Violence shatters hopes of peace in the Middle East
Related PR imbroglio at Harvard and other thoughts
As many of you did, I awoke on Saturday morning to the devastating news of the deadly, coordinated attack by the terrorist group Hamas on Israel. It threw me back, even though the region has long been a tinderbox waiting to explode in violence once again.
But the boldness with which Hamas carried out the attacks, along with the scope and the planning that went into them, shocked the senses. So too did the sheer inhumanity of the tactics of the Hamas fighters: to wit, men, women and children were dragged from their homes, raped and killed, or abducted and taken back in Gaza as hostages; a siege on an Israeli music festival that killed 260 people and resulted in the kidnapping of an unknown number of others; there were reports of “a motorist being dragged from his car and having his throat slashed, and the bodies of dead civilians and soldiers being defiled.”
Hundreds of people died, including an as-yet unspecified number of Americans. Unlike most other Hamas attacks on Israel, this one involved not only ground personnel but incursions from the air (hang gliders) and the sea (small vessels). In other words, it required considerable resources and great deal of operational planning. The fact that the attacks were largely successful suggests a “staggering Israeli intelligence failure.”
But it also suggests Hamas had help. Citing sources in Hamas and Hezbollah, the Wall Street Journal is reporting (free link) that Iran, which has longstanding ties to Hamas, provided operational support and planning.
“Officers of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps had worked with Hamas since August to devise the air, land and sea incursions — the most significant breach of Israel’s borders since the 1973 Yom Kippur War — those people said.”
If true — and it likely is — this suggests the fighting could spread to additional portions of Israel, or perhaps even to Iran itself. Then we could have Syria, a backer of Hezbollah, joining strategic ally Iran. Israel clearly possesses tactical nuclear weapons, while Iran’s own nuclear program appears to be emerging. And as we all know from 10 years ago, Syria possesses chemical weapons and will not hesitate to use them, even on its own people.
It didn’t take long for the finger-pointing to start. Critics of the Biden administration claimed its limited release of $6 billion in frozen Iranian assets funded or otherwise facilitated the attacks. But there is no evidence that such was the case, so many of those accusers are backing off the assertions.
Sympathizers across the globe suggested the attacks were the inevitable result of decades of oppression of the Palestinian people, as well as the sometimes overly aggressive tactics of the Israeli Defense Forces, not only in Gaza but in places like the West Bank. Is is possible to partly agree with that sentiment, while condemning in the strongest terms the egregious war crimes committed by Hamas? To wit:
Acknowledging this does not create some sort of false equivalence. The war crimes committed by Hamas exceed anything I have seen in the modern era.
Rep. Daniel Goldman (D-NY) also made this clear in an interview with MSNBC’s Rachael Maddow last night:
Not only have they been deliberately targeting civilians, but they have, among other things, been dragging innocent children from their homes, executing them in front of their parents, who are then dragged as hostages kicking-and-screaming into Gaza, all the while live-streaming the atrocities on social media. Israel, on the other hand, actually warns civilians before their areas come under attack, as Goldman explained.
There is no earthly justification for this kind of evil. That’s the same word President Biden used today to describe Hamas’ attacks, rightly (but redundantly) labeling them “pure unadulterated evil.” (free NYT link)
P.S. Who would have thought that one of the side-effects of these horrific attacks is that it put Harvard University in the spotlight. Pro-Palestinian groups on campus, including the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee, put out statements to the effect that Israel is “entirely responsible” for the Hamas attacks.
The university’s leadership then came under intense pressure, including from former Harvard president Larry Summers himself, to condemn the statements:
This morning, Harvard President Claudine Gay finally came out with an anodyne statement, which Massachusetts Congressman Jake Auchincloss, a Harvard alumnus, dismissed the statement.
“Instead of moral clarity and courage, they offer word salad approved by committee,” Auchincloss said. “I am ashamed of my alma mater.”
The Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper, has done some fine reporting on the PR disaster (see links above).
Finally, from Northeastern University journalism Prof. Dan Kennedy, we have a list of the best English-language news sources on the conflict:
I’ve been following developments mainly at The New York Times, but there are reliable sources of free news as well. Here are a just a few:
The liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz has a fairly tight paywall, but its live updates appear to be free. If nothing else, you can read headlines and snippets.
The Jerusalem Post, a conservative Israeli paper, is giving me an error message at the moment. But here’s the link to its live updates, which I expect will be back soon. [Editor’s note: It works; I no longer see error messages]
The English-language service of Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based news organization, is posting stories about the war here.
Thanks, Dan. To that fine list, I would add the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC News), which is doing stellar work and has several reporters and photographers on the ground.
P.P.S. This morning, I officially left the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter. The disinformation tolerated by Elon Musk and his staff during the current crisis in the Middle East was the last straw for me.
If any of you had been following me there, I can be found elsewhere, including Facebook (since 2007), FB’s sister platform Threads and Post News, “the social news platform committed to real people, real news, and civil conversations.”
In pointing to reliable sources for news of the current fighting, Musk tweeted out two accounts, both of which are purveyors of disinformation and one of which is anti-semitic, I knew it was time to say adios. Musk might be great at building things like cars and rockets, but he’s equally skilled at running social media platforms into the ground.