In a nutshell: the Palestinian militant group Hamas, in collaboration with Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, launched a deadly attack on Israel on 7 October 2023 which resulted in a brutal massacre of Israeli civilians and soldiers, followed by a brutal massacre of Palestinians by the Israeli air force.
Netanyahu is fully responsible for this war and any sensible person has to suspect that he deliberately engineered it to distract the Israeli public opinion from his attempted coup. Large demonstrations against Netanyahu had been taking place in Israel since at least March 2023. Netanyahu was accused of corruption in 2018. In 2021 he was ousted by a coalition of opposition parties, but in 2022 he managed to become prime minister again by allying himself with the far-right parties. Upon returning as prime minister, he has been trying to overhaul the judicial system so that he would be above the law and avoid jail. Hence the large demonstrations against him: in order to save his neck, he would basically destroy Israel’s semi-democracy and turn Israel into a full-fledged dictatorship.
Then, in order to distract the Israeli public from his attempted coup and in order to prove that the country needs a tough leader like him, Netanyahu launched countless military raids against Palestinians, so much so that 2023 is already the deadliest year on record for Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, despite the fact that the West Bank is run by the Israeli-friendly Palestinian Authority.
At the same time, he made sure to provoke and outrage the Palestinians on an almost daily basis. Witness testimony in the trial of Netanyahu for corruption started in April 2021. What a coincidence that in May 2021 Israeli soldiers stormed the Al Aqsa mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam, in the middle of Ramadan, something that outraged not only the Palestinians but the whole Islamic world and apparently the very event that triggered the decision by Hamas to carry out this terrorist attack.
Israel’s recent incursion in July into the West Bank city of Jenin humiliated the Palestinian Authority and its president, the aging and powerless Mahmoud Abbas. Two weeks before the Hamas invasion, Netanyahu stood on the podium of the United Nations in New York showing a map of Israel that included the entire West Bank and Gaza, literally obliterating the Palestinian people. The topic of his speech was how to achieve lasting peace in the Middle East. Netanyahu’s idea of “peace” is exactly Hitler’s idea of the “pure race”: it requires the extermination of Palestinians just like Hitler’s required the extermination of Jews.
If this weren’t enough, Netanyahu has also expanded the Israeli settlements in the West Bank, basically stealing land from Palestinian families to give it to Israeli fanatics.
Protected by such a prime minister, Israeli settlers have been staging raids against harmless Palestinian families. These Israeli settlers are as amoral and remorseless as
Hitler's Nazi squads of the 1930s.
Entire Palestinian villages are being appropriated illegally by Israeli settlers with the tacit collusion of Israel's army and government. Basically, Netanyahu has been encouraging Israeli settlers to carry out pogroms against their Palestinian neighbors.
All of this was designed to provoke the Palestinians into attacking Israel, so that Netanyahu would benefit from the biggest possible distraction: a full-fledged war.
There is further evidence that Netanyahu engineered the massacre carried out by Hamas. To start with, nobody can reasonably believe that Netanyahu didn’t know of Hamas’ plans. Israel has arguably the most extensive and well-funded intelligence service in the Middle East (the Mossad), one of the best in the world, a secret service that has infiltrated Palestinian groups so well that Israel can carry out surgical strikes and targeted assassinations pretty much at will. In this case, instead, we would have to believe that Israel spies failed miserably to learn what Hamas was planning (a plan that must have involved thousands of militants for several weeks) and failed miserably to stop Hamas and failed miserably even to assist the victims as they were being massacred. It strains credulity.
Furthermore, there are reliable rumors that Egypt informed Netanyahu’s government of an impending Hamas attack. Netanyahu denies this, but he is a congenital liar, so his denial almost amounts to an admission. One person who believes the Egytian source is the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael McCaul, a strong supporter of Israel (quote: “we know the Egyptian intelligence service handed this off days before the terrorist invasion”).
Finally, think how unprepared Israel was to prevent or at least stop the invasion: hundreds of Hamas militants were able to overrun Israeli border posts and attack multiple targets inside Israel. In some cases it took hours before the Israeli military showed up to defend the civilians hunted by Hamas. It appears that Netanyahu's government did everything it could to facilitate Hamas' attack.
My take on this: first Netanyahu provoked a Palestinian attack, then, when he learned that it was coming, he made sure that Israel would be unprepared to stop it.
If this is not the case, then Netanyahu’s government is the most grotesquely incompetent government to ever rule Israel (or any developed country). Beyond stupidity.
Let me quote Yuval Noah Harari (CNN interview with Christiane Amanpour of October 2023): "Benjamin Netanyahu, who built his career on dividing the nation against itself for years, on attacking state institutions that opposed his policies, on spreading conspiracy theories and labeling the serving elites of the country as deep-state traitors..., over many years, corroded the basic institutions of the state, and this is why, now, the state has been missing in the hour of greatest need of the citizens."
Before I venture any further, let me state very clear that I am no friend of militant Islamic groups. Having read both the Quran and many of the Hadith, I consider Islam an evil ideology (which doesn’t mean that all Muslims are evil, just like not all Trump voters are evil). The barbaric acts of groups like ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, and Hamas stem precisely from a literal interpretation of that Islamic ideology. Hence I feel no sympathy for Hamas or any other militant Islamic group.
And, with all due respect, the two million Palestinians of Gaza and the three million Palestinians of the West Bank make a total of five million people. There are oppressed people in many parts of the world. Syria’s population is 21 million. Ukraine’s population is 44 million. There are 35 million Kurds spread among Turkey, Syria and Iraq with no homeland.
I am not even sure that I side with the Palestinians on their land claims. Muslims (not only Palestinians) tend to see a 75-year occupation of Palestinian land by the Jews of Israel, but, using the same historical criteria, I could as well see a 1000-year occupation by Muslims of Roman Empire land in North Africa and Middle East. That was the whole point of the Crusades: reconquer what the Muslims were occupying. Injustices have been done on all sides and we would be constantly at war with each other if all people claimed land that at one point or another belonged to their ancestors. The people who matter to me are the ones who are alive today. I don’t accept the principle that I am entitled to what some of my ancestors had, or that I am guilty of what some of my ancestors did.
There is no doubt that Hamas’ attack is a brutal terrorist action and I certainly wish all the worst to Hamas and all the other jihadist groups.
That said, I see Netanyahu as the chief scoundrel here, and I wish him all the worst too. Both Israelis and Palestinians are the victims of his cynical lust for power.
If you don’t want to believe that Netanyahu engineered this massacre of Israelis, you then need to face a case of grotesque incompetence of his government.
- Despite the 20-year long Israeli blockade of Gaza and the world’s most sophisticated high-tech surveillance network, Hamas has apparently been able to acquire and/or build thousands of rockets capable of striking at great distance and with great accuracy. It has been able to train thousands of fighters. It has been able to develop a spy network good enough to launch a simultaneous assault on more than twenty Israeli locations. Definitely better than Russia in Ukraine.
Hamas sent aerial drones to destroy the cellular towers that broadcast signals to and from the surveillance system, making it useless. Despite decades of preparation, the border barrier was so easy to break through that Hamas didn’t even need to bomb it, and, apparently, Netanyahu’s government never thought that terrorists could just fly over the barricades with cheap hang-gliders without being intercepted.
In the past two years, Israel launched three military operations in Gaza against Islamic Jihad, a tiny Iranian-funded terrorist group, but none against Hamas, the large organization that rules Gaza, with tens of thousands of members including elite commando units, armed with missiles. Netanyahu swore to crush Hamas during the “Guardian of the Walls” operation in 2021 but in reality it allowed Hamas to greatly improve its military capabilities.
An editorial in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz read: “The prime minister, who has prided himself on his vast political experience and irreplaceable wisdom in security matters, completely failed to identify the dangers he was consciously leading Israel into when establishing a government of annexation and dispossession.”
The nations that still defend Israel should be reminded that:
- In 1993 the Palestine Liberation Organization headed by Yassir Arafat recognized Israel as a state (the PLO accepted United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338) but Israel never reciprocated. It was a pointless act of humiliation on the PLO's side.
- Since then Israel has repeatedly violated United Nations resolutions (it holds the world record of violations with 28) despite the fact that the USA has vetoed dozens resolutions critical of Israel.
- In 2006 Hamas did win democratic elections, the first democratic elections in the Palestinian territories. Israel and the West ignored the result of the elections (as in “we like democratic elections only if we like the results of the elections”). We will never know how Hamas would have evolved if we had respected the will of the Palestinian people and let Hamas govern them. We do know, instead, how Hamas evolved after being denied the right to govern: it has become an even more ferocious terrorist group.
- Throughout his tenure, Netanyahu has always preferred to deal with Hamas, despite openly calling them “terrorists”, than with the Palestinian Authority, despite the fact that the latter recognizes Israel and has renounced terrorism (and collaborates daily with Israel to keep terrorists out of the territory it controls). This way Netanyahu has de facto discredited the non-violent Palestinians and elevated the profile of the violent ones.
The Times of Israel: "Most of the time, Israeli policy was to treat the Palestinian Authority as a burden and Hamas as an asset".
- During all these years the West hoped that the political side of Hamas would expand and displace the military side. However, Netanyahu’s policies bred the precise opposite: Hamas’s military wing grew from a small terrorist organization to an efficient and devastating war machine.
- In other to regain the prime minister post, Netanyahu has cobbled together a coalition of Jewish zealots and fanatics, whose help he needs to carry out his judicial coup that would neuter the Supreme Court of Israel and protect him from prosecution. These medieval-style zealots and fanatics have dashed all Palestinian hopes for a homeland.
- Netanyahu was so obsessed with his personal agenda that he was willing to cause unprecedented instability within Israel’s political scene and unprecedented division within Israel’s society that ended up hurting Israel’s ability to defend itself (weeks ago, soldiers threatened to mutiny in response to Netanyahu’s attempted coup).
- Netanyahu has long portrayed himself as a friend of Vladimir Putin. Netanyahu’s book “Bibi – My Story”, published while Russia was bombing Ukraine, praises Putin in multiple sections. In fact, Netanyahu’s government has so far refused to participate in sanctions against Russia, despite the fact that Ukraine’s president is a Jew and that 50,000 Ukrainian Jews live in Israel. Netanyahu has been treating the Palestinians precisely the way Putin plans to treat the Ukrainians.
- The General Assembly of the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory issued its report in October 2022. It details Israel’s policies of confiscation and demolition of Palestinian homes, which result in displacement of Palestinian people, policies of economic sabotage, excessive use of force by Israeli security forces, tolerance for settler violence, and limitations on access to basic necessities, and particularly in Gaza. Children grow up traumatized by constant military oppression, arbitrary detention, restrictions on movement, home demolition, etc: no wonder they become “terrorists”. If your children were subjected daily to such discrimination, would they grow up to be engineers and scientists or terrorists?
- In May 2021 Israeli bombs on Gaza killed 232 Palestinians, including 65 children, and wounded another two thousand, many with wounds that permanently affected their lives and work.
- Netanyahu is a notorious liar, second only to Donald Trump. This is not only my opinion. It’s the opinion of most foreign dignitaries who had to deal with him and it is also the opinion of Israeli newspapers like Haaretz (see
“Netanyahu, Israel's Leading Pathological Liar”, 29 May 2023.
It is so obvious that Netanyahu’s policies (he has been prime minister of Israel since 1996) are fully responsible for raising a generation of Palestinian terrorists. Today’s Palestinian fighters were born under Netanyahu’s terrorist regime and have never known anything else.
No surprise that much of the Islamic world (always too ready to excuse and even embrace Muslim terrorists who kill non-Muslims) mostly cheered Hamas’ massacre of Israelis.
Turkey's president Tayyip Erdogan and Zaman Mehdi, the representative of Pakistan to the UN, slammed Israel, not Hamas. In fact, no unambiguous condemnation of Hamas has come from the Islamic world. Moroccans filled the streets celebrating Hamas’ action and protesting against their country’s “friendship” with Israel.
Israelis should also watch carefully how many non-Muslims are sympathyzing with, if not celebrating with, Hamas. I grew up in a world where Israel was viewed as a role model and I now live in a world in which millions of non-Muslims take the side of the Islamic terrorist. Since 1996 Israel's reputation has steadily deteriorated despite the fact that pro-Israeli media span both the political right and the political left, from Fox News to the New York Times. This too happened under Netanyahu's watch.
Either he's a terrible diplomat, and therefore should be fired, or he has indeed turned Israel into a terrorist state, and therefore should be fired. There is no case in which he should remain in power.
Now to Hamas’ strategy:
- Hamas must have factored in Netanyahu’s Nazi-style retaliation and decided that it will further advance its goals: Israel will end up killing more Palestinians than the Israelis killed by Hamas, proving in the eyes of many who is the worse terrorist between the two. It makes no difference if you are killed by an Islamic fanatic shouting "Allah is great" or by a bomb dropped from an Israeli warplane. In fact, one can argue that it is worse when a state kills an innocent than when a group of madmen kill an innocent.
- Hamas is supported, armed and funded by Iran. Saudi Arabia and Egypt (both Sunni Muslims) consider Iran (a Shiite Muslim country) as the main regional threat. Hamas is now a heroic name inside both Saudi Arabia and Egypt, quite a destabilizing fact for those two dictatorships. Hamas didn't just struck Israel: it also struck the two Arab dictators who are the toughest enemies of Iran. While Israel is routinely accused of racism against the Palestinians, countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt are no less racist: Palestinians cannot enter Egypt and they certainly can't emigrate to rich Saudi Arabia. This attack is also Hamas' revenge against the hypocritical Arabs who condemn Israel's policies in public but abet, assist and encourage them in private, and are slowly but steadily reducing their support for Palestinian militants like Hamas.
- Hamas probably calculated that the ongoing “normalization” of relations between Israel and Arab countries would doom the Palestinian cause forever, and thus marginalize groups like Hamas that (pretend to) fight for the Palestinian cause. This war sabotages the whole process: it makes it difficult for Saudi Arabia to normalize its relations with Israel while it is at war with the wildly popular Hamas terrorists, and it makes it even difficult for those who already normalized them to keep them normalized (Egypt, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Sudan).
- However, this goal (which has been highlighted by just about every Middle-eastern expert) would not explain the brutality: wasn't it enough to kill the Israeli soldiers? why indulge in massacring children and young people at a dance party? If only one or two Hamas terrorists had committed these atrocities, you could explain them as "in every army there are psychos" (look at the atrocities committed by US soldiers in Iraq). But there was a general passion for extreme crudelty in this massacre which implies a deliberate order from the top. One possible explanation is that Hamas wants to seize an opportunity: the opportunity to replace ISIS and Al Qaeda (both rapidly fading away) as the top terrorist group of the Islamic world. If you live outside the Islamic world, it may sound weird that groups would compete to show who is the most barbaric one, but that's precisely what has been happening in the Islamic world for a long time.
- Hamas obviously knows that this massacre will hurt its already awful reputation in the Western world (nothing to lose there), but it also knows that this massacre will greatly improve its reputation as a fighter organization among the Muslims of the world, and for a terrorist group this is worth more than Western condescension (which is all that non-violent Palestinians get). This is something that the non-Muslim world still wants to deny: that tens of millions of Muslims are likely to cheer the massacre of innocent non-Muslims. The world still lives in denial of the dark side of Islam. All religions are false, and all religions are violent to some degree (check your history books, or just read the Bible/Tanakh, the Quran, the Hindu scriptures, etc), and today Islam is the most dangerous of all.
- There is a civil war going on within the Islamic world between the medieval-style jihadists who don't care about progress and prosperity (in fact, they hate science and education) and the westernized middle class that would like to focus on progress and prosperity. Terrorists like Hamas are fully aware that they are losing, slowly but steadily, this civil war. This massacre is also a warning to their own population, to the Palestinians who aspire to become a modern and prosperous middle class: what we do to the Israelis today we could do to you tomorrow. Westerners are often misled into thinking that a terrorist's aim is to terrorize the Western world when in fact its first and main target is always the Islamic world.
It's important to also understand how Netanyahu's policies changed Israel's enemy Hamas. Now it is easy to view Hamas as simply a terrorist organization like Al Qaeda and ISIS, but before Netanyahu's rise to power this was not the case: Hamas has both a military wing and a regular government that provides social services, and the latter used to be way more prominent and important than the military wing. Hamas won the 2006 elections (the only free and fair elections ever held in the Palestinian territories) precisely because it was perceived as providing social services and because the incumbent Fatah was perceived as corrupt (any foreign analyst agrees with this). Fast forward to 2023 and Hamas has indeed become what Netanyahu claimed it was: mainly a terrorist organization bent on killing as many Israelis as possible. This has been the result of Netanyahu's policies towards Gaza's Palestinians.
Hamas' political leader is Ismail Haniyeh, who used to be the right-hand man of Sheikh Ahmed Yasin, the Hamas founder and spiritual leader assassinated in his wheelchair by Israel in 2004. Haniyeh is the one who won the 2006 elections that were never recognized by Israel and the West.
June 2023 poll showed that, to this day, a majority of Palestinians would vote for Haniyeh over Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in a presidential election.
If he wasn't a Palestinian, the West would probably recognize Haniyeh as the legitimate president of the Palestinians.
Haniyeh and the entire senior leadership of Hamas live comfortably in Qatar and have friendly relations with Turkey.
Their villas are located not far from the Al-Udaid Air Base, home to the U.S. military's Central Command: Qatar is formally a NATO ally.
Haniyeh was recorded showing surprise when he saw the news of Hamas' attacks on television, proof that the political wing of Hamas has lost real power.
Hamas' leaders in Gaza, and presumably the masterminds of the recent terrorist attack, are instead Mohamed "Deif" Masri (military commander of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades) and Yahya Sinwar (political leader of Hamas in the Gaza strip). The latter was elected by Hamas in 2017, replacing a civilian leader with a military leader: he is in fact a warrior, former head of Hamas’s military wing, sentenced in Israel to four life sentences, incarcerated for 23 years in Israeli prisons, and released in 2011 in a prisoner exchange with Israel (1,047 Palestinian prisoners for one Israeli soldier - another stupid Netanyahu decision). The trajectory of Hamas from mainly providing social services to mainly slaughtering Israeli civilians happened under Netanyahu's watch.
This new Hamas justifies its existence as responding to Netanyahu's policies.
The new Hamas needed this war (and these massacres) as much as Netanyahu.
Netanyahu was in trouble. There were massive demonstrations against him. He was accused of a serious crime. There was a chance he would be jailed.
Why did Hamas choose this moment to strike? To save Netanyahu.
Make no mistake. Hamas and Netanyahu need each other. Netanyahu’s only hope to remain in power and avoid jail time is a war against Hamas. Hamas’ only reason to exist is to fight Israel if Israel is run by a right-wing maniac determined to cleanse Palestine of the Palestinian people.
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