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

Hamas Attacks, What Does It Mean?

For once I was taken by surprise. I didn’t expect this attack and despite my low opinion of the Israeli military, would not have expected it to be so successful.

Hamas actually captured the Israeli southern command base briefly. It was retaken with massive air strikes (meaning Israel was willing to hit its own people.) In the initial 12 hours or so they wiped the floor with local Israeli forces.

This is the most successful Palestinian military operation I can think of.

Hamas could not, of course, hold the ground it took and is retreating to Gaza. Israel has declared war and stated that they will invade Gaza.

A ground invasion will be extremely bloody, Gaza is one of the most densely populated places on Earth, and Hamas has had plenty of time to prepare. Bombing and shelling urban areas does not make invasion significantly easier.

Let’s drawn out some specific points:

Complete Mossad Intelligence Failure

Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, has a fearsome reputation, but they either wanted the attack to happen (which is unlikely) or they were caught completely by surprise. This is an embarrassment, to vastly understate the case.

Israeli Military Weakness

As I have said repeatedly, and as the last war with Hezbollah showed, the Israeli army, no matter how many weapons or men or planes it has, is weak and incompetent. This is not the military of 1967 or even 1980, when the legend of Israeli military brilliance was created.

This is due to serving primarily as an occupation army. All occupation armies, fighting against the weak, become weak, brutal bullies incompetent at fighting real opposition.

The Israeli army was slow to respond, a general was captured and a command base. This is, again, humiliating.


Humiliation is the word of the day. Just as a bully whose victim manages to get in a few good punches has to be brutal in response, so Israel will lash out massively.


This is one reason why Hamas lashed out. No one could be expected to endure this, year on year, and not want to strike back. It is also why, while I have sympathy for anyone hurt or killed, I have no patience with crocodile tears from Israeli supporters, acting as if they haven’t been doing worse to Palestinians for years.

The Hezbollah Question

is whether they’ll attack. The answer seems to be “probably” as Hezbollah has said that if there is a ground invasion of Gaza, they will declare war. Hezbollah is no joke, they are battle hardened, have between 40K and 150K missiles, a drone force, and their own private comms system.

Israel is moving forces to the Lebanese border as we speak. Militarily speaking, if I were Hezbollah, I might attack sooner rather than later.

The Iran Question

Iran is Hamas and Hezbollah’s sponsor. It is VERY unlikely Hamas did this without Iranian greenlighting and if that’s so, the plan isn’t “do one attack, then get hammered.”

The “Iron” Dome

Israel’s missile defenses cracked under Hamas’s missile barrage. There is no question, if Hezbollah attacks, the Iron Dome will not shoot down most missiles. This time it won’t be Lebanon’s heartland being bombed mercilessly while Tel Aviv is spared, there will be carnage in both homelands.


In some ways this is the bottom line. Israel has nukes. If they did not, I would expect Iran to join in and if I were Egypt, I might invade. Israel is weak and humiliated. But as long as they have nukes, other countries will shy off from direct war unless they think they have a way of taking out those nukes.

Diplomatic Damage

Israeli-Saudi Arabia negotiations are dead for the time being and other Arab allies will not be able to do anything but condemn Israel. There are massive demonstration in support of Hamas in Turkey, Egypt and many other Muslim countries.

Ethnic Cleansing and Occupation

Israel has a huge problem, in that it has a massive population of non-citizens, and those non-citizens are out-breeding the citizenry, except for the ultra-orthodox Jews who do not serve in the military. This is an ulcer, and many Israeli politicians have been clear they want to just get rid of the Palestinians. They can’t genocide them, because it would destroy the Holocaust trump card, but many would love ethnic cleanse them. This may be an opportunity.

This is also an issue because if Israel wants to directly run Gaza, the occupation will be a bloody guerilla war, an endless bleeding ulcer.

If they don’t want to run it, they have to find a friendly quisling force, like the Palestinian authority, to do it for them, and at least right now, there’s no one to take that role. Hamas are more moderate than the other main Gaza factions.

Imperial Overstretch

Usually when Israel is in trouble the US airlifts in massive arms and munitions to help them, as they did in the 2006 war. But right now the shelves are almost bare because of Ukraine.

Balance of Forces

Hamas is obviously still the massive underdog. They are praying for Hezbollah to join in, and perhaps they want Israel to invade so they can fight a ground war against Israel on their own ground. The smart money is still on Israel.

But do not underestimate Hezbollah, and don’t underestimate how nasty this could get if Hezbollah does intervene. As noted above, they will be able to strike Israel’s heartland. If Israel attacks into Lebanon in response, with ground assets, my money is Hezbollah and if I were Hezbollah I would want that. Defeat the attack, then counter-attack into Israel.

If Hezbollah has to attack on the ground because Israel won’t oblige them I honestly don’t know how it will go.

But, while smaller and less well equipped, Hezbollah is the superior military with higher morale. If I were Israeli, I would not be sanguine.

Concluding Remarks

I won’t cavil, I think Hamas is justified in this attack. I also think the argument that settlers are civilians is weak (though by settlers I do not mean all Israelis.) Israel is an apartheid religious-ethnic state which stole another people’s land and continues to brutalize them.

The only humane solution, one which allows Israel to continue to exist, is a single state with everyone as full citizens.

Alas, that is not on the table.

In the long run, Israel as an ethic religious state, like the Crusader States, is doomed.

The only question is how many people have to suffer before Israel becomes a nation whose very basis is not completely unjust.

(Oh, and if Iran joins in.)

**Edit: it seems early reports of Ukrainian aid weapons winding up with Hamas are incorrect, or at least unverified. Removed with my apologies. (Although I suspect many have wound up on the black market, and would be surprised if Hamas didn’t wind up with a few.)

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Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – October 8, 2023


Thinking About A Hezbollah Intervention


  1. Steve H.

    Thank you, Ian.

    A note: Iran has nearly ten times the population of Israel. Iran can take the punch of Israeli nukes.

  2. mago

    Reading comments from the punditry one might think it’s just a game and a matter of who’s winning and who’s losing and who’s good and who’s bad.

    Binary thinking once again reducing complex issues to sound bites to support fuzzy thinking.

    This is major shit with immediate and long term consequences.
    Lives are destroyed, both human and animal, along with the environment at large.
    Just another day in the neighborhood
    Watch out.
    Throw a stone in the pond and watch the ripples spread.

  3. GrimJim

    The real question is, has there been enough rapprochement between the various Islamic states that, were Israeli NBC weapons somehow knocked out of the picture, would they work together to rid themselves of their common enemy?

    Divide and conquer works only so long as the divider has the strength and other wherewithal to continue the division.

    The Great Satan has no clothes. That much is obvious from the sad showing in Ukraine. Hell, as you mentioned, a lot of the weapons meant for Ukraine were used in this attack! They know firsthand how weak the Great Satan is right now.

    And Israel has been tearing itself apart between the right wing nutjobs, supported by the Orthodox settlers who are only good for thoughts and prayers (sure, they have guns, but they are not Irgun, more like Michigan Militia) and everyone else, who even in Israel are not considered proper Jews under the Orthodox-dominated religious law.

    The Great Satan has no more juice to give Israel. Take away the Samson Option, and what does Israel have left?

  4. Raad

    Good luck with all the Hasbara douchebags man, they are gonna be out in force now

  5. Soredemos

    I wonder how far the Israeli government will go.

    Israeli politics is a wasteland. Whatever once passed for the Israeli Left, which was always still fundamentally Zionist, is long dead as a meaningful political force. What’s left is various flavors of center right nutjobs. Some are crazier than others. The current coalition is actually probably about as moderate as things could get. There are nutjobs in numerous key cabinet positions, but, amazingly, Netanyahu might be comparatively restrained. If nothing else the guy is politician first and ideologue second.

    How far will he be willing to go, and, more to the point, how much will he be able to resist pressure from his coalition. Beside Israeli society as a whole has been ugly and getting worse for years, but right now especially, with hundreds of corpses on the ground, prisoners taken, and the military made a mockery of, what passes for the popular discourse is going to be now whether to spill blood, but how many Arab skulls to smash. Anyone who thinks otherwise had probably better keep quiet or risk getting lynched. There’s likely a domestic momentum in Israel right now where no one can back down even if anyone wanted to.

    I suspect at minimum it’ll be open season on Gaza. There won’t even be a pretense of rules of engagement (this seems to already be happening, with bombings happening with no fig leaf of a warning first). If the army doesn’t oblige Hamas and Hezbollah by invading, they’ll probably at least bomb and flatten every building taller than three stories from a distance.

  6. different clue

    This might be a good time for anyone considering themself a “center-left liberal zionist” to quietly leave Israel without drawing too much overt attention to their departure. Just give up and go.

    Before too much longer the Right and Righter majority will seal the borders against departure and try turning Israel into the North Korea of the Middle East. Center-Lefties and liberals wouldn’t want to be there for that.

  7. NR

    I don’t know how likely it is that Hezbollah will attack. Lebanon is not in a state right now where it could possibly weather the storm of a serious Israeli counterattack.

    I don’t really know what to say about this other than I’m sorry for the civilians who are going to be caught in the crossfire.

  8. Purple Library Guy

    Another question mark is the West Bank. There’s been a good deal of unrest there lately. People are fed up with the Palestinian Authority, and there are new political groups rising. If Israel’s attention and forces are drawn very thoroughly to Gaza (and Hezbollah), what do they do if the West Bank rises?

  9. Jan Wiklund

    As Mick Collins said after the IRA had attacked at Soloheadbeg and the British acted as the bullies they were: They react wonderfully.

    And then came the war.

    The tricky thing is that the Irish were very near exhaustion when the British finally gave in and began peace talks. It could have ended differently.

    It isn’t obvious that the Palestinians will come out of it stronger — even if it is a wonderful time to hit now when the North Atlantics are busy in Ukraine.

  10. Carborundum

    The point is twofold: 1) to provoke the Israelis into a response that destroys the potential for Saudi-Israel normalization of status and 2) to attempt to demonstrate that the policy of hermetic containment of Gaza is not viable over the long-term.

    If you’re a HAMAS strategist, the big problem you’re facing is that you are largely contained and your external state support is basically DOA. Iran is reconciling with Saudi (or at least establishing a modus vivendi) and really doesn’t need you the way they did previously – the US isn’t living in their lake anymore and they have achieved breakout capability. I really do not think this was green-lit by Iran (been a long time since we saw something like Karine A). To the contrary, I think this is an attempt to pressure Iran and derail the drive towards inter-Gulf reconciliation. To the extent there might be any collusion, I would expect it to be with some uber-hardline factions within Iran who also want to derail the current process.

  11. Tallifer

    The Muslim Azerbejanis have shown the Israelis the way. Expect deportations.

  12. Z

    Well, I have to give credit to the current UK government for something I never thought I would have: their honesty!


  13. Ian Welsh

    Israel is an Azerbaijan ally and helped with the ethnic cleansing.

    After all, they’ve had plenty of practice.

  14. Feral Finster

    With all due respect, Israel could feed Palestinian toddlers to piranhas and the “international community” would applaud.

    Israel could fire off a few nukes at Iran without provocation and the “international community” would at most murmur a few platitudes about how complicated at all is.

  15. Chuck Mire

    Palestinians Speak the Language of Violence Israel Taught Them:

  16. elkern

    This seems like an insane thing for Hamas – as the governing party of Gaza – to do. They cannot be dumb enough to imagine that they could defeat or conquer Israel on their own. Do they think that other anti-Israeli forces will join in? Hezbollah, maybe, but others here (see above) have stated good reasons that this is unlikely. And no State actor would risk the future habitability of their land to attack Israel (because, Nukes).

    Israel will push Hamas back inside Gaza quickly, and bomb the crap out of the whole area (that’s already begun). There will be much finger-pointing among Israeli political Parties, leading to even more destruction of Gaza’s pitiful civilian infrastructure. The IDF has already said it will “take control” of Gaza; to do that, they’re gonna hafta pave it.

    Hamas must know that this is the only possible result of their attack. There is no way they can expect to “win”.

    Unless they expect to “win” in the way that 9/11 was ultimately something of a victory for Al Qaida: by leading their enemy to destroy their own society.

    Israel has different internal tensions than the USA, so its path to self-destruction would not be the same as ours (IMO, we crossed the Rubicon from Republic to National Security State with the invasion of Iraq and the Patriot Act).

    I can picture two distinct problems which would lead to the decline of Israel:

    1) internal conflict caused by the exemption of Orthodox Jews from military service. As Israel falls further into being a Bunker State, those who get drafted will resent those who don’t. And eventually, there will be fewer & fewer of the former, and more & more of the latter…

    2) loss of external support, as citizens of Western Democracies become repulsed by the cruelty with which Israel treats its Muslim “subjects”.

    Both of these are already underway, but both are likely to be exacerbated by Israels inevitable [over-?]reaction to Hamas’ attack.

    I don’t have any evidence that this long-game strategy was Hamas’ motivation for attacking Israel like this, right now. It seems awfully bloody-minded; it means sacrificing possibly hundreds of thousands of their own people for an uncertain future gain. OTOH, it’s easy to imagine that they see no other path toward any other better future for themselves and their people, given current trends in the Israeli government…

  17. Curt Kastens

    I hope that the Hammas leadership has the foresight to send every single resident of the Gaza between the ages of 15 and 18 into to the Isreali settlements armed with cigarette lighters and using anything that is combustible burn down everything that is with in reach. I also hope that they have the foresight to evacute the Gaza Strip and start moving the entire population of the gaza that can walk towards Tel Aviv and or Jeruselum, and or Ramallah.
    The only good Israelis are those that have either emmigrated or those that are secretly helping the Palestinians. Every Israeli over the age of 19 should be deliberately target by Hamas that may seem at first thought cruel. But it would actually just be giving the Israelis a small taste of their own medicine. When the American Indians went on the war path with the Europeans they did not spare women and children. Yet we can look back upon the history now and know for certian that it was the American Indians that were fighting for a just cause.
    This will be a war of extermination. The Palestinians will lose. But they should use this opportunity to die on their feet rather than live for a few more miserable years on their knees, until the efffects of global warming, combined with Israeli oppression kill them anyways. This is the chance for the Palestinians to make the Israelis pay a dear price for Palestine.
    I hope that the remainingtwelve or thirteen (70 plus years old) members of the PFLP come out of retirement for one last stand.

  18. Bill

    I agree with your comments. It is in many ways like North America was occupied and the First Nations defeated. Jews and Israel for so many years held the moral high ground, but they have lost that through their thoughtless treatment of Arabs who are refused citizenship. Again, very like the treatment of First Nations who were the wards of Canadian governments for generations and not even recognized as being adults allowed to make decisions without European agreement.

  19. Allison

    There was an interesting thread on NakedCapitalism regarding the recent Jimmy Dore/Craig Jardula interview with Norman Finkelstein. I would like to expand this comment by Alice X:

    “Palestine has existed for many, many centuries, until 1918 for five or so, as a province of the Ottoman Empire. It had a small Jewish population (8% in 1918) but until the arrival of the Zionists (and the Balfour Declaration of 1917) there was essentially no conflict.

    A Jewish friend of mine puts it thus: Zionism has hijacked the Jewish religion.”

    Indeed, although I believe it’s more accurate to say that Zionism distills and propagates the darkest aspects of the Judaic canon. Israel Shahak’s “Jewish History Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years” is a good primer:

    This NC comment from Sunday includes a link to a free download for Shahak’s book as well as a link to an important article on how this has materialized in our world recently. It well summarizes the stream of thought from Oded Yinon’s “A Strategy for Israel in the 1980’s” to David Wurmser’s “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm” to the Kristol-Kagan Project For a New American Century document entitled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategies, Forces, and Resources For a New Century”:

    The PNAC project co-chairs were Donald Kagan and Gary Schmitt and the primary project participants were Eliot Cohen, Robert Kagan, I. Lewis Libby, Abram Shulsky, Daniel Goure, Dov Zakheim and Thomas (now Giselle) Donnelly.

    Rabbi Dov Zakheim, incidentally, was listed as comptroller of the project/organization.

    Evidently, Zakheim did much better at this job than as comptroller of the Pentagon from 2001-2004. Donald Rumsfeld proclaimed on September, 10, 2001 that “we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions.”

    Interestingly, Zakheim’s Tridata Corporation oversaw the investigation of the first alleged “terrorist” attack on the World Trade Center in 1993.

    Tridata Corporation is a subsidiary of Zakheim’s Systems Planning Corporation (SPC), which provides flight termination system and command transmitter systems – the technology that allows planes to be remote controlled should the pilots be incapacitated or the plane hijacked

    The following link continues the examination of the Zionist plan for the wholesale balkanization of the “Middle East” and includes an interview with the aforementioned Oded Yinon:

    In sum, while I suppose it’s nice to see Norman Finkelstein being interviewed once again as an expert on the entire situation, I was actually more impressed with this interview from mainstream commentator Fareed Zakaria, of all people:

    I would like to see and hear many, many more Palestinian voices – Muslim, Christian, secular, as well as conversations that are led by these same voices.

  20. capelin

    The same play, over and over.

    Create bad guy/thing/situation. Act surprised (“Ignore” intelligence), then immediately do what couldn’t have been done without that thing happening.

    Jimmy Dore on Israel – U.S. funding of Hamas

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