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October 7 Was Driven By Hamas’ Islamist and Extremist Ideology; We Cannot Ignore This

An aerial view shows the bodies of victims of an attack following a mass infiltration by Hamas gunmen from the Gaza Strip lying on the ground in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, in southern Israel, Oct. 10, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Ilan Rosenberg

In the wake of October 7, the State of Israel, its society, and all its institutions are at a critical crossroads. One path forward demands a thorough investigation and examination of everything that failed on that day so the necessary corrections can be made. The second path directs Israel towards a comprehensive inquiry across all dimensions and urges the formulation of a new and updated national narrative in the face of the existential challenge. The question is, which of the two paths is worth pursuing?

This article will focus on the roots of the failure of October 7, and Israel’s perception of the struggle on the opposing side.

Physical and cultural collapse

The situation of the State of Israel these days, however grim, is still far stronger than it was at the time of its birth in 1948. But as far as complex strategic challenges are concerned, there is a noticeable lack of coherence in both the military and political leadership regarding clarification and decision-making.

The IDF Chief of Staff and the military and security apparatus, which managed to recover within a few days and organize a full, battle-ready mobilization on all fronts, are leading the war. But the national leadership has further obligations. It must direct and confirm the goals of the war. In the process, it must mediate for both itself and the people the reality that changed in the blink of an eye. It must provide a simple and clear explanation of what Israel is fighting for and who the enemy is.

This kind of story has both a physical-military dimension and a cultural-spiritual dimension. The military dimension, as outlined in the enemy’s war concept, was described by the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, on August 19, 2022: “The Palestinians are ready for ground combat. This is Israel’s vulnerability. Missiles are excellent for deterrence … but they don’t liberate land. Ground forces must be deployed, step by step, to liberate it… Hezbollah and Palestinian forces will move on the ground in a unified military structure.” (MEMRI, Aug. 30, 2022).

In this statement lies the foundational idea of the regional warfare concept as articulated and shaped by the Iranian regime, led by Qassem Soleimani: to construct a ring of fire and station commando forces around the State of Israel. Israel, which has continued to confront the threat of war according to the pattern of conflicts from the last century, from the War of Independence to the Yom Kippur War, has struggled to grasp the implications of the new existential threat emerging from Iran’s conception of warfare. This conception has thrust Israel into a state of continuous warfare, like a chronic disease without a cure.

Just two years ago, former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert argued that it was possible to reduce the size of the IDF forces: “It was Ehud Barak who said that we need a small and smart IDF. Unfortunately, the IDF is not small; it is too big and too expensive” (Maariv, April 9, 2002). Many believed that in the era of peace with Egypt and Jordan, and with the collapse of Syria’s army in the civil war, the era of threats from state armies had ended. Well-known experts explained that while there were remaining threats from terrorist organizations, they did not pose an existential threat to the State of Israel.

On a joyous Simchat Torah morning, Israel received a painful wake-up call that this was a dangerously wrong assessment. The country had become accustomed to focusing on the nuclear threat as an existential danger, and directed its diplomatic and operational attention in that direction as well as numerous resources. The threat from the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank was relegated to a secondary status. However, combined with the threat from Hezbollah in the north, Palestinian terrorist organizations now represent an overarching regional threat. Victory over this threat will require a fundamental, multi-dimensional paradigm shift for the State of Israel and its security apparatus.

In the spiritual-cultural dimension as well, a new narrative is required. For years, it has been argued that economic development and prosperity for the Palestinians and the countries in the region are the key to achieving stability and order. But Hamas’ leadership has taught us that its conduct is guided not by the Palestinians’ economic situation but by a deep religious rationale. Western cultural observers, who for centuries have separated religious motives from the political, diplomatic, and military considerations of state leaders, have no tools with which to understand the leadership of Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas, which are driven by religious conviction and carry out their daily work guided by faith.

The leadership of Hamas in Gaza, as an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood, embodies the new Islamic integration of religious, political, civic, and military interests. The fractures and divisions within Israeli society over the past year were seen as a divine omen that this was the time when the gates of heaven would open to herald their redemption. Muslim religious leaders and military strategists predicted years ago that this period would mark the beginning of the end for Israel.

Two years ago, a conference called “The End of Days” was held in Gaza where an approach was designed to advance the “end of the occupation.” At the end of 2022, Palestinian writer Bassam Jarrar declared it the “year of reversal.” Religious dreams and prophecies among Muslims led to a belief that the time had come for the revelation, and that what was required of them was military action. Mohammad Deif, head of Hamas’s military wing, named the current war “Tufan al-Aqsa” (in Hebrew: “Mabul al-Aqsa”) in the belief that through this battle, a great cosmic salvation would unfold.

As it defines the goals of the war, it is crucial that the Israeli leadership understand the religious logic guiding Israel’s enemies. On the physical level, Israel must strive to dismantle the regional system that has been constructed with the support and intent of Iran. On the spiritual-faith level, Israeli victory must be decisive in a way that neutralizes the belief among the leadership of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran that the day of Israel’s destruction is at hand.

The central goal of the war for Israel should be that upon its conclusion, a profound disappointment will be instilled in the Islamic believers who started and sustained it. They must be forced to accept that once again, their time has not come, and the gates of heaven have not opened before them.

The Al-Muqawama idea

Over the last 40 years, radical Islamic organizations have formulated the idea of an ideological-religious war guided by the concept of “Al-Muqawama.” In cultural terms, this concept has been translated as “resistance.” This translation omits certain important dimensions of the ideological content that underlie the concept.

This idea represents a cultural perspective on the phenomenon of war that differs strikingly from that of Western observers. According to the Western cultural perspective, war is a deviation from the stable and peaceful order and is therefore conducted with the intention of restoring that order. The Al-Muqawama concept, by contrast, views warfare as a means of maintaining a constant momentum of conflict and struggle designed to ultimately bring about global Islamic religious conquest.

In the context of the struggle against the State of Israel, this vision is simple and clear: the goal is to completely eliminate Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel, banish any Jewish presence, and “liberate” Jerusalem. Thus, for example, when Israel withdrew from Lebanon, Hassan Nasrallah named Sheba Farms as the new cause for which to fight, declaring that fighting in that area represented war for the gates of Jerusalem. He thereby drew a line connecting limited and constant fighting in the Sheba Farms area to Jerusalem, which, according to his vision, will one day be entirely in Muslim hands.

To simplify the concept of Al-Muqawama somewhat, it can be viewed as the inverse of Clausewitz’s well-known description of war as “the continuation of politics by other means.” The Al-Muqawama idea sees politics as the continuation of war by other means. Thus, negotiation is viewed not as a means to bring about the end of a war but simply as a pause that serves its continuation at a more opportune time under more favorable conditions.

Al-Muqawama as a concept of war has two ideological dimensions. The first arises from the duty of the believer to take the initiative, an idea also seen in Jewish Kabbalistic teachings that emphasize the responsibility of humans to awaken and act in the world below so as to generate a divine awakening in the world above. This duty involves practical effort and activity. For example, if a person is facing a tsunami, while it may be clear that he has no chance of defending himself armed with only a bucket, he has a duty to strive and to act with whatever he has on hand in the expectation and belief that those actions will contribute to his salvation.

This was the thinking of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat when he decided to go to war with Israel in October 1973. His ultimate goal was to reclaim the entire Sinai Peninsula for Egypt. He knew he could not achieve this goal militarily. Aware of this gap, he employed a concept of war based on the expectation that through his efforts to minimize the war’s toll, something great would emerge beyond his control that would lead him to his goal.

It is from this perspective that we can understand the logic employed by Yahya Sinwar in his decision to go to war on October 7. From his point of view, after Hamas fulfilled its duty to take the initiative and act, trends would develop later that would advance the divine intention. If, for example, the war results in a situation in which Israel is forced to submit to American demands for the establishment of a Palestinian state and withdrawal from the West Bank, Sinwar will be perceived as victorious. Despite the massive destruction he has brought down upon Gaza, he will achieve a historical status no less than that of Saladin.

The second dimension in the concept of Al-Muqawama signifies an obligation on the part of the believer to recognize the reality that victory is neither swift nor guaranteed. The believer is therefore committed to patience, known in Islam as “Sabr.” This commitment entails an ability to retain the dream of victory without compromise even at the cost of great losses. Consider, for example, the “Cup of Poison” speech delivered to the Iranian parliament in the summer of 1988 by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini. In the speech, Khomeini said Iran had accepted the terms of the ceasefire that ended the Iran-Iraq War, explaining that even that which appears to be poison must be accepted as the will of God. In that way he accepted reality but retained his status as a believer who had not given up on his aspiration to eventually fulfill the religious vision of the Islamic Revolution.

Israeli victory will depend on the leadership’s understanding of both dimensions of the concept of Al-Muqawama. Victory is not only contingent on the magnitude of the achievement on the battlefield but on the trends in the struggle that develop in the days after the war. The Hamas vision will likely persist – but Israel’s ability to force jihadist believers to recognize their weakness, a condition referred to in Islam as “Marhalaat Al-Isda’ta’af,” increases the chances of a temporary cessation of their struggle under the obligation to heed the “Sabr” directive of patience.

This insight must be integrated into the foundations of the Israeli security perception. Israel must remain constantly aware of the eternal Islamic struggle against it. In terms of comprehensive existential considerations, this perception extends beyond the concept of deterrence, which has repeatedly revealed itself to be fragile.

Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen is a senior research fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. He served in the IDF for 42 years. He commanded troops in battles with Egypt and Syria. He was formerly a corps commander and commander of the IDF Military Colleges. A version of this article was originally published by The BESA Center.

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US ‘Strongly Opposes’ China-Brokered Deal to Form Palestinian Unity Government With Terrorist Groups

Mahmoud al-Aloul, Vice Chairman of the Central Committee of Palestinian organization and political party Fatah, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and Mussa Abu Marzuk, senior member of the Palestinian terror movement Hamas, attend an event at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on July 23, 2024. Photo: Pedro Pardo/Pool via REUTERS

The US on Tuesday said it “strongly opposes” a Beijing-brokered declaration signed earlier in the day by the Palestinian Authority’s Fatah movement and the Hamas terror group, aimed at reconciling their longstanding divisions and establishing a unity government to manage Gaza after the war.

The declaration, which was also signed by more than a dozen other Palestinian factions, is seen as a symbolic win for China’s role as a global mediator, with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi describing it as a “historic moment for the cause of Palestine’s liberation.” However, doubts linger about its effectiveness in addressing the years-long rift between the groups.

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller responded to the announcement, saying Hamas had “blood on its hands, of Israelis and of Palestinians,” and could not be in any leadership role.

“When it comes to governance of Gaza at the end of the conflict, there can’t be a role for a terrorist organization,” Miller said.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) — which currently exercises limited self-governance in the West and has long been riddled with allegations of corruption and authoritarianism — should be in control of both the West Bank and Gaza, Miller said, adding that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), unlike Hamas, had renounced terrorism.

The PLO is a coalition of Palestinian factions, including Fatah.

“If you look at the death and destruction that Hamas’ decision to launch the attacks of Oct. 7 has brought on Gaza, they have — there’s no one that has brought more pain and suffering to the people in Gaza than Hamas through their decisions — first to launch the attacks of Oct. 7, and then their ongoing decision, which continues today, to hide among civilian communities and use civilians as human shields.”

Miller also addressed China’s role in the mediation, saying that the US has generally encouraged China to leverage its influence with regional countries, especially those where the US has less sway, to prevent conflict escalation. One example was the Chinese-mediated deal last year restoring ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The US also urged China to discourage both Iran from financing proxies attacking Israel and the Houthis from targeting commercial shipping. “We have asked China to use its influence to try to bring those attacks to an end, and we’ll continue to do that,” Miller said.

Tuvia Gering, a China and Middle East analyst at the Institute for National Security Studies, said the move is part of China’s effort to rival the US by building alliances with developing nations as well as the Arab and Muslim world to prioritize its interests and stifle Western dominance.

China is “challenging America in every space possible as a new type of major power that takes in the considerations of the Global South and the coalitions of those oppressed by imperialism and Western hegemony” to create “a new global order,” he told The Algemeiner.

Gering condemned Beijing’s move, saying it “normalized terrorism” and will embolden the Palestinians into further intransigence in talks for any future peace accord.

“Until today, China failed to criticize [the Palestinians] and put all the onus onto Israel. This means effectively that the Palestinians will only adhere to the most maximalist positions in negotiations for the two state solution [which] will become even more of a distant reality,” Gering told The Algemeiner.

Gering also predicted that the “golden age” of China-Israel relations, which burgeoned over the last decade with the inking of major bilateral deals, was over because of China’s decision to “legitimize terror” since Oct. 7. Gering warned that moving forward, Israeli strategy in the region must also take China into account.

Gering expressed doubts that the declaration signed on Tuesday would lead to any major developments, noting “a large amount of skepticism” in the Arab world.

Indeed, the declaration gave no outline for how or when a new unity Palestinian government would be formed.

The Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, which was also a signatory on the declaration, issued a statement later in the day outlining its demand for all factions in any future unity government to reject recognition of Israel.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz blasted the agreement, saying it underscored Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ embrace of “the murderers and rapists” of Hamas, which rules Gaza.

“In reality, this won’t happen because Hamas’ rule will be crushed, and Abbas will be watching Gaza from afar. Israel’s security will remain solely in Israel’s hands,” Katz said.

In his statement, Wang reiterated China’s commitment to a “comprehensive, lasting, and sustainable ceasefire” in Gaza and advocated for an “international peace conference” aimed at pursuing a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Dina Lisnyansky, an expert in Middle East affairs and Islam, warned that while the deal may not come to fruition, China’s role is of growing concern for Israel. Egypt and Algeria — both mediators in failed past attempts at rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas — were far weaker than China as regional actors. “When China sets its sights on something it usually achieves its goals, so it should worry us greatly,” Lisnyansky told The Algemeiner.

Lisnyansky also said that Israel should sanction the PA for signing the declaration. “Israel should negate any entity that has any ties at all to Hamas, which needs to lose both its authority and legitimacy.”

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Here’s every Jewish athlete competing at the 2024 Paris Olympics

And who has the best chance of medalling in Paris.

The post Here’s every Jewish athlete competing at the 2024 Paris Olympics appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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Kamala Harris’s Record on Israel Raises Questions About Support for Jewish State if Elected US President

US Vice President Kamala Harris. Photo: Erin Schaff/Pool via REUTERS

Following US President Joe Biden’s stunning exit from the 2024 presidential race, allies of Israel are looking for clues as to how Vice President Kamala Harris, the new presumptive Democratic nominee, could approach issues affecting the Jewish state if she were to win the White House in November.

Harris’s previous statements reveal a mixed record on Israel, offering signs of both optimism and pessimism to pro-Israel advocates.

Though Harris has voiced support for the Jewish state’s right to existence and self defense, she has also expressed sympathy for far-left narratives that brand Israel as “genocidal.” The vice president has additionally often criticized Israel’s war effort against the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in Gaza.

In 2017, while giving a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), then-Senator Harris delivered a 19-minute speech in which she showered praise on Israel, stating that she supports “the United States’ commitment to provide Israel with $38 billion in military assistance over the next decade.” Harris stated that America has “shared values” with Israel and that the bond between the two nations is “unbreakable.”

In 2020, while giving another speech to AIPAC, Harris emphasized that US support for Israel must remain “rock solid” and noted that Hamas “maintains its control of Gaza and fires rockets.”

Despite such statements of support, however, Harris has previously exhibited a degree of patience for those who make baseless smears against Israel. 

In October 2021, when confronted by a George Mason University student who angrily accused Israel of committing “ethnic genocide” against Palestinians, Harris quietly nodded along and then praised the student. 

“And again, this is about the fact that your voice, your perspective, your experience, your truth cannot be suppressed, and it must be heard,” Harris told the student. 

Following Hamas’ slaughter of 1,200 people and kidnapping of 250 others across southern Israel on Oct. 7, Harris has shown inconsistent support for the Jewish state. Although she initially backed Israel’s right to defend itself from Hamas’ terrorism, she has also levied sharp criticism against the Jewish state’s ensuing war effort in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

During a call with then-Israeli war cabinet leader Benny Gantz earlier this year, Harris suggested that the Jewish state has recklessly imperiled the lives of Palestinian civilians while targeting Hamas terrorists in Gaza.

“Far too many Palestinian civilians, innocent civilians have been killed,” Harris said. 

The same month, while delivering a speech commemorating the 59th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama, Harris called the conditions in Gaza “devastating.”

“And given the immense scale of suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate ceasefire for at least the next six weeks,” Harris said.

While speaking with Israeli President Isaac Herzog to mark the Jewish holiday of Passover in April, Harris shared “deep concerns about the humanitarian situation in Gaza and discussed steps to increase the flow of life-saving humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians and ensure its safe distribution.”

Harris also pushed the unsubstantiated narrative that Israel has intentionally withheld aid from the people of Gaza, triggering a famine. 

“People in Gaza are starving. The conditions are inhumane. And our common humanity compels us to act,” Harris said. “The Israeli government must do more to significantly increase the flow of aid.”

The United Nations Famine Review Committee (FRC), a panel of experts in international food security and nutrition, released a report in June arguing that there is not enough “supporting evidence” to suggest that a famine has occurred in Gaza.

Harris has also expressed sympathy for anti-Israel protesters on US university campuses. In an interview published earlier this month, Harris said that college students protesting Israel’s defensive military efforts against Hamas are “showing exactly what the human emotion should be.”

“There are things some of the protesters are saying that I absolutely reject, so I don’t mean to wholesale endorse their points,” she added. “But we have to navigate it. I understand the emotion behind it.”

Some indicators suggest that Harris could adopt a more antagonistic approach to the Jewish state than Biden. For example, Harris urged the White House to be more “sympathetic” toward Palestinians and take a “tougher” stance against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a Politico report in December. In March, White House aides forced Harris to tone down a speech that was too tough on Israel, according to NBC News.

Later, she did not rule out “consequences” for Israel if it launched a large-scale military offensive to root out Hamas battalions in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, citing humanitarian concerns for the civilian population.

Harris initially called for an “immediate ceasefire” before Biden and has often used more pointed language when discussing the war, Israel, and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. However, her advisers have sought to downplay the notion that she may be tougher on the Jewish state.

“The difference is not in substance but probably in tone,” one of Harris’s advisers told The Nation.

Meanwhile, Halie Soifer, who served as national security adviser to Harris during the then-senator’s first two years in Congress, said the current vice president’s support for Israel has been just as strong as Biden’s. “There really has been no daylight to be found” between the two, she told Reuters.

Still, Biden, 81, has a decades-long history of maintaining relationships with Israeli leaders and recently called himself a “Zionist.” Harris, 59, does not have such a connection to the Jewish state and maintains closer ties to Democratic progressives, many of whom have increasingly called for the US to turn away — or at least adopt a tougher approach toward — Israel

Former US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman suggested that Harris would be a far less reliable ally than Biden, pointing to her ideological alignment with the most progressive lawmakers in Congress. 

“Biden made many mistakes regarding Israel, but he is miles ahead of Harris in terms of support for Israel,” Friedman told The Jerusalem Post. “She is on the fringe of the progressive wing of the party, which sympathizes more with the Palestinian cause.”

“This will move Jewish voters to the Republican side,” the former ambassador argued. “Harris lacks any affinity for Israel, and the Democratic Convention will highlight this contrast. This could lead to a historic shift of Jewish voters to the Republican side.”

Meanwhile, J Street, a progressive Zionist organization, eagerly endorsed Harris the day after Biden dropped out of the presidential race, citing her “nuanced, balanced approach” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflictt.

“Kamala Harris has been a powerful advocate for J Street’s values in the White House, from the fight against antisemitism to the need for a nuanced, balanced approach on Israel-Palestine,” J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a statement. “She’s been a steadfast supporter of hostage families and Israel’s security, while also being a leading voice for the protection of Palestinian civilians and the need to secure an urgent ceasefire.”

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