Commentary: Reflections on Israel’s New Existential War

by Victor Davis Hanson


There have been plenty of terrorist attacks on Israel. A dozen or so conventional wars of various magnitude have been waged against the Jewish state. And more often there have been mixtures of both.

Yet never have hundreds of gangs of black-clad murderers carefully planned to swarm Israel, with an agenda to pull random Jews out of their homes and off the street, murder them, and toss their bodies in the street.

In fact, the closest parallel to the sort of methods Hamas is now embracing is something close to the Rwanda 1994 mass killing, when swarms of Hutu militia killers launched a preplanned murder spree against thousands of Tutsi civilians.

Note one common theme of these horrific videos of the murdering of young women: the bloodthirst of the Gaza crowd. There appears a natural desire of everyday Gazans to video the mutilations, an embrace of the spitting on the doomed, a frenzied effort to mutilate the dead — and the absence of a single Gazan objecting to the group murder of a civilian.

Hamas did not act out of the ordinary, but in sync with its people. In truth, there is something so terribly wrong in Gaza that the United States should keep as far away as it can from such barbarity — and hope that it too feels the same about America and keeps to itself.

So again why did Hamas mount such a long-planned and multifaceted assault on Israeli towns, public buildings, soldiers, and civilians?

The invasion was not so much a surprise attack, in the conventional Pearl Harbor sense, as a carefully calibrated land, sea, and ground effort at mass killing and hostage taking. It was designed to execute noncombatants, grab Jews for bargaining leverage, and to shock Israelis through their pre-civilizational desecration of the bodies of the dead.

It targeted first a youth concert near the border, on the theory the cowardly killers could gain maximum media traction and Arab solidarity by sensationally butchering and kidnapping helpless adolescents. Will the murderers in the weeks ahead transfer their killing zeal to attacks on the IDF? They will soon have their long desired and ample opportunity to showcase to the world their bravado as they face real soldiers and not unarmed elderly and youth.

Apparently, the Palestinians in their now ISIS role also thought their descent into even greater barbarity, rarely witnessed in even the most savage parts of the world, would shock Israelis into assuming some sort of collective fetal position, with hands over their ears screaming, “make all these demons just go away.”

If so, Hamas sorely miscalculated.

The sheer horror of their methods, and the cowardice shown by focusing on teen-aged girls and children rather than the IDF, will have the exact opposite effect, both in Israel and worldwide.

Israel now knows there is no living with a precivilizational Hamas. It must destroy it, permanently block off Gaza from itself, and adopt a strategy of chronic disproportionate response from now on out.

In such a change of strategy, Israel will have the backing of most of the civilized world and its own people, since there is no other choice once Hamas has adopted its campaign of death. We will likely see things in the next month that no one has anticipated, and yet the Israeli response will be in the eyes of most of the world long overdue.

In other words, few will pay any more attention to the Squads of the world, or the radical Jew-haters of the Western Left, or the Democratic-Socialists of America who cheered on the killing. They are now revealed on the side of death for death’s sake and cannot be reasoned with.

We are not yet 80 years out from the Holocaust. Yet here again we witness black-clad cadres of special killer units trying to round up Jews and execute them on the spot. There is one strange difference though between the current Hamas SS cadres and their spiritual forefathers in Nazi Germany.

Between 1941-45 America fought to destroy the SS and its hired local death squads. But in 2023, the Biden administration has restored hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinian Authority and to Gaza under Hamas, despite the commitments of both to the destruction of Israel and the mass killing of Jews — and regardless of the warnings of its own State Department.

That too will change, as there will soon be zero American support for giving one more cent to any Palestinian “organization.”

Why the attacks now? Other than the usual reasons the Palestinians slaughter Jews — envy, the easy preference to destroy others than to create a successful modern state of their own, ethnic and religious hatred — the timing and methods of this particular killing spread were predicated on some particular catalysts.

Palestinians wanted to stop any rumored rapprochement between the Gulf monarchies — their traditional purse strings — and Israel, by forcing the issue of Arab solidarity in times of “war,” especially through waging a gruesome attack aimed at civilians and encompassing executions and hostage taking. They wished to force, for example, the Saudis to endorse their mutilation of corpses or else to be seen as sell-outs to the “Jews.”

Iran is the likely driving force in prompting the war. Its greatest fear is a Sunni Arab-Israel deal that would finally transcend the anti-Semitic and ethnic hatred that now resides most prominently in Palestine and Iran.

In addition, Arab forces only achieve success against Israel in surprise assaults during an Israel holiday. So the current attack was timed 50-years after the October 6, 1973 beginning of the Yom Kippur War. They struck during Simchat Torah, coming at the end of a weeklong Jewish celebration of Sukkot. And yet despite the iconic date, Hamas caught both the sophisticated intelligence networks of Israel, the United States, and the West in general completely unaware.

Did Hamas think Hezbollah and Iran would join in? Will they? If one believes their rhetoric they will; if one believes that they do not wish to experience what will likely follow in Gaza, they will not.

For the time being, after all, there are now zero restraints on Israel for the first occasion perhaps in its history. Few other than the international relations major AOC or a bigot in the American State Department will call for proportionality, an immediate ceasefire, or an Israeli stand down.

Hamas may also have reckoned that recent Israeli turmoil and mass street protests over proposed reforms of the Israeli Supreme Court had led to permanent internal divisions and thus a climate of domestic distraction if not an erosion of deterrence.

True, there was something eerie about the Israeli left’s opposition that extended to the politicization of IDF recruits. This propensity to commit collective civilizational suicide is now toxic in Western society, from Sweden to America. But in a frontline state like Israel it could prove fatal–as Hamas apparently also reasoned.

Let us also be candid, the Biden administration has contributed to the notion that Hamas was a legitimate Middle-East player. It fueled the perception that the U.S. was backing away from its traditional support for Israel — to the delight of Hamas — based on inexplicable policies.

Remember there is an iron law in the Middle East: anytime the U.S. distances itself from Israel, and gravitates to Iran, its violent enemies see that as a de facto greenlight to ratchet up their aggression. It is now a tenet of the base of the new woke Democratic Party, whether on campuses, among its Squad, in the media, or as championed by its identify politics caucuses, that Israel is an illegitimate state, while radical Palestinians are freedom fighters.

Do we remember that in February the ridiculous Secretary of State Blinken bragged that not only had the Biden administration resumed massive aid to the corrupt PLA, canceled by Trump, but also cumulatively had transferred $1 billion — even as Palestinian authorities and Abbas bragged that they would continue to pay bounties to the families of “martyrs” (i.e., those killed while conducting terrorists attacks against Israel)?

All such funds are fungible. So the more Biden’s people brag that the money goes to humanitarian purposes or has not yet arrived in Iranian accounts, the more these terrorist entities preemptively free up cash to mobilize for war.

So millions of American dollars went into Gaza, run by Hamas — despite the Biden administration’s efforts to keep mostly quiet the resumption of such inexplicable support.

In this regard, note the shameful State-Department (“U.S. Office of Palestinian Affairs”) website news release that was posted instantly after attack (since mysteriously taken down). It had ended with this quite embarrassing, morally equivalent admonition:

“We urged all sides to refrain from violence and retaliatory attacks. Terror and violence solve nothing.” “All sides?” “Refrain from retaliatory attacks?”

So Israel is to be the moral equivalent of terrorists executing civilians and brutalizing their corpses? And all this from the U.S. government? And what exactly is the “U.S. Office of Palestinian Affairs,” a megaphone for “normalizing” Hamas?

The IDF then is not to retaliate against these killers?

Does the Biden administration now also call upon Ukraine, “to refrain from violence and retaliatory attacks?” Does it believe that Ukraine’s “violence” in response to Putin’s “terror” will “solve nothing?”

Remember also the Biden administration had recently released some $6 billion to Iran through a prison swap deal that saw South Korea hand over embargoed Iranian money to Qatar — despite Tehran’s increased anti-Israeli rhetoric and its loud brag about the escalation.

In fungible fashion and in anticipation of the arrival of this cash windfall, Iran no doubt accelerated its shipments of arms to Gaza. We should assume Iranian money for rockets (Hamas claims they have launched 5,000, and have received 100,000 of them via the Damascus airport) and weapons in general for Hamas were supplied by Iran, a terrorist state that the Biden administration apparently sees as a strategic partner.

Almost immediately, after his inauguration an eager Biden mobilized to resume the bankrupt Iran deal. In unhinged fashion, he appointed the anti-Israeli bigot, pro-Iranian zealot journalist Robert Malley as America’s chief Iranian negotiator. Remember, Malley was the special ISIS advisor of Barack Obama (who kept mum during the 2009 mass uprising against the Iranian theocracy), when ISIS overran Iraq.

Our envoy Malley apparently advertises himself, to quote his Wikipedia bio, as “an expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and has written extensively on this subject advocating rapprochement with Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood.”

We are now witnessing the reification of our Iranian envoy’s idea of “rapprochement” in the streets of Israel.

Note that Malley is now under FBI investigation for security breaches, involving disclosing classified U.S. documents. He also is under further scrutiny for allegedly helping pro-Iranian activists and propagandists land influential billets inside the U.S. government.

Imagine that: Iran now cheers on mass death in Israel while its agents and provocateurs burrow into the U.S. government (which might explain the Biden State Department’s immediate call to cease Israeli retaliation).

The result of this madness is that there was a general Hamas and Iranian perception that the Biden administration had resumed the discredited Obama insanity of empowering Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas. This discredited agenda aimed to “balance” the power of Israel and the moderate Arab Gulf governments to achieve “creative tension,” and was certainly exacerbated by Biden’s loathing of the government of Benjamín Netanyahu.

Note as well that the Biden administration has insidiously siphoned off key weapons and munitions from emergency stockpiles inside Israel apparently to transfer them to Ukraine. The so-called “War Reserve Ammunition — Israel” is reportedly all but depleted of just the sorts of weapons and shells that will be likely needed in the present crisis.

Who knows, we should soon expect that some of the multibillion-dollar arsenal abandoned to the Taliban — who have now voiced a willingness to help Gaza in the killing of Jews — will end up with Hamas. So we deplete strategic arsenals in Israel, but leave them to the Taliban.

In this regard is there a Carteresque pattern here?

Upon the ascension of Biden and his woke strategic agendas, we witnessed the following chain of events: 1) the 2021 complete humiliation of the U.S. miliary in Kabul in its greatest defeat in 50 years; 2) followed by Vladimir Putin’s 2022 opportunistic invasion of Ukraine; 3) followed by China’s new belligerence and escalating threats to Taiwan; 4) followed by Turkey’s new de facto alliance with Russia and recent drone encounter with the U.S. air force in Syria; 5) followed by the Hamas/Iranian inspired attack on Israel — 6) with more to come unfortunately.

Will Biden finally get the message from the attacks on the Ukraine and Israeli borders, that borders matter? We too are being invaded, with the encouragement of the Mexican government and to the advantage of the cartels. Biden should carefully digest the ranting of President Obrador who seems to feel he has veto power over the White House, as he demands our own borders remain open to his citizens for whom he cannot provide, while he seeks to influence U.S. elections.

In a sane world, the Biden administration would immediately cancel all talks with Iran, renew sanctions, and stop any cash transferences. (Why were the Obama and Biden administrations so fond of sending so much money to theocratic Iran)? It would stop all aid to the West Bank and Gaza. It would put a travel ban on anyone from Iran or the West Bank and Gaza and pull visas of any currently from Palestine in the U.S. It would immediately ramp up defense spending, especially on missile defense, dismantle the woke commissariat in the Pentagon, and prepare for the unthinkable and existential abroad.

And there is likely zero chance that the handlers of Joe Biden will do any of that.

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Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004.
Image “IDF Defends from Hamas Attackers” by Israeli Defense Force.



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