Israel Was Humiliated on October 7

To more fully understand the ferocity of Israel’s massacre of the people of the Gaza Strip, it’s perhaps worth considering that on October 7, 2023, the reputedly invincible Israeli Defence Forces and intelligence services were made to look like fools caught sleeping on guard duty. While Hamas’s murder, assault, and kidnapping of noncombatants must be strongly condemned, we should be able to see how humiliating that was for the Israeli government, which brags as much about its awesome power as it does about its allegedly unequaled moral stature.

Israel has blockaded Gaza for 20 years, although the “Jewish state” has controlled it since 1967. Even before that, Israel had committed massacres there in 1956 when Egypt controlled it as a result of the 1948 war. The Oct. 7 terrorists were likely too young to have known anything but life without a future in what had become the Gaza open-air prison. Theoretically and officially, Israel regulates all ingress and egress from the strip: people, food, medical supplies, energy, consumer and producer goods, and building materials. The policy is draconian, intended to keep the 2.3 million Palestinians, half of them children, quiet.

Even though long before Oct. 7 Israeli intelligence had evidence that Hamas was up to something, including training videos and a multipage plan of operation (discounted by the experts), the organization managed to blow 10 holes in the fortified fence and send through terrorists who attacked nearby military installations, permissible targets under international law, and impermissibly, kibbutzim and other civilian areas, including a music festival. Some of these locations had likely been the home areas of the grandparents of the fighters. A large percentage of Gazans are descendants of refugees, if not refugees themselves, whom Zionist militias expelled during the 1948 Nakba, or Palestinian catastrophe, an essential part of the program to create a “Jewish state.”

As if the attacks of Oct. 7 were not humiliating enough, late-arriving Israeli forces on land and in the air killed some Israelis in vehicles and buildings either by mistake (with autonomous pilots sometimes relying on targeting information from people using WhatsApp) or according to the supposedly abandoned Hannibal Directive, under which the military prefers to kill Israeli hostages along with their abductors rather than have them taken as bargaining chips. Israeli forces also killed many Hamas fighters, but in some cases the Israelis did not know whom they were firing at.

The Israeli media, unlike the American media, has reported extensively on this. For details, see the impressive and fair-minded Al Jazeera documentary October 7. It contains revealing videos from both sides and also covers the Israeli fabrications regarding mass rape and beheaded babies, as though the actual crimes weren’t hideous enough.

Israel’s mortification on Oct. 7 cannot be exaggerated. Israel has long prided itself not only on its offensive capabilities but on its power to deter attack, although that has been shown on occasion to have been overstated. But Oct. 7 pulverized that reputation. It also wrecked the hope that the Palestinians would acquiesce in being ignored as though they were invisible through the Abraham Accords, started by Trump and carried on by Biden. These are the actual and prospective corrupt deals involving the United States, Israel, and the dictatorial Gulf monarchies, the purpose of which is to buy “stability” in the region through Arab recognition of Israel via bribery, including U.S. weapons contracts and security guarantees. Who thought that would work?

Israel and its supporters want the world to believe that Jewish people face an existential threat — another Nazi genocide — and that Israel is the only insurance against it. Biden believes it; he ridiculously implies that Jews are in danger in America. How wrong that is. Israel is the least safe place for Jewish people, but that’s a consequence of how Zionists have treated the Palestinians from the start because they were not Jewish. There’s a sick joke in the hollow claims that as tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza are being killed, maimed, starved, and dispossessed, the real threat is to Jews, not only in Israel but in America!

The presence of anti-Semitism is vastly exaggerated and thankfully confined to the fringes, The only thing that could change that is the premeditated conflation of anti-Zionism, entirely legitimate, with anti-Semitism, an effort that serves to innoculate Israel from proper criticism. By doing this, Israel and its supporters have diluted anti-Semitism and, inexcusably, made it seem less bad.

Finally, when Israel’s defenders bring up Hamas’s execrable anti-Semitic and genocidal charter, they should be reminded that for decades before the 1948 self-declared founding of Israel, Zionist leaders and settlers had talked about reclaiming and sanctifying the “Promised Land” for the “Chosen People”; supported the “transfer,” by force if necessary, of the Palestinian Arabs (those non-Jewish people who for generations lived inexplicably in the “land without a people”); treated them with utter contempt to their faces (to the dismay of other Jews); expelled over 750,000 Palestinian Arabs in 1948; massacred hundreds of others and even poisoned their wells; destroyed some 500 villages to make way for Jewish towns, forests, and parks; attacked refugees in Gaza and Jordan, and militarily ruled the remaining Palestinian Arabs for the next two decades. Then came the occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights through the 1967 war, with its attendant brutality and humiliation.

All of that preceded Hamas’s emergence, which Israel encouraged, in the late 1980s. This does not justify Hamas’s terrorism against noncombatants, but perspective advances comprehension — if comprehension is deemed desirable.

Sheldon Richman is the executive editor of The Libertarian Institute and a contributing editor at He is the former senior editor at the Cato Institute and Institute for Humane Studies; former editor of The Freeman, published by the Foundation for Economic Education; and former vice president at the Future of Freedom Foundation. His latest books are Coming to Palestine and What Social Animals Owe to Each Other.