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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French Government Will Hold Commemoration for Victims of Hamas Pogrom Amid Disquiet Over Far Left Party’s Participation
French President Emmanuel Macron will preside over a special ceremony on Wednesday to commemorate the French victims of the Oct. 7, 2023 Hamas pogrom in Israel as a row over the potential presence of far left parliamentarians continues to fester.
A statement from the Elysée Palace on Monday confirmed Macron’s presence at Wednesday’s event, which will take place at Les Invalides in Paris, where the French National Assembly and other leading national institutions are based.
A spokeswoman for Macron’s office pointed out that 42 French citizens were among the more than 1,200 people murdered during the Hamas assault, with a further three still being held hostage in Gaza.
Answering a question from a reporter about whether a similar event would be held for French citizens killed during the IDF bombing of Gaza that followed the assault, she added that a separate memorial ceremony would be held at a date yet to be determined. “It is obvious that we owe the same emotion and the same dignity to the French victims of the bombings in Gaza, and this tribute will be paid to them at another time,” she said. It is not clear how many French passport holders have actually been killed since the French government announced the deaths of two Palestinian children who were French citizens on Oct. 31.
Wednesday’s ceremony will unfold “under the universal sign of the fight against anti-Semitism and through it, all forms of hatred, racism and oppression against minorities,” the official statement from the presidency declared. Each of the murdered victims will be commemorated through the display of a photograph with their name attached. Families of the victims will be present, many of them being flown in from Israel on a special flight chartered by the French government.
The event is already mired in controversy due the announcement of parliamentarians from the far left La France Insoumise (LFI -“France Rising”) that they plan to attend. LFI has been vocal in its support of Palestinians in Gaza, frequently drawing accusations of antisemitism because of its harsh rhetoric. Earlier this month, the daughter of two LFI MPs was arrested for allegedly antisemitic social media posts in the weeks following the Hamas attack, while another LFI MP faced condemnation over a posting on social media that invoked a popular Japanese manga meme appropriated by antisemites.
In a letter to Macron, members of five of the victims families demanded a ban on the participation of LFI MPs.
“We, families of victims of Hamas terrorists, solemnly demand that any presence of LFI at the national tribute that will be paid to the 42 Franco-Israeli victims of 7/10 be prohibited,” the letter stated.
However, that request is unlikely to be granted. Pointing out that parliamentarians are automatically invited to state-organized ceremonies, Macron’s office stated that “It is up to everyone to assess the appropriateness or not of their presence since the families spoke out and expressed strong emotion,” but notably did not accede to the ban request.
Mathilde Panot, the head of the LFI deputies in the National Assembly, said last week that she planned to attend the ceremony.
“I will be present and I have asked that a tribute be paid to all the French victims of this war in the Middle East, including the Franco-Palestinians killed in Gaza by the Israeli army,” she said.
Montana Tucker “Bring Them Home” Grammy Tribute for Israeli Hostages Turns Heads
Jewish singer and songwriter Montana Tucker showed her support for Israelis still being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza at Sunday night’s 66th Annual Grammy Awards, an annual ceremony held to honor the record industry’s most critically acclaimed artists.
Posing for photographers, Tucker walked the red carpet clad in a beige, diaphanous corset gown ornamented with a yellow ribbon that said, “Bring Them Home.” She also wore a Star of David necklace.
136 Israeli hostages remain imprisoned by Hamas in Gaza. They have been there since Oct. 7, when the terrorist organization committed a massacre of Jews across the southern region of Israel, the deadliest mass killing of Jews since the Holocaust. Hamas’ fighters brutally murdered and rape hundreds, and according to numerous reports, more are being sexually abused in captivity.
Tucker’s wasn’t the only statement made about the Israel-Hamas war. Ann Lennox, Scottish vocalist of the popular 1980s band Eurythmics — most known for its No. 1 song “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” — called for a ceasefire in Gaza in a speech delivered after she performed a tribute to Sinéad O’Connor.
Raising a “Black Power” fist before a much larger audience than Tucker was accorded, Lennox proclaimed, “Artists for a ceasefire. Peace in the world.”
Lennox was alluding to “Artists4Ceasefire,” a small group of entertainers who issued a letter calling on President Joe Biden to “end the bombing of Gaza” that did not mention that Hamas started the war or condemn rising antisemitism. The letter’s signatories include, among other B-list celebrities, Adam Lambert — who in 2009 won second place in the now-discontinued television series American Idol — Jennifer Lopez, Rosie O’Donnell, and Alyssa Milano.
The Algemeiner honored Montana Tucker in 2022 for being one of 100 people recognized for positively influencing Jewish life. A granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, Tucker was dogged all her life by assertions that she does not “look Jewish.” Undeterred by the remarks, she committed to proudly representing the Jewish community, and in 2022 produced “How To: Never Forget,” a ten-part docuseries about her grandparents lives in Poland before the Nazi invasion.
“This has been my responsibility to do this, for me and my grandparents and everyone else,” Tucker said at the time, during an interview. “People are used to seeing my very light-hearted, fun dance videos and me collaborating with a lot of different people…It’s rare for me and my content, and rare for the platform in general, to have a docuseries on the Holocaust.”
Other pro-Israel activists wore apparel to the Grammy awards to show. Orthodox Rabbi-Rapper Moshe Reuven, whose song “You Are Not Alone” has amassed over one million streams on Spotify, sported a “Never Is Now” shirt distributed through partnership between civil rights nonprofit StandWithUs and Perspective Fitwear. The shirt’s designer is Karen Margolis.
Taylor Swift’s 2022 record, titled Midnights, won “Album of the Year,” and rapper Jay-Z implied during a speech for accepting the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award that his wife, multi-platinum artists and most-winning Grammy award winner ever Beyoncé, has never won “Album of the Year” because she is a Black woman. The moment was reminiscent of a 2009 incident in which Kanye West stormed the stage of the MTV Awards to denounce Swift’s winning “Best Video by a Female Artist.”
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
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Israeli Bank Shutter Accounts of Settlers Sanctioned By Biden
The Israeli bank accounts of two of the Israelis sanctioned by the United States government last week were closed on Sunday and Monday. Israel’s Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich spoke out against the action, saying “I will take action as the finance minister and do what I must. If need be, we’ll advance legislation on the matter.” He further called the instance “unthinkable” that it occurred.
The two Israelis, Yinon Levi and David Chai Chasdai, had their personal and business accounts closed by Bank Leumi and Bank Hadoar, respectively. The other two settlers listed bank with Bank Hapoalim, who also said they would close the accounts, saying “Bank Hapoalim respects the international sanctions and will comply with any legal order.”
The Bank of Israel announced their support for the move, saying “Banking corporations, by necessity of their international activities, are required to establish policies and procedures for the use of international sanctions lists and national sanctions lists of foreign countries and for entering into or carrying out operations with parties declared on such lists. Circumvention of sanctions regimes as mentioned, has the effect of exposing the banking corporations to significant risks, among them, compliance risks, money laundering and terrorist financing risks, legal risks and reputational risks.”
Chasdai, who denies any wrongdoing, said “The fact that a government bank decides in the middle of a bright day to seize the bank accounts of settlers solely because of pressure from extreme leftist organizations and a hostile American government is unimaginable, but the fact that this is happening under the tenure of a right-wing government just after the greatest massacre in the country’s history is a national disgrace first class.”
“We have gone through many oppressors who harmed the people of Israel over the generations, we will also go through the persecution of Biden and his aides,” he added.
US President Joe Biden approved the sanctions last week, saying “The situation in the West Bank – in particular high levels of extremist settler violence, forced displacement of people and villages, and property destruction – has reached intolerable levels and constitutes a serious threat to the peace, security and stability in the region.”
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