Original: October 10, 2023
Revised: October 21, 2023

October 7, 2023 ... in Israel

(my Israeli ties springing up)

It is going to be messy ... and some clarity is needed

The horrific attack by Hamas on Israel will have messy consequences. When the Israeli PM and many others tell us that things will dramatically change in Gaza, they obviously mean it. Yes, there will be many civilian casualties in Gaza. Yes, we will all be reminded that the Gaza situation was not sustainable long term. Yes, it is true that the Palestinian aspirations cannot be neglected forever. Yes, there will be finger pointing at the failure of the Israeli intelligence services and that failure will bear on Netanyahu's shoulders and will most likely lead to his downfall.

BUT ... this ISN'T the time to discuss any of these issues. This IS the time to reflect on the horrors, condemn the atrocities without any ifs-and-buts, squarely support Israel's right to respond accordingly and only at the end of this war unwanted by Israel, we should begin figuring out what went wrong intelligence-wise and try to seriously address the Palestinian situation.

I lived in Israel and loved the kibutz life, although I did not spent as much time in any of them as I would have liked. I played bridge with Palestinian graduate students at Technion in Haifa, I worked with Palestinian colleagues in the US and I do not feel animosity towards Palestinians in general. But I am outraged more than anything to see the current carnage perpetrated by Hamas terrorists (not militants, not fighters, ... just terrorists). Which carnage happened mostly in rural areas and kibutzim bordering Gaza.

There is too much vacillation about the current conflict between Israel and Hamas. This vacillation has been influenced by the huge amount of disinformation on social media, especially on X (formerly Twitter). I appreciate the academic Twitter and find it indispensible for the work I do now. But X is obviously suffering from the firing of most of the people responsible for a more ethical and a more truthful approach to posting. Here is a no-nonsense evaluation of the situation coming from former US President George W. Bush, who should know a thing or two about terrorism:
President Biden has also been very clear in his statements and his strong support of Israel should be applauded. In fact his statements have been the most powerful expression of support for Israel we have heard from any US president in the past. No vacillation, no iffs and buts, no calls to show restraint as previous presidents have done. It is difficult to figure out what would qualify for restraint to the act of desecrating lifeless bodies, raping women, throwing grenades into shelters, traumatizing babies, burning people in their homes, etc.

In my musings about world politics on this personal website I have not said much about the UK. Part of it is because the UK is our strongest ally and its politics in the world are very much aligned with ours. Part of it is because I admire the UK for many reasons, which many reasons will take us astray from the main topic.

One thing has become clear though, in the absence of clarity in much of the rest of the world (even the BBC took about two weeks to finally refer to Hamas as a terrorist organization). It is the royals who stood out in the moral clarity of their messaging. This particular instance of moral clarity in support of Israel shows that the British monarchy, free from the constraints of political posturing, plays a much needed role not just in the UK but in the world at large.

To their credit, the royals have also made declarations of solidarity with the innocent parties in the conflict, Israelis and Palestinians, who are going through the worst flare of violence in many years. In a republic like the US, the head of the state always has to juggle many conflicting political requirements and the messaging tends to become more blurry, especially when we get close to elections. But more on this below.

Political disfunction in the US does not help us to achieve clarity

The conflict is covered extensively in many places and there is no need to elaborate on the main facts here. For example, Reuters has been mapping the conflict on a daily basis, you can see it here. It is unfortunate that the current flareup finds the US in deep political turmoil, because American involvement and mediation are more needed than ever.

The US House of Representatives is in limbo, without a Speaker, mostly because the Republican party is in limbo. The Democrats aren't doing much better, especially on the far left, as the confused NYC rally in support of the uprising is showing. At this time of turmoil in the Middle East, there is no US ambassador in place in Israel, Egypt, Kuwait, Lebanon or Oman. The state department usually has a coordinator for counter-terrorism, a position tasked with defeating terrorism overseas. That position has been awaiting confirmation for almost two years now.

Overlapping this political disfunction and exacerbating it is the appalling disinformation making a mockery of social media. Same video clips and photos are shown over and over, with completely conflicting narratives, without the people posting them even bothering to see if these narratives are truly related to the clips or images. I am so disgusted by this that I don't even want to spend time on it. There is no way that we can continue our embrace of social media much longer without serious regulatory action for combating disinformation.

I am liberal in my political views and a registered Democrat. The confusion about the conflict in Israel among the more progressive wing of the party with which I identify on most issues is staggering. And not just within the progressive wing. Centrist people whom I admired in the past have rushed to speak about the conflict in tone deaf ways. Despite their horrific promotion of the lies about the "stolen 2020 election" I began to watch Fox News for a more realistic coverage of the conflict. We are in a funk, globally, but especially here in the US.

The fact that the premier US universities in particular are tilting left I consider to be natural. But lately, some faculty and students are veering into nonsense and I can easily understand the anger on the right side of the political spectrum. It will take some serious work to remedy this.
Another example. This one in particular has been presented in so many contexts that AOC can be easily considered a hero or a villain, depending on the context. You can use the NYC rally as an example why we need to carefully build larger contexts around the information being shown to us.
But it isn't just political disfunction that prevents us from achieving clarity. This particular instance of the Israel-Hamas conflict is one of the most distorted conflicts in recent memory. I mentioned this above, but it's worth repeating. The dissemination of false narratives has reached absurd proportions. Some of the video clips come from previous conflicts, most often Syria. Some clips are obviously staged. So one has to view any particular video clip with caution and try to verify it by looking up trusted sources of information. Social media and AI tools, instead of helping us get a clearer picture of the conflict from people close to the battlegrounds, are making the truth very hard to uncover.
Itay and Hadar Berdichevsky hid their 10-month-old twin babies in a shelter before Hamas terrorists broke into their home (in the Kfar Gaza kibbutz) and shot them both dead. The twins were in the shelter for 12 hours until they were rescued by Israeli soldiers. I keep staring at this image of the couple, for some reason.
From one commenter: "No words can truly encapsulate the depth of sadness felt when lives are upturned, and dreams are shattered amidst the chaos of war. The haunting images of despair, the cries of frightened children, and the grief of families who have lost loved ones transcend borders and remind us all of our shared humanity."
When peace comes we will perhaps in time be able to forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, but it will be harder for us to forgive them for having forced us to kill their sons. Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.
- Golda Meir, A Land of Our Own: An Oral Autobiography

In the presence of this level of hate, as shown so vividly on October 7, the two-state solution, advocated by many but especially by China and Russia, is unworkable. It will take a long time for these wounds to heal and for the two-state solution to become again workable. Let's also recall that in fact Israel did agree to a two-state solution in 2000; the reader should look up the Clinton parameters to see how close the two parties were to a solution. A bit of imagery might help with understanding the situation better. Israel is a sliver of land, surrounded by many states whose agendas are not always friendly (to say the least) towards Israel.

Adding one more state, one that cuts even deeper into that sliver of land, does not make much sense within the current hate-dominated partial contexts. To change those contexts into a different and more encompassing one, more conducive to peace, we may want to listen to the advice implicitly given to us by Golda Meir in the quote above.

Let's dissect that advice carefully. First, parental love is instinctual and the Arabs do not love their children any less than the Jews (or any other people) love theirs. So the only possible solution to this seemingly intractable problem and finding that larger context conducive to peace is through lowering the hate.

That larger context has at least three parts. It would take a long time, but first, the education system in the West Bank and Gaza must be reformed so that books promoting false hate-filled narratives are not being taught in schools at any level. And Israel should promote and invest heavily in these educational reforms. Without this enlargement of the context it would be impossible to proceed.

Second, Israel and the Arab countries must work together to raise the standard of living in Gaza and the West Bank. Third, and this is the most pollyannish of all three, a vibrant multi-party and democratic system of government will hopefully find its roots after the other two parts are accomplished. I believe, based on the personal relationships I had with many Palestinians, that all three are possible. Democracy, which depends on a large and fairly wealthy middle class, upholds human values better than other forms of government, and human values are antithetical to hate.

... yes, there is always hope ...

... and on that note of hope ...