What We Must Tell Blinken

With the resumption of fighting in the Gaza Strip, American Secretary of State Blinken has informed Israel of the restrictions under which the US will permit her to operate. No displacement of the civilian population, and fewer civilian casualties (although there are no numbers except those that come directly from Hamas). No bombing hospitals or schools, even when they are in fact sanctuaries for Hamas troops. No cutting off the supply of fuel, which Hamas uses to keep its tunnels lighted and ventilated. Nevertheless, we are told to finish up the war quickly, because our “credit” is running out. And just in case anyone thought that it should someday be possible for Israeli children to sleep peacefully in the communities of the Western Negev, no security zone on the Gazan side of the border, and no Israeli security control of Gaza. The implied threat is that if Israel goes “off the reservation,” the US will not supply her with essential ammunition and spare parts for our American weapons systems, nor veto hostile resolutions in the UN Security Council.

I don’t know how Israel has responded to these demands, made to our war cabinet where Mr. Blinken apparently has the right to sit. But I know how I think we should answer. And so I submit the following:

Dear Secretary Blinken,

We appreciate the support we receive from America in our war against the genocidal Hamas. We appreciate that you seem to understand that these monsters must be removed from power in Gaza, from which they have promised to repeat again and again the atrocities they committed against our people on 7 October, atrocities that were proportionally twenty times greater than those perpetrated against the US on 9/11. But despite your understanding, you insist on placing restrictions on how we may fight; indeed, on micromanaging the war for us.

Let us speak frankly: you are asking us, in the short term, to trade the lives of our soldiers for those of Gazan civilians, and you are measuring our performance in meeting this demand with numbers supplied by Hamas! You are asking us to fight in a way that at best will only partially defeat Hamas. You say you want Hamas removed from power, but the likely outcome of following your instructions will not accomplish that. You are asking us to fight in a way that Americans never have and never would. This is not how you fought in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

In the longer term, you are asking us to give up the entire Western Negev, which will become uninhabitable by Jews unless we retain security control of Gaza and unless we can establish a buffer zone between it and our population. You even aspire to create a unified, sovereign Palestinian state in all of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, something that would shortly bring about the end of the Jewish state.

We do not accept your restrictions and micromanagement of the war, and we will not trade the lives of our soldiers for anyone, not Gazans (who overwhelmingly support murderous violence against Jews, whether by Hamas or other groups), and not the electoral fortunes of the Obama-Biden faction of the Democratic Party.

We insist that when the war ends, appropriate conditions for the security of the Western Negev must be in place. And we must inform you that if you carry out your threat to cut off our supply of ammunition and parts for our modern American weapons, we will be forced to fight in less modern ways, and for much longer. The humanitarian crisis will, as a direct result, be far greater, and you will be responsible for it. Because we will not stop fighting what we see as an essential battle in the war for the survival of our nation and people, even if we have to fight with the most primitive of weapons.

We don’t have a choice. But you do. You can support us, or you can in effect support those who think that murder, torture, and rape are not only acceptable tactics, but praiseworthy. You can help us end the war quickly, or you can extend it, with all the pain and suffering that entails. But know this: either way, Hamas will not escape judgment.

Virtually Everyone in Israel

Posted in Israel and Palestinian Arabs, US-Israel Relations, War | 8 Comments

How To Get Our Honor Back

Look for a moment at the Israel-Gaza war in a different way, a Middle Eastern way. Look at it in terms of honor and shame. Despite the fact that these ideas are almost gone from the West – replaced in some places by “woke” concepts that are almost unintelligible here – they are tremendously important. The tribes of the Middle East still operate in a zero-sum world, where the weak are prey, deterrence is paramount, and honor is deterrence. And Israel’s future, if she has one, will be dependent on her relations with her Middle Eastern neighbors and not with post-Christian Europe and North America.

Everything about the terrible attack on southern Israel on 7 October was designed and choreographed as an attack on her honor. The rapes and torture, and (especially) the video documentation thereof, the emphasis on the degradation of women, the inclusion of Israeli Arabs and foreign workers in the massacre (to show that we couldn’t protect them), the killing of men and the capture of women and children (to become slaves) were more important than the transient military advantage resulting from the invasion.

The crowning glory of the attack was the hostage-taking, because, as the Hamas leaders understood, it enabled the subjugation of the Jews to the will of Hamas. Suddenly all our tanks and F-35s are rendered useless, and we are required to jump to the commands of Hamas, to beg for the lives of the women and children in their cruel hands, as they strut around and preen themselves, to worldwide applause.

This, as they see it, is enabled by the essential weakness of Israeli society, the society that Hamas leaders learned about as they served prison sentences (in the case of Yahya Sinwar, a sentence that was cut short as part of the obscenely excessive ransom for one Israeli soldier).

From 7 October to today, everything has gone according to the Hamas plan. The deal that was made will enable its military capability and political control to survive. They have precisely calibrated it according to their understanding of our society, the political situation in the US, and the expected behavior of the international community. The message to the most important audience, the tribes of the Middle East, has been received. Israel has no honor; anyone can hurt us, even a group like Hamas that is little more than an ISIS-like militia. The Iranian axis is the “strong horse.”

It needn’t be this way. Even now, it isn’t too late to recover our honor and our deterrence. The war should be resumed, with a strong offensive to finish off Hamas’ military capability in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. We should demand that all hostages be released within a specified time period (a few days). If this does not occur to our satisfaction, not only will the Hamas leadership all be targeted and killed, but their families as well. In effect, they will be our hostages. In either case, the war will continue until the military capability and political control of Hamas over Gaza is ended.

I can only imagine the objections. It will endanger the captives. It is barbaric. It is collective punishment. Let me answer the last two first: call it what you will, it is the way a tribe must behave in the Middle East to survive. This is especially important for a small country without strategic depth like Israel, which can’t afford mistakes. Israel’s attempts to act according to the moral precepts of large Western nations (which, of course, the hypocritical Westerners violate with impunity whenever it is to their advantage) places her at a great disadvantage in asymmetric warfare with typical Middle-Eastern tribal societies like Hamas, possibly an existential one.

The first objection is more serious. It is true that anything other than complete surrender to all of Hamas’ demands will endanger the captives to some extent. But allowing Hamas to survive, giving it military advantages, and releasing terrorist prisoners will also have its price. We can’t put up posters of future victims of Hamas, but they are certain to exist. As Caroline Glick has said, the only difference is that we know the names of today’s captives. The others areas yet unknown, but they are no less real. And if we do not regain our deterrence, we can expect that there will be many more of them.

Posted in Israel and Palestinian Arabs, War | 2 Comments


The government of Israel has agreed to a stupid, shameful deal with Hamas. If the government continues along this path – and it seems almost certain to do so – it will mark the turning point of the war in Gaza. In retrospect, it will be seen as the point at which it became clear that Hamas will retain control of the Gaza strip.

The details of the deal, as I understand them this morning, are that Hamas will return some 50 of the 240 hostages they are holding, women and children. The Red Cross will be allowed to visit the remaining hostages. In return, Hamas will receive a cease-fire of four days, during which Israel agrees not to fly (I presume both drones and manned aircraft are included) over the northern part of Gaza for six hours each day. There will be no flights at all over the southern part. Israel has agreed to extend the cease-fire for an additional day for every ten hostages released. In addition, Israel will release some 150 to 300 Palestinian women and teenagers imprisoned in Israel for offenses less serious than murder. Israel will allow fuel and an increased amount of humanitarian goods to be brought into Gaza.

Not so bad, right? Wrong – it’s a disaster.

The IDF has been rolling up Hamas in Gaza. Another week or two of fighting would be decisive. It would liquidate Hamas’ military capability and civil control. All that would remain would be to mop up. What would happen next is a difficult question, but it will not be relevant if Hamas remains in control or retains significant military capability.

A cease-fire will allow Hamas to resupply its soldiers, to rebuild damaged communications systems, to reestablish the chain of command where key commanders (who were specifically targeted by the IDF) have been killed. It will allow them to reinforce their weak points and those places where they expect the IDF to attack. It will allow them to repair damaged systems for launching rockets. The no-fly restriction will allow them to move remaining hostages to more secure locations and extricate key personnel from areas where they are in danger without being tracked. At least some if not all of the fuel, food, and medicine that will be entering the Strip will be hijacked for Hamas’ purposes. Fuel in particular is needed to operate generators that supply power for ventilation of the tunnels where Hamas operatives live and from which they fight.

In short, a few days of cease-fire translate directly into a much longer extension of the war. From the start of the ground invasion on 27 October and until 20 November, 66 IDF soldiers have been killed in combat in Gaza (this of course is in addition to the 1200 civilians and soldiers killed on 7 October, and the unknown number of hostages who are no longer alive). For every day that the war is extended, IDF soldiers will be lost. And some of the toughest fighting is ahead.

It must be assumed that the international pressure to stop the war before Israel obtains her objectives will not go away; rather, it will probably increase as a result of the cease-fire. The obscene accusations of “genocide” will only become louder. There is concern that the cease-fire will expand, ultimately to become indefinitely long. The pressure on the Biden administration to force Israel to stop fighting will only grow.

The provision to release hostages in groups will present insupportable choices for the government: how will it be able to tell the families that have children or parents still in captivity that their family members will not be redeemed, when others have? Indeed, as long as Hamas has even one captive, its leverage will remain. The well-organized families of the hostages have underlined their – totally understandable, but also tragically wrong – contention that the primary goal of the war should be to return the hostages rather than to defeat Hamas, by blocking the main highway near Tel Aviv on Saturday night.

Indeed, this aspect of the deal is the most dangerous part of it. The first group of hostages will be traded for women and teen-aged terrorists without blood on their hands; but surely there will be more expansive demands made for the next group. The more hostages are freed, the harder it will become for the government to hold out against the pressure to give in to the increasingly severe demands of their captors. And Hamas has already announced that its objective is to obtain the release of all Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, including (especially) the worst of mass murderers.

Ariel Kahane, writing in Israel Hayom today, compared the choices facing the government to those facing the Judenraten in the Nazi-controlled ghettos, who were asked to provide lists of Jews to be deported to death camps, or see the entire ghetto liquidated.

If Hamas is not decisively defeated, it will encourage Hezbollah to increase the pressure in the north, as well as possibly to undertake a hostage-taking operation of its own. It will put the wind in the sails of Hamas and other terrorist factions in Judea and Samaria. It will send a message to Iran, and also to Israel’s hoped-for allies in the Arab world that Israel is weak, unable to stand up to extortion, and unable to defeat a force which is more akin to a terrorist militia than a real army. It will be a massive blow to our honor and therefore our deterrence.

In summary: this deal promises an extension of the war, which will cost Israel in the lives of the best of her young men. It will result in the release of numerous terrorists, most likely ultimately including the worst mass murderers, those who should not even be alive, rather than free to kill again. It will enable the “international community” to put the brakes on the IDF, both in the way it fights and in the time it is allowed to do so. It will, in my estimation, allow Hamas to remain in control of at least part of the Gaza Strip, and perhaps to retain some hostages for further leverage. It will encourage Israel’s enemies and damage her attempts to make allies in the Middle East.

Psychologically, it reinforces the false equivalence between kidnapped hostages and convicted terrorists. It legitimizes terrorism and hostage-taking – consider the absurdity that Israel has agreed to blind her eyes in the sky, because otherwise they might find the hostages and be able to rescue them!

The deal is a disaster, a surrender to the monsters of Hamas that murdered, tortured, and raped our people and who have said that they will do it again if given the chance. It is open-ended in a way that can only lead to even worse acts of appeasement.

Our young soldiers overwhelmed their commanders in their desire to fight; some reserve units didn’t have enough weapons for all of those who volunteered. They are fighting ferociously and heroically. As of yesterday, sixty-six of them will not go home to their families, and many others have been so severely wounded that they will never live normal lives. They were winning, and the decision taken by the government is nothing less than a betrayal.

Posted in Israel and Palestinian Arabs, War | 5 Comments

Passivity is Killing Us

Israel’s defensive strategy in recent years has been primarily passive. Passive defense does not target an enemy, but puts obstacles in his path. Our passive defenses include security barriers on our borders, with a billion-dollar one under and above the ground next to Gaza. We have built a technological marvel of a layered anti-missile defense system. Such means can – sometimes and to some extent – mitigate the damage that an enemy can do, and are an important part of a country’s defensive strategy. But even when they are successful, they do not deter or weaken the enemy. Indeed, they encourage him to improve his technology and his tactics and try again.

In the early days of the State of Israel, there were no Iron Domes or sensor-laden fences. We responded to terrorist attacks by vicious retaliation – for example, by the famous Unit 101, commanded by Ariel Sharon. That is active defense. Active defenses also have a flaw, especially for a country with little strategic depth, which is that an enemy can do a great deal of damage by a surprise attack before a response can be mounted. But an active defense has deterrent power that passive means do not. And, most importantly: a passive defense alone never won a war. The RAF won the Battle of Britain, but it took land invasions from the east and west to defeat the Nazis.

Over-reliance on passive defense can be dangerous. The Maginot and Bar-Lev lines were circumvented, and the Gaza fence penetrated. Iron Dome can be overwhelmed by mass launches of rockets, and is economically unsustainable. Hamas’ success in its murderous attack on southern Israel was made possible in large measure by our overemphasis, over a period of years, on passive tactics. With each round of fighting, Hamas improved its ability to get rockets through the Iron Dome. Because we haven’t seriously tried to destroy its infrastructure, Hamas was able to build and improve the tunnel system that we are now paying in Israeli lives to destroy. And because of our arrogance and overconfidence, the astronomically expensive security barrier proved almost worthless.

And there is another aspect that must be considered: the psychological effect, not just in Israel, but throughout the world. It has become generally accepted that Israel is a target, in way that Russia, for example, could never be. It became understandable that “frustrated” Palestinians could launch thousands of rockets at us while we bombed empty buildings in return, or Houthis in Yemen could launch Iranian missiles at our cities from 2000 km. away. Why not? We didn’t retaliate seriously.

Passive defense is more popular with the international community than active retaliation. You don’t often read in the NY Times or the Guardian about the suffering of the Qassam missiles that are blown to bits by Iron Dome. The world has gotten used to Israel responding in the most measured way to attacks that would cause other nations to strike out viciously, as the US did after 9/11. Although Israel’s record of fighting in populated areas while minimizing civilian casualties is much better than that of any other country, including the US, we receive daily warnings from President Biden to try harder in that respect. The unstated subtext is he can pull the plug on us at any moment.

I do not want to say that our unbalanced defensive posture is anyone’s fault but our own. But it appears to fit American policy, which since 1973 has been that Israel should never be permitted to win a decisive victory, and must return to her pre-1967 size. And the US uses the very powerful lever of military aid to encourage this. It’s easy to get funding for Iron Dome interceptors, but hard or impossible to get bunker busters or tanker aircraft for midair refueling. At this moment, the US Secretary of State is on his way here again to keep a tight rein on us, and an American general is sitting with our Chief of Staff to “help” us manage the war with Hamas.

Our dependence on American military aid and overemphasis on passive defense has gotten us into a very dangerous situation. Not that we can’t defeat Hamas, even though it will be significantly more costly than it would have been in January of 2009 (when Obama’s people told us to get the IDF out of Gaza before the inauguration). The real danger is in the end game, where the US State Department and administration believe they will finally be able to implement their long-sought goal of a unified sovereign Palestinian state in Judea, Samaria, the Jordan Valley, and Gaza, under the control of the PLO.

I won’t speculate today about whether they understand that this would be a major step toward the end of the Jewish state, but that is in fact the case. Israel must do whatever she can to prevent the imposition of this “solution.” The best way to remove the threat from Gaza, to prevent a Palestinian terror state from coming into existence, and to send a message to all of our enemies that we will no longer be a passive target would be to destroy Hamas, to force a large part of the population of the Gaza strip to emigrate, and to establish Israeli control over it.

Can Israel stand up against the US – or at least against powerful circles in the American government? We’d better. Our survival depends on it.

Posted in Terrorism, US-Israel Relations, War | 2 Comments

Tribal Warfare

The deliberate viciousness of the attack by Hamas on southern Israel was an announcement of the tribal nature of the conflict. Although it is true that the initial assault troops were followed by a civilian rabble that participated joyfully in the mass murder, rape, and looting, the Hamas soldiers themselves received explicit orders (this is documented) to perpetrate a terrorist massacre with all the trimmings, and they did so exceeding the expectations of their commanders.

This wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t merely an outburst of the hatred that is drilled into all Gazans by their Hamas-controlled (and UN-supported) educational system, although that is what made it possible for human beings to become monsters. The savagery was fully intended by the Hamas leadership.

A tribal war is fought for territory, but it is also fought for honor. And honor is gained (or in the case of Palestinians, lost honor is regained) by humiliating the enemy. And this is done here in the Middle East by exaggerated cruelty, especially to the weakest elements of the enemy tribe. That’s why Hamas fighters and their followers tortured women in unmentionable ways and overcame the normal human resistance to hurting children and the elderly.

There is little distinction between civilians and soldiers in tribal warfare, except insofar as soldiers are considered more dangerous. An enemy is an enemy, and you kill enemies.

This did not endear Hamas to some in the West, which had adopted humanistic standards for warfare after WWII, when the folks who had incinerated hundreds of thousands of Japanese and German civilians decided that they would outlaw tribal forms of warfare (indeed they even outlawed war itself). But tribal peoples, like those who inhabit our region, never signed on to the Western vision expressed by the UN Charter; indeed, they never really bought the idea of nations, and certainly not a framework defined by international law.

They operate in a different framework, one in which there are friendly tribes and there are enemy tribes; and what you do to an enemy is kill him before he kills you. You kill him by any means necessary, and you don’t spare women and children. And if you are Hamas or the PLO, you employ the Arab equivalent of WWII’s strategic bombing – murderous terrorism against enemy civilians. The object is to remove the enemy tribe from contact with yours. Genocide is a strategy.

But now we come to our situation. Americans and Europeans who seem to have forgotten Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Dresden, expect Israel to play by the rules that they made up (and don’t follow). Which is hard to do when you face an enemy whose very basic ways of fighting – human shields and hostages, terrorism of every kind, random rocketing of civilian areas, etc. – violate the laws of war that the West expects us to obey more carefully than they ever do.

One of the interesting things about humans is their ambivalence toward cruelty. On the one hand, we saw some reactions of revulsion to the massive pogrom (notably including the US president), even on the part of a few who had heretofore accepted claims that Israel oppresses the Palestinians in Gaza. But at the same time, there was a massive outpouring of support for Hamas, huge demonstrations in cities like London and New York, and of course on college campuses. Some of the demonstrators were Palestinians or Muslims who were expressing their tribal loyalty, but others were Westerners whose primitive, atavistic lizard brains reveled in the blood and suffering of the Jews. And of course it was cause for great celebration among the Arabs of Judea and Samaria, as well as throughout the Arab world. In this respect, the Hamas strategy paradoxically achieved a propaganda victory.

We in Israel do not want to fight like Hamas. We don’t want to rape their women and butcher their children. On the other hand, we are not interested in committing suicide for the sake of the moral principles of the hypocritical West. And we have a message to send to Hamas and to all our enemies: we can and will fight as brutally as necessary. If we don’t do this, if we allow this campaign to end with an inconclusive whimper as so many previous ones have, then it will just be a matter of time before we are forced to leave up our beautiful homeland, perhaps for the last time, for an increasingly dark diaspora.

Posted in Israel and Palestinian Arabs, Terrorism, War | 4 Comments

The Day After

I’m going to make this short, because it really is simple.

After Hamas is completely extirpated from Gaza, militarily and politically, and its leadership wiped out, then what?

The Biden Administration wants to see the Palestinian Authority put in control, which, they think, will finally enable the two-state solution they have been trying to impose since the 1970s. Israel cannot allow this.

The PA, dominated by the terrorist organization Fatah, is no more prepared to suffer a Jewish state next door than Hamas. The only thing that prevents PA Arabs from doing precisely the same thing that Hamas did on 7 October is the day in, day out activity of the Shabak and the IDF to arrest or kill terrorists and interrupt their plans.

If you don’t believe this, look at what the PA says in its own media. But even if this weren’t true, and the PA actually was a “moderate” institution interested in peaceful development of a Palestinian state, what prevents it from being taken over by extremists? After all, this is precisely what happened in Gaza after Israel withdrew its soldiers, expelled its civilians by force, and even exhumed its dead from Gazan cemeteries in 2005 (think about why this last step was necessary).

As long as there is Palestinian sovereignty in Gaza, there is no doubt that it will develop into a base for terrorism. Those residents of the Western Negev that survived the pogrom of 7 October will not return. In effect Israel will cede a large part of her country to her enemies.

Another suggestion is that there should be some kind of international control of the area. It’s hard not to burst out laughing at this idea, when one considers the history of such arrangements, like the UN force in Lebanon that stood by and watched after the 2006 Second Lebanon War, as Iran built Hezbollah into a existential threat to Israel with 130,000 rockets aimed at every inch of the country.

Only Israeli control of Gaza can guarantee the safety of the Western Negev, and ensure that the next war – which is certainly coming – will not have a southern front.

Possibly civil control can be rested in the Arab clans that are powerful in the various areas of the Gaza Strip; but there will be no alternative to an IDF presence to provide overall security and prevent an extremist takeover. The only other alternative is forced emigration of a large part of the population and military occupation of the territory.

What is true of Gaza is also true of Judea and Samaria. Palestinian sovereignty there would lead to a terrorist base a few kilometers from the population centers of Israel. This has happened consistently whenever Israel has withdrawn from territory she controlled and international guarantees have never made any difference. The topography of the region is such that Israel cannot be defended against attack from a Palestinian state there or from the east if she does not control the high ground of Judea, Samaria, and the Jordan Valley.

This isn’t controversial from a strategic point of view, though the Palestinians and their supporters find it unpalatable. But it cannot be Israel’s problem that the Arab leadership embraced, and never renounced, a fundamentally antisemitic position that rejects any Jewish state between the river and the sea. If they had the power that Israel has, they would kill or banish every last Jew, as happened in numerous Arab countries after 1948. We are (possibly wrongly) more tolerant. But we won’t tolerate being murdered.

Israel has several difficult tasks ahead of her, a consequence of the failure to see and understand reality in the Middle East that led to the Oslo Accords, the withdrawal from Gaza, and other strategic mistakes. In order of immediacy, they are: to eliminate Hamas and take control of the Gaza Strip; to remove the military threat posed by Hezbollah; to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons; and to establish permanent Israeli sovereignty in Judea, Samaria, and the Jordan Valley.

None of these are easy – maybe Gaza is actually the easiest – from a military and especially a political/diplomatic standpoint. But they are essential to the survival of the Jewish state, and therefore – as events in the diaspora are teaching us – to the Jewish people.

Posted in Israel and Palestinian Arabs, Terrorism, War | 3 Comments

The American Front

An American friend asked me yesterday where I thought our greatest dangers lie. Getting bogged down in Gaza? The northern front, facing Hezbollah and the Iranian militias in Syria? The soon-to-be nuclear Iran? Another intifada in Judea and Samaria? Violent riots by Arab citizens of Israel?

None of those, I said. The greatest danger facing Israel today is from the Americans.

My friend was surprised. How is that possible? President Biden expressed his full support for Israel, and is supplying us with weapons and ammunition, and has sent significant naval forces to our region. He threatened Iran against intervening. Congress just overwhelmingly passed a resolution of support for Israel. What more do I want?

So I explained that the problem with America is the same problem that we had here in Israel until October 7. It is the conseptzia, the stubborn resistance to the reality that is behind the conflict that has been going on for at least a century, and of which the butchery on Simchat Torah was just the most recent flareup.

What is the conseptzia? It is a collection of wrong ideas, a constellation of misunderstandings about who the Palestinians are, what motivates them, and what they want. It involves the mistaken projection of a set of values common in the West on a people that have different values, a stubborn refusal to listen to them, and a consistent underestimation of their intelligence, their tenacity, and the exceptionally strong emotion of hatred that infuses their culture.

Right now someone is asking how I can generalize. There are several million Palestinians, and multiple political and religious factions. How can I say they are all the same? Hold that thought – I will come back to it.

Here are a few false propositions that are part of the conseptzia:

1. Like most present-day Americans and Western Europeans, Palestinians are primarily motivated by economic considerations and only secondarily by religion and ideology.
2. The violent terrorism of the Palestinians comes from their frustration that they do not have an independent state.
3. Palestinians are essentially corrupt and will give up their ideological goals if paid enough.
4. The Palestinian Authority (dominated by the Fatah movement) is more moderate than Hamas, and would accept a Jewish state somewhere between the river and the sea if enough of their demands were met.

The reasons none of these are true come from the nature of Palestinian culture.

Palestinian culture is very different from that of liberal Americans or Europeans. That is not surprising, since it developed in an entirely different place from different antecedents. The starting point is traditional nomadic Arab culture, with its emphasis on maintaining personal and family honor and avoiding shame. The Arabs of Eretz Yisrael, who came from various parts of the region, did not consider themselves Palestinians in the beginning of the 20th century (with the exception of a small movement made up of educated Christian Arabs). Their identity was as part of their clans, and as part of the Muslim Ummah. As far as they were concerned, Eretz Yisrael was southern Syria.

Once the 400-year yoke of the Ottomans was removed and Jewish immigration increased, Muslim resistance to the possibility of a Jewish state grew, and was especially encouraged by Amin al-Husseini, the British-appointed, Nazi-supporting, Mufti of Jerusalem. The British had their own reasons for preferring Arab sovereignty when they left in in 1948, and they supported resistance by local Arabs as well as an invasion by the Arab states. But as everyone knows, the Jews succeeded in defeating the Arabs, Arab society in Eretz Yisrael collapsed, and hundreds of thousands of Arabs fled the area that became the State of Israel.

This was the nakba, a terrible blow to the honor of all the Arabs, who were defeated – and to Islam which was outraged by the reversion of an area from Muslim to infidel rule. And they lost to Jews, the Jews that Mohammed routed in the 7th century and who were permitted to live in Muslim lands only as dhimmis, institutionally inferior to Muslims. It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of this event in forming a specifically Palestinian culture, a culture that grew out of this massive loss of honor. To be Palestinian is to suffer from the nakba, and to dream of reversing and avenging it.

During the 1960s, the Soviets encouraged Palestinian nationalism, adding to it some spices of Marxism-Leninism, and presenting the Palestinians to the world as an oppressed third-world people fighting a war of national liberation against European colonialism. Later we had the “Zionism is racism” resolution in the execrable UN, followed by the 2001 anti-racism summit in Durban, South Africa, which emphasized this theme (despite its complete inapplicability to the conflict), leading to today’s accusations of “apartheid.” Despite all this, which is mostly intended to make Western liberals comfortable with idea of wiping Israel off the map, the Palestinian consciousness still centers on the shame of the nakba.

The honor lost in 1948, and which has continued throughout “the occupation” (to Palestinians this means the period of Jewish sovereignty that began in 1948), can only be recovered by reversing the nakba, bringing back all those who fled in 1948 and their descendants, and establishing Palestinian sovereignty over the land. It is also a religious imperative to restore rule by Muslims. Finally, the shame of what has occurred is so great, that the reversal must be accomplished with great violence. Only if the land runs with blood can the accumulated insults of the last 75 years finally be avenged.

This is Palestinian culture. This is what separates Palestinians from other Arabs and Muslims, many of whom can accept the existence of a Jewish state. With various modifications and different emphasis, this is what every Palestinian child learns in school, whether in a Hamas or UNRWA school in Gaza, or a PA school in Judea/Samaria. It is even to a great degree taught to Arab citizens of Israel in the Israeli Arab educational system. It is what Palestinians hear from their leaders, in their mosques, on the TV and radio, and in their newspapers and social media. It’s what Palestinians say in Arabic, and often in English too.

Certainly there are Palestinians for whom economic goals are important; there are secular ones and Christians; and there are those who hate violence and believe in democracy. There is opposition to Hamas in Gaza and to the PA in Judea/Samaria. But the basic ideas are unchallenged – they are pervasive in the culture itself. They are the conventional wisdom, the motherhood and apple pie of Palestinians, and some form of them is accepted by the great majority. Polls consistently show that most Palestinians favor armed resistance against Israel, and elections are almost always won by the most radical candidate. If that isn’t enough, Palestinian values are often enforced by men with guns.

So that is why the ultra-violent massacre in the south was cheered by Palestinians everywhere. And that is why the propositions of the conseptzia are false. Honor/shame and religion are at the top of the list of motivators for the Palestinians. Palestinians have consistently chosen violence over statehood, and weapons over economic development. They are not frustrated because they don’t have an independent state – they are infuriated because we have one on what they believe is their property. If we give them money for development, they will take it (and skim off plenty from the top for the benefit of their leadership). But the PA will always pay terrorists and their families, and Hamas will not stop building tunnels and rockets.

The Palestinians can’t be bought off and they can’t be persuaded that it is in their interest to live at peace alongside a Jewish state. The various factions have different strategies and tactics, but their ultimate objective is the same: Israel must disappear.

The Americans are dangerous, because they don’t or won’t accept this. The Americans have been slaves to the conseptzia since at least 1967. Biden, Blinken, and the rest continue to talk about a “two-state solution”, by which they mean a Palestinian state under the PA in Judea/Samaria and Gaza (sometimes even with a road between them cutting Israel in two!) What happened on October 7 shows that this is unacceptable. If Israel loses control of Judea and Samaria, the horrific events in the lightly populated Gaza Envelope could be repeated, this time in Tel Aviv. Even if the PA were more moderate than Hamas (it isn’t), who is to say a moderate leadership wouldn’t be replaced by an extreme one? Indeed, Gaza was originally ruled by the PA, but Hamas won the PA elections; and when in 2007 it wasn’t allowed to take power, it overthrew the PA in Gaza, tossed local officials off buildings, and took over.

Ordinary Israelis understand this, and our government seems to as well. This is why it announced that it did not want to decide at this time what would happen in Gaza after Hamas is defeated. It is obvious to us that only some form of Israeli control in both Gaza and Judea/Samaria can protect us, and it is equally obvious that the Americans oppose that. That’s why they are demanding that we come up with a plan for “the day after.” Israel would prefer not to have this argument today.

There are two kinds of people that favor a two-state solution: those that don’t understand Palestinians, and those that do and want to hurt Israel. I believe that Biden belongs to the first group, but there are far too many in his administration and the State Department in the second.

Posted in Israel and Palestinian Arabs, Jew Hatred, Terrorism, US-Israel Relations, War | 4 Comments

We Forgot

You shall remember what Amalek did to you on the way, when you went out of Egypt,

how he happened upon you on the way and cut off all the stragglers at your rear, when you were faint and weary, and he did not fear God.

It will be, when the Lord your God grants you respite from all your enemies around in the land which the Lord, your God, gives to you as an inheritance to possess, that you shall obliterate the remembrance of Amalek from beneath the heavens. You shall not forget! — Dvarim 25:17-19

I have heard this read in the synagogue numerous times, and taken part in discussions of the meaning of this mitzvah (commandment). But I did not truly understand it until Simchat Torah of this year.

A mitzvah can always be understood in relation to actions. The well-known injunction to “love thy neighbor” in Lev. 18:19 appears in context as “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” It does not require me to have a warm feeling toward the residents of the apartment next to mine. Rather, it orders me to avoid feuding with other Jews (not always an easy thing).

The commandment to remember Amalek does not mean to produce in myself a certain state of mind, similar to what I aspire to when my wife tells me to remember to bring home a carton of milk. That would be impossible anyway, because I wasn’t there in the desert when Amalek first did its dirty deeds. How can I remember what I didn’t experience? So what does “remember” mean here?

What I realized on Simchat Torah was that it means that we must not only keep in mind the evil that Amalek intends, but we must act on that awareness. It means that we must not let our guard down, we must take positive actions to prepare for Amalek’s viciousness. Only after we have achieved our independence in the land of Israel and fully defeated all of our enemies, can we stand down from our condition of high alert. Only when Amalek is finally obliterated will it be safe to obliterate our memory of it.

This has actually been the human condition for ages, and remains the condition of most of the world’s population today. If a tribe forgets that it has enemies, it will soon be swallowed up. But recently, several generations have grown up in North America and Western Europe whose enemies have been kept far enough away from them that they’ve come to believe that it’s normal to live in peace. It is actually exceptional. I think that shortly they may find out that this isn’t true.

For Jews, the wolf of Amalek is always at the door. This is certainly true in Eretz Yisrael, where Amalek has been battering at us for at least the last 100 years. But since 1967, many Israeli Jews have lost the existential anxiety that gripped the generation of 1948. The Yom Kippur War was a reminder of it, but the fact that we recovered from the initial defeat and won a clear-cut military victory (though it was taken from us diplomatically) and that our enemies didn’t penetrate our home front, soon erased the fear of the first days of the war. There were other warnings, but the desire to live as though we were one of the large Western democracies made us suppress the precarious reality of the Middle East in which we live.

So we reduced the size of our ground army, and relaxed many of the procedures that were, it turns out, essential to protecting our people. We have become dependent: on America, on technology, on our Air Force. Officers assumed that we were so strong that nobody would challenge us, so it was safe for them to fudge a little on their reports to higher-ups. What could happen? Our General Staff decided that technology could replace boots on the ground; they advocated for a “digital battlefield” on which every soldier would be tied into sophisticated information systems that would provide real-time intelligence and command, blah blah blah. Their reports all said that goals were achieved. A whole paper structure was built that did not reflect reality. The map was not the territory. “We’ve never been stronger,” said the top generals, until Hamas revealed their nakedness on October 7.

Our leaders should have known the intentions of our enemies. All they had to do was listen to what the spokespeople of Hamas, Hezbollah, the PLO, and Iran said in public. But perhaps because they themselves were so easily bought, they held our enemies in contempt. They assumed that quiet could be purchased with American dollars to the PLO and Qatari cash for Hamas. But it turns out, as anyone who has studied the Middle East even a little knows, that money was only a means to an end. They were happy to take it and build fancy villas for themselves, but they also dug tunnels and manufactured rockets. And they never lost their aspiration to once and for all kill and drive out the Jews from what they claim as their land.

The generals and the politicians forgot that we are not a large western democracy, but rather a small country in the Middle East. They forgot that our enemies are not stupid. They forgot that honor and deterrence go together. They forgot that the more complicated a system, the more weak points it has, and that technology can fail. They forgot that Maginot Lines never work. They forgot that only ground forces can hold territory.

Most importantly, they forgot how much our enemies hate us and how this motivates them. They forgot Amalek.

Posted in Israeli Society, Jew Hatred, War | 2 Comments