A comment from Malgorzata

October 24, 2023 • 9:30 am

This morning I got an email from Malgorzata, one that echoed my sentiment (see here) that there is nothing Israel can do to defend itself, or eliminate Hamas, that won’t be condemned by the world. Israel can’t bomb military targets (because some civilians may be killed), they cannot have a ground invasion targeting Hamas (ditto), and they can’t negotiate (this leaves Hamas in place and guarantees continual terrorist attacks on Israel by Hamas and other groups).  This is untenable, for surely Israel does have a right to defend itself. Those who condemn the Hamas butchery and say that Israel has a right to defend itself will, at the same time, argue that no response by Israel that gets rid of Hamas is appropriate.

Malgorzata also brings up a historical precedent: the 2002 Jenin attack, in which, after a series of suicide bombings by Palestinians that killed many Israelis, Israel decided not to bomb the town where the bombers were trained and armed because it would kill too many civilians. Israel thus invaded on the ground. The result is that 23 Israeli soldiers were killed and, despite Palestinian claims that 500 people were killed (and the usual uproar from the world), the UN concluded that only 52 Palestinians were killed, half of them civilians (in World War II, the overall ratio of civilians versus soldiers killed was at least 2.5 to 1).

From Malgorzata:

Fareed Zakaria, Thomas Freedman (and many others): If Israel starts a ground invasion it will be wrong, Palestinian civilians will die.

Nicholas Kristof (and many others): If Israel continues bombardment of Gaza it’s wrong. Palestinian civilians will die.

And we have a historical precedent: the Battle of Jenin in 2002. Israel refrained from bombing the “vipers nest” inside Jenin because it wanted to spare civilians and avoid condemnation by the world. They went in on the ground, killed 50 people (over half of them were terrorists), lost 23 soldiers (which for Israel is a huge number and which could have been totally avoided by bombardment from the air). The world announced that Israel committed a massacre of over 500 innocent Palestinian civilians and everybody believed it. A few months later Israel was exonerated (and the body count corrected) by a UN commission, but this blood libel is repeated until today.

Conclusion: whatever Israel does is condemned. The only thing which would not be condemned was if Israel did nothing and allowed itself to be slaughtered down to the last Jew. What beautiful monuments, museums etc. would be built for the departed state and people! How many tears would be shed over the dead Jews! The world would feel happy that they had commemorated those poor victims of human hate in such a touching and beautiful way.

So I try not to second-guess what Israelis should do. I hope they will do everything in their power to stay alive and to hell with the world opinion. But my hope that they will succeed in this is very, very slim. And I despair.

I’ll add this graph from a Harvard Caps/Harris poll:

But look at the age difference here! Up to age 35, half of Americans think the Hamas killing was justifiable by “the grievances of Palestinians”!

43 thoughts on “A comment from Malgorzata

  1. The idea that Israel can’t do anything why may cause civilian casualties (or more civilian casualties than it sustained) is absurd and sets a standard unique to Israel.
    The sad reality is that civilians suffer and die in wars. Targeting them is morally abhorrent, but collateral damage is inevitable, especially when the fighting takes place in a densely populated area like Gaza and with Hamas purposly using the civilians as human shields.

      1. Not sure what you mean by that.
        Comparing the whole war to the fighting in Gaza is misleading. A better comparison would be to battles in cities like Stalingrad and Berlin, and there the ratios were not in this ballpark.

  2. There is a podcast ( The bridge; oct 16) in which Janice Stein makes (if i recall) the following argument:
    – Role of atrocities by Hamas was to provoke a ground war that would in turn lead to a larger conflagration. This was their strategy.
    – A correct strategic decision by Israel would be to not get drawn into this, but instead to long-term hunt down the leaders and perpetrators in Hamas similar to what was done with former Nazis.
    – But bibis government is inept and will probably get drawn in.
    I listened a while ago so perhaps it is slightly different. It is worth a listen.

    1. There are no good options. But restricting a response to just hunting down the leaders is perhaps among the most ineffectual of options, second only to doing absolutely nothing. The leadership will quickly regenerate, and meanwhile their infrastructure and enthusiasm for carrying out attacks will remain.
      A government is different from people with personal opinions. You and I can spout off whatever opinions we like, sitting in our armchairs, but a government is responsible for the safeguarding of a nation and furthering the nations’ interests. I think the view from there must be quite different.

    2. There are some complications about what counts as “correct”. Tough responses always gain popular support within a country, and tend to unite a country, so it is not “inept” for a leader of a democracy to listen to his people. The US is a prime example. For instance, Nixon’s poll numbers went up each time he heavily bombed North Vietnam. He admitted privately that this was the reason why he did it, even though it had no real effect on North Vietnam’s military efforts.

  3. This is the mother of all no-win situations for Israel. Hamas has brainwashed an entire generation of Palestinian youth into a rabid hatred of Jews and Israel, so even if you somehow decapitate and destroy Hamas you’re still dealing with a population that wants to destroy you.

  4. Malgorzata is correct. There is no hope for anything good to come out of this for Israel. There is only vengeance and despair. This was Hama’s goal and, in that small sense, though I hope fervently that they will be destroyed, they’ve already won.

    1. I’m not so sure that there is no hope. It may be that Hamas’s brutal attack will be remembered by many who were unaware. A silent majority? Especially among the young activist-types who have only viewed the conflict as slogans and chants. I certainly will never forget what happened and the motivations behind those actions.

  5. Nicholas Kristof simply cannot face difficult moral decision. His latest column reflects the shallowness of his thinking. “We must not kill Palestinian children to protect Israeli children” he writes — arguing that there is no difference between inevitable collateral damage during war and the deliberate torture and execution of babies as a strategy of terrorism — no difference between taking hostages and using them as human shields and trying to minimize harm to civilians while protecting one’s own people from barbaric attacks and the threat of genocide. But yeah — HE is the good moral person by his own calculus.

    So, just for Mr. Kristof to think about —


    1. Remember the terrible Pepsi commercial during the BLM riots, where the police and protestors are all yelling at one another, and Kendall Jenner comes up and hands them each a Pepsi? Like that is going to change anything? In the the real world the combatants will be baffled, and whoever feels the most violent will just go right back to being violent. Jenner would meanwhile walk smugly away, believing that they are virtuous and above-it-all — problem solved because it made them look good! Mr. Kristoff (and many others) are Jenner.

  6. there is nothing Israel can do to defend itself, or eliminate Hamas, that won’t be condemned by the world.

    You’re part of the world, and the many people who aren’t condemning Israel are, and for that matter, so is Israel.
    Making Israel look bad is one benefit for Hamas of their strategy of using Gazans as human shields.
    Sam Harris (also part of the world) commented in a Triggernometry episode that the idea of a “proportionate” response in war is BS – at least, when it’s used to mean that the Israelis aren’t entitled to do things that cause more civilian casualties in Gaza than victims of the Hamas massacre.

    1. You are right about proportionailty.
      The required proportionality is not about the numbes of casualties, but between the military value of the target and the expected civilian casualties.
      The gravity of Hamas’ threat is obvious to anyone with a functioning neuron. I will leave to you to conclude what this means about risking civilians,

  7. It seems that the Israeli people and Israeli leadership have decided that they must get rid of Hamas this time. They have become an existential threat. Yes, the world will condemn them because the world holds Israel to an impossible standard. Israel will act in accordance with civilized norms, but Israel will protect itself and fight back.

    I am not worried about the timing of the ground invasion and whether Israel is losing momentum or missing its opportunity. I hesitate to talk (or write) about a “delay,” for that word implies that an earlier plan has changed. More likely is that Israel will only go into Gaza when the conditions are right. If the military needs to do more from the air (or in small-scale ground incursions) before initiating a broad invasion, they will do that. If they need more time to bring hostages home, or to amass troops and munitions, or to get civilians out of the way, or to wait until more humanitarian aid gets in, or until a clear escape corridor is established, they will do that. And if they decide that they can eliminate Hamas without a ground invasion at all, they will not go in.

    In other words, Israel is wisely allowing conditions on the ground to influence they way they are waging this war. Creating uncertainty regarding when they go in or if they go in at all is good strategy.

    1. Great comment. I think that since Israelis are not blinded by their ideology unlike Hamas they will ultimately make wiser decisions.

      Cooler heads will prevail if you like.

  8. In my opinion, Israel should not only destroy Hamas at whatever cost that takes from innocent people, it should also take back the land they traded for the peace that never came. There is only 1 reason I take such an extreme view, and that reason is that Israel is confronted by extremism. Israel did not invent extremism, Hamas did.

    While I’m here, I want to add that I find Islam, in general, to be an ideological wasteland. As Brigitte Gabriel somewhat famously observed before she became consumed by a lust for Trump, “the silent majority are IRRELEVANT”. I understand that most Muslims are peace-loving decent people. What’s MORE important is the large size of the fraction of Muslims who are not peace lovers. Gabriel says the fraction lies between 15% and 25%!! 25% of all Muslims is more than the population of the USA. This applies to Palestinians. I don’t actually care what religion they have chosen (even if they didn’t choose it), it’s the fact that so many of them admit that they truly believe that all Jews, everywhere, should be murdered – while they are living within a Stone’s Throw of Israel (Palestinian teenagers have killed no less than 14 IDF members just with stones).

    1. In a recent Triggernometry episode, Eric Weinstein suggested that Israel take the position that if Hamas does some terrorist act, then Israel would take back xamount of land from Gaza, and make that public.
      So that’s a metered version of what you’re suggesting.

    2. I do not believe that most Muslims are a peace loving decent people. That is what they would like you to believe. The religion they follow and follow it they do is not a peace loving religion . It is the fifth column in western democracies where those who follow Islam will take advantage of us and our stupid wishful thinking and would deny us the very thing they use to their advantage. Someone here said radical- fundamentalist Islamists are dangerous, no they are all dangerous. I am definitely “Islamophobic “ and the fear is real. The theocracy ruling Iran with little effective push back from its “Islamic population” if equipped with deliverable nuclear weapons would happily burn the planet in the certainty that they will go to paradise with their honey and virgins whilst us infidels will burn in hell for eternity.
      When the ex Israeli PM said talking to the biased BBC interviewer “ they will come for you, we don’t need you to protect us, you need to protect yourselves I believe he got it absolutely right!

      1. Well, I’ll go with the first part of your post, but I doubt most Iranians would “happily burn the planet in the certainty that they will go to paradise”. I know too many Iranians that would be abhorred by the idea. Admittedly the small sample of Iranians I know are probably not representative, but still.
        Your last paragraph is back on track though.

    3. Israel’s Defence Minister told the Knesset last week that Israel does not intend to re-occupy or annex Gaza. After it finishes its military operation against Hamas it intends to wash its hands of the place, leaving its border crossings closed and taking no further responsibility for life in Gaza. The United Nations or someone else — Israel doesn’t care who — can receive Gaza into its capable hands. He said Israel would have to deal with the new “security reality” in Gaza.

  9. I’ll point out that some of the people screaming loudest about civilian casualties, either said nothing, or actively supported Putin and Assad’s bombing, gassing, and killing of 200,000 to 500,000 civilians in Syria. Palestinian populations in Syria were also murdered – not a lot of people know that. Doesn’t fit the narrative, as they can’t can’t blame Jews/Israel when someone like Assad kills Palestinians.

    1. To me, what makes it obvious that “criticism of Israel” is usually just anti-semitism in a fancy dress is that the same people don’t say a peep about all the atrocities that happen in the autocratic shitholes that surround Israel.

  10. Thank you, as always, Malgorzata, and you can correct things I get wrong here please. It seems to me, as a Jewish boy born the same year as Israel, 1948, that with the Holocaust and personal experiences of the fathers in my neighborhood who fought in Europe just ten years earlier, fresh and real in peoples’ minds that the idea of a defendable homeland for the Jewish people was fully supported. Of course the hegemony of post WW2 U.S. and Britain made the creation and soft enforcement of the partition pretty much untouchable. As a child, I found the geometry of the State of Israel to be strange, but if that big hole which is known as the West Bank was politically necessary, so be it. And Israel flourished. But in the result of the 1967 war, Israel expanded her mandated borders and occupied areas of the West Bank…which, as it is governed does give some legitimacy to palestinian objection. I understand that there is concern for the military necessity of the Golan Heights and West Bank presence, but would it lend itself to a reasonable two-state solution to have Israel evacuate to its original borders? Other than displacing several hundred thousand West Bank Jewish settlers and loss of current military defensive and surveillance positions, what is the argument against this?

    1. “But in the result of the 1967 war, Israel expanded her mandated borders and occupied areas of the West Bank…”

      I believe you have expressed a couple of misperceptions.

      1) There was no partition of Israel as proposed by the UN in 1947, because the Arabs rejected the UNGA Partition Resolution, which was intended to be a call for a peace treaty.

      2) The actual Mandate borders of Israel are from river to sea. They include the so-called “West Bank” ( A Jordanian title, Israelis call the territory Judea and Samaria), Gaza and part of the Golan Heights. This is a matter of International law. You can read all about it here: https://arizonalawreview.org/pdf/58-3/58arizlrev633.pdf

      People forget this because Israel was attacked the day after its creation and Judea and Samaria were illegally occupied by Jordan until 1967, when Israel reclaimed its own sovereign territory. Since you can not “occupy” land which legally belongs to you, exactly who is “occupying” who is a very interesting question indeed. Israel has always referred to this territory as “disputed”.

      1. Let us also never forget that Israel did not start any of the warfare post 1948. This was all down to their delightful neighbours, just like now.!

        1. That’s a great point. Because there is no entity or organization on Earth that recognizes the validity of territory taken by a war of aggression as being sovereign territory of the aggressor. That includes the United Nations.

          Curiously, this precept of International law does not seem to apply to Israel, because Judea and Samaria have somehow magically become land that supposedly “belongs” to the Palestinians and is “occupied” by Israel, according to the UN.

          1. Right of Conquest is the principle that supports the sovereign states of Canada and the United States. I don’t mean over the indigenous people. I mean that Britain fought France in the Seven Years War and out of it France surrendered New France to King George III in 1763. (It didn’t matter who started it. The important fact was that France lost it.) Part of New France became the Canadian province of Québec, the rest became the American midwest to the Mississippi River after the 1776 War of Independence.

            It is true today that waging aggressive war is a war crime — it was one of the counts against the surviving leaders of the Third Reich at Nuremberg. But it’s punishable only if you lose and have to return the territory you invaded. If you win, I believe the territory you conquered is yours if you can hold it.

            The best reason for Israel not to annex Judea and Samaria is that Arabs living there, even if they were not allowed citizenship, would still become residents of the larger state of Israel. Internal controls that bar people from traveling freely within a country are a bigger problem in international law than to primly regard the status of J&S as “disputed”. Even “occupied” is OK. Both allows a hard security border between Israel and the occupied territories.

  11. The only thing which would not be condemned was if Israel did nothing and allowed itself to be slaughtered down to the last Jew. What beautiful monuments, museums etc. would be built for the departed state and people! How many tears would be shed over the dead Jews!


    The “colonialist oppressors” would probably not get much sympathetic attention.

    1. What about this –
      In a recent Triggernometry episode, Eric Weinstein suggested that Israel take the position that if Hamas does some terrorist act, then Israel would take back xamount of land from Gaza, and make the schedule, with amounts of land etc., public.

  12. Malgorzata is right. That’s why Israel must follow its own agenda and not seek the approval of people who wouldn’t mind the total extermination of the Jews.

  13. An eejit on Twitter responded to Jerry’s tweet, insisting that all Israel has to do is “end the occupation”, like the “British did in Ireland.”

    Several issues there:
    1. The situation in Ireland is simply not comparable to Israel.
    2. Hamas are fascists and want genocide. They are magnitudes more extreme than the IRA, the PIRA, and any of the Loyalist groups. The Irish and Brits were not fascists, and never wanted to genocide each others’ populations. At no point did anybody enter Ireland or the UK and murder 1,400 people in a day.
    3. Israel doesn’t “occupy” Gaza. Gaza is “governed” by Hamas.
    4. Ireland and the UK were open to reasonable negotiation, and that led to a “power sharing” agreement in Northern Ireland. Hamas vehemently rejects any negotiation, and its aim is to genocide Israel “from the river to the sea”, as stated in its charter.

    So this eejit on Twitter either doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or is a pro-Hamas fascist. Or both, of course!

  14. Let’s accept that anything Israel attempts, even a new peace initiative (now highly unlikely), would be attacked and criticized by its enemies , (although some Israeli actions might generate more push back than others).
    The question then becomes, what would the best longer term Israeli security policy be?
    Some obvious logical possibilities include:
    1. Ethnic cleansing. Double down on the ethno-theocracy idea. Remove all Gazans from the strip (Problem: to where?). Possibly also remove all Palestinians from the West Bank-presumably to Jordan, Syria, etc., who will undoubtedly be thrilled to have them. (Problem: 20% of Israeli citizens are Palestinians-remove them too?).
    2. Better walls. The ” Hermetically Sealed” option. Israel is a rich techno state. It could probably eliminate all potential Gazan and West Bank Palestinian “incursion” into Israel proper if it really wanted to. (Problem: what to do about the West Bank settlements that are on the “other side” of the wall?)
    (Problem: walls can fail and lead to complacency).
    3. Invade Gaza and West Bank and hope that it can tell peaceful Palestinins from terrorist Palestinians. Kill all the terrorists, then leave. ” Problem solved.” Rinse and repeat, ad infinitum. (Problem: Sure-that’ll work, won’t it?).
    4. Find someone in power on the other side to negotiate with. Netanyahu rejected this ideal many years ago.
    5. Israel and US could try to get other countries (Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iran?) to “take over”/oversee governance of Gaza and maybe Palestinian territories. Many obvious problems with this.
    6. Leave Israel- go someplace else. The people and the wealth and the expertise could be secured elsewhere. That will not happen as long as Israel is conceptually defined as an ethnic and religious project tied to a specific “ancestral” homeland. Probably too radical.

    Some of these are obviously non-starters. I favor #2, the “walls” option, but even that has many problems. One thing is for certain though: if there are no good long-term security options, then a short-term land war in Gaza really has only one motive: revenge.

  15. “One thing is for certain though: if there are no good long-term security options, then a short-term land war in Gaza really has only one motive: revenge.”

    Well, sort of stating the obvious here. For years, it seems to be a problem of leadership and long-term thinking- something humans don’t do well, especially when ideology (religion) is in the motivational center. Hamas has always been motivated by revenge, why is Israel not allowed this motive at this time? At the crux, it’s a religion problem and therefore can’t be reconciled. Your “possibilities” need to reflect fanatical religion indoctrinated from childhood, and they don’t, so again, no solution…I understand why Malgorzata despairs.

  16. I think that Israel needs to take a different tack when it comes to publicity, namely, tar Hamas as “basically Nazis (but without the fancy uniforms and the competence)”. Then everything that has to be done to the population that supports them becomes easier to sell.

    Yeah, bombing Dresden wasn’t pretty. Yeah, it sucked for the ethnic Germans who were expelled from Chechia, Poland etc.. But they started a war, and it’s good that they lost. They accepted it and moved on.

    Yeah, expelling Palestinian Arabs in 1948 wasn’t pretty. Yeah, it sucks that Gaza had to be closed off to prevent endless suicide bombings. But Arabs started not one war, but two, and it’s good that they lost – but they’re refusing to accept it!

    And seeing how the founders of the Muslim Brotherhood (and spiritual godfathers of Hamas) were literally collaborating with Hitler and admired him because he was properly passionate about hating Jews, the argument shouldn’t be too hard to make.

    1. Don’t underestimate the power of that decolonizing myth. Hamas might be spiritual Nazis but they are decolonizing Nazis so that makes them good guys. Anything is permissible in the name of driving the colonizer into the sea. (Never mind that Israel isn’t a colonizing power — they don’t really care about being consistent anyway.)

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