Israel vs Hamas

* Is there anything good about the events of the weekend in Israel? Yes, they return us to reality. Different groups have different interests, and when the clash of interests is intense enough, you get war, which is the continuation of politics by other means.

* Everybody is vulnerable. You can devote every resource to making yourself safe, but there will always be ways that you are vulnerable. It makes sense to try to have the best possible relations with everybody and to make yourself as strong as possible, but everybody hurts sometimes. “Old age, sickness and death” await all of us.

* I fear empathy overload. I haven’t felt anything about these attacks. I keep myself in analytic mode so I can avoid feeling anything. That’s pretty much how I go through life, except for when I explode over trivia. What the heck? Come on, man. You’ve got to be kidding me!

* Contrary to the Wall Street Journal report, both America and Israel have stated that there is no evidence that Iran ordered these attacks. Iran has yet to attack Americans in America, but I’m sure Iran has hit squads in this country who will go to work if America directly attacks Iran. Obama reached the best deal possible with Iran, and it was a shame that Trump repudiated it. The argument that the Biden administration played a role in the Hamas attack by returning six billion dollars of frozen Iranian assets is absurd. Iran has been allowing in nuclear inspectors. They’ve reduced uranium enrichment. They released American hostages. They’ve indicated openness to direct engagement with America through Oman. I doubt Iran ordered these attacks.

* When you watch the news, do you feel like you are being stage managed to hate Iran, Russia, and China, and to get ready for America to wage war on all three countries? I do. Iran did not direct nor lead Hamas attacks on Israel. Iran is Shia. Hamas is Sunni. There’s some cooperation between these two, but Hamas is not a proxy for Iran. By and large, Sunni and Shia Muslims hate each other. If America goes to war with Iran, it will be a disaster for America and completely unnecessary.

* What Sunni civilization would you most like to live in? Gaza is a hell hole, but where have Sunnis produced a great civilization? The primary problem for Gazans is Gazans. The primary problem for Palestinians is Palestinians. The primary problem for Sunnis is Sunnis. They have shown no evidence of greatness for centuries. When will Sunnis produce a flourishing civilization? What are the foremost Sunni contributions to the world? How are Sunnis are light unto the nations? I can’t think of any Muslim country that I would want to imitate.

* If the NATO vs Russia war in Ukraine goes nuclear, the media line will be that this is a result of America not intervening more forcefully on behalf of Ukraine. John J. Mearsheimer notes that American subsidizing of Ukraine’s military against Russia is ten times as catastrophic for Americans interests as our pointless 2003 invasion of Iraq. Biden’s extreme support for Ukraine is an unforced error against Western interests. If Biden hadn’t armed Ukraine, Russia would not have felt the need to invade.

* America is on the hook to go to war for Taiwan against China when Taiwan can’t be bothered to defend itself. Taiwan only spends 1% of its GDP on its defense. I would be all in to support Taiwan if Taiwan was all in to defend itself, but it’s not. Taiwan wants to do as little as possible in its own defense and have us pick up the tab. War with China over Taiwan would likely cost America thousands of lives, several aircraft carriers, a thousand planes, dozens of ships, tens of billions of dollars, and that’s in the best case scenario.

* Biden’s National Security advisor Jake Sullivan told The New Yorker: “I believe in freedom fighters and I believe in righteous causes, and I believe the Ukrainians have one. There are very few conflicts that I have seen—maybe none—in the post-Cold War era . . . where there’s such a clear good guy and bad guy. And we’re on the side of the good guy, and we have to do a lot for that person.”

The only objective source of morality is the transcendent one, which depends upon a subjective leap of faith. Unless Sullivan wants to invoke God, there’s no rational basis for this analysis. He’s essentially arguing that we have to aid Ukraine because of God’s will. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a Russian version of the Monroe Doctrine. Russia has strategic interests in wrecking Ukraine because Ukraine has become a de factor member of NATO aka Russia’s enemy.

* American news, with its whipping up of war fever against Russia, Iran and China is certainly not managed in America’s interests. Foreign policy is a game played by elites where common opinion counts for little. The common opinion of Americans is that they don’t care much about non-Americans, just as the Japanese don’t care much about the non-Japanese, and so forth. So far 14 Americans have died in this Hamas attack and 20 are missing. Those deaths will shape how Americans relate to Hamas.

* Every sane nation must prioritize its own survival. Ukraine and Israel are irrelevant to American interests while Taiwan is important to America’s interests. Given that America has limited resources, if it sanely pursues its interests, it will have to short-change Ukraine and Israel, even if the survival of Ukraine and Israel are in doubt. This might be an ideal time for China to invade Taiwan. America is stretched thin.

* Hamas was democratically elected by the people of Gaza in 2006. Hamas represents the people of Gaza more than the Netanyahu government represents the people of Israel. The Christian Science Monitor reports Oct. 10, 2023:

…a large majority of Palestinians appear to support Hamas militants’ brutal weekend attack on Israel.

…the breaking news of the surprise Hamas eruption had prompted celebrations on the streets of Ramallah, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, where people distributed sweets to gathering crowds.

Many saw the attack, in which over 100 Israelis were abducted and taken as hostages into Gaza, as retribution for the deaths of Palestinian civilians in earlier rounds of conflict and in daily life. “The world keeps saying this attack is unprovoked, but in fact the world is ignoring how violent the daily occupation is,” says Diana Buttu, a former adviser to the Palestinian delegation to peace talks with Israel, now in abeyance.

…The bloody events of last weekend, including the massacre of over 250 revelers at a rave party, have been condemned by people around the world as a terrorist outrage. In Gaza, however, they are widely seen as a breach in the Israeli-built wall that has trapped residents for 16 years and condemned them to victimhood.

Fatah, and the Palestinian Authority, which it controls, are obliged by the Oslo Accords to cooperate with Israel. But they now find themselves caught in a political bind, faced with a public supporting Hamas’ action and increasingly calling for similar violent resistance.

The Palestinian Authority has been notably silent since Saturday, and officials turned down requests for comment on the political situation.

On the broader international front, Israel and the United States say they had no evidence that Iran was closely involved in planning Saturday’s rampage, as has been reported.

* There’s no evidence that the way democracies wage war is any more moral than the way autocracies wage war.

* About half of Los Angeles Orthodox Jews consider Baruch Goldstein a hero says a knowledgeable friend. You can buy a book praising Dr. Goldstein at every Torah book store in town to the best of my knowledge.

* The slaughter of children is horrifying. It is not clear how many thousands of Iraqi children died as a result of American sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s but Americans didn’t care about these deaths of non-Americans. These casualties were not photogenic.

* Hezbollah is more competent and dangerous than Hamas. If Israel invades Gaza, might Hezbollah attack Israel? If they do so in force, thousands of Israelis will die within 24 hours.

* Israel has started slowly in its last five major wars. Its reserve troops are not particularly competent.

* Why do the Arabs get upset about a tiny Jewish state in their midst? For the same reason that people who hold to a traditional male-female definition of marriage get upset by the tiny number of gay marriages in their midst. Both the Jewish state and same-sex marriage are affronts to particular hero systems and these affronts hurt their adherents every bit as much as a punch to the stomach. Our beliefs are us. They take place in our body and they produce bio-chemical reactions when they are denigrated.

* If you believe that the Palestinians should pursue their goals peacefully, then you believe in the legitimacy of BDS. If you oppose the legitimacy of BDS, you oppose Palestinians pursuing their goals without violence.

* Simchat Torah is a Jewish holiday that is often observed outside with singing and dancing. American Jews, by and large, kept their celebrations inside this year. Pico Blvd in 90035 was going to be closed Saturday night for an open air celebration but that was canceled due to the news.

The Los Angeles Times reports Oct. 8, 2023:

Streets in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood would normally be shut down this weekend for parties in honor of Simchat Torah, the Jewish holiday marking the completion of the annual cycle of the reading of the Torah. But this year, the mood was somber as police stepped up security in Jewish and Muslim communities alike.

“It will forever be a day of memorial and sadness,” said Rebecca Wizman, standing outside a Pico Boulevard synagogue…

She and three others were discussing who they knew preparing to fly to Israel to fight. Batsheva Pinto said many people from her congregation were headed there. So was her brother-in-law.

For two days, Wizman said, everyone she knew had been operating in an information vacuum. Because of the holidays, they hadn’t been able to check their phones since Friday night.

Wizman said she was dreading Sunday evening, when she would once again be able to go online and read the latest headlines. She assumed the death toll had mounted; she was scared to learn by how much.

* Within five minutes of the onset of these attacks, around 11:30 pm Friday, Orthodox Jews in Los Angeles were talking about them and asking non-Jews to pull up the news for them on their phones.

* I don’t think there will be any lasting repercussions from the shocking videos and pictures of the slaughter in Israel. These images compel only momentary attention for most people, and most people don’t matter anyway when it comes to foreign policy. Foreign affairs are decided and conducted by elites. For example, I don’t think most Americans would support the defense of Taiwan at the cost of thousands of American lives, but that decision has already been made by elites on both sides of the aisle. The one area where the massacre pictures might be decisive is that many non-Muslims might look at them and decide they no longer want Muslims in their country. They might not want to import Middle East war into their country.

* For one people to be safe, they sometimes have to destroy their enemies. By permitting Hamas to live, Israel got slaughtered. Israel should not have allowed Hamas to live, even if that meant occupying Gaza.

* The news keeps saying this was an intelligence failure by Israel. I doubt it. I bet there were many intelligence reports of the Hamas attack and the politicians and the IDF ignored them. NYT:

American and Israeli officials said none of Israel’s intelligence services had specific warning that Hamas was preparing a sophisticated assault…

Why was Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, now a dozen years old, apparently overwhelmed by the barrage of inexpensive but deadly missiles at the opening of the attack? How did Hamas manage to build such a big arsenal of rockets and missiles without Israeli intelligence detecting the growing stockpile?

Was Israel too focused on threats from Hezbollah and the West Bank, rather than focusing military and intelligence resources on Gaza? And why were so many Israeli forces on leave or distant from the southern border, allowing Hamas to overrun Israeli military bases near Gaza?

Claiming intelligence failure protects those in power, but when we learn more, we will likely see there were intelligence reports warning of a Hamas attack and people in power in Israel chose to ignore these reports. I suspect this disaster was primarily a political and military failure, not an intelligence failure. The advantage of blaming an intelligence failure is that you don’t have to hold specific people accountable. You can just blame a bureaucracy. When you say this was a political and military failure in Israel, there are specific persons (the leaders of Israel’s government and military) you must hold accountable.

It is not clear yet that this is primarily an Israel security complex failure or a political failure. Neither politicians nor generals are consistently right. According to reports from Israel, Netanyahu is not happy with the options the IDF has given him. “If you invite a rattlesnake into your bed, you are going to get bitten. Israel invited two rattlesnakes into its bed, the PLO and Hamas.”

* If America hadn’t subsidized Ukraine to the tune of tens of billions of dollars, Moscow would not have guided this Hamas attack on Israel. Richard Kemp writes for YNET:

Hands that pushed Hamas attack forward are in Moscow

The instability created by attack on Israel is intended to pull US attention, as well as resources, away from the war in Ukraine and prevent Israel-Saudi normalization.

President Joe Biden and European leaders have long feared an escalation of the Ukraine war and that is what they’ve now got. Unwilling to take the fight directly to NATO, instead, Putin has been fomenting conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, Serbia and Kosovo, in West Africa and now in Israel.

The instability created in these places is intended to pull US attention, as well as resources, away from the war in Ukraine. Let us not forget that the US recently withdrew large stocks of munitions stored in Israel and transferred them to Ukraine. If this war escalates further, which it may well do, they will have to be replaced by stocks that might otherwise be earmarked for Ukraine to use against Russia.

Just as Russia used Iran to supply large numbers of drones to attack Ukrainian civilians, it is now using Iran to encourage and enable these attacks in Israel. Iran is of course a more than willing partner whose leaders have repeatedly sworn death to Israel and America; as are its proxies in Gaza and also in Lebanon. Iran has long been directing, training, funding and supplying weapons to Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza as well as in Judea and Samaria, or the West Bank. Moscow too has maintained and developed connections with Palestinian terrorist groups and individual extremists, going back to Soviet days, when Putin himself as a KGB officer was dealing with Middle East terrorists including during his time in Dresden.

Hamas leaders, including terrorist boss Ismail Haniyah, have made a number of visits to Moscow since the Ukraine war began, meeting with senior government officials including Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. A delegation from their Gaza terrorist bedfellows, Islamic Jihad, led by its chief, Ziyad al-Nakhalah, also visited Moscow in March. Likewise, leaders of another Iranian proxy, Lebanese Hezbollah, have been welcome guests in Moscow. Hezbollah terrorists fought side by side with Russian troops in Syria and have since been involved in helping Moscow evade sanctions and, according to the US Treasury Department, may have received weapons in return….

Today, Gaza terrorists are not fighting alone, but with the backing of two powerful states, both motivated by renewed aggression against the US arising from the war in Ukraine, and that should change the strategic calculus.

Every major country has condemned these Hamas attacks but Russia and China.

* Israel’s most right-wing government ever is incompetent. Even if Bibi Netanyahu’s judicial reforms are a good idea, they divided the country and left it wide open to attack. Sometimes it is worth dividing a country to get something done, and sometimes it is not worth it.

* Bibi’s biggest claim to power was that he would keep Israelis safe. He hasn’t. He won’t last long as Israel’s prime minister.

* Nahum Barnea writes for YNET:

The security barrier in Gaza cost three and a half billion shekels. Above ground, underground, sensors, cameras, everything is the last word in technology. On Saturday, with the outbreak of the war, it collapsed, it was a wall of paper.

October 7, 2023 was a mega-blunder, a disgrace that the IDF has never known in all its years.

I will explain: The first disgrace was the intelligence. Again, as in 1973, the system saw all the telltale signs but arrogantly concluded that these were just exercises, idle training. The second disgrace was the ease with which the Hamas terrorists jumped over the barrier; the third disgrace was the ease with which they returned to Gaza with dozens of hostages; the fourth disgrace was the slow reaction of the IDF to the infiltration. Dozens of terrorists were walking around the Armored Corps base as if it was theirs, and there was no helicopter to shoot at them.

The Yom Kippur blunder had a bigger number of people killed, without comparison. This is true, of course. But in the ’73 Yom Kippur war we confronted the largest of the Arab armies, not a second-rate terrorist organization. Out of that painful war came a peace that endures today, 50 years after the cease-fire. It is hard to see right now what good will come out of this current war….

In the Shalit deal, Netanyahu released 1,027 terrorists in exchange for one captured soldier. The price of repeated terrorism was hard, some say unbearably hard. How many terrorists will Hamas demand to be released in exchange for dozens of prisoners? A deal would give Hamas one more victory. And most importantly, it will deal a heavy blow, another blow, to deterrence against Iran and Hezbollah, and further weaken the Palestinian Authority…

The Iron Dome is a wonderful invention that saved the lives of hundreds of Israelis. It is clear what would have happened if we did not have an Iron Dome; we would have had no choice but to go into a decisive battle against Hamas, including the occupation of Gaza. Is it possible that everything we achieved in the Iron Dome was a delay of a few years until the inevitable ground operation?

* There’s no difference in the way democracies and non-democracies pursue war. Democratic countries, for example, are not more considerate of civilian lives than non-democracies. John J. Mearsheimer wrote in his 2018 book The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities:

* A final, albeit indirect, reason to doubt that liberal norms carry much weight in international politics is that there is little evidence that liberal democracies fight wars in especially virtuous ways. Given the emphasis liberalism places on inalienable rights, one would expect liberal democracies to go to some lengths to avoid killing civilians, or at least do better than authoritarian states. This is one of the central tenets of just war theory, a quintessentially liberal theory that has individual rights at its core. 35 Michael Doyle, for instance, urges that all sides in a conflict maintain “a scrupulous respect for the laws of war.” 36

But when Alexander Downes did his groundbreaking study of civilian victimization in war, he found that “democracies are somewhat more likely than nondemocracies to target civilians.” 37 John Tirman shows in his detailed analysis of how the United States fights its wars that it has killed millions of civilians, many on purpose. 38 And although Geoffrey Wallace shows autocracies are more likely than democracies to abuse prisoners of war, he provides plenty of evidence that democracies mistreat their prisoners. 39 The widespread use of torture by the United States in the wake of 9/11 is just one example. Both Downes and Wallace show that when states get desperate in wartime, they quickly forget the enemy’s humanity and begin to value rights far less

* When foreigners murder Americans, it is of much more concern to the average American than when those same foreigners murder each other or people from other countries. 40 The outcry in the United States when the Islamic State (ISIS) beheaded two American journalists in 2014 is one of the events that persuaded President Obama to go to war against ISIS. 41 Americans had been appalled by the widespread carnage and destruction wrought by ISIS, but they cared more about the deaths of their fellow Americans. Meanwhile, Americans who murder foreigners, especially nonwhite foreigners, are rarely treated as harshly as Americans who murder their fellow citizens. For example, Lieutenant William Calley, who commanded the U.S. soldiers involved in the infamous My Lai massacre in Vietnam in March 1968, served only three and a half years under house arrest before he was freed, and he enjoyed overwhelming support from the public after his role was revealed in the media. Nobody else in his unit was convicted of a criminal offense, even though somewhere between 350 and 500 civilians, mostly women and children, were murdered. 42 Calley and those under his command surely would not have received such benevolent treatment if they had butchered that number of unarmed American civilians. As John Mueller notes: “Although Americans are extremely sensitive to American casualties, they seem to be remarkably in sensitive to casualties suffered by foreigners including essentially uninvolved — that is, innocent — civilians.” 43 John Tirman, who has done a major study on this subject, concurs: “One of the most remarkable aspects of American wars is how little we discuss the victims who are not Americans.” 44 Of course, this kind of thinking is not peculiar to the United States. All nations think this way, and it cuts directly against liberalism’s universalist dimension.

* The United States, for instance, has fought seven wars since the Cold War ended, and it initiated all seven. During that period it has been at war for two out of every three years. It is no exaggeration to say that the United States is addicted to war. Moreover, Britain, another liberal democracy, has been at America’s side throughout those wars. This helps explain why democratic peace theorists do not argue that democracies are generally more peaceful than non – democracies.

Several factors explain why democratic peoples sometimes favor starting wars. For one, there are sometimes good strategic reasons for war and most citizens will recognize them. Furthermore, democratic leaders are often adept at convincing reticent publics that war is necessary, even when it is not. 19 Sometimes not much convincing is necessary, because the people’s nationalist fervor is so great that, if anything, they are pushing their leaders to go to war, whether necessary or not. 20 Finally, it is wrong to assume that the public axiomatically pays a big price when its country goes to war. Wealthy countries often have a highly capitalized military, which means that only a small slice of the population actually serves. Moreover, liberal democracies are often adept at finding ways to minimize their casualties — for example, by using drones against an adversary. As for the financial costs, a state has many ways to pay for a war without seriously burdening its public. 21

The second institutional explanation is that it is more difficult for government leaders to mobilize a democracy to start a war. This cumbersome decision making is partly a function of the need to get public permission, which is time – consuming given the public’s natural reluctance to fight wars and risk death. The institutional obstacles built into democracies, like checks and balances, slow down the process. These problems make it difficult not only to start a war but also to formulate and execute a smart foreign policy.

If these claims were true, again, democracies would not initiate wars against non – democracies. But they do. There may be instances where democratic inefficiencies prevent governing elites from taking their country to war, although as I noted above, that will happen infrequently. Moreover, the institutional impediments that might thwart leaders bent on starting a war usually count for little, because the decision to start a war is often made during a serious crisis, in which the executive takes charge and checks and balances, as well as individual rights, are subordinated to national security concerns. In an extreme emergency, liberal democracies are fully capable of reacting swiftly and decisively, and initiating a war if necessary.

Virtual Pilgrim comments on my YT: “​I am more interested in the United States’ response to the Ukrainian war and the Israeli war then the war itself. I had three older brothers in the Vietnam War. One got 50% of his body scarred with 2nd degree burns. The other was shot down in a helicopter but survived. He told me a few years ago he still has PTSD. We were told how important that war was for ourselves and the world. In 2009, the manufacturing company I worked for (Datalogic) closed down our operation here and moved it to Vietnam to cut costs. Americans got doubly screwed coming and going – my brothers and myself included. Christian Zionist, John Hagee, is a warmonger who wants to send more white people to go die for foreigners while our borders are being overrun. So, don’t ask me to weep for them, because I’m too busy weeping for America.”

Reasonable comments on my Youtube video:

Word of the alarming news first reached many Orthodox communities via security guards, caretakers, home health aides, or other non-Jews routinely employed over the Sabbath and festivals. After nightfall Saturday, there was an additional, major (and completely /kosher/) source of news and rumors from the Holy Land: Visiting residents of there, where only /one day/ of Yom Tov is observed. While such guests may not /publicly/ desecrate the additional day of observance that is mandatory in the diapsora [יום טוב שני של גלויות] , in so far as /private/ conduct is concerned, they are not bound by its restrictions.

In short, it is not only entirely plausible but also quite /probable/ for a fully-observant Jew to learn of news of this nature on a Sabbath or holiday without transgressing any halachic restrictions.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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