ThoughtStorms Wiki

Context: Israel, OnPalestine

I guess I need to do this.

Rapidly evolving thoughts. Hot(ish) takes (though I'm trying to put a bit of distance). You almost certainly won't agree with them and will hate me for them. I reserve the right to change my mind.

Also, if you're so smart Phil, what would you do? IsraelPalestineProposal

Last update 25 Oct 2023

I'm not saying much about the whole Hamas / Israel thing on social media, because frankly it's all horrible and messed up and depressing; and no-one needs my hot-takes.

But I think I've found my moral clarity: "ethno-nationalism (and ethno-tribalism) is evil shit".

It was the engine that empowered Hitler and drove Nazi Germany to the atrocity of the holocaust.

And instead of learning the lesson of that, that ethno-nationalism is evil shit and don't do it, we somehow got the opposite idea that the problem was that the Jews didn't have their own country to practice their own ethno-nationalism in.

So we gave them one and allowed our sympathy for the horror and abuse they'd suffered to blind us into indulging Jewish ethno-nationalism. Until that grew into the apartheid monster we see today. That keeps millions of people in Bantustans of oppression and dispenses regular arbitrary dehumanizing violence.

But when the people on the receiving end of that oppression become angry, they pushed back and formulated their own ethno-nationalism. And far too many people (I'm thinking on the left here) who should know better, have allowed their natural sympathy and support for the plight of the Palestinians to blur into endorsement of an Arab ethno-nationalism. We hear slogans all the time that echo the sentiment that Palestinian blood has a connection with, and right to, the soil between the river and the sea. (TheLeftAndArabNationalism)

No, that is just more ethno-nationalist evil shit. We're making exactly the same mistake we made when the left (and it was the left, tbh, JonLansmanOnLabourAndIsrael) supported the foundation of Israel in the first place. Tolerating a bit of ethno-nationalistic feeling among the obvious victims and underdogs.

But ethno-nationalism is evil shit. However terribly people have been abused, however much of a poor victim they are, if we indulge it, it will grow into a monster and start committing atrocities. It doesn't matter if people are German Christians, Israeli Jews or Arab Muslims. Race has nothing to do with it. Religion has nothing to do with. The common denominator of who becomes the evil shit monster is ethno-nationalism.

There's only one correct solution to the evil of ethno-nationalism: no borders and no nations. No people with a "historical right" to land. (No private ownership of land either). If this isn't your ideal solution to Israel / Palestine, you haven't understood the problem.


Of course, everything I've just written is trite and obviously not useful or actionable in any way. I totally get that. It's an emotional response. I still think it's "true" at the broadest level. But maybe it doesn't help

So let's try something more cold blooded.

Why was it done?

There are currently several potential war aims that the Hamas attack had :

  • to disrupt the attempt at a deal between SaudiArabia and Israel which would have given Israel more legitimacy within Arab international relations, given the US an oil price cut before the next election, and guaranteed Saudi, US military backing in the event of further war with Iran.
  • to refocus the world's attention on Israel and Palestine after a period in which most of the large global powers got side-tracked with Ukraine and more or less allowed the hard-right in Israel to abuse the Palestinians as much as they liked.
  • to discredit Netanyahu and his hard-right cohort. Their support is partly based on their claim that their right-wing, anti-peace stance is the best way to protect Israelis from Palestinian violence. Showing that Hamas can mount a bigger and nastier attack than ever, in the face of it, gives the lie to that claim.
  • (probably) to inspire a huge Israeli over-reaction against Palestinians which will be bloody enough to bring Israel into further disrepute.

So from that perspective, how is this going?

Frankly, it's working. Everyone is paying attention to Palestine again. People ARE criticising Bibi and his whole approach. (Western governments are also criticising Hamas of course, but their support for Hamas was pretty low anyway, so Hamas have less to lose in this respect.) And Bibi's likely response to such criticism IS almost certain to be extremely ugly, which will indeed provide plenty of valid reasons to criticise Israel in future. And the Saudi rulers will find it harder to sign deals with Israel and cosy up to the US during the fever of another round of heightened antagonism between the Muslim world and the West that this will trigger.

If this pushes Saudi Arabia away from Israel and the US, and obliges it to spend more time with the BRICS (and improving its relations with Iran) then any support Iran gave to Hamas will have been (from its perspective) money well spent.

People calling this Israel's 9/11 are probably right. 9/11 was a huge psychological, moral and financial wound inflicted on the US from which it has never recovered. It's far weaker now than it would otherwise have been. Of course, this is largely to do with the US's botched response. In particular, setting itself impossible war aims which it was then traumatized by failing to meet. Failure in Afghanistan and Iraq discredited the entire notion of US military power. The money wasted on these invasions contributed significantly to its national debt. And the anger, frustration and resentment spawned has fed the increasing polarization and fractious political scene. (Remember that SteveBannon was largely radicalized by 9/11, and he used his considerable abilities to push far-right CultureWar into the US mainstream, first through Breitbart and then through Donald Trump.)

Israel is run by fascist idiots. And they'll fall into the trap just as easily as George Bush did. Unless they literally "glass" Gaza and exterminate the Palestinians, (which will make them a pariah, however much sympathy the world has right now), any new incursion into Gaza will fail in its exaggerated claims to be able to root out Hamas and terrorism. If you leave any significant proportion of Gazans alive, they won't somehow feel that their collective punishment was "justified payback" for what Hamas just did. Their anger and hatred of Israel will simply grow, the more destruction Israel unleashes. And terrorism will be back sooner or later. Revealing the obvious failure of Israel's whole approach.

Aside: Given that Hamas has little to lose in the way of good-will with the rest of the world, but that Israel does, and given that Israel is basically in an impossible situation, caught between a doomed mission to "stamp out terrorism" and committing real genocide against the population of Gaza, does this mean there's a chance of Israel doing the smart thing and sitting down and talking with Hamas?

Does Hamas's action bring Israel back to the negotiating table?

(I can hear you, dear reader, spitting and seething at the very thought of "rewarding" Hamas for its despicable behaviour.)

There will have to be some bloodletting first. Bibi will have his revenge. And it will be sickening. The question is how sickening will it be before the rest of the world more or less forces Israel to come back to the negotiating table and "finally solve this!"?

It's a very uncomfortable thought, but I think there's a non-negligible chance that Hamas's action has, indeed, forced a crisis which will push the Israel / Palestine dynamic back towards the world demanding a solution. As opposed to the "malign neglect" we've seen in recent years.

JohnRobb :

If Israel was unable to detect the extensive preparations Hamas made for its attack

Then, it doesn’t know enough about where Hamas is to bomb them with any accuracy,

Which means the bombing campaign underway is indiscriminate (carpet bombing a city with PGMs)


At the time of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, I kept pointing out that a badly or mis-targeted overreaction actually signals weakness, not strength. It shows you aren't able to control your emotions but are lashing out in reaction rather than acting as a self-controlled, goal-directed agent.

In retrospect, few people today think that AmericanWarOnIraq was a "success". And I think quite a lot of people would agree with me that it damaged the US more than healed it.

When I oppose Israel's indiscriminate attack on Gaza, I am partly motivated by concern for and support for an innocent population of Palestinians. But I genuinely ALSO believe that it's in Israel's own enlightened self-interest NOT to succumb to bloodlust and vengeance.

Simon Tisdall is TheGuardian's liberal war-hawk, but I think he has a good overview here : https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/oct/09/war-netanyahu-liability-must-go-israel-palestine-hamas

This is very good and very touching. Read the full thing. : https://twitter.com/Ike_Saul/status/1711780282725011520

Fictional Q&A

Q: Don't think I didn't notice that you are avoiding condemning Hamas

A : Sure. It's my policy never to "condemn" anyone. As I wrote back in my response to the EustonManifesto back in the mid 2000s "Posturing to condemn terror without attempting to understand or combat its underlying causes is not a serious attempt to deal with the problem." I've tried to expunge the words "I condemn" from my vocabulary. It's about empty virtue signalling and emotional posturing rather than taking a serious moral stance.

Q : Good God you are a pompous twat! Phil. Don't you know that Hamas are cutting the heads off babies? How are you justifying that?

A : That's outrageous. What with being tossed on the bayonets of the Hun, having Jews drink their blood, and being turfed out of their incubators by Saddam Hussein I think babies have had enough. Hamas should stop!

Q : Now you are being disgustingly flippant. This is no time to be flippant!

A : I'm protecting my mental health. If either you or I spent 10 seconds really contemplating the reality of angry adults inflicting torture and dismemberment on innocent children, we'd go mad. Which is why it's better not to dwell on it. Going mad isn't going to help anyone.

Q : You aren't going to help anyone anyway. There is nothing to understand. There is just pure evil

A : Which is exactly the kind of conclusion you want me to come to, by demanding I wallow in the visceral reality of the atrocity rather than think about the bigger picture. I prefer to keep some ironic detachment.

Q : You believe Hamas cut off the heads of 40 innocent babies, don't you? You're not some kind of denialist?

A : I'm a bit wary. I seem to remember that accusing your enemy of murdering babies is pretty standard propaganda in war. Especially at the start where both sides are trying to make their case for support from the wider world. It's not impossible Hamas cut the heads off 40 babies. It's also not impossible they cut the heads off fewer babies and people have been exaggerating. I'm going to wait until it's less of a viral meme and more of a report from some organization I find trustworthy.

Q : I don't understand why Westerners are now making caveats about whether it's 40 decapitated babies or not. Isn't what Hamas did obviously bad enough? Do you think that Jewish lives are worth so little that merely killing them "normally" isn't a problem?

A : So why all the emphasis on the "decapitated" part then? Unless it's intended to get people even more upset and riled up than mere "dead babies" would? And to stress the idea that there's an ISIS connection?

Q : Of course there is. They've adopted ISIS tactics

A : Sadly, I quite believe that's true. Tactics get copied from one guerrilla group to another. It was absolutely predictable that ideas for creating fear and loathing would be borrowed from ISIS.

Q : Try harder. You don't sound outraged enough about this fact. If you accept this, you know Hamas are monsters

A : I believe I already said Hamas are monsters. "The common denominator of who becomes the evil shit monster is ethno-nationalism." If Hamas seek ethno-nationalism they are on the road to becoming monsters.

Q : Yes, but by that token you also said the Jews have become monsters. You're "two sides"-ing this.

A : Would it be better if I "one-sided"-ed it?

Q : If you had an ounce of moral compass within you, you pustule, yes. You'd know that one side is good and one side is bad! Come on! Quit prevaricating and hiding behind weasel-words. Who do you hold responsible for this horrendous atrocity? Israel or Hamas?

A : Ariel Sharon. There was a peace process and Sharon deliberately sabotaged it for his own political advantage by visiting the Al-Aqsa mosque and triggering the second intifada. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitchell_Report_(Arab%E2%80%93Israeli_conflict)) Disentangling the knot of problems that has built up in Israel / Palestine is fiendishly difficult (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2000_Camp_David_Summit) but it was happening. And Sharon wrecked that for a political stunt.

Q : That page you yourself are linking says Sharon was not responsible for the Second Intifada. Can't you read?

A : It says his visit triggered the protests, and violent overreaction to those protests by the Israeli authorities was a significant driver in the starting of the Second Intifada. That's close enough for me. Without Sharon's stunt, the peace process would have survived longer and got further.

Q : And why don't you hold the Palestinians accountable? They're the ones so irrationally obsessed with meaningless symbols that they get mad over a fucking mosque visit.

A : Says the fictional interlocutor with both Ukrainian and Israeli flags in his profile. Who is currently bugging me about not making a vacuously symbolic "condemnation" of Hamas

Look. There are a lot of people who are angry and resentful and violent who are reactive. They respond to what they see as provocation. They contribute to the feedback loops and spirals of violence getting ever more horrific. But I find it hard to get angry with and blame them. The people I find most despicable are the calm ones. The ones who deliberately and maliciously plan to spark conflict, usually for their own strategic and political goals.

Q : Cold fish like you, you mean?


Q : Pah! This is cheap rhetoric trying to disguise your obvious anti-semitic bias. You continually hold Israel and the Jews to a different standard than the Palestinians

A : As I said in my 2013 Quora answer (quoted in full on the Israel page), yes, I do think there's an asymmetry. Israel as a state is obviously more of an "agent" capable of making rational decisions than "the Palestinians" are. There is more of an expectation and onus on it to behave "rationally" (even with enlightened self-interest) and to pay attention to its moral character than the inchoate Palestinians with their largely unguided and emergent behaviour.

Q: OK. That's it. I knew you were an anti-semite. Blocked!

12/10/2023 : Israel is negotiating with Egypt for a humanitarian corridor to allow residents of the Gaza strip to flee to Egypt. This is obviously better than not doing so. But I'm betting Israel is hoping they don't come back. In fact, if there is a major exodus of Palestinians to refugee camps in Egypt, I half suspect Israel will then block them from coming back. I think this is morally wrong. But it makes strategic sense for Israel if it's determined to follow an anti-peace policy. They'll push Palestinians further away and make them Egypt's problem. It's undoubtedly the case that countries like Egypt don't want the Palestinians simply moving to / integrating with Egyptian society. And that's partly because it dilutes the Palestinian claim on the lands held by Israel. And so diminishes the pressure on Israel. There's a whole lot of ugly manoeuvring and game playing going on on all sides here.

13/10/2023 : Actually Egypt is closing its border. https://twitter.com/spectatorindex/status/1712917878914404509 WTAF??? Everyone is an evil asshole.




And this, from Feb 2023 is useful background, even if it wholly fails to predict the current crisis and believes that Hamas are settling down: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/israel/third-intifada-israeli-palestinian-conflict

This is also interesting : https://www.foreignaffairs.com/middle-east/israel-hamas-end-americas-exit-strategy-suzanne-maloney

Is Israel Sustainable?

Maybe another purpose of the attack, or at least one result, is that it raises a genuine "existential" question. How sustainable is Israel as a project?

Despite the horror and tragedy of the current round of violence, I haven't changed my overall opinion since my 2013 answer on Quora (in full on the Israel page)

At the end of the day, there are only two possible futures for Israel : one is that eventually the Palestinians and hostile neighbours will "get lucky" and destroy it. The other is that it figures out how to live in peace and in a mutually beneficial way with the Palestinians; and its neighbours decide that having it around is better than not having it around. As long as the Palestinians believe that they were better off before Israel was created, they'll always want to get back to that state. So to survive, Israel still needs to try to get to that second outcome - a point where its existence is sufficiently beneficial to the Palestinians that they embrace it. And the longer it delays finding that position, the more it indulges in vengeance or trying to grab more of the West Bank for Jewish settlers, the harder it makes it to reach that point.

Israel has now spent 75 years FAILING to make things right with the people it displaced and its resentful and hostile neighbours. As a collective entity it seems to have no wisdom of how to do that. For every step forward it makes, in terms of peace accords and collaboration with Palestinians, it falls a step back as right-wing extremists deliberately stir up the conflict again for their own goals.

How sustainable is this in the long run? What happens 100 years after the founding of Israel? 200 years? Is Israel going to be permanently on the edge of existential crisis, one lucky Arab / Muslim manoeuvrer away from destruction?

Israel is not a lucky country. It was created by conquest at exactly the time the world decided that conquest was not a legitimate way to re-arrange the world's boundaries. It hopes people will somehow forget the sins of its creation. But in an age when media and electronic records remember everything.

Israelis complain that the Palestinians won't just adapt to accept that the facts on the ground are that it is there to stay. But the ongoing oppression and low level violence against Palestine keeps the wounds open and makes that effectively impossible. Israel won't let up until the Palestinians accept them. But this "learn to love us and then we'll treat you nice" approach is obviously not going to work. Ever! (Just imagine how you would react if born into a similar situation.)

So what then?

The right-wing anti-peace hope of the fascists currently in government in Israel is that with enough oppression the Palestinians will be ground-down, beaten into submission by sheer attrition. Even if you have no moral qualms about this, the Hamas attack this week demonstrates that this is a forlorn hope. If people were "celebrating" the Hamas attacks (and note, I don't, the attacks were horrendous and only to be regretted), it's primarily because they saw it as a signal that the Palestinians hadn't been beaten into docility. The dog that (as they see it) gets kicked every day, once again turns around and bites its tormentor. Even if the result will be more kicking, the spirit of defiance is still there. And honestly it doesn't matter how much you harrumph about "killing civilian women and children is not resistance", it really does symbolize that to many people in the context of Netanyahu's anti-peace approach.

So what is to be done? Palestine is tiny. But Israel is surrounded by Arab and Muslim countries that empathise with, and will sometimes materially support, the Palestinians. As long as the Palestinians aren't resigned to Israel's existence, they won't be either.

Of course, you could argue that Israel's current strategy is basically to write off Palestine, and try to make nice with the bigger and more powerful of its neighbours, in the hope that if they can decide it's worth keeping Israel around, the Palestinians themselves won't matter. The funding will dry up.

Hamas's latest attack shows that this isn't working. Partly because Iran supports them. So unless Israel figures out how to make a deal with Iran too, it's not going to starve Hamas of external support. And Hamas have a strong interest in trying to prevent Israel making deals with other external sponsors that could cut them off.

In other words, a strategy of "keep the Palestinians bottled up, and talk around them to cut off their sponsors" is obviously going to lead to Hamas (and similar groups) trying more and uglier attempts to get people to pay attention to them.

This is pretty good, though a bit too focused on demographics for my taste : https://civilianresilience.substack.com/p/should-unstable-nuclear-theocracies

Atrocity Propaganda


Yes of course the propagandists are ManufacturingConsent over what will be done to the Palestinians.

Someone pointed out on Twitter that there's a long history of terrorists committing atrocities in order to trigger an over-reaction by the state, which would then discredit the state, and bring the terrorists more supporters. I replied that the corollary of this is that the practice only survives because it works. States reliably DO over-react.

Not even senior Hamas figures necessarily knew about it beforehand : https://amwaj.media/article/exclusive-hamas-leader-s-iraq-visit-abruptly-canceled-amid-surprise-attack-on-isr

I wouldn't endorse everything from this person, but I suspect this analysis (or at least the bit I'm quoting here) is basically correct.


The Israeli "strategy" right now is thus one of strategic and tactical paralysis. The assault into Gaza keeps being extended and postponed, while Israel is trying very hard to prevent food shipments from reaching the Gaza strip. They clearly intend to starve the population

Unfortunately, this is national suicide. Hamas aren't gonna be starved: if they can store 5000 rockets in their tunnel network, they can store water and food, way past the point where all the civilians have starved to death. Thus to starve Hamas, you would have to kill millions.

Obviously, the plan from the start was still to starve Hamas. This is why American diplomatic efforts in the region have been so laser-focused on trying to get Egyptians - or anyone else to take in the entire population of Gaza.

If Gaza could be emptied of civilians, then you could starve out Hamas without murdering a million children. But all of the states surrounding Israel have categorically rejected this. Egypt in particular has said that attempts to ethnically cleanse Gaza will lead to war.

In theory, you could resettle these Palestinians in Europe, but the mere suggestion of this would instantly implode any sort of residual support for Israel that exists in Europe. It'd be political and economic suicide.

So, now we have the basic situation: Israel has to attack, but it doesn't think it can win. It also doesn't think it can survive not attacking. It's preferred strategy, starvation, cannot work without triggering a massive genocide, because civilian displacement is a non-starter.

What happens next?

What political scientists know about occupations.



One thing that's very clear is that Hamas see themselves fully at war, and fully intending to win. Which means destroy Israel.

That doesn't mean there isn't opportunity for negotiations. But it no-one should be under illusions about what they are aiming for.

Claim that some damage to property and some injuries to Israeli civilians was caused by Israeli forces. Note that this is an anti-Israel site so may be propaganda. https://mondoweiss.net/2023/10/a-growing-number-of-reports-indicate-israeli-forces-responsible-for-israeli-civilian-and-military-deaths-following-october-7-attack/

To what degree did photographers, some of whom work for international photo-journalism agencies, accompanying Hamas attacks, have the ability to warn people about them before hand?


(It's all a bit Man Bites Dog)

Note, this is a pro-Israel propaganda site.

See also :

  • IdentityPolitics is a little bit in this ethno-nationalist direction. Which should be a warning flag.