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.