A wounded, weakened Israel is a fiercer one

A wounded, weakened Israel is a fiercer one. By Haviv Rettig Gur.

It was a horror, interminable, impossible. Hour after hour, families sat huddled in their homes awaiting rescue from the Hamas fighters streaming through their towns and villages.

Families were butchered in cold blood. In one home, a terrorist shot the parents dead, took a child’s cellphone and started broadcasting it all in a livestream on their Facebook account. Grandmothers were pulled in wheelchairs to waiting vehicles ready to carry them as hostages into Gaza. Then came the mothers carrying babies. Footage circulated on social media, put there by Hamas, of an Israeli child asking his mother if the gunmen that surrounded them were going to kill them. “They said they won’t,” the mother replied as they were taken outside to some unknown fate. …

And all of it was broadcast by Hamas to the world in joyful pride, sparking celebrations in Tehran, Ramallah and no small part of the online pro-Palestinian activist world. …

Changed forever:

Until Saturday, Israelis believed they were strong and safe. On Saturday, they started to believe that they were neither.

In that simple shift, the Hamas attack was massively successful.

As Palestinian Islamic Jihad spokesman Abu Hamza put it while the attack was still underway: “This powerful enemy is an illusion made of dust and capable of being defeated and broken. Our heroes made the enemy small and humiliated, feeling death everywhere.” …


Here lies a part of Palestinian thinking and discourse that many of Palestine’s Western defenders ignore, both because it’s a hard sell to Western audiences and because they don’t really understand it themselves. Palestinian “resistance,” as conceived by Hamas, is about much more than settlements, occupation or the Green Line. A larger theory of Islamic renewal is at work. …

This reclamation of Islamic dignity through the ultimate defeat of the Jews occupies a great deal of Hamas’s political thought, permeates its rhetoric and profoundly shapes its thinking about Israeli Jews and its strategy in facing Israel. Israel is more than a mere occupier or oppressor in this narrative, it is a rebellion against God and the divinely-ordained trajectory of history. And by showing Israelis in their weakness, the thinking goes, Israelis are somehow actually made weak. Redemption requires only the faith of its believers to be fulfilled, and seeing is believing.

The footage from Saturday, the snuff videos shared gleefully by Hamas supporters, including in some Western far-left circles, weren’t an aberration.

Hamas gunmen didn’t get “carried away,” as some explained. They were the essence of the whole enterprise. They were Hamas’s basic message to Israelis: That they weren’t being killed and kidnapped just for tactical advantage in the struggle for Palestinian independence, but rather were being humiliated and dehumanized as traitors against God.

It was the message at every turn. In one video released for Israelis to see, a little Israeli boy, perhaps six years old, was put in a circle of Gazan children who were told to bully and terrorize him while he stood there helpless. It was a planned and purposeful moment. Israelis’ weakness was paraded through Gaza’s streets and celebrated on social media. It was the point. …

Hamas did everything it could to shock Israelis, to humiliate and horrify, kidnapping children, desecrating corpses, and then crowing about it to the world.

Like the progressives, they believe history is on their side. Such delusions are dangerous for everyone concerned.

The consequences:

And Israelis watched it all, minute by agonizing minute. And they agreed. Their weakness had become clear, unavoidable.

And very, very dangerous. …

A tectonic shift had occurred in the country’s psyche. The horrors inflicted by Hamas sparked rage and an intense feeling of vulnerability. Where Hamas had always seemed an implacable but ultimately containable enemy, it had now proven it could bring the danger into Israeli homes, could slaughter children and kidnap grandmothers while all the vaunted power of the Israel Defense Forces was helpless to stop it.

Hamas had made itself an intolerable threat. …

A strong Israel may tolerate a belligerent Hamas on its border; a weaker one cannot. A safe Israel can spend much time and resources worrying about the humanitarian fallout from a Gaza ground war; a more vulnerable Israel cannot.

A wounded, weakened Israel is a fiercer Israel.

Hamas was once a tolerable threat. It just made itself an intolerable one, all while convincing Israelis they are too vulnerable and weak to respond with the old restraint.

2024 is really shaping up. Will Hezbollah join in, firing its 150,000 rockets from Lebanon?