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

What Is Israel’s Goal In the Gaza War?

I think it’s worth emphasizing that based on actions—priority targeting of hospitals, health workers, journalists and civilians;  and cutting off food and water while not accepting ceasefires agreements which would have returned the hostages, that the Israel’s goal is genocide.

There are no significant signs that they are defeating Hamas, and their actions, as opposed to their words, don’t indicate that was ever the intention. Certainly rescuing the hostages isn’t an important goal.

I think Israel would accept ethnic cleansing if they could find someone to take the Palestinians, but since they can’t, mass murder is the goal.

This is consistent with Israel’s history: it’s a colonial settler project where the goals has always been to remove Palestinians and occupy their land and, if not ruined, even their homes.

The WHO estimated that up to a million Gazans were at risk of death due to famine by next month. The longer the war and the blockade goes on, the more will die.

Back in 2006 I wrote that Israel only had two options for its future:

  1. Accept Palestinians as citizens and create a single, secular, state; or,
  2. Genocide or ethnic cleanse the Palestinians.

And so it has come to be.

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26 Comments

  1. Why keep calling it a war? Why not state the obvious since the nakba started? It’s the Gaza Genocide.

    Keep repeating it until the poison of the NC idiocy of trying to paint the nearby Muslim states as equally responsible (they know the damn game: it’s the land to be stolen, so accept or don’t accept, the game is the damn same) wears off.

    Because stating truth will eventually wash away the lies.

  2. ventzu

    It is the Palestinian’s last stand. They must have concluded that putting up with a slow motion torture and genocide, and hoping for political intervention from Arab states, was just not worth it.

    So the questions for me are:
    1) What will the axis of resistance do, especially if Israel is foolish enough to escalate in Lebanon?
    2) What will remain of Israel once they have massacred the Palestinians? Will they be ostracised as a pariah state, or will the West manage to rehabilitate them? That in turn likely depends on the speed of the decline of the West.
    3) What does this say about Western societies and people – that so few are bothered by this, and quietly avert their eyes? Ian – you have often said that to survive in the future, we need to be in local communities. But why bother – if this is what people are made of?

    Our callous disregard of the genocide of the Palestinians is not only an indictment of Western “civilisation” but also indicates a fundamental flaw in our collective character – of hubris, of lack of restraint, of inordinate consumption. And therefore an inability to change how we must live to survive – i.e. simply and collaboratively to address our mounting problems – whether that be unnecessarily provoked conflict with Russia / China, energy / resource deficiency, economic decline and inequality, or a heating climate.

    Anyhow, I hope I am alive to see the final collapse of the Western empire, and Israel with it.

  3. Carborundum

    I’m sorry, but this is just flat out wrong. National strategy is one of the least constrained strategic domains. At this level, there are *always* more than two options (this is particularly true in multi-player games with significant asymmetries, of which this specific situation is an example).

    Options may be difficult, they may be expensive, time-consuming or unattractive (probably most significantly they may benefit the wrong people), but they absolutely exist. Even now there’s more than two options.

    Falsely boiling things down to a supposed small number of options is exactly how this genocide was sold.

  4. Ian Welsh

    lol

  5. Carborundum

    Per your subtweet, I didn’t say you were an idiot – I said you were wrong. There is a difference.

  6. bruce wilder

    In principle, I accept Carborundum‘s abstract point, but by 2006 and well before, Ian was and is right: the available options for Israel had narrowed severely. Because history matters.

    The Israeli settlement project from its beginning, or at least from independence, took too little responsibility for the displaced. The refugee camps just sat there and after a while, grew!

    Genocide, as the only option Israelis can envision, is just a logical extension of that founding attitude that the Palestinians are just there to be abused when not ignored.

    The concept of a two-state solution, so obvious to naive outsiders, has been nothing but a tool of hypocrisy for decades.

  7. Revelo

    >I think Israel would accept ethnic cleansing if they could find someone to take the Palestinians, but since they can’t, mass murder is the goal.

    More correct phrasing: Goal was and continues to be ethnic cleansing but Israel is willing engage in genocide (mass murder) if they can’t manage to bring about ethnic cleansing.

    Western leaders are not oblivious to what is happening and these leaders have chosen NOT to suppress news of what is happening and many of same countries that currently support Israel stood by while the Jews were massacred by Nazis (or were the Nazis). Strange combination of facts. Particularly fanatic supporter of Israel is current President of Argentina, which country was a favorite refuge of Nazi war criminals after WW2. To me, all this suggests western leaders are deliberately giving Israel enough rope to hang itself, perhaps so they will later have an excuse to ostracize Israel and cozy up to the Arab states, which they can’t do now because of the threat of being called “anti-Semites”.

  8. elkern

    Carbo – plz give examples of 2-3 plausible alternatives? (short form)

    Actually, I’ve got one:

    – Israel is eventually defeated, militarily, after millions of Jews and Palestinians die in the war. New State of Palestine gets only dribbles of money to rebuild, so it remains poor and chaotic (see Lebanon). A couple million Jews escape to safe havens but face a century of world-wide hatred for Israel’s last-ditch use of its Nukes (on Iran, etc. maybe even the Samson thing).

    Sadly, I’m coming to view this as the most plausible medium-term outcome…

  9. bruce wilder

    many of same countries that currently support Israel stood by while the Jews were massacred by Nazis

    “Stood by” is such a tortured narrative trope! There was the small matter of a world war going on.

    Still, it is remarkable that so many Arab and muslim countries that were so eager to clamor and contend militarily in the mid-20th century sit on their hands or take only very limited measures against Israel.

    For Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, the precarity of their fragile societies and the poverty of their economies make war against Israel a bad choice. Their elite leadership may be less passionate and more globalist than “the street” but prudence aligns with their policy of non-intervention or limited harassment. The same is true for Iran and Turkiye, countries with greater distance but greater militaries.

  10. Carborundum

    Bruce, my point would be that there are always a lot more options than “the only thing X can envision”. If you want to say that genocide is the only thing on offer and that acceptance is high, I have no disagreement. But there are absolutely other options than genocide. Saying that there aren’t is the probably the most important single point the Israelis have used to sell the idea.

  11. mago

    So today, June 8, we got the Nuseirat massacre with at least 210 killed and an estimated 400 injured.
    A doctor described the emergency department at Al Aqsa hospital as “a complete bloodbath. . . it looks like a slaughter house. “
    But four hostages were rescued so it’s a success according to the Israelis.
    Reportedly there were US military involved. Of course there were American bombs employed.
    Dice it slice it, call it what you want. It’s the savage destruction of a people, their culture and environment.
    Anyone cheering it is morally depraved and emotionally crippled.

  12. Balan Aroxdale

    This is consistent with Israel’s history: it’s a colonial settler project where the goals has always been to remove Palestinians and occupy their land and, if not ruined, even their homes.

    In fact, this drive appears now to be a higher one that the much vaunted security concerns and the “right to defend”. Currently Hezbollah has de-facto ethnically cleansed huge areas of northern Israel and slowly eroded the IDF’s defense infrastructure there. And yet the vast majority of the IDFs forces and governments efforts remain in Gaza. It’s absurd. The obsession with driving Palestinians off their land is all consuming, with the government prepared to sacrafice 100,000s of existing settlements in Israel proper for a chance to grab a few square miles new land in decimated Gaza.

    The land-grabbing/ethnic cleansing/genocide is the point. It is the obsession, the desire, the addiction. If a full war breaks out with Lebanon, at this point I think US forces will be sent to the (collapsing) northern front while the bulk of the IDF moves into the West Bank to drive out Palestinians even as Tel Aviv is being bombed. The logic of their position demands it.

  13. bruce wilder

    . . . there are absolutely other options than genocide. Saying that there aren’t is the probably the most important single point the Israelis have used to sell the idea.

    How did the Israelis “sell” genocide? Seriously, let’s look at that. Because I strongly disagree that “there is no alternative” was ever a talking point let alone “the most important single point”.

    If you want a text to examine, I would suggest the speeches of President Herzog in the immediate aftermath of October 7.

    Israel “has a right to defend itself” figure prominently. The reciprocal right of Palestinians to resist goes unremarked. Arguments for the justice of collective punishment of Palestinians. Implied in the thinking of most Israelis I think is that the Palestinians are subhuman animals and vermin. It is difficult but not impossible to find such sentiments committed to print or video record, for obvious reasons, but I would suggest that such opinions are commonly held privately among Israeli zionists.

    In the abstract, the most obvious option open to Israeli leaders on October 8 was to simply negotiate reciprocal release of hostages and the terms of security for Islamic sites in Jerusalem. That option is viable if the essential claim to human equality is granted along with the legitimacy of Palestinian self-government. That was not the road taken and it was not taken because it was not seen by Israelis as a path compatible with their own viability as a self-governing People and state, an exclusion of possibility with deep historic precedent reproduced through succeeding generations over 80+ years.

    Individuals can cut loose from their own histories in making choices only with difficulty. I suppose states and peoples can as well, with greater difficulty because of the need to coordinate thinking and behavior among millions in overlapping generations. Israel, I believe, will emerge from this moment of depravity one way or another, but the Zionist project has been ruined by this exposure of its shadow side.

  14. Ian Welsh

    Apartheid with the oppressed population having a faster growth rate and militant opposition is not long term viable. When you add in the fact that the the US is in serious military and economic decline and the technology of war is changing to destroy the old Western military superiority, no there aren’t a lot of options.

    Two-state isn’t viable either, there’s no way to create two nations that isn’t a complete mess and every plan I’ve seen left Palestine short of water.

    When you then add in Israeli ideology and culture, well, ethnic cleansing or genocide is obvious way out. Back when I first wrote this, in 2006 or so, I hoped they wouldn’t choose genocide. But it is a logical solution to their problems given their culture,

  15. Purple Library Guy

    In a different sense, kind of like the Americans whenever they start a war in the post-WW II era, I don’t think they have a plan. Sure, the tacit plan is genocide, but it doesn’t seem likely that will actually push through to a conclusion by killing or removing all the Palestinians in Gaza.
    The Nazis had an explicit plan, which they carried through with horrific degrees of success. Israel doesn’t. This fight isn’t going to get them the land they want, and it seems like it’s probably taking that goal further out of reach, not bringing it closer. Like, it’s genocide, but it’s not a real genocide PLAN. It’s just killing lots of people because they hate them, for a bloody spectacle for the Israeli voters, to kick the can down the road, to keep Netanyahu in office for as long as it stays an emergency, because they consider it a war and how can it be a war if you’re not bombing anybody, etc. And it’s genocide in the sense that there’s probably a vague feeling among the Israeli top brass that every Palestinian fewer is a step closer to no Palestinians, so they might as well keep on doing it if they don’t have any other ideas. But it’s not a PLAN, just like the Americans in Afghanistan didn’t have a PLAN, they were just going through the motions of “It’s a war so we do these kinds of things until something works”.

    Thinking of options, consider: Israel over the last few months has got tens of billions of dollars in bombs and stuff. They get at least three billion a year in military and other aid. Now, there are two million-ish Palestinians in Gaza. Imagine they stopped killing them a few years ago and instead made a standing offer to every Palestinian man, woman and child in Gaza of $10,000 a head to go away. That’s 20 billion dollars if they all took up the offer–20 billion to, from an Israeli perspective, solve the whole Gaza problem. Cheap compared to what they’ve been spending on murder with no real results. But they won’t do that because it would involve admitting that the Palestinians have some kind of rights, or deserve some kind of compensation in return for doing things they don’t want to do.

  16. Mark Level

    “Israel, I believe, will emerge from this moment of depravity one way or another, but the Zionist project has been ruined by this exposure of its shadow side.”– bruce w.

    I’m sorry, I just don’t see them emerging from this (8 months & counting) moment of depravity. Without Zionist “the Palestinians are human beasts to be eliminated” ideology there is no logical or coherent “State of Israel.” Apartheid & mass-murder are explicit at this point, & mandatory. And all the polls show well over 90% of the populace support the Netanyahu (& US) approach.

    You do far better at the start of this statement:

    “If you want a text to examine, I would suggest the speeches of President Herzog in the immediate aftermath of October 7.

    Israel “has a right to defend itself” figure prominently. The reciprocal right of Palestinians to resist goes unremarked. Arguments for the justice of collective punishment of Palestinians. Implied in the thinking of most Israelis I think is that the Palestinians are subhuman animals and vermin. It is difficult but not impossible to find such sentiments committed to print or video record, for obvious reasons, but I would suggest that such opinions are commonly held privately among Israeli zionists.”

    It is not at all difficult, & certainly far from impossible to find these statements– Years ago Ben Shapiro years ago said Palestinians are “animals” who “like to live in filth”– https://www.reddit.com/r/AskMiddleEast/comments/10inlp8/what_are_your_thoughts_on_ben_shapiro/

    The NYT’s Bret Stephens called Palestinians “cockroaches”. (But when a Jewish anti-Zionist compared him specifically to a “bedbug” he lashed out and demanded the man be firing, boosting the Tweet from less than 12 views to thousands. It’s only okay to call Arabs & blacks things like this, not WASPs or elite media Jews. )

    Yoav Gallant, “human animals.” Etc. ad infinitum. Just look at South Africa’s case against Israel at the ICJ which has been joined by 12 other nations, Nicaragua, Belgium, Colombia, Turkiye, Libya (!), Egypt, Maldives, Mexico, Ireland, Chile, Palestine & Spain– https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/6/6/which-countries-have-joined-south-africas-case-against-israel-at-the-icj

    I recall during the First Intifada (which unlike the 2nd one eschewed “terrorist” acts and tried to be non-violent resistance) when a prominent Israeli Rabbi stated “1,000 Arab lives aren’t worth one Jewish fingernail.”

    I very much appreciate your take on why neighboring Jordan, Egypt, Syria & Lebanon are not (for now) doing much to defend Palestinian lives (much less rights) but will agree with Ian regarding Israeli “culture” which is probably beyond the Old Confederate South in terms of dehumanization of “the other” at this point. And as Norm Finkelstein, Max Blumenthal, & Weiss & Dobular of Due Dissidence have clearly stated, it is very clear that there “are no Liberals in Israel now” at least not regarding race. (Okay, there are a few who when they state that the Palestinians are human are vilified, bullied or fired from their jobs. In terms of the political sphere however, the generalization holds true.)

    The WHO stated recently that 1,000,000 Palestinians are on the brink of starvation, as no aid is allowed in. (And Biden’s phony $23 million dollar pier was collapsed by some waves). IF the Israelis get the full-on genocide they’re now enacting, I do not see that State recovering & being accepted as part of the World community in any near-term or distant future. (I could be naive of course. I guess we will see.)

  17. Revelo

    >Implied in the thinking of most Israelis I think is that the Palestinians are subhuman animals and vermin. It is difficult but not impossible to find such sentiments committed to print or video record, for obvious reasons,

    It’s not at all hard to find these sentiments in print. I recall a famous incident about 20 years ago where an Israeli opposition satirist composed a side by side list of quotes of Nazis (from the 1930’s) comparing Jews to vermin with almost word for word identical quotes by modern Israeli opinion leaders comparing Palestinians to vermin. At least the Israelis allow (or used to allow) free speech, though of course the satirist lost his job and received death threats.

    There were also many blood curdling statements committed to print by Israeli religious, political, intellectual and other opinion leaders immediately after the Oct 7 attacks last year.

    I don’t bother keeping track of such things because why bother? We live in a post objective truth society and will remain there until after the USA navy gets sunk in a confrontation with China and the USA stock market finally drops and stays down for a long time.

    BTW WWII wouldn’t have interfered with bombing the death camps to let the Nazis know the Western Allies knew what was happening in those camps.l and so they better stop. Allied politicians refused to order this and instead wasted bombs on German cities. Also, ships of Jewish refugees turned back from USA in 1939. I just brought up this issue because it’s so relevant to Israel. But people stand by frequently while atrocities occur then make a big stink afterwards of moral superiority, war crimes trials, etc. You can even see this in domestic disputes. Neighbors stand by passively while one person kills another, then afterwards become very energetic catching and judging the murderer. Sometimes it’s cowardice but more common is that neighbors see the victim as bad blood, so double good riddance if victim dies and murderer goes to jail. Something similar happening in Gaza: neighbors don’t really like either Palestinians or Israelis, so they’ll first let Israel kill all the Palestinians THEN start a war against Israel to “avenge” the dead Palestinians.

  18. bruce wilder

    . . . WWII wouldn’t have interfered with bombing the death camps to let the Nazis know the Western Allies knew what was happening in those camps.l and so they better stop. Allied politicians refused to order this and instead wasted bombs on German cities.

    These counterfactual arguments were never constructed in good faith, IMHO. In the midst of total war, a war of annihilation, your plan is to send a message of “naughty-naughty, I see what you doing there; you’d better stop or else” with a bombing run that kills more prisoners than guards. I am sorry, but this argument just invites sarcasm.

    The death camps were in the East and the Soviets were to liberate most of them. The Germans had murdered at least 1.3 million Soviet prisoners of war, so I am not sure what further “messages” could be sent with effect, if the Germans were already committed to suffering the consequences of that in a Soviet victory. And, that’s not counting the 1.5 million people who died in, say, the Siege of Leningrad or the 1.1+ to 3 million who died at Stalingrad. The Soviets did not have a Curtis LeMay or his delusions about the effectiveness of carpet-bombing cities, that’s true, but those delusions hardly bolster the argument.

  19. bruce wilder

    Sure, the tacit plan is genocide, but it doesn’t seem likely that [they] will actually push through to a conclusion by killing or removing all the Palestinians in Gaza.

    Right. It’s a “plausible genocide” to quote the Court.

    no aid is allowed in

    Not literally “no aid” — just completely inadequate and insufficient aid amidst collapsed infrastructure, murderous harassment and occasional bombardment. That’s part of the cruel horror of having a “tacit plan” for a plausible genocide, I suppose.

  20. Ian Welsh

    At this point it’s essentially no aid. All of Gaza appears to be in famine. Formal confirmation is impossible because they won’t let officials in, but that’s the UN’s estimate: 100%, a percentage never before reached in a famine.

  21. Carborundum

    Bruce, a google news search of “Israel ‘no choice'” is pretty revealing (tangentially, I am pining for the types of search we used to do on LexisNexis). The list of “security” things that Israel has “had” to do because it supposedly had “no choice” is getting to be decades long now.

    Herzog’s “no innocents” speech would actually be a variant of the type of discourse I’m thinking of (supposedly his phrasing was somewhat different, but it was clearly an assignment of collective responsibility – regardless, there have certainly been a number of high ranking Israeli political figures who have explicitly used the phrase “no innocents”).

  22. elkern

    The larger war is being waged for the “hearts and minds” of people outside Israel or Gaza – most importantly, Americans, but also Europeans. If Israel loses that war, what happens in Gaza won’t matter.

    Blocking *all* shipments of food & medical aid to Gaza is a blatant War Crime, and worse, a propaganda blunder. Allowing a trickle of aid through blunts that effect, with a bonus: footage of starving Palestinians fighting over food makes them look less human in the eyes of people who have never experienced real hunger or imagined what they would do to feed their children in a similar situation.

    (Note: that was the focus of US Media’s skimpy reporting on the small amount of aid delivered across Biden’s Pier; the few trucks that made it through were supposedly “looted” by Palestinians)

  23. Ian Welsh

    1: “Israel will do A or B because those are the only solutions to a certain problem it has.”

    2: Oh, Israel is doing B. Therefore you were WRONG.

    OK.

  24. Carborundum

    I don’t see a “therefore” here. That Israel is doing B and that B is a contingency has no logical power to assert that A and B are the *only* contingencies – one has to limit the contingency set via some external bounding factor. Logically, the contingency set will be finite, but the probability that it’s truly a set of 2 trends to zero.

  25. bruce wilder

    the argument that there are effectively only two alternatives remaining rests on recognition of internal bounding factors in the history and nature of the Zionist project

    that is why I could accept Carborundum‘s point “in the abstract” (considering only the “external” factors) and still think Ian’s insight is right.

    The Israeli liberal media is embroiled in controversy since yesterday over revelations about one of the roads not travelled that I mentioned prominently in an earlier comment: negotiating hostage release, period. That was an “external” possibility in the abstract but never a “live” possibility within the reality of the ways Israeli politics and political culture have evolved.

  26. Carborundum

    So we consider that we know Israel well enough, not being in the region (or having ever visited the region in some instances), not knowing any of the languages, and viewing the situation through the soda straw filters of western media and/or Twitter agitprop, that we can definitively say that only these two options are viable?

    I am dubious and my mileage is going to vary on this one.

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