The Hamas attack on Israel was not only reprehensible and unconscionable, but also incredibly very astonishingly stupid.
Typically, when you enter into a conflict of any type – from a war to a game of Go Fish – you tend to think you can win in the end. Sometimes you know it’s a long shot, sometimes you think you have a better chance, sometimes the brilliant plan you had going in turns out to be perfect or incredibly wrong.
But you tend not start something you know you cannot win and you know will end up killing you.
So what was Hamas thinking? Other governments have done stupid things to start and during wars – Pearl Harbor was stupid (at least some in the Imperial government knew it at the time) because a war with the United States that lasted more than a couple of years was unwinnable. Napoleon invading Russia was stupid because even though he achieved his goals — he took Moscow – he lost everything, including his most important ally: his aura of invincibility.
Did Hamas think the raid would make Israel think “Wow, they really have a credible military now, maybe we should give them what they want”? Impossible, because what Hamas wants is Israel – and especially Israelis – literally dead and gone forever.
There has been much chatter about blame and fault, with the vile crowds gathered in Harvard Square going on about de-colonization and settler mindsets and it’s not their land so Hamas can do anything it wants because they are noble and righteous fighters for social justice who just happen to decapitate babies.
This prattling does miss out on rather a large chunk of history, of course. There has never actually been a formal Palestinian “Palestine.” Going way, way back it was Canaanites and Jews and Babylonians and Egyptians and Romans and Ottomans who governed that particular strip of mostly desert but extremely important – the pinch point in the Fertile Crescent – piece of land.
It’s important to remember that the Romans conquered Judea, not Palestine.
After World War I, when it turned out Britain lied (Surprise!) to various and sundry Arabs to get their help, the Mandate was put in place. The British decided to appoint Amin al-Husseini as Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. al-Husseini was not, shall we say, a fan of Jews and was most irked when they started to show up in greater numbers. He was one of the first Palestinian nationalists and one of the reasons he wanted Britain out was so that he could throw the Jews out, too.
Not idle talk, either – he collaborated with the Nazis, met Hitler personally, knew about the Holocaust (he said Himmler told him,) and in 1943 said:
“It is the duty of Muhammadans [Muslims] in general and Arabs in particular to … drive all Jews from Arab and Muhammadan countries. … Germany is also struggling against the common foe who oppressed Arabs and Muhammadans in their different countries. It has very clearly recognized the Jews for what they are and resolved to find a definitive solution for the Jewish danger that will eliminate the scourge that Jews represent in the world.”
Oh, and here’s a documentary about the guy – Yassir Arafat was related to him, by the way:
So, here’s the thought experiment: Imagine if you will that, for whatever reason (I don’t think it’s relevant for this discussion) that it was not Jews who settled Israel but, say Episcopalians or Deists?
Do you think what is happening today and has been happening for a hundred years would have happened? There would obviously be issues regarding land and space and co-existence and the arrangement would still be rather fraught, but do you think the permanent vitriol would still exist? Would Hamas have invaded an Episcopalian Israel with such brutality?
I don’t think so, do you?
Antisemitism was intentionally baked into Palestinian nationalism — which is, in fact, a more recent creation than Zionism — from the very beginning. Zionism is about creating a homeland for Jews; Palestinian nationalism has always been about creating a homeland without any Jews.
Hamas is about more than money and power and land and self-determination and rights – it’s about killing Jews because they are Jews.
And that’s why Hamas launched a no-win scenario and that’s why there can be no moral relativism here.
Thomas Buckley is the former mayor of Lake Elsinore, Cal. and a former newspaper reporter. He is currently the operator of a small communications and planning consultancy and can be reached directly at email@example.com. You can read more of his work at his Substack page.