A reflection on Hamas and Israel
I don't think that Professor Snyder needs apologize for the "cool tone" of his thread on terror and counter-terror. In the midst of horror, outrage, violence and grief, we need thoughtful and measured analysis of what prompts terrorism and the terrorists goals. Without that, counter-terrorism will often result in a bloody slog that neither puts an end to the cycle of violence nor leads to a durable to say nothing of a just peace.
I have a long background in the Middle East. In 1953 I visited Gaza, where the Egyptians were temporarily housing Palestinian refugees in tents. In 1954 I lunched with David Ben-Gurion. In 1960 I published NASSER’S NEW EGYPT: A CRITICAL ANALYSIS, which was banned by Nasser.
In the Foreign Service I following the Arab-Israeli situation. In succeeding decades I have met with dozens of Arabs and Israelis.
I am appalled by the brutality of the Hamas attacks in southern Israel. I am astonished that Israeli intelligence seemed to be totally unaware that this would occur. I am tremendously concerned about the fate of Israeli hostages, as Netanyahu has declared war against Gaza. I fear that a large number of Gaza residents will be killed or wounded in retaliation for the Hamas military action.
It is too early to calmly reflect on who is response for the long-term tensions that preceded this outrage. The Oslo Accords and countless discussions about a possible ‘two state’ Israel/Palestine ‘solution have long since been a dead end.
The pressure among Palestinians toward Israel have been accelerating for a long time. Whatever one may think about the 1948 and 1967 wars, Arabs within Israel have been treated as second-class citizens and Palestinians have been treated worse.
When Hamas seized political control of Gaza decades ago, Israel cordoned off this area. There are 2,000,000 Palestinians living in a small area. Israel controls the gas, electricity, food, supplies, and ingress/egress in Gaza. Some have described life in Gaza as being in a prison or concentration camp.
Over the years., there have been violent outbreaks. My impression is that thousands of Palestinians have been killed, while Israeli losses were sharply lower. Meanwhile, within Israel Israeli settlers, especially with the approval of Netanyahu governments, have greatly expanded their settlements, often encroached on Arab lands.
At present Israel is engaged in a major air attack against Gaza, with ground troops likely to enter the area. The Hamas military—called ‘terrorists’—is likely to be decimated. But then what? There will still be about two million Gaza residents living in despicable conditions. Arabs in Israel will still be treated as second-class citizens.
I am reminded of the Warsaw Uprising in 1944, when the oppressed risked everything in rising up against their oppressors. I am reminded of the Arab Spring in 2011 when, for a moment, it seemed that Arab opposition to authoritarianism might prevail.
I wonder, as this Palestinian imbroglio continues, whether we can ever expect calm and tranquility between Israel and Palestinians.
Tim, it may be cold in its presentation, but your general discussion mirrors the absolute need to step back and not become over-emotional in the wave of a terrorist action and to be rational and calculated in response so as not to play into what the terrorist wants.
But I fear Israel will play right into the hands of Hamas and their Iranian backers. As you noted the string can terrorize the weak...Israel has been doing this to the Palestinians for decades. And it will only further help Hamas retain the support of those who will suffer most in this retaliation. It is not lost on me that many of those Israelis killed in cold blood were at a festival that was celebrating life and peace...something Netanyahu’s government detests and the same groups Netanyahu’s coalition seeks to marginalize.
It is a tragedy on multiple dimensions. Israel must respond, but needs to do so in a measured way if a possible to prevent what Hamas really wants.
the talj of taking revenge is unsettling not because it is undeserving but because precisely as you wrote the reaction is rooted in emotion not reason. it is not cold hearted to be cool headed. i was speaking with friends last night that the worst idea was to bomb Gaza, cause immense suffering with energy blackouts. Netanyahu seems clinically incapable of anything but bluster and machismo. Get Hamas off Israeli proper, keep blocking rockets, negotiate hostage exchange, end this and not do as BN promised, get ready for "long war". Unlike Ukraine that is in its very fight for survival, this attack was a shocking affront but did not fundamentally threaten Israel's existence, unless BN escalates, then it might. Figure out immediately with allies why the profound intelligence breakdown occurred and stop listening to idiot experts that say that Russia was probably not involved because Russians live in Israel which would give Putin pause.(yes! last night, on MSNBC some expert actually said that with a straight face). Putin has been coaxing/cultivating the Iran/Syria/Russia nexus for years. And choosing the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur war. Signature Putin. He probably suggested the date. Anyway. Calm is good. Agree that 9/11 reaction and Bush and Cheney acting cowboy macho did much more harm than good.
Thank you for showing the danger to all sides and for cautioning "not to follow the script" expected by terrorists to induce much longer term damage than the initial attack, however harmful it may be in itself.
An essay that encourages us to think: thank you.
Thank you, Professor for this enlightening piece this morning. It is very helpful to understand in general terms and reflecting on 09/11 is priceless.
Its becoming more rare that we take time to stand back and analyze seemingly emotionally drive atrocities to gain insight into possible motivations and the actual results desired by the perpetrators
The warning, “its a trap, don’t do that”, is oft times too late in coming to stop the train of events. Killing Ferdinand was not the goal, right?
Also, these warnings dovetail with Zelensky’s yesterday that … Russia seeks to use this conflict to divide and distract from the Ukraine war
The statement that in "classical" terrorism the terrorist provokes a state IN ORDER to cause suffering amongst HIS OWN PEOPLE so that they will be loyal to the terrorist "forever" is, sadly, directly applicable to the case at hand. Hamas cares not a fig for the suffering of the people of Gaza, so long as they remain chained to the cause of Hamas. My only hope is that the word "forever" turns out to be incorrect.
I was one of the very few Americans who were strongly opposed to the war in Iraq. Every prediction I made at the time has proven true. I remember not being able to convince my fellow Americans that it was a terrible idea--that there will be consequences. I watched as Americans were entertained by the spectacle of Shock and Awe, and then became bored with it and lost interest. In 2007 (?) when President Bush told us in a speech from the Oval Office that there was no connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, I predicted that one of these days the US will need to be involved in a war that is not based on lies (I mean, of course, from the perspective of Ukraine), and the world will say, "We remember when you lied to us." And since the beginning of the full scale invasion of Ukraine, I've been seeing posts on X, every single day: "But what about Iraq?" Most Americans are probably unaware that the world in general and the US specifically are still living with the consequences of that war.
I learned a few years ago that you, too, were opposed to it, and have been waiting ever since for an essay on it. Thank you for this, Prof. Snyder.
Unfortunately Israel fell right into this trap. And the US, for domestic politics I fear or an inflated notion of our power/ influence, has fallen as well. Both Israel and the US are showing ridiculous force in response US at the ready. As well we are sending Israel weapons to commit war crimes.
This is stupidly adding fuel to a possible wider war about power and disregarding life.
When you speak of the use terror disregarding harm to one’s own people, please think as well of the now years of Israel’s devastating terror upon Palestinians as well, while Israelis lived rather normally using disproportionate force often with impunity. No peace process; no peace was wanted or necessary. That brought us to this point of getting everyone’s attention ... taking away from Ukraine I fear.
Thank you for making the point that terrorism isn’t just about the act itself. It’s also about the reaction it provokes, with the point being that the reaction does more harm to the victim than the terrorist act itself.
I remember what happened to America - by the choice of the Bush administration - after 9/11. The creation of a “live in fear” reality (with DHS’s color coded threat warnings) was in my opinion designed to control us... what authoritarians work to achieve so we will not question their actions.
And so, mainstream news organizations did not question the claim a war with Iraq was necessary.
What will Israel now do that will hurt itself? I cannot say, other than the obvious: if Israel chooses to expand the war beyond Hamas as the target then I fear we are all in for very dark times.
Lastly, the principle of the victim being provoked to harm itself was covered last night by an expert in military strategy named Beau of the Fifth Column. His daily insights into national as well as global power politics has made me much smarter about the larger world. I invite you to watch the video he made on this subject...
Thank you for all you do!
Thank you for this valuable and wise insight. The invasion of Iraq was indeed a major mistake. Israel, on the other hand, has only one choice – to get rid of Hamas. It’s straight-forward, obvious, and yet the world with the help of mass media (mostly liberal) will perceive this as yet another aggression of Israel. Yet Israel is the main protection of the so-called ‘free’ world, of the frail Western civilization from the Islamism, much like the heroic Ukraine today is saving us all from Putin’s Russia.
I think these observations are also true when it comes to interpersonal terror on a small scale, as when an abuser terrorizes his victim: he wants you to overreact and do something terrible to discredit yourself and make everybody else think you are "crazy." Sometimes this even makes the victim think she is crazy. With interpersonal terror, though, it is easier just to run away and avoid the perp entirely. Unfortunately Israel can't just run away. Also, I can't really run away from the gun violence in my neighborhood, because there are fewer and fewer places that don't have it in the US. The logic of terror works the same from the micro to the macro scale.
Netanyahu cannot hear you Timothy Snyder; he doesn't want to, and the terrorized can rarely think straight.
This is more than a difficult time on the most important fronts. You have always communicated with my brain and soul as well.
Thank you for reaching out to us.