The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Good Guys And Bad Guys In Gaza

Some facts have become clear over the duration of the Israeli/Gaza conflict of 2023.

  • The initial Hamas attack did not have a lot of atrocities committed, despite Israeli claims. No widespread rape, no baby killing and few civilian casualties caused by Hamas. Hamas’s targets were military, plus grabbing hostages and most of the civilian casualties seem to have been caused by indiscriminate Israeli fire, some due to calousness, some due to panic and some due to the Samson doctrine that states Israel will not allow hostages to be taken.
  • Hamas treated its captives humanely. Israel routinely tortures and sexually humiliates theirs.
  • Israel attacked multiple hospitals and deliberately forced them to shut, while cutting off all water, power and food. The population pyramid of known casualties very closely follows the Gaza population pyramid, and the most common age of those killed was five. Most dead were women and children, which means they weren’t soldiers and couldn’t be.
  • Israel is clearly engaging ethnic cleansing and genocide.

Support for Israel has come primarily from the West: the US and most European nations, with Ireland and to a lesser extent, Spain, being exceptions. The US sent tons of aid, appears to have had soldiers on the ground, and aided in targeting of civilians. They intercepted missiles from Yemen and generally did everything they could to help Israel kill as many Gazans as possible.

The Europeans have cracked down heavily on any pro-Palestinian protests, with the Germans being worst in class. The Germans have learned the exact wrong lesson from the Holocaust, they believe it means they must support Israel no matter what, not that genocide and ethnic cleansing are bad.

Only two large groups have really supported Gaza: Yemen and Hezbollah. Yemen has fired missiles and captured shipping ultimately owned by Israel. Hezbollah has attacked many military targets in Northern Israel and forced Israel to keep about a third of its army, including many of the best units on its border.

No one else has done anything meaningful. The Arab countries and Turkey talked a big game, but they had the leverage of oil and refused to use it.

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So, who are the “bad guys?” Pretty clearly those committing and supporting the genocide. In order, Israel, the US, and Europe/Canada.

Who are the good guys? We’ll leave out Hamas, though frankly, I consider them an armed liberation movement: freedom fighters, and they should probably be on the list. Remember the Israeli mass murder didn’t start October 7th.

So: Hezbollah, Yemen, Ireland (since they were under a lot of pressure). And that’s about it.

Civilians around the world and especially in America who protested in vast numbers are due a lot of credit. It’s fairly clear that the ceasefire occurred because Biden couldn’t take any more popularity loss.

I think it’s important to point this out. If you’re helping commit a genocide, you’re bad. If you’re trying to stop one, you’re good.




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  1. DanFmTo

    This is a remarkable piece by 972 mag. What’s made quite explicit based on claimed but not named sources within Israeli intel:

    1) The rules around how many civilian causalities were permitted for a given strike were significantly reduced to almost no rules at all, so long as any purported Hamas figure might be killed, almost any target can be destroyed without warning, including as many as 100 in a single strike to get an unnamed senior Hamas figure supposed to be there.

    2) Israel wants to destroy civilian infrastructure, civil society and residential buildings to “shock” Gazans and demoralize their support for Hamas. It’s Dresden doctrine. Any excuse was found to take down large apartment towers

    3) An AI is used to select targets, and does some kind of neural network pattern matching (likely on cell phone metadata) to target almost anyone deemed to be “Hamas” by the algorithm, which probably includes like a dentist who happens to have a couple Hamas clients or some such thing.

    4) They believe they know with great accuracy how many civilians are in each target zone, probably by cell phone signal triangulation but maybe the drones flying overhead do thermal detection that can see human signatures inside buildings? Anyway, it’s as cold and calculated as the worst Israeli critics could allege.

    But this is the basis of their repeated claims they don’t “target” civilians, a bunch of legal sophistry where the AI found them a “Hamas” figure in a building so they can bring down a 14 story building because Yahya Sinwar’s barber lived there.

  2. Daniel Lynch

    Erdogan talks the talk but does not walk the walk. In fairness, Turkey does a lot of trade with Israel and Turkey’s economy is already bad so Erdogan would probably lose his job if he made the economy worse by disrupting trade with Israel.

    The queen of Jordan seems to mean well, but her husband is a corrupt U.S. puppet who will do as he is told.

    The Sauds are unscrupulous and their hold on power is tenuous so like Erdogan, they will say they support Palestine but are not willing to incur economic costs that might jeopardize their power.

    Iran supports the resistance “under the table” but understands that a direct confrontation would lead to WWIII which would be bad all around no matter who won (Iran would win).

    The conflict is not over by any stretch. Even if all the Palestinian prisoners are released, the occupation continues and nothing has been resolved long term. Even if the ceasefire becomes a semi-permanent truce, I expect the “resistance” will continue to “confront” Israel, demonstrating that it is possible to stand up to Israel and that Zionists will never be safe until the conflict is permanently resolved.

  3. StewartM

    Civilians around the world and especially in America who protested in vast numbers are due a lot of credit. It’s fairly clear that the ceasefire occurred because Biden couldn’t take any more popularity loss.

    The buzz is that the Biden administration is trying to pressure Israel to take its foot off the accelerator. However, Bibi has boasted in the past that (in effect) it’s really easy for Israeli tail to wag the American dog, so whatever pressure is being applied probably isn’t enough,.

    And the political pressure on Biden is real:

  4. Soredemos

    It’s refreshing to see someone just openly side with Hamas. Usually the most I see is to the effect of “I of course condemn the Hamas terrorists, but not all Palestinians are evil Hamas and I also condemn disproportionate, collective punishment”. In reality even a truly 1:1 proportionate response would be indefensible since this isn’t a clash between two independent nation states.

  5. Soredemos

    Minor correction: Hannibal doctrine is the one about not letting Israelis be taken captive. Samson doctrine/option is the one about burning down the rest of the world if it looks like Israel is in imminent danger of being eradicated.

    (At least that’s the Israeli plan for their nukes. I think the reality is they would try to fire them all off, but some would be destroyed before being deployed, some would fail, some would be intercepted. The rest would kill a lot of people, do a lot of long term damage (Tehran gets reduced to radioactive rubble, etc), but that would be it. The rest of the nuclear powers would sit back and not be panicked into starting nuclear WW3. And that would be end of the very concept of Israel, now and forever. After a final nuclear hissyfit, the very concept would be forever discredited and would not be allowed to happen again).

  6. anonone

    “The initial Hamas attack did not have a lot of atrocities committed, despite Israeli claims…and most of the civilian casualties seem to have been caused by indiscriminate Israeli fire”

    This is statement completely unsupported by the recorded evidence including videos (some recorded by Hamas), eyewitness accounts, recovered Hamas plans, and interviews with Hamas terrorists. Plus, it took hours for the Israeli army to show up (because they were concentrated in the north defending “settlements”), and by then much of the slaughter and kidnapping by Hamas had already occurred.

    “Hamas’s targets were military, plus grabbing hostages and most of the civilian casualties seem to have been caused by indiscriminate Israeli fire”

    Really? You think “indiscriminate Israeli fire” is what caused Hamas to take hostages? Was it the Israeli army tossing grenades into bomb shelters and safe rooms? The vast majority of hostages were civilian by design, and many were children. That was Hamas’ plan. The vast majority of people slaughtered were civilians killed by Hamas, not the Israeli army.

    “Hamas treated its captives humanely.”

    Apparently you think that starvation diets without medical care, and being kept in lightless tunnels under armed guard without being allowed to talk is humane. And that taking children hostage after killing their parents is somehow “humane.”

    “Israel is clearly engaging ethnic cleansing and genocide.”

    Yes, they are. And elimination of Jews is the stated goal of Hamas. The Israeli government and Hamas are both evil and wrong.

    Gaza in 2023 is like the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942, except now it is the Israeli government killing Palestinians they have trapped inside a fence instead of Nazis slaughtering Jews trapped inside a wall.

    It is clear that the Israeli government has been engaged in ethnic cleansing and genocide for decades while the United States has looked the other way and provided billions in support. It is also clear that Hamas has called for the extinction of all Jews, and have always worked to sabatoge any peace process through violence. Meanwhile, the human rights of all the people living in these areas are being crushed by their rulers.

    We can and should support and fight for the human rights of the Palestinians without becoming apologists for Hamas or Israel or an October 7 denialist.

  7. Mark Level

    One of my new favorite podcasts is Due Dissidence. 2 smart, anti-Zionist New York Jews who call it like it is. Today they had a great piece on Elon Musk going to Israel & gargling Netanyahu’s balls after he re-tweeted some anti-Semitic garbage. He bowed and scraped for Bibi, who the 2 podcasters rightly pointed out is “the New Hitler”. (Godwin’s Law be damed at this point.) As to all the advertising he has lost on “X” aka Twitter due to his right wing nuttiness and anti-trans type bullshit, Musk claimed “Fuck you all!” that he is suing the advertisers for not wanting to support Musk’s bigotry & bile . . . I haven’t been a fan of Disney (even when I was a kid) but good on everyone from walking away from Musk. Apartheid Clyde, as many call him, does have a pretty good grasp on U$ political culture. Always fluff the right and kick the left, Oligarchs are petty little gods as is AIPAC and Jews who want to exterminate Arabs, Big Finance, Big Pharma & Big Tech, etc. The RoW/ Rest of the World begs to differ, fortunately. Also, I recently saw the brilliant Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson on the Duran (he used to work for Colin Powell but hates the NeoCon ghouls) & he predicted 2 years ago that Israel would go to far & wouldn’t exist as a state in 20 years. I believe he is likely correct. The whole world is watching this genocide, mostly with horror, but our political class just eats it up, ‘coz as former “lefty” Ro Khanna said when confronted, “The USA is the greatest country that has ever existed.” So by the transitive power of Morality our genocides are good, too, QED!!

  8. Feral Finster

    Israel and its American goons are bad guys. Europeans are just pathetic little cucks.

    And yes, the Gulfie tyrannies and Turkey all talk big but do little.

  9. Ian Welsh

    Well, we shall see. The Israeli army didn’t collect forensic evidence of the rapes, but asserts they happened. Convenient.

    The articles I see say they haven’t released the videos of the rapes because they are too disturbing, which is convenient.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some rapes, which is why I said “no widespread rape”, but I have seen no evidence of systemic rape, just Israeli assertions. Definitely there were no “40 beheaded babies.”

    Of course, I could be wrong, and if I so I’ll admit it. But Israel gets no benefit of the doubt when it comes to their assertions. Remember when they claimed they didn’t bomb the hospital then went on to attack multiple hospitals?

    Rape is always evil and wrong and anyone who does it should be prosecuted.

    As for low rations, well, that’s on Israel since they cut off all food to Palestine but since the hostages were almost all been forbidden to speak to media, and especially right after release and before the government could counsel them what to say, well… (but what few did after release were very positive about the treatment.)

  10. mago

    Anytime someone utters the phrase “completely unsupported “ in defense of their own argument the bullshit meter hits 12.
    anonone scores.

  11. @mago

    Yep, it’s just desperate scrambling at this point to run cover for what is clearly a failed state running genocide to shore up its national identity

    Good stuff as usual Ian 👍

  12. anonone

    Both Israel and Hamas agree that Hamas was responsible for the mass of civilian casualties on October 7. Hamas is even bragging about it.

    In addition to the hard evidence (videos, written plans, eyewitness accounts, recorded training, and confirmation by Hamas), Hamas is bragging that the operation succeeded way beyond their expectations. This was largely because of the failure of the Israeli military to prepare for and defend against the attack. Hamas’ goal was (and is) to kill as many Jews as possible, and they don’t care about how many Palestinians suffer in achieving this goal. There is nothing humane about Hamas. Nothing.

    Now, according to yesterday’s NYT (yes, that f**king paper):

    “Israeli officials obtained Hamas’s battle plan for the Oct. 7 terrorist attack more than a year before it happened, documents, emails and interviews show. But Israeli military and intelligence officials dismissed the plan as aspirational, considering it too difficult for Hamas to carry out.”

    Obviously, atrocities occurred on October 7, but the American media loves to dwell on “beheaded babies” and “mass rapes” (true or not), but mostly ignores the the tens of thousands of Gaza civilians, including children and babies, crushed to death and trapped under the rubble of indiscriminate Israeli carpet bombing of the Gaza Ghetto, and the coming mass starvation and disease.

    It is a complete dystopian horror show. The Israeli government and Hamas are both evil. One does not need to “for” one evil to be “against” the other evil. One can be against both.

  13. @Mago and Raad
    It’s head shaking that some people still blindly trust the propaganda network that insisted Iraq had WMD’s, we’d be greeted as liberators, we were winning the Afghanistan war, bombing Syria and Libya would bring peace, and Russia was on the verge of defeat.
    When serial mass murdering, war mongering, liars say Hamas beheaded 40 babies and is raping thousands maybe they are lying to justify the atrocities they commit/support like they’ve always done.
    I can’t wait till they tell us China is enslaving the third world by building infrastructure and killing 100 million Muslims and people blindly lap it up as truth. Oh wait, that already happened…

  14. StewartM


    This was largely because of the failure of the Israeli military to prepare for and defend against the attack.

    Yet recent reporting indicates that Israel intelligence knew of Hamas’s plans a year in advance. So why did they let it happen?

    Was it simple incompetence, or maybe a willingness to let it happen for yet another opportunity to “mow the lawn”, which is the Israeli euphemism for killing Palestinians?

  15. guilliam

    You mention the hostages were being inhumanely kept ‘on starvation diets without medical care, and being kept in lightless tunnels under armed guard without being allowed to talk’.
    That might be true for some of the kidnapping group cells but stories like this suggest to me that at least some of the kidnappers were remarkably considerate. (obviously you can debate the kidnappers’ motives but that’s a different point)

    I’d also add that sadly a LOT of people in Gaza are on starvation diets just now

  16. sbt42

    Meanwhile… Ooof! I can’t imagine the difficult spot Germany was in. Imagine that choice. If they did support the Israeli government, they’d support genocide. If instead they didn’t blindly support Israel, then obviously WWII taught them nothing and they’re just a bunch of monsters and the country is still run completely by Nazis.

    Not that I know anything about any German politicians, but it seems to me like they were stuck between a rock and a hard place, even if they weren’t in lock-step with EU policies like their neighbours. I don’t think they had many options here.

  17. rum, sodomy and the Lasch

    most of the civilian casualties seem to have been caused by indiscriminate Israeli fire, some due to calousness, some due to panic and some due to the Samson doctrine that states Israel will not allow hostages to be taken

    I’ve seen this claim starting to be made by people whose judgment I respect, but I haven’t seen any evidence for it. Would love some links to be dropped.

  18. Donald

    I agree with anonone that Hamas committed a great many murders and kidnapped people, including grandmothers and small children, so they are definitely war criminals. But it is too soon to know how many of Israel’s allegations are true. I don’t know if we will know any time soon. But we know enough to know it is a war between two sets of war criminals.

  19. Ian Welsh

    The problem is that such things are based on a bunch of different data points. If you’re willing to accept a very partisan, pro-Palestinian source:

  20. rum, sodomy and the Lasch

    Thanks for the link Ian, exactly the type of thing I was looking for.

    For those who don’t click: it lays out a number of ways for how Israel would end up killing its own citizens, along with documentary evidence that each of those ways happened in disparate locations.

    For me, that we have this number of logics with this level of confirming detail this soon after the attacks (which is the type of information hasbara will be working overtime to counter / suppress) is pretty definitive evidence for “Israeli actions caused some non-negligible portion of its civilian death toll”.

    Even taking everything in the link at face value, I don’t see how to get to the claim that “most” civilian casualties were caused by Israeli actions. That seems to need additional steps of argumentation that don’t rely on evidence. Something like “We know Hamas’ plan involved taking hostages, so the plan also didn’t include mass civilian killing, and Hamas’ soldiers didn’t lose discipline and start shooting civilians in large scale on the actual day of operations. In light of that, since we know Israeli actions were responsible for some civilian deaths, it makes sense that it was responsible for most of those civilian deaths.”

    That might actually end up being the case, but don’t see how to get there yet.

  21. Soredemos

    Hamas are ‘war criminals’? I wasn’t aware there was any formal, state-on-state war going on. I’m not sure how much legal categories like that apply in the context of an anti-colonial paramilitary system struggle.

    But, further, even if I were to concede all the claims about hamas slaughtering babies, etc, how about this: what if I don’t care? Stop occupying places the UN has been telling Israel to leave for over half a century, rather than screaming about when the occupied commit atrocities against Israel? At this point it is not remotely hyperbolic to compare this to a scenario like if Nazi Germany were complaining that fighters snuck out of a ghetto to murder the families of German soldiers. Oh no, what an unsolicited tragedy! Truly, it just came out of the blue.

    I must say that these new attempts at ‘nuanced hasbara’ are amusing, if nothing else.

  22. Carborundum

    This is exactly the grab bag of assertions that the IDF / Israeli strategic comms apparatus loves to see. Mixing the IDF actions they’ve messaged hardest to convince international audiences (particularly policymaking elites) are understandable given the circumstances with a poorly substantiated lead that lets HAMAS off the hook for their worst actions, dressed in a thin moral coating. This is handing their rhetoriticians pure gold dust.

    The IAF has been systematically double tapping with Mk84s in heavily urbanized environments targeting singletons, based off fucking sigs cuts. Dropping large structures to try and get tunnel complexes that have modest tactical significance and probably zero strategic significance. (By comparison, we couldn’t drop Mk82s [a quarter the size nominal yield, even less in terms of direct effects] during TICs – where people were taking aimed, effective fire – if they were anywhere close to anything resembling some sort of populated structure, even if they had crystal clear multi-platform PID transmitted to higher in living Technicolor with THX audio, down to fricking hot and cold running popcorn.) They’ve done this hundreds of times, continually violating the fundamental principle of proportionality on a scale that hasn’t been seen among western forces for over half a century. The evidence here is in my informed opinion overwhelming and there’s no wiggling out of it – provided that things aren’t obscured by competing groups of zealots chewing the scenery saying “my guys good, your guys bad”. Which is exactly what is happening and exactly what this narrative helps support.

    Nobody here is good guys. There’s probably some pipe hitters, on both sides, trying to do the right thing and limit the future nightmare fuel – but once you get to any higher echelon this is just bad guys.

  23. Carborundum

    Irregular forces are still bound to follow the rules of war. Even in the absence of that, HAMAS styles itself as the lawful government, though it is not recognized as such (even Qatar has, if I understand correctly, not formally recognized them but I’m not entirely sure that’s something that would get reported correctly).

    As a practical matter, given that they are on territory claimed by the PA, which is recognized and is signatory to the big four (including the additional protocols), they’d be well advised to have been scrupulous in their adherence. Even in the absence of criminal exposure to the PA, it’s one of the few tenuous protections their combatants have if they fall into enemy hands.

  24. DMC

    If Zionists don’t want to be danger from constant nationalist anti-colonial uprisings, they can always step on a plane and be New Jersey or Florida in a matter of hours. Palestinians don’t have that kind of option open to them. Equivocation about who is the victim here risks falling into the “very fine people on both sides” trap. Anyone arguing that this has something to do with Jews(as opposed to Zionists) is arguing in bad faith. Hamas could not care less about Jews because that is not the existential category of their oppressor and Zionist is. They hate Zionists because of what they do rather than what they are. Antisemitism, like all forms of racism, requires an essential ist outlook, where what something does proceeds from its essence, rather than the reverse.

  25. Soredemos


    Again, how about this: I don’t care. Israel can fall into the sea at this point.

    Someday, in a perhaps not so distant future, when Israel has been wiped out (no doubt having reduced a few neighboring capitals to ash on the way out), and whatever refugee population it has comes crawling begging for sanctuary, I will feel zero sympathy. And in fact will probably actively advocate against taking any of them in.

  26. Carborundum

    And that would be a prime example of the type of rhetoric that helps ensure they will never be held accountable for war crimes.

  27. Soredemos

    Oh get off it. They’re never going to be held accountable because no one has the power to hold them to account so long as the US is willing to cover for them, which is apparently always and forever. Israel will be punished if and when the shield of America is withdrawn, and that’s only going to happen as the US itself continues to decline to the point where it can’t project the needed force.

    At which point the likely, I would say inevitable, outcome is that Israel is torn apart by the wolves it has endeavored to forever agitate and attack rather than ever making any kind of honest effort to integrate itself into the neighborhood.

    The lack of accountability has nothing to do with what you consider harsh rhetoric that needs to be tone policed. Absolutely absurd.

  28. Carborundum

    My objection isn’t that it’s harsh. It’s that it is counter-productive and self-indulgent.

    People burble on about subtle hasbara. What you’re pushing – that’s subtle hasbara.

    As to whether the US is always going to cover for them a) it has not always been thus and need not always be thus (US elite consensus used to be very anti-Israel – I know, I was taught by some of those guys and I know what we said behind closed doors), b) you should look at some polling internals – the issue is on the move, and c) the US is not the only show in town and will increasingly be task-saturated with with multilateral.

    If you want Israel cut off from US support, about the worst way of messaging is narrowly focused stridency too early. That’s easy to counter enough to keep elite consensus onside and more likely to ultimately turn the issue into a set, no-brains-involved identity issue. What you want to do is nurture the critique and let it get determinative enough that it’s a real latent wedge issue. Once it gets to a certain size and usefulness to the pols, stridency and populism can absolutely be part of the tool bag – if Trumpism has taught us anything, it is that – but those are end-game tools.

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