza was an absurd expectation. People that are driven by ideology often have dramatic unrealistically dire expectations. In this case the poster I was responding to drew an analogy to the Warsaw ghetto during Nazi occupation.

  185. Max Says:

    Wow, imagine publicly supporting the tribe that owns all the banks, the media, the American government, Hollywood, the entire financial system of the world…that takes some serious balls /s

    How brave, how courageous an opinion /s

  186. Bob Says:

    Scott #183

    First time posting here, though I’m a long time lurker. Normally, my views and opinions are very aligned with yours, but on this last note, I think I must respectfully disagree on two points.

    So the bits I take issue with are:

    > “…Israel is already resigned to the “international community” being automatically against it.”

    I seriously doubt this is the case, especially given (a) the significant expenditure on lobbying and discrediting/silencing of pro-palestine views (as reported in teh Guardian), (b) the effort taken by Israeli governments of all stripes to maintain the special relationship with the United States, and (c) the existence of the JIDF.

    I fully concede, though, that point (a) is muddied by the fact that most lobby groups are extremely secretive, muddying the waters a lot. Also, even if Israel were to be funding the entire thing (they’re absolutely not btw), it would be a perfectly legitimate avenue of national defense, so it’s kind of fine. And besides, literally every country on earth needs to worry about public perception (except, perhaps, North Korea, but even they pull out the stops to gussy things up on those rare occasions anyone gets to see behind the curtain).

    The second point of disagreement is:

    > “the only thing that stops Hamas and its allies from a full-on genocide and extermination of Israel’s Jews is the military might of Israel itself, and to a lesser extent the US. The “international community” could be expected to stand by and do nothing, just like the last time.”

    Perhaps it’s the last shred of optimism in me, but it feels very clear to me that both Israel AND Palestine will be protected by international intervention when things start looking serious. While there is unquestionably a really disturbing rising tide of antisemitism (and, we must admit, islamophobia as well, see that poor child in Chicago) fostered by extremists, particularly on the right, most governments are relatively unmoved by them. More importantly, I really do think that statistics will show these losers are vocal fringe elements emboldened and empowered by social media. Obviously, I could very well be mistaken about the scale, and even these fringe groups and opinions are very, very dangerous.

  187. WA Says:

    MK #177:

    “You are correct in noting that the only thing that stops Israel from a full on genocide and extermination is the international community.”

    I did not quite say that! I think other factors might stop Israel from doing the above even if the international community was ok with it. For example the multitudes of enlightened Israelis who would not be ok with it as well as the consequences of doing such a thing on the relations with its neighbors and with its Arab minority.

    What I said was meant to highlight the novelty of the current dilemma, not that Israel’s ultimate goal is to do auch a thing.

  188. MK Says:

    Scott #183:

    > The great puzzle for your position is that Israel is already resigned to the “international community” being automatically against it.

    You got to be kidding, right? Israel has enjoyed basically unwavering support from Western Europe and, most importantly, the US. Countries hostile to Israel, esp. Iran, know perfectly well that transgressions against Israel will be met with swift US reaction. That’s why they have to resort to fighting via proxy entities like Hamas and Hezbollah. Israel’s military allies may object to this or that policy, but they will send the carriers if need be.

    [note: Israel’s allies might be a small part of the “international community” – but they’re only part of it that essentially matters, militarily]

    See also this piece by Freddie deBoer, who elaborates on exactly this topic more eloquently:

    This being said, you’re correct in your last paragraph regarding Hamas.

  189. Scott Says:

    Again: leaving up comment #185, because I think it’s important for my readers to understand that the world’s Jew-haters are now out in force (also in my inbox)—as usual, energized and exhilirated not by anything the Jews did, but by what was done to them.

  190. MK Says:

    Also, Scott and others: are you aware of any historical situation when a terrorist threat (like Hamas) was permanently solved via a “reduce to ashes” military operation? I can’t think of a single example, which means Israel’s strategy is pure foolhardiness.

  191. Rahul Says:

    “Israel is already resigned to the “international community” being automatically against it”

    This one is very hard to believe. From US to most EU states, the official government position seems pretty pro Israel.

    Heck, the US is giving significant quantities of serious arms and weapons spending to Israel for almost all of its existence.

    Furthermore the fact that the US is going to support Israel has a HUGE deterrent effect on any agressors.

    What larger signal do you want than the President of USA making a visit to Israel immediately after the Hamas attack.

    If that isn’t international support, what is?!

  192. Scott Says:

    Rahul #191 and others: By “the international community,” I really meant “majorities at the U.N.,” which have pretty consistently opposed Israel, even since before there was an occupation. Of course US support for Israel, backed by the US’s veto in the Security Council, and often joined by the UK, Australia, Canada, France, Germany (which still has its historic guilt), and other nations, has been the main counterbalance to that.

  193. MK Says:

    Scott #192: well, then your previous comment doesn’t make sense:

    > The great puzzle for your position is that Israel is already resigned to the “international community” being automatically against it. So if it wanted to exterminate the Palestinians and it’s had the power to, then in half a century why hasn’t it?

    “Majorities at the UN” don’t mean anything, military might does. 80% of member countries could be against Israel an it wouldn’t matter. You know it. Israel is only not exterminating Palestinians en masse because its chief military allies, US first and foremost, will not allow it.

  194. physics_student Says:

    Scott #192

    Majorities in the UN don’t matter in the slightest, as you are perfectly aware of. UN only matter when it comes to solving “small” issues not involving conflicts of interest of the permanent security council members, or even countries with a semblance of strong military, and UN fail utterly in that role as well (e.g. Rwanda genocide). Whenever it comes to a major player willing to solve problems by force, or a baby president of the United States denying science, the best you can use the resolutions of the General Assembly for is an alternative for the toilet paper.

  195. AG Says:

    MK #190: Nazi Germany was defeated.

    This is how the news of the Holocaust might have been reported, if written today: “According to preliminary reports, which could not be independently verified, several million people, some allegedly of Jewish origin, are killed or missing as a result of a series of incidents which took place mostly in the eastern part of the European continent. Axis powers and the Allied coalition are accusing each other of targeting civilians. At the same time, well-attended demonstrations of solidarity with the German people took place in several cities in Latin America.”

  196. MK Says:

    AG #195: your comment reads to me as glib and in bad faith. Nazi Germany was not a terrorist organization in the sense in which Hamas is. It was a completely conventional state entity possible to defeat by conventional means. No decentralized organization, mingling with civilians etc. You know this. My original question stands unanswered.

  197. AG Says:

    MK #196 I think there are certain similarities between Hamas and the Nazis that warrant a comparison. Both came to power by winning an election. Both exploited the just grievances of the people who elected them (as W. H Auden put it in ‘1 September, 1939’: “I and the public know/What all schoolchildren learn,/Those to whom evil is done/Do evil in return.”). Both embraced terrorism and elimination of Jews in their political platform, and in their modus operandi.

    To the best of my knowledge, the record of the IDF in protecting Palestinian civilians, while fighting Hamas, is at the very least no worse than the record of the Allied coalition in protecting German civilians while fighting Nazis (e.g. the bombing of Dresden and the Battle of Berlin).

    Having said that, I am very apprehensive about a massive ground offensive in Gaza, and it is my personal sense that it might not be as imminent and as massive as is generally presumed.

  198. Vrushali Says:

    Fred #162 I understand that this is not a place or time to discuss about hinduism so please forgive me but i need to answer this one real quick. “God is entertaining himself, he is there to torture people?!!” I dont know where to start or why would anyone, ever at all come up with this. Just one word “NO” . Thats not hinduism. Above anything else Hinduism says love all people of ALL religions. If you want hinduism in one line its..”tat tvam asi”. Though a lifetime isn’t enough to figure this one line out .

  199. Anonymous Says:

    This is beyond heart breaking. I hope that Hamas is swiftly brought to justice, and whoever is responsible for this massive border security failure should be fired and held accountable too. It’s unfathomable how slow the response was and it seems crucial to focus on making sure that never happens again too by finding the point of failure. I admire Israel and its culture, the startups originating there have such beautiful intelligence and artistry. I hope that by some miracle Israel experiences peace in this generation.

  200. JimV Says:

    I just read your next post and made a donation to the link there.

    I had considered submitting a comment here to recommend that you close the comments to any posts whenever (as soon as) an anti-semite troll comment appears–but decided not to since that would be telling you how to run your own blog. However, now I can’t resist telling you I think that closing the comments to the next post was a good idea.

  201. Scott Says:

    JimV #200: Thank you so much.

  202. AG Says:

    I am not at all into social media/blogs, and, most certainly, not into commenting. Notwithstanding, what you did do in these past few momentous weeks will certainly remain in my personal “Profiles in Courage”, for what it is worth. Thank you Scott!

  203. gentzen Says:

    JimV #200: “However, now I can’t resist telling you I think that closing the comments to the next post was a good idea.”

    Having finally managed to read all the comments here, I don’t know whether I should be happy or sad that the comments below the next posts have been closed. On the one hand, it relieves me from the challenging task to catch up with the comments, and shows that Scott learned to take more care of himself. On the other hand:

    … the fact that, below a post about my colleague’s kidnapped family, I have to field these sorts of questions has been depressing me without end for days. I’m disgusted with the world, disgusted with humanity, and disgusted with blogging.

    I learned a lot in the days since October 7, and the comments here significantly contributed to that. Of course, Scott will be targeted with the explicit goal to discourage him, because he runs this blog and its comment section with a significant reach of diverse audiences. It is part of the policital game, as soon as some potential actor has enough influence, he becomes a worthy target of such attacks.

  204. AG Says:

    OK, now that I read carefully through all the comments to this post and all the previous ones, what stands out clearly with increasing urgency is my inability to distinguish with certainty the text in the comments as being genuinely produced by humans, viz. otherwise (and to be clear I mean AI e.g. CHAT GPT and not e.g. GRU).

  205. Michel Says:

    What I do see, from a safe (and maybe cowardly) distance:

    Hamas, a murderous bunch of psychopaths, writing Gods name above their deeds, and therefore totally impossible to negotiate with. Willing to sacrifice their own sisters and brothers while hiding under hospitals and public buildings.

    Netanyahu, paying every price to stay in power to avoid the processes that await him, and therefore totally impossible to negotiate with. Willing to sacrifice democracy to stay safe himself.

    Settlers on the West bank, writing Gods name above their deeds, and therefore impossible to negotiate with. Sometimes terrorizing their neighbors in the name of God.

    Iran, where its fanatic islamist rulers suppress and murder it’s own citizens just to stay in power and survive, and therefore impossible to negotiate with, while supporting as much anti-Israeli sentiment as they can, Hamas en Hezbollah included.

    Yes, Israel must defend itself and try to erase Hamas totally, although I believe it might not be possible. An organisation out to destroy you at all cost must be eliminated. But what the price. I weep for all the children and the innocent adults.
    If Israel is serious for liberating the abducted children, how about clearing one West Bank settlement for the return of one child? (no, I do not believe in this, as negotiations with either side of fanatics would fail, but still)

  206. Yiftach Barnea Says:

    Here is a link to an open letter by academics condemning the Hamas attack (and more): You can sign it if you want to.

  207. Joseph Shipman Says:

    Scott, what’s your take on what’s happening at MIT? I’m surprised they have been allowing protestors to intimidate Jewish students and to disrupt classes.

  208. Scott Says:

    Joseph Shipman #207: If even half of what I’ve read is true, it’s a travesty, one that makes me glad that I’m no longer at MIT.

  209. S Says:

    Scott: I appreciate the reply.

    We’re all in this together – all marginalized people. Trans people were a much smaller population than Jewish people during the Holocaust, but queer people were targeted just as viciously and vehemently, at least proportionate to their numbers. I am not Jewish, but the experiences of dear friends whose families survived the Holocaust are close to my heart and deeply informative. There weren’t many queer survivors (or families left by them), but history makes it clear: we were all scapegoats and threats to the consolidation of regressive power. The situation with Hamas is obviously not the same, being all-out war – but a timeless feature of it is the scapegoating and hatred towards those who don’t conform to a regressive and culturally homogeneous ideology and culture.

    Trans rights are about a lot more than misgendering. As you may be aware, they’re under systematic attack in the USA, with attempts to keep trans people out of public spaces, reduce access to medical care, etc.

    But you’re right – I’ve spoken to my Israeli trans friends, luckily all still safe right now, and while the current situation has certainly disrupted their access to care, they’re not as concerned about that. And it gives me some perspective – as a non-binary person in the USA, as awful as things are getting specifically for trans/non-binary people, I’m still glad I’m here and not in a warzone.

    Nonetheless, framing trans rights as a distraction from the real issues ignores the fact that Jewish people and trans people are consistently targets of the same violent groups – whether it be Islamic intolerance or Christian intolerance or secular intolerance (e.g., TERFs act like they’re a branch of feminism, but they hate trans women, trans men, and while they tend to err on the side of dog whistles when it comes to Jewish people, you better believe they hate Jewish people or accuse them of being in a conspiracy, etc.).

    Even if some naive, young “leftist”-aligned people are being horrible and stupid about Hamas and Israel, I think it’s unhelpful in the long run to use the juxtaposition of their support for queer rights against their unrealistic and reprehensible positions of support for Hamas. Why not view their support for queer issues as an example of something they happened to get right, rather than symptomatic of a way of thinking that gets Israel wrong? The vast majority of young leftists are nonetheless not trans/genderqueer or even gay/bi. I’m ultimately glad that young, cis people are supporting trans issues, but I don’t think the actual trans people in that age cohort are as supportive of Hamas as you might think. I don’t know ANY (and due to my social and professional situation, I talk to a LOT of trans people). All the trans people I know are actually quite appreciative of how Israel as a state, while not beyond criticism, is actually a very inclusive place for transgender people to live, with state-funded medical support – and while there are certainly intolerant or traditional people there, the amount of organized or violent transphobia is essentially zero compared to the United States, Britain, etc. I firmly believe that most actual trans people, at least if they’ve educated themselves at all, are on Israel’s side right now – besides the compassion and concern that I hope most of us feel, because we tend to highly value human rights (since those are very salient for us), we tend to generally be pretty anti-violence, and we firmly understand “first they came for the…”. In the USA, right now they’re coming for the trans people. Will it be gays or Jews next? In the middle east, Israel is a rare place of sanctuary for queer people – so it’s not even “First they came for the Jews,” it’s “By coming for the Jews, they are putting everyone else under mortal threat too.” Regressive social movements harm all of us as minorities, though. I just can’t stand the thought, for example, that you and I would be turned against each other. I’ve respected your writings since I read “Quantum Computing Since Democritus” years ago, but I’ve seen you gravitate towards what seems like a lot of apparent skepticism of feminism, “woke” ideas, trans identities. I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt because I know in my heart of hearts that we are allies. But it’s been frustrating to see guests in your comment sections making conservative dog whistles that I’m so accustomed to being the prelude to overt transphobia or misogyny, for example. Things that to me, are beyond the pale – but to you, are part of the range of acceptable discourse even within a curated space. I’m not trying to gripe. We have different priorities, and you’ve curated a space of fairly open discourse with some exceptions for what is deeply hurtful or offensive to you. I would probably do the same if I had a space like this one – but I want to be clear: anti-semitism is beyond the pale and utterly unacceptable to me. I would really hope that transphobia would be beyond the pale and utterly unacceptable to you. Think about how making light of something like misgendering might be suggestive that trans issues in general are insignificant, even though restricted access to medical care, exclusion, and violence really ARE significant (and occurring systematically, just not as violently or concentratedly as the attacks on Israel – which is one reason those are more significant, but not a reason to make light of trans issues).

    It’s vexing that academics and leftists aren’t more critical of antisemitism. It’s not okay at all, and I understand your frustration and sympathize deeply. I don’t know how we arrived at a scenario where they support trans people as relatively consistently as they do – but let me assure you that unfortunately, it doesn’t really seem like it changes a lot. It might even be hurting trans causes, considering how much we’ve become a central point of the US “culture war” and a target for people who already gravitated towards pseudoscience, railed against academia and “Hollywood”/media, and the “elite” (and… I’m pretty sure I know what they are trying to dog whistle there…). Having their support is an extremely hollow blessing, outside of the limited medical research that occurs. It doesn’t protect us from the real transphobia that continues to occur to increasing extents. Your own state of residence is becoming overtly more hostile to trans people and parents of trans children, for example.

    One of the issues is that “leftists” are decent at nuance and therefore awful at unity. The tiniest incompatibility leads to ideological shouting matches. I identify more with leftists than the right or far-right, or with centrists who somehow can’t see how existential the threat of the far right is. But some leftists might learn about my thoughts about Israel, or guns (minorities need them more for self defense and we’d be the first ones on registries, so please don’t implement registries – I don’t even own a gun, but I don’t want gun registries to be a vector of oppression), or science (some leftists are extremely woo-woo pseudoscience), or Islam (my view of religious freedom is that people should practice whatever and as much as they want when it doesn’t restrict or harm others, which is a criterion many Muslims meet, but it’s a criterion that some Muslim groups or practices expressly can’t meet, as we’ve seen clearly many times. I don’t like it when Christians trample on others’ freedoms either, and I don’t give Muslims a pass for predominantly not being white). I think it’s actually good that so many different leftist ideologies exist, but it politically cripples us against far-right movements. Because the far right doesn’t care about nuance and people find unity out of tribalism, with little regard to the coherence of their ideas. I have heard people on the far-right condemning the US for not intervening in the Israel-Palestine conflict (for years now, long before the recent boiling point), in one breath, and condemn the Jewish “elites” in the next. They are going to eliminate us all if they can.

    There’s about half as many trans people as Jewish people in the United States. We should be building alliances. I’d rather be in coalition than picked off by rising worldwide regressive and fascist movements.

    I want to emphasize that I’m not condemning you for your original joke, but take it from one trans/non-binary person – it didn’t serve to pull me into a coalition with you. If anything, its provocative nature made me feel like you didn’t take seriously the gravity of trans causes (I appreciate that you are respectful to trans people in your personal life – but I think most anti-Israel leftists are likely respectful to Jewish people in their personal lives too — I expect more of a thoughtful and critically engaged person like yourself, though). It made me feel pushed away from the cause you were speaking so sincerely about. I caught myself, immediately, of course – there’s no amount of provocation that could make me sympathize with Hamas. But what about the young leftists with distressingly ambivalent views towards Hamas and Israel? I don’t see how your joke could do anything but push them away. I understand the point – misplaced priorities – but people can be seriously upset about trans rights in the USA while also being seriously upset about Hamas attacking Israel.

    Wouldn’t we both rather draw people into both causes? We all have finite resources to put towards those causes, but being in solidarity ought to have a synergistic effect on the overall utility of our efforts. By showing yourself to be a friend to queer people, I think queer people who were on the fence might be more likely to realize, “Advocates for the integrity and safety of the state of Israel are also proponents of trans rights – unlike the typical fundamentalist Muslim group, such as Hamas” and step off of the fence towards shared causes. I know that kind of appeal shouldn’t be necessary, but it might nonetheless be effective. There is substantial overlap and unity among the people who want to harm Jews, and who want to harm trans people, and who want to reduce bodily autonomy/abortion rights, and who want to allow wealth accumulation or overpolicing to go unchecked, and who want to reduce access to voting. The more blind we all are to it, the more we’ll infight, and the easier it will be to pick us all off.

    Personally, I think it would benefit your own position to not mock trans issues, feminism, etc. Even as mildly as you did, because it can be interpreted as a sign that while you may be an ally to some extent, you view those issues as distractions or trivialities. I think it would be beneficial to not portray trans issues and Jewish issues as being in opposition, and to recognize that the global far-right organizations, movements, and ideologies are generally enemies to trans people and Jewish people alike. Whether it’s rising fascism in the USA and Europe, or the ongoing global threat of far-right, fundamentalist Islam.

    I know I’ve written a lot, a month after you responded to me. If you read this far (or scanned until this point), thanks for your attention. May we be in solidarity and not opposition! I hope that your loved ones are able to remain safe, and I am offering my most sincere secular prayers and hopes to all of them.

  210. AG Says:

    I am in complete agreement with the sentiment expressed by S #209, and so is, it seems to me, at least one member of the OpenAI board:

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