On 8 November 2023, just over a month into Operation Swords of Iron, and the IDF taking significant numbers of Hamas prisoners, news broke of a directive, presumably from IDF top brass, that Hamas prisoners each be given a Qur’an and dispensation to pray five times a day. Such a directive, understandably, not only angered, but offended the lower ranks of the IDF, as indeed, it should every Israeli. One official is quoted as having said:
They came to butcher our children and our people in the name of this book, and now we have been asked to provide them with this book in their prison cells? I have trouble understanding the logic. …It is unbelievable that even after the heinous massacre that was carried out in the name of the Koran, someone in the IDF still thinks that we should take care of the welfare of these horrible terrorists and provide them with Koran books that will only strengthen their murderous ideology.
Another officer, equally disgusted, saw that the issuing of Qur’ans to Hamas prisoners will, “encourage them even more after the terrible massacre that happened here.”
Seeing a direct link between the Qur’an and the Simchat Torah Massacre is a welcome step forward, but it is a small one. The journalist reporting the story, Shimon Cohen, is careful to put a damper on it. He cautions his readers:
It should be noted that commentators and orientalists pointed out the close connection between the attack on the October 7 and the interpretation given by Hamas to verses from the Koran, according to which in the end of days there will be a great war between the Muslims and the Jews, and in this war every tree and every stone will cry out, "O Muslim, behind me a Jew is hiding. Come and kill him." (My emphasis)
The term “orientalist” as used today does not refer to Western Enlightenment scholars of the Orient. In today’s usage, as here, “orientalist” is an Islamic apologetic pejorative thrown at Western, usually white, non-Muslim scholars of Islam, especially if they are critical of Islam and Muslims. It is also an anti-colonial slur. Cohen sees “orientalists” as linking the massacre of 7 October to Hamas’s “interpretation” of verses of the Qur’an, “according to which,” says Cohen, the Muslims will kill all the Jews in the end times. This caution is highly revealing, since the passage Cohen refers to is not in the Qur’an, but in the hadith. Well, not many kufaar are necessarily familiar with the arcane details of another religion, especially one so closely guarded.
Yet, such ignorance on the part of Cohen, and his readiness to shield the true Islam from Hamas’s implied incorrect “interpretation,” warrants looking into, especially since Hamas and its motives have had wall-to-wall coverage for over a month. It turns out that ten days after the massacre, Cohen interviewed Professor Kobi Michael of the Misgav Institute, an expert on strategy and national security. Prof. Michael offered some powerful insights that Cohen quotes, such as:
We are paying a terrible price in blood for our continued disdain for the culture of incitement that has developed in Palestinian society. We are paying a price in blood for allowing UNRWA to continue to exist and feed the narrative of hatred and demonization of Israel, the narrative of violence and murder that is taught in UNRWA schools, an organization that the UN manages. I have published extensive research on this organization, but I and others have been treated as delusional. I tell journalists from around the world, that they must ask how the psychological infrastructure that enables this abominable murder has developed? It happened thanks to their money, silence, and forgiveness.
On that occasion, Cohen offered his readers no warning of Prof. Michael’s “orientalism,” despite Prof. Michael’s explicit warning:
In Hamas’s eyes, Paris and Rome are the next targets, in their view there is no place for either Jews or Christians in the Islamic caliphate that will be established, and you will be condemned to either convert to Islam or be slaughtered.
Hearing this, Cohen did not cast doubt on Hamas’s “interpretation” of Islam. Instead, he simply reported Prof. Michael’s words without comment. One can guess at the reason for his reticence. Be that as it may, Cohen has had a month to familiarise himself with what makes Hamas tick, and still avoids any link between Hamas and the Qur’an. Cohen says in his 8 November article:
Verses from the Koran were also quoted by senior Hamas officials and terrorists who consider themselves G-d's messengers assigned to the Muslims to punish the Jews; a mission stated in the verses of the Koran.
Yet he never actually quotes the verses so his readers may see the problems with the Hamas interpretation. This omission raises doubt as to whether Shimon Gohen has actually read the Qur’an for himself. Had he done so, and understood what he was reading, he would not have done something as asinine as distinguishing between the Hamas terrorists who participated in the massacre and those the IDF will take prisoner in Gaza. If it is the IDF that made this distinction, then at the very least, a half-good journalist would comment on it. Cohen writes:
The request for the Koran books indicates that Koran books were indeed ordered, but they were not intended for the terrorists who participated in the actual massacre, but for terrorists who would be captured by IDF soldiers during the days of fighting in southern Israel.
That it did not cross Cohen’s mind just how profoundly stupid this statement is points towards a wide malaise at all levels of Israeli society—the higher up you go, the worse it gets—of not wanting to know, despite the opportunity for saving themselves clearly dwindling fast. This national denial is itself complex, and I should like to explore some aspects of it here.
The Simchat Torah Massacre on 7 October, so the conventional wisdom goes, stemmed from a perplexing “intelligence failure.” A failure it certainly was, not of intelligence, but of ideology. Some go so far as to conclude, implausibly, that Hamas’s secrecy had bettered Israel’s surveillance, while others, for whom Hamas lacks the sophistication necessary for such an operation, would see the hands of Iran and Russia behind the attack. I want to argue that Israel’s surveillance is as good as ever, and that sophisticated hidden hands are not required to explain what happened.
The thesis that I am advancing is that there is an inconsistency between Zionism and Zionists. Zionism as Jewish nationalism is quite clear: the Jewish people’s recovery of the Jewish homeland. The word recovery is critical, for it entails two inescapable conclusions: one, that the land shall be restored to the Jewish people regardless of whether they find it deserted or settled. If the Jews find their land peopled by others, then of course restoration of a Jewish homeland implies dispossession; and two, that the land shall be peopled by Jews as Jews, imbued with the spirit of the ancient Hebrews, and not as anything else. In other words, Jews bereft of Judaism, Hadar and Zionism are as much a negation of the Jewish homeland, as is Eretz Israel bereft of Jews.
Ze’ev Jabotinsky struggled with this implication in the second part of his essay The Iron Wall, titled The Ethics of the Iron Wall, in which he failed to advance a convincing moral argument for Zionism. The Ethics fails because its premise is arbitrary, simplistic and moralistic. Jabotinsky imposes onto the Middle East and Arabs traits peculiar to Eastern European nation-state formation without any investigation at all of nation-state formation peculiar to the Arabs in the dying days of the Ottoman Empire. Indeed, Jabotinsky precludes any such investigation by his arbitrary and unjustified assertion in Turkey and the War, 1917, that Islam is inherently a force for good.
We sometimes hear travellers and journalists talk of a negative spirit of Islam.” It is a mistake. A great religion, whatever be its minor errors, is always a positive and a constructive driving-force unless it becomes a weapon in the hands of a Power which has negative interests. Such a Power is the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire: not the Turkish race. Were the Turks, so to say, left alone in the limits of a strictly-national State with out the burden of ruling a huge majority of other races, they would unquestionably have shown themselves second to none in that corner of the world where the standards of modern culture are kept by Bulgars and Roumanians. They would have developed a quite decent commercial and professional middle class… (p138).
Having, thereby, closed the book on Islam before he had even opened it, Jabotinsky was never going to see that the people who were then occupying the Jewish homeland had a direct and antithetical relationship to Jews, Judaism and, crucially, Zionism. Interestingly, in The Iron Wall, Jabotinsky makes an astute observation in this regard:
But it is quite another question whether it is always possible to realise a peaceful aim by peaceful means. For the answer to this question does not depend on our attitude to the Arabs; but entirely on the attitude of the Arabs to us and to Zionism.
Yet, having precluded Islam from his investigations, he would not uncover the centrality of Islam to “the attitude of the Arabs to us and to Zionism.” He saw Arab responses to Zionism only in so far as they fitted into his pre-existing framework, especially striking in The Iron Wall. In Turkey and the War, Jabotinsky says:
The Hedjaz, the country of the Holy Cities, Mecca and Medina, is destined to play a leading part in the future development of Islam as a religion, but the national idea, being a product of modern western thought, has so far no ground for growth in this primitive region, nor does it seem likely that higher secular education, which forms the condition and the basis of real nationalism, could make quick progresses within sight of the Kaaba. (pp228-9)
Jabotinsky did not see, amongst other things: that the primitiveness of the region was not just due to the absence of “modern Western thought,” but the overwhelming presence of Islam; that the Ottoman Empire lay spread out like a carpet on top of the Ottoman Caliphate, and that much of Ottoman official conduct was impelled by Islamic imperatives, rather than simple political expediency; that Mustafa Kemal, whom he faced twice during WWI, was a direct product of Islam, and indeed, the forerunner and inspiration for both Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler; that the demise of the Ottoman Caliphate and the founding of the Muslim Brotherhood in response to that demise, would come to have a critical bearing on Zionism overall, making the rivalry between different forms of Zionism irrelevant; that the Jews in Palestine were confronted much more by Muslims than by Arabs; at the Peel Commission, he paid attention mainly to the testimony of his rival Zionist, Chaim Weizmann, while failing to appreciate the significance of the testimony of Hajj Amin Al-Husseini, leader of the Muslims in Mandatory Palestine.
Yet, while Ze’ev Jabotinsky was mistaken about Islam, to the extent that Arab conduct was not driven by either religion or tribalism, he was under no illusions about Arabs. Although Jabotinsky’s Revisionist Zionism understood the Arab Muslim population as enemies—as did Religious Zionism and Revolutionary Zionism, albeit not in the same way—none of them understood how Islamic doctrine treats of Jews, and consequently, what Zionists might expect from Arab Muslims. Other forms of Zionism, such as Labour Zionism or Liberal Zionism, lacked even this rudimentary footing, and in their attitudes towards and actions vis-à-vis Arab Muslims, worked directly against Zionism firm in the belief that they were working for it.
After the national crisis in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur war, this ignorant undermining of Zionism was overtaken by a new anti-Zionist ruling elite, largely based on the old Labour Zionists. Today they are the pro-Palestinian, anti-Zionist Israeli Left, hyper-delusional and with a hatred for religious Jews no less ugly than that of Jew-haters for all Jews. In wanting to put as much distance between themselves and religious Jews, they go out of their way to discard whatever knowledge they have of Judaism, or feign ignorance of anything Judaic altogether. Herein lies the failure to detect and prevent the Simchat Torah Massacre. The means and the skill to detect and prevent this horror have all been in place since before the State of Israel was founded. The necessary Jewishness to bring together what needed to be brought together has been all but destroyed everywhere, except amongst the Jews of Judea and Samaria, and, miraculously, where it is springing back to life in the Diaspora.
Widespread and deep revulsion at the latest in a long line of Muslim attempts to exterminate the Jews, galvanised Jewish rage and determination to exterminate the Muslim organisation directly responsible for the Simchat Torah Massacre. We have heard “Never again!” yet again, along with stern expressions, firm tones and clenched fists. Sadly, the rage and determination will again prove inadequate to the task, and at some point in the future, we will again be witness to yet another stern affirmation of “Never again!” Never again will Hamas be able to attack Jews in their homeland, yes, yes, except that Jews have been attacked in their homeland long before Hamas ever existed. As determined (and united) as Israelis might be to eradicate Hamas—by no means a certainty, given Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ambiguities and equivocations since 7 October, and indeed in the month leading up to it—they show even more determination never to broach whatever it is that predates Hamas and inspired the organisation to embark on its genocidal mission.
It must be remembered that it was the Nazis perpetrating the Holocaust that fired up the Jewish spirit with a determined “Never again!” Clearly, the mere ending of the Nazis was not adequate to the task laid down in that grave pledge. Why there are people who want to exterminate the Jews was never addressed, and if it was, then the answer never made its way into seventy-five years of policy implementation. In the month since the Simchat Torah Massacre, we have seen step-by-step backtracking from the initial determination to “exterminate Hamas” to “destroying Hamas’s military capabilities”—it is not clear how something that is exterminated can have any capabilities at all—to handing over the task of killing all the Jews to the Palestinian Authority! That the very idea of handing over Gaza to the PA can even cross the mind of an Israeli Jew casts the spotlight exactly on the subject of this essay: the suicide of the Jewish spirit. For a sense of the peril Israel is in as a result of Jews denying the absolute necessity of Zionism, consider the following:
Part 2: The Jews’ refusal/inability to see Islam for what it is/...
Flash 90/Arutz 7