The Gates of Gaza

¹ Samson went to Gaza, and there he saw a prostitute, and he went in to her. ² The Gazites were told, “Samson has come here.” And they surrounded the place and set an ambush for him all night at the gate of the city. … ³ But…at midnight he arose and took hold of the doors of the gate of the city and the two posts, and pulled them up, bar and all, and put them on his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that is in front of Hebron.  Judges 16

The term “gates of Gaza” has a more contemporary application. The Nahal program was set up in 1948 by Ben-Gurion as a way of combining military service with the founding of settlements and the associated farming. All told, 108 kibbutzim and other agricultural settlements were established. Many of these militarised settlements were set up on Israel’s borders, and served as the first line of defence. Nahal Oz was the first Nahal settlement. I’ll let Wikipedia, for what it’s worth, take up the story.

Nahal Oz became a kibbutz in 1953, and was frequently in conflict with Arabs who crossed the nearby armistice line from Gaza… The previous few months had been relatively quiet…but escalated with several cross-border shootings… On April 4, three Israeli soldiers were killed by Egyptian forces on the Gaza border. Israel responded the next day by shelling the center of Gaza City, killing 58 Egyptian and Palestinian civilians, as well as 4 Egyptian soldiers. Egypt responded by resuming fedayeen attacks across the border,  killing 14 Israelis during the period between 11–17 April.
On 29 April 1956 [Roi Rothberg] was caught in a prepared ambush; Arab harvest workers began to reap wheat in the kibbutz’s fields. Rothberg saw them and rode toward them to chase them off. As he approached, others emerged from hiding to attack.

Rothberg was killed, and his death struck a chord in Israel. The Chief of Staff of the IDF came to Nahal Oz for his funeral. This was none other than Moshe Dayan, who was Defence Minister during both the Six-Day War of 1967 and the Yom Kippur War of 1973. The eulogy that Dayan read became famous.

Early yesterday morning Roi was murdered. The quiet of the spring morning dazzled him and he did not see those waiting in ambush for him, at the edge of the furrow.
Let us not cast the blame on the murderers today. Why should we declare their burning hatred for us? For eight years they have been sitting in the refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we have been transforming the lands and the villages, where they and their fathers dwelt, into our estate.
It is not among the Arabs in Gaza, but in our own midst that we must seek Roi’s blood. How did we shut our eyes and refuse to look squarely at our fate, and see, in all its brutality, the destiny of our generation? Have we forgotten that this group of young people dwelling at Nahal Oz is bearing the heavy gates of Gaza on its shoulders?
Beyond the furrow of the border, a sea of hatred and desire for revenge is swelling, awaiting the day when serenity will dull our path, for the day when we will heed the ambassadors of malevolent hypocrisy who call upon us to lay down our arms.
Roi’s blood is crying out to us and only to us from his torn body. Although we have sworn a thousandfold that our blood shall not flow in vain, yesterday again we were tempted, we listened, we believed.
We will make our reckoning with ourselves today; we are a generation that settles the land and without the steel helmet and the canon’s maw, we will not be able to plant a tree and build a home. Let us not be deterred from seeing the loathing that is inflaming and filling the lives of the hundreds of thousands of Arabs who live around us. Let us not avert our eyes lest our arms weaken.
This is the fate of our generation. This is our life’s choice – to be prepared and armed, strong and determined, lest the sword be stricken from our fist and our lives cut down.
The young Roi who left Tel Aviv to build his home at the gates of Gaza to be a wall for us was blinded by the light in his heart and he did not see the flash of the sword. The yearning for peace deafened his ears and he did not hear the voice of murder waiting in ambush. The gates of Gaza weighed too heavily on his shoulders and overcame him.

Nahal Oz was, literally, one of the gates of Gaza. It was a link in the chain of kibbutzim and military bases that locked the Palestinians inside the Gaza Strip, as Dayan’s eulogy makes clear. Dayan is also quite clear about both the genesis of the hatred, and the need never to forget that genesis. It was a message taken to heart by many Israelis at the time and subsequently. It would not be surprising if it assumed renewed importance in the aftermath of October 7th.

Nahal Oz is no longer a militarised settlement. Privatisation (presumably away from the communal ownership that characterised the original kibbutz movement) began in 1997. It is approached by a more or less east-west road that runs from Sa’ad to the east, north of the town to the Gaza border, which is little more than 1km by road away. Abutting the northern edge of that road, opposite the town, is the Nahal Oz IDF base. During the attack of October 7, 12 residents of the township were killed, and a number taken hostage into Gaza.

The adjoining IDF base is the headquarters of the 13th battalion of the legendary Golani Brigade, which has participated in all Israel’s wars and most major operations. On October 7, 41 members of the Brigade were killed, many at the base; more fatalities than the battalion suffered in the Six-Day War and Yom Kippur combined. According to one report, 15 female soldiers of the Combat Intelligence Collection Corps were also killed at the base, and six were abducted, one of whom was later rescued. Other reports say 20 of the CICC were killed; perhaps five men died as well.

Let us not cast the blame on the murderers today. Why should we declare their burning hatred for us? For eight years they have been sitting in the refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we have been transforming the lands and the villages, where they and their fathers dwelt, into our estate. It is not among the Arabs in Gaza, but in our own midst that we must seek Roi’s blood. How did we shut our eyes and refuse to look squarely at our fate, and see, in all its brutality, the destiny of our generation?

Dayan was clear-eyed about the cause of the hatred; just as he was unapologetic about it. His generation has passed in the nearly 70 years since this eulogy, and you will not hear such admissions today. What is still the ideology of “hard-line” parties within Israel is his declaration of perpetual war, though without acknowledgement of the cause. This doctrine precedes the creation of Hamas; it precedes the creation of the PLO. Though the Muslim Brotherhood had long been established, its founder was dead, and Sayyid Qutb was in prison in Egypt. But neither the Israeli government nor the IDF is accepting any part in what lay “beyond the furrow,” or as now, beyond the border surveillance fence.

October 7 was comprehensive failure of the Israeli security state, and the IDF, the most powerful military in the Middle East by its own reckoning and design, was humiliated by soldiers in Toyota utes, on motorbikes, on paragliders and on foot, armed with rifles, RPGs, explosive charges and drones. This concern has been addressed not by looking “in our own midst,” but by misdirection. “Don’t talk about the war.” Focus on atrocities, both the horrifyingly real and the completely invented (40 beheaded babies, for example), and mobilise Israeli society to finally solve the problem alluded to by Dayan, by obliterating Gaza, and “voluntarily emigrating” the remaining people of Gaza.

Gaza Postmodern

First published on on 31st January, 2024

One of the first declarations of intent was reported from an unnamed official.

The unnamed defense official told Israel’s Channel 13 that the Palestinian territory, home to more than 2 million residents, would be reduced to rubble. “Gaza will eventually turn into a city of tents. There will be no buildings.”

There have been plenty of others. In November the Agriculture Minister and Security Cabinet member Avi Dichter announced that, “We are now rolling out the Gaza Nakba.” That is, the expulsion of Palestinians from Gaza.

The Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Tzipi Hotovely, lays out the rationale to LBC interviewer Iain Dale.

But the clearest call for ethnic cleansing of Gaza came from Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich. On the 31st of December, he told Army Radio,

If in Gaza there will be 100,000 or 200,000 Arabs and not 2 million the entire conversation on ‘the day after’ will look different.

It’s an ambitious policy, but it would forestall any accusations of Israel’s being an apartheid state, because there could be no majority of Palestinians in areas under effective control by the Israelis.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir made similar calls for “voluntary emigration,” which brought a rare rebuke from the US State Department. But Netanyahu has not offered such a direct rebuke.

For months, Netanyahu has bucked US requests to begin planning for who will govern the Gaza Strip after the war, ostensibly recognizing that his far-right coalition partners would reject proposals that do not include Israel’s reoccupation and resettlement of Gaza — which the security establishment and Washington oppose.

In a video posted on the 8th of January, Shlomo Karhi, the Israeli Minister of Communications, restated the aim of “voluntary emigration” of the population of Gaza. On the 1st of January, Netanyahu told an internal Likud meeting that, “Our problem is [finding] countries that are willing to absorb Gazans, and we are working on it.” These reports were subsequently denied.

It’s not all doom and gloom when discussing these issues, though, as this comic turn by a Channel 14 news anchor shows.

Mass population expulsion is enabled by ensuring that the current population has nowhere to live, and no infrastructure to depend on. For this part of the policy, so often discussed by representatives of the Israeli government, including many Ministers, Israel needs only its own resources, and the steady supply of munitions from the United States. It has been, and continues to be, put into effect, as can be seen in the following videos.

From 20th December, land clearing in Northern Gaza.

And from the 22nd, some tunnels are destroyed (Requires Telegram Tg). Any buildings above them are collateral damage. And on the 30th (Tg).

Israeli slapstick from 3rd of January.

From the 6th of January, having a casual smoke.

It was getting dark on the 8th of January, so the scene was lit up with flares so that every moment could be caught on video.

Going for a record in Khan Yunis; 18th January.

This one from 21st of January generates a lot of excitement in the English speaker recording the event.

The following is a relatively subdued effort of the IDF. A couple of adjacent buildings, the surroundings of which have been bulldozed, are demolished in a single explosion. The buildings are those of the University of Palestine, a private university, and the last higher education institute left in Gaza, until now. The demolition can be seen embedded within this video from a press conference.

Lee’s questions about the context in which this demolition takes place can be asked equally pertinently about every such demolition shown above. There is no threat, and, if we are to believe the Israeli insistence that they will retain security control of Gaza, there is not even any remote future military justification.

Attention is now turning to the Philadelphi Corridor; that is, the buffer zone along the Egypt-Gaza border. The Gaza Strip is not part of Israel. The Corridor is the border between Egypt and Palestinian Gaza.

The IDF had controlled that zone under terms set out by its 1979 peace treaty with Egypt until it withdrew from Gaza in 2005…

The Egyptian army in agreement with Israel increased its forces at the border both in 2005 and in 2021 to prevent weapons smuggling, [head of the State Information Services (SIS) Diaa Rashwan] explained.

“Egypt has full sovereignty over its land, and has complete control over its entire northeastern borders,” he added. “Israel’s continued marketing of these lies [that Egypt has not controlled smuggling] is an attempt to create legitimacy for its attempt to occupy the “Philadelphi Corridor” or “Salah al-Din Corridor”, in Gaza along the border with Egypt, in violation of the security agreements and protocols signed between it and Egypt,” Rashwan stressed.

He also reminded Israel that Cairo also considers any forced displacement of Palestinians from Gaza to Sinai as a “red line” that should not be crossed.

The last point is the most relevant. If Israel is to “encourage emigration,” the only avenue open to it is the Philadelphi Corridor. Egypt has made plain that it will not let the Gaza Strip empty into Sinai. As of mid-December, “hundreds of thousands” of refugees had crowded into Rafah and adjacent areas of the Corridor. If Israel takes control of the border, it has the option to punch holes in the wall, and encourage refugees to flow into Sinai. Hamas did it in 2008, so that Gazans could stock up with difficult-to-obtain supplies in Egyptian Rafah. Since then, Egypt has done its own land clearing.

Between 2013 and 2015, Egypt also evicted thousands of people from their homes and destroyed more than 3,000 structures along its side of the border to create a buffer zone, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.


Passage through the wall, should it eventuate, would be a one-way ticket. It would also end the Peace Treaty, which has held between Egypt and Israel since 1979. The speculation comes in the wake of the withdrawal of one of four divisions of IDF troops from Gaza for R&R and training. The IDF estimate that fighting will continue through all of 2024, despite claims that “the [Hamas] battalion frameworks have been dismantled” in Northern Gaza, and that “the Khan Younis Brigade is gradually disintegrating as a fighting force.” Rifts are opening in the war cabinet. The particular issues are not as important as the facts that the rifts are public. Cracks come through pressure. If the war is conforming to the press releases there is a strong incentive to maintain cohesion. Talk about a regionally destabilising takeover of the Egypt-Gaza border is a way to “explain” why Hamas has not yet been broken despite all of its dismantling and disintegration.

Since this post was first drafted, more details have come to light. The split in the war cabinet, alluded to above, was made public by Gadi Eisenkot, a former IDF Chief of Staff, and a member of the Benny Gantz led National Unity alliance. Gantz and Eisenkot are both members of the war cabinet, which Netanyahu pulled together to pursue a unified approach to the war. Eisenkot’s son was killed in fighting in December.

Eisenkot revealed the he had argued himself hoarse (literally) in an October 11 cabinet meeting to forestall a preemptive strike against Hezbollah. About the course of the war, he had this to say.

“Those who say that there was a major blow and demolition of the capabilities in the north of the strip are telling the truth,” Eisenkot told told Israeli broadcaster Channel 12 News on Thursday evening. “Those who talk about an absolute defeat and lack of will and ability do not tell the truth. This is why there is no need to tell tall tales.”

Even this may have been optimistic. The CNN report is from 20th January. On the 16th, the Institute for the Study of War, a pro-Israel and pro-Ukraine military think tank, published its update on the situation in Gaza.

Palestinian militias are likely re-infiltrating into areas of the northern Gaza Strip where Israeli forces previously conducted clearing operations. CTP-ISW has observed renewed militant activity in several neighborhoods across the northern part of the strip in recent weeks, as Israeli forces have transitioned to less intense fighting there. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed on December 31, 2023, that it withdrew five brigades from the northern Gaza Strip and said that it would transition to targeted raids with its remaining forces. CTP-ISW assessed on January 2 that the IDF transitioning to this new phase of operations will very likely enable Hamas to reconstitute itself militarily.

In this environment, Israel’s demolition activities carry some risks. On the 22nd of January, Israeli soldiers who were rigging buildings for demolition were attacked with RPGs or other anti-tank weapons. The attack triggered the demolition charges, killing most of the IDF soldiers in the vicinity. Reports vary from 21 dead to 24, the number Netanyahu announced.

On the 28th of January, the Wall Street Journal headlined “Israel Struggles to Destroy Hamas’ Tunnel Network.

As much as 80% of Hamas’s vast warren of tunnels under Gaza remains intact after weeks of Israeli efforts to destroy them, U.S. and Israeli officials said, hampering Israel’s central war aims.

The bottom line is that Hamas still has significant operational capability. It seems that Israel is incapable of destroying Hamas.

In Her Lane

First published in Quadrant Online on 10th November, 2023 as The Language and Logic of Sedition

Whether she was aware of the threat from early on in the campaign, or only fully realised its extent in conducting the post-mortem, Janet Albrechtsen exposed the wound in her article entitled Radical Idea About ‘Occupied Australia’ Must Be Confronted, published a fortnight after the referendum in The Weekend Australian.

She noted that, as if to validate the concerns of those like her who had vigorously opposed the referendum proposal, an anonymous group claiming to represent the “collective insights and views of a group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders, community members and organisations who supported Yes” brazenly claimed in an open letter that

Australia is our country … We do not for one moment accept that this country is not ours. Always was. Always will be. It is the legitimacy of the non-Indigenous occupation in this country that requires recognition, not the other way around. Our sovereignty has never been ceded.

This is not some ratbag fringe speaking, even if the anonymity of the group were to indicate that these opinions were not shared by a substantial majority of ATSI Yes promoters, or at least would not be so openly enunciated by the majority.  This is a declaration of independence; it is a throwing down of the gauntlet by the legitimate sovereigns of the continent of Australia to the illegitimate usurpers of that sovereignty.

Such a position is not arrived at spontaneously. It has first to be crafted by an intellectual vanguard, and then inculcated into the minds of the group or groups which this elite wishes to form into a resistance, on the basis of a moral right and duty to resist. Ms Albrechtsen has located such a intellectual vanguard within Australia’s legal academy.

[The anonymous authors] have made clear what was already received wisdom inside certain of our law schools but had gone unnoticed.
As I have previously written, the belief inside legal academe that Australia is illegitimate and that the voice would go some way to sharing sovereignty pending a full treaty was hiding in plain sight. Until I read Treaty by [George] Williams and Harry Hobbs, and the academic paper Voice versus Rights: The First Nations Voice and the Australian Constitutional Legitimacy Crisis by Gabrielle Appleby, Ron Levy and Helen Whalan, I had no idea this school of thought was behind the Uluru statement and the push for a voice.

If the structures of governance in Australia are illegitimate, then the modes and methods of that governance, for example elections and referenda, are obviously illegitimate also.

[L]aw professor George Williams wrote on Monday: “Australia’s system of constitutional reform is broken and there is little point in heading back to the polls until this is fixed.” … For Williams…democracy is a terrible disappointment and would benefit from a little supervision from some expert group – preferably consisting of suitably educated and right-minded lawyers. This explains why so many lawyers want a bill of rights so that when elected politicians fail to act on proposals smart lawyers really like, or enact the wrong ideas, a judicial elite can correct them.

What might Williams mean by “fixed”? The referendum was defeated by a massive majority, and only in Canberra, which does not count towards the required majority of States, was the proposal carried. This was one of the more comprehensive defeats ever handed to a referendum proposal, so what can be meant by “fixed”? The only way to “fix” such a thrashing is to ensure that such a proposal can be implemented without the noisome requirement to go to the electorate. Yet the only way to implement such a change is through a referendum.

Either this obvious contradiction has not occurred to Williams, or, more likely, he holds some hope of circumventing this inconvenience. However reluctant Williams is to spell it out, what else can he possibly mean? Ms Albrechtsen alludes to this inevitable conclusion in her introductory reference to Brecht’s play Die Lösung, about the East German uprising of 1953.

Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

South Africa offers an example of the destruction of an existing Constitution through decades of relentless international pressure, but there are no coherent parallels with Australia, and besides, the Voice cohort is seeking to implement an apartheid-like system. Neither do New Zealand or Canada offer useful examples. Australia is unique. But transnational organisations and lobby groups exist to promote, among other things, damaging mythologies about the nation states they choose to target, so there is always scope for harming Australia’s reputation in the eyes other counties’ citizens, given that nearly 40% of Australians could be persuaded to undermine their own Constitutional order. This degree of success was achieved by making Australia shameful in the eyes of that substantial proportion of citizens. If that can be achieved among us, what are the possibilities amid the isolated and privileged elites of international and transnational organisations who exercise grossly disproportionate influence on the world stage?

More immediately dangerous is the radicalisation of aboriginal activists here, as evidenced by the anonymous statement quoted above, denying the legitimacy of the Australian nation state. This is the logic of sedition. It is not merely a declaration of independence from the constitutional structure of Australia; it is a denial that that constitutional structure has any valid authority over anyone. Into such an ideology violence flows like water down a drain.

Yet we will wait in vain for guardians of the constitutional order to publicly caution against the danger of terrorism developing amid the ranks of the most fanatical Voice proponents and supporters, black, white or brindle, all the while issuing dire warnings about the dangers of Christian extremism.


First published on on 26th January, 2024

For most of 2022, and until the great counter-offensive broke on the Russian defence lines of Zaporozhzhia on mid-2023, it seemed that the greatest priority of the Biden administration, and most of Congress, was promoting and resourcing Ukraine’s proxy war against Russia. The problems were mounting up even before the June-July catastrophe. The NATO countries discovered that the demilitarisation of Western economies came at a price. Even though the US had been carrying the NATO defence budget, not even the home of the military-industrial complex was all that industrially productive. The NATO nations realised that, combined, they could not match Russia’s production of artillery shells to serve the god of war. Even so, Russia could not produce enough to match its usage, and purchased shells from Belarus, North Korea, and perhaps, Iran. NATO scoured the former Warsaw Pact countries for ammunition for Ukrainian legacy artillery, and then Bulgaria and South Korea for NATO standard shells and Japan for TNT. As the supply became more and more critical, the US went to its magazines in Israel, where it maintained ammunition to supply Israel at short notice.

Then came October 7, and suddenly the flow of ammunition changed direction. The Ukrainians, facing one of the most powerful armed forces in the world, looked on in dismay as ammunition on which they had been counting was diverted to Israel. Priorities. When the US’ commitment to Ukraine is weighed against its commitment to Israel, Ukraine is left high and dry in the scales.

And that would be that, except for the curious situation in the US Congress about ongoing aid packages to Israel and Ukraine. The Republican majority in the House, under its new Speaker, is demanding action to close the southern border to the flood of illegal immigrants – 2.4 million “encounters” at the SouthWest border in FY 2023 – and they are using the aid packages as collateral to force such action, so far without success. The House had earlier passed a Bill for aid to Israel but not for Ukraine, predicated on matching budget cuts to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which neither the Senate nor the White House will approve. So all attention in negotiations is now focussed on the border issue. The Biden Administration is not budging on tightening border controls.

Is this indicative of the actual priorities of the Biden Administration? Is keeping the border flood going actually a higher priority than arming Israel? In recent weeks the IDF has withdrawn one of four divisions from Gaza for training and R&R, claiming that it was the success of IDF operations that brought this about. Coincidentally, Israel has been under pressure from the US to lower the intensity of the campaign in Gaza, particularly in respect of attacks on civilians and Gaza infrastructure. The stalling on funding may be more a tool to remind Israel of who is paying the military piper than a reflection of the open border fanaticism that has become a staple of the thinking of elites in the sad and decaying West. Watch this space.

Al Shifa, et al.

First published on on 22nd December, 2023

On the 16th of November, White House spokesman John Kirby said,  “We have our own intelligence that convinces us that Hamas was using Al Shifa [hospital] as a command and control node, and most likely as well as a storage facility. We are still convinced of the soundness of that intelligence.”In this, he was giving what we might call independent support to the frequently proclaimed Israeli assessment. For instance, Reuters’ report on the Israeli capture of the hospital included this assessment.

Al Shifa hospital had become the chief target of a Gaza City incursion by Israeli forces, who said the “beating heart” of the Hamas fighters’ operations was headquartered in tunnels beneath it. Hamas denied the accusation and on Wednesday dismissed the Israeli statements as “lies and cheap propaganda”.

In preparation for the attack, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) released a video with a 3D representation of the tunnels and command centre supposed to be under Al Shifa.

Ehud Olmert, a former Israeli Prime Minister, had a different opinion.

The Israeli version of the Al Shifa story is comprehensively told in an article from The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center. Read it and come to your own conclusion about the correspondence between story and reality.

Irrespective of the details, Israel could be certain of finding a complex beneath Al Shifa, for reasons which are explained in a 2014 Hamas-hostile article from The Tablet: Top Secret Hamas Command Bunker in Gaza Revealed.

The idea that one of Hamas’ main command bunkers is located beneath Shifa Hospital in Gaza City is one of the worst-kept secrets of the Gaza war. So why aren’t reporters in Gaza ferreting it out? … Well, one reason might be that the “security sources” quoted whenever the location of the Hamas command bunker is mentioned—which…happens every time there’s a war in Gaza—are obviously Israelis, not members of Hamas. 

The Israelis are so sure about the location of the Hamas bunker…because they built it. Back in 1983, when Israel still ruled Gaza, they built a secure underground operating room and tunnel network beneath Shifa hospital—which is one among several reasons why Israeli security sources are so sure that there is a main Hamas command bunker in or around the large cement basement beneath the area of Building 2 of the Hospital, which reporters are obviously prohibited from entering. (My emphasis.)

Note that the “certainty” is an induction, and while such an induction was probably quite reasonable in 2014, it was hardly a certainty.

Another former Israeli PM, Ehud Barak “ignit[ed] a storm of misinformation” by doing something unusual in this conflict — telling the truth.

Even though the Meir Amit report is coy about it, an Appendix discusses the history of Al Shifa Hospital.

Initially, the hospital had 320 beds and served approximately 210,000 residents of Gaza City. The goal was approximately 900 beds in an extensive campus of 50 dunams, which would serve the residents of the entire Strip, while demolishing old buildings in favor of new high-risers equipped with advanced technology. The renovation phase of the 1990s also included concrete basement floors from which the Hamas leadership operated while hiding in the hospital.

Given that everybody knows about the subterranean hospital, how likely is it that, whatever the situation was in 2014, Hamas would have maintained a critical command post under Al Shifa in advance of their planned attack in 2023? It is perhaps less obvious that Israeli and US intelligence services also understand this, given their abject failure before October 7th.

While the focus has been on the “beating heart” of Hamas in Al Shifa, all of the hospitals of Gaza were being targeted. The Indonesian Hospital has been effectively destroyed. According to this report in the Guardian on the first of December, of 10 hospitals in the northern Gaza Strip, only two remained functional.

Meanwhile, Israel has levelled the Islamic University of Gaza;

the Palace of Justice;

and the Parliament building. Then there are the mosques, including the Great Omari Mosque. The Cathedral of St John the Baptist was built in AD406, purportedly on the site of the Philistine Temple of Dagon, the one destroyed by Samson. Around AD700, after Gaza had fallen to the Muslims, the Cathedral was converted in into a mosque. Now Israel has destroyed all but the tower. And Great Omari is only the most ancient of many mosques which have been destroyed.

Many in the West are bedazzled by the cultural and intellectual prominence of the Jews; many also feel that Western societies as a whole are still paying off a debt incurred in the camps of Poland and Germany in the 1940s; many are terrified, post 9-11 and post ISIS, of Islamic fundamentalism; some Christians give Israel their unwavering support for religious reasons. None of these groups are able to see Israel’s actions in Gaza dispassionately, if they “see” them at all. Some will assure themselves that these are all legitimate military targets. As an aid to assessing the validity of this, consider this story from various sources. Nearly 50% of the munitions dropped by Israel on one of the most heavily populated regions on Earth are unguided “dumb” bombs.

Israel is engaged in calculated destruction of the religious, medical and civil infrastructure of Gaza, along with the collateral destruction of thousands of human lives — noncombatant human lives. It is reminiscent of General Curtis LeMay’s expressed desire to “bomb [North Vietnam] back to the stone age,” except that the IDF flies unopposed, and Gaza is small enough to make the proposal feasible. In other places, this policy is known as “ethnic cleansing.” ¹

Much of what is called “the Global South,” including of course Muslim countries, sees Israel’s attacks in this way. While Western countries generally express support for Israel, they contain significant minorities who reject their governments’ position. I am not speaking here of the Islamic sub-cultures, some of whom are chanting “gas the Jews” in a mirror image of Israel’s destructive fervour, but of those who hope for, and despair of, a peaceful resolution of this ancient enmity in its modern setting.

¹ Statements from a “defense official,” an MK, and three ministers, including the Defense Minister and Netanyahu himself over a period from the 9th of October to the 11th of November himself made quite clear what the mood and the intention intention of the Israeli Government was.

‘“I have ordered a complete siege on the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed,” Gallant says [Oct 9] following an assessment at the IDF Southern Command in Beersheba. “We are fighting human animals and we are acting accordingly,” he adds.’

“We’re rolling out Nakba 2023.” Likud Minister Avi Dichter. Nov 12.

Israeli defense official says Gaza will be reduced to a ‘city of tents’ while a politician calls for nuclear bombs. Oct 11

You must remember what Amalek has done to you.” Netanyahu, Oct 28.

Building Hamas

First published on on 15th December, 2023

On the 8th of October, an angry article appeared in The Times of IsraelFor years, Netanyahu propped up Hamas. Now it’s blown up in our faces, or so ran the headline. One has to read some way into the article to discover that it was not only Netanyahu-led governments that followed the policy of “propping up Hamas.” Presumably, The Times of Israel is part of the extensive opposition to Netanyahu, but that does not diminish the seriousness of the charges.

What was the point?

The idea was to prevent Abbas — or anyone else in the Palestinian Authority’s West Bank government — from advancing toward the establishment of a Palestinian state.

That’s it in a nutshell. Remember that Fatah, the party originally of Yassar Arafat, and now of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, was and remains a secular party, originally influenced by National Liberation ideology and its Marxian leanings, whereas the group carefully cultivated by the Israelis to split the Palestinians is an Islamist organisation springing from the Muslim Brotherhood, not that anyone in the West needs to be reminded of the ideology of Hamas. Hamas’ constitution demands the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state, and the creation of a Palestinian state “from the river to the sea.” Hamas’ ruling Gaza is a guarantee of perpetual armed conflict between Israel and Gaza. In the limited wars of 2009, 2012 and 2014, around a dozen Israeli and 2000 Palestinian civilians were killed. Israeli figures who maintain this policy refer to these outbreaks, cynically, as “mowing the grass.” It is just the price that must be paid, in this fallen world, to stymie efforts towards a two-state solution. And the price is paid mainly by Palestinians.

It isn’t as though the dependency relationship between Hamas and successive Israeli governments has not been widely known, and criticised by many within the Israeli establishment. In 2018, Mehdi Hasan and Dina Sayedahmed at The Intercept published a short video and accompanying article in the Blowback video series, called Blowback: How Israel Went From Helping Create Hamas To Bombing It. Israeli support for the fledgling organisation of Sheik Ahmed Yassin began in 1978, long before the official creation of Hamas in 1987 at the time of the First Intifada. Yassin was later assassinated in an Israeli airstrike.

Earlier still, in 2014, the Washington Post published a story How Israel helped create Hamas, covering much of the same ground.

Egypt lost control of Gaza to Israel after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war… In 1966, Nasser had executed Sayyid Qutb, one of the Brotherhood’s leading intellectuals. The Israelis saw Qutb’s adherents in the Palestinian territories, including the wheelchair-bound Sheik Ahmed Yassin, as a useful counterweight to Arafat’s PLO.
“When I look back at the chain of events I think we made a mistake,” one Israeli official…said in a 2009 interview with the Wall Street Journal’s Andrew Higgins. “But at the time nobody thought about the possible results.”

Yassin’s organisation Mujama al-Islamiya, approved by the Israeli authorities in Gaza, set up a network of schools, clinics, kindergartens, a library, and later, the Islamic University of Gaza. Such activities, in contrast to the increasingly corrupt Fatah, won great support for Mujama; support which transferred to Hamas. Up to this point, Israeli authorities might be forgiven for not appreciating the potential dangers. But the Washington Post report includes this ambiguous gem.

Israel jailed Yassin in 1984 on a 12-year sentence after the discovery of hidden arms caches, but he was released a year later. The Israelis must have been more worried about other enemies.

Hasan’s report at The Intercept refers to a number of Israelis who, by the mid-80s, were warning about the dangers of the policy regarding Yassin. One of them, Avner Cohen, a Tunisian-born Jew, had been responsible for religious affairs in Gaza up until 1994. In 2009 he was interviewed for the Wall Street Journal, presumably the one mentioned in the Washington Post article. He said, “Hamas, to my great regret, is Israel’s creation,” and called it an “enormous, stupid mistake” made 30 years previously. (See this item at Huffington Post.) According to Hasan, Cohen wrote a report in the mid-80s, urging that the policy be abandoned.

Yet a blind eye was turned to Yassin’s development of an armed force. By 2006, Hamas was in a position to win the election against Fatah and the Palestinian Authority (PA). Over the course of 2006 and 2007, Hamas fought against the PA, and drove them out of Gaza, realising the hopes of many in Israel to split the Palestinians, not only politically, but territorially.

Despite this seeming policy triumph, it seems that in the nine years since Operation Protective Edge the grass grew pretty high.

Israel’s Tet Moment?

First published at on 11th October, 2023

Shortly after midnight on January 30-31, 1968, during celebrations of the Lunar New Year (Tet) , NVA and Viet Cong (VC or NLF) forces launched the Tet Offensive in South Vietnam. The site(*) includes pages on declassified Tet documents, and a 50th anniversary retrospective on the Offensive. According to the latter, 70-80,000 troops in total were involved in the attacks, although estimates vary widely, as do estimates of the casualties. The important northern city of Hue was only cleared of NVA and VC troops on the 24th of February, and the siege of Khe Sanh only lifted two months later. Even though military intelligence was aware that something big was in the offing, the scale of the offensive shocked the military and the governments of both the US and South Vietnam.

The offensive was a military disaster for the NVA and VC. The expected popular uprising against the occupiers and their running dogs did not eventuate. The Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) surprised the Yanks and the VC with their effectiveness in repulsing the attacks. The VC was broken as an independent force in the South, and its units had to be made up by NVA soldiers. In the larger scheme of things, to wit, US media, public opinion and politics, it was the key to eventual victory. Opinion turned more strongly and broadly against a war about which nothing but optimistic assessments had been coming from the Administration and the military. The abiding image of the Tet Offensive is of the Saigon Police Chief summarily executing a VC prisoner, accused of executing a South Vietnamese Lt Col and his family, in the street.

Within months, the US began a drawdown of forces and the process of “Vietnamisation” of the war effort, and as the 1968 elections loomed, President Johnson announced that he would not seek another term, and the Democrats fell with him as the Nixon Republicans swept to power.

The Democrats had their revenge in the overthrow of Nixon, after which Congress cut military and economic aid to South Vietnam by 30%. When the NVA launched its major offensive, Gerald Ford’s pleas to Congress to increase military aid were ignored by the party which had engineered the war originally.

This may sound not so much as history but as prediction, and there is certainly a lesson here for America’s current and possibly erstwhile allies. The Ukrainians are looking very nervously over their shoulders as I write. However, is there any possibility that the US will ever turn its back on a request for military aid from Israel? Nonetheless, what parallels might be drawn?

Vietnam exposed the government and the military of the US to trenchant criticism in a way and on a scale that had not occurred to that point. The draft was fuel to that fire, as it was here, but it was not the only or, I think, the main factor. Something about the democratic social contract had been broken. The gulf between the official story of the war, involving as it did such notions as opposition to communism, the defence of the freedoms promoted by the U.N., the universality of American democratic values, and U.S.’ leadership of the Free World was such a mismatch with the bungled reality that such values themselves came under question.

Israel has a strong peace movement, which defines one of the fault lines of Israeli politics. What the effect on the peace movement of this attack and the military response will be, who can say? One thing is certain though. The prestige of the IDF, Mossad and Shin Bet has been shattered by this event. Something similar might have been said about the intelligence failure of 1973. But in that case, the IDF was able to enhance its prestige by recovering from its initial defeats to achieve victory against powerful state armies on two fronts. That description does not apply to Hamas. It may be that Israeli society experiences the tensions of the U.S. (and Australia) of 1969/70 in its response to Gaza and its attitudes to the IDF.

It is misleading to describe the Hamas incursion as a “terror attack,” any more than to describe ISIS’ sweeping away of the opposing armed forces of various states in its initial creation of the Caliphate as a “terror attack.” It was a military campaign, one of the primary weapons of which was terror. 9-11 was a terror attack. Hamas’ seemingly rag-tag army attacked and defeated the IDF in its own bases, destroying the vaunted Merkava tanks, and murdering civilians in the process. But let us not delude ourselves that this was not primarily a successful attack on the IDF on a startlingly broad front. I doubt that the Israeli public will misunderstand that when they assess the IDF, Mossad, Shin Bet, the Prime Minster and the Defence Minister.

Israel is now at a crossroads, facing Gaza. Netanyahu has announced the call-up of 300,000 reservists. That number may ring a bell. Russia, once Plan A had been thwarted, also decided to call up 300,000 reservists. Oh, how we laughed; “we” being the Western pundits. Well, Russia did manage the call-up of 300,000 reservists, not without some hiccups. But the Israeli call-up is, on some reports, experiencing severe difficulties in provisioning the largest call-up since 1973, or perhaps ever.

Recall that the US and the EU have been scrambling to supply artillery shells to Ukraine, and have been scouring the reserves of any country which had 155mm ammunition, in particular, in its inventory. South Korea has a strict policy of not providing lethal military aid to combatants; Ukraine, for example. But South Korea negotiated to sell 100,000 rounds of 155mm ammunition to replenish diminishing US reserves. Similarly, the US has dipped into the reserves it controlled in Israel to supply the insatiable Ukrainian demand for shells. At least 300,000 rounds were in the process of being transferred at the beginning of this year. Suddenly, the imperatives for ammunition have changed. But the Western supporters of both Ukraine and Israel cannot manufacture more than a fraction of the ammunition that was already being consumed in Ukraine.

Is this virtual total mobilisation necessary to contain Hamas? Gaza has a population of 2 million in an area of 360 sq km. In declaring war on Hamas, and effectively on Gaza, Israel must keep Hezbollah at bay in the north, and protect the Golan Heights from incursions. Hezbollah has bases in Syria, including sites outside Damascus, so any commitment to fully support Gaza will tend to draw Lebanon and Syria into the conflict. This show of force was probably to discourage such involvement, and so far it seems to have worked, as only minor skirmishes have occurred at the Lebanese border.

Western audiences seem incapable of realising that Arab and Persian eyes view the situation in Gaza differently, and this polarisation, characteristic also of internal Western divisions, is extraordinarily dangerous. Netanyahu’s aggressive stance may work to discourage Gaza’s Muslim neighbours, but if the IDF attacks Gaza en masse, and the aircraft and rocket attacks continue at near the same level, then, no matter how much Arab leaders may privately consider Hamas and the Palestinians to be troublesome pests, public outrage may force their hands.

Would Hamas have attacked had not the West, and the US in particular, been preoccupied with Ukraine? The Zelensky curse, thought to be contained, has struck again.

(*) The first appearance of the site in the Internet Archive Wayback Machine is on 21st of January, 2018. The pace of changes picked up in 2020/1, then increased markedly in 2022/3. For context, the New York Post published the Hunter Biden laptop story on the 14th of October, 2020. Five days later, 51 “former intelligence officials” signed a letter to the effect that the laptop bore the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.

BUK + flechettes = contradiction

First published at New Catallaxy blog 23rd September, 2023

In CL’s report on the NYT’s unusual scraps of integrity in reporting on the Kostiantynivka (aka Kostyantynovka) market-place attack, the new standard story is revealed.

But evidence collected and analyzed by The New York Times, including missile fragments, satellite imagery, witness accounts and social media posts, strongly suggests the catastrophic strike was the result of an errant Ukrainian air defense missile fired by a Buk launch system.

The attack appears to have been a tragic mishap.

Readers will recall that a BUK missile is purported to have downed MH17. In this case, a BUK missile was fired from North-West of Kostiantynivka, presumably at an incoming Russian ground-to-ground missile or Lancet-like drone. The problem with this story is the flechettes.

One of the earliest rounds employed by the US is the Beehive, developed in 1957, apparently developed from lessons learned in the Korean War as a counter to massed infantry attacks on artillery positions, and used in this capacity during the Vietnam War. The designation of the round is APERS-T – anti-personnel-tracer. In a brief search, I have seen no reference to flechettes in any other capacity than anti-personnel.

The Ukraine’s legacy Air Defence missile systems included the S-200, S-300 and early model BUK systems. The range of the BUK is less than that of the S-200/300. It operates in ranges between these and the point defence Pantsir. The Russian Air Force knows comprehensively the capability of these systems, especially the S-300 and the BUK, and fears them. Because of these systems, all high altitude airborne attacks on Ukrainian facilities have been conducted with stand-off missiles.

There have been a number of reports of Ukraine using modified S-200 systems in ground-attack roles. The S-200 is less effective in AD than the S-300, and Ukraine presumably has stocks of the older missiles. Their range makes them preferable to the BUK for adapting to ground-attack roles.

Searches for such information will turn up a number of references to Russia’s purported use of S-300s in ground-attack. These are dubious. Russia still deploys S-300 systems in AD roles in Donbas, and Ukrainian drone operators are constantly hunting for them. But Ukraine fires S-300s at incoming Russian missiles, a considerable proportion of which evade the S-300s, and we have the memorable example of the AD miss which killed the Polish farmers.

What such searches do not turn up are references to the use of BUK systems in ground-attack.

The missile that struck the Kostiantynivka market carried an anti-personnel warhead. The missile was fired from North-West of the city. Ukraine regularly attacks civilian areas in Donetsk city with artillery and missiles, sometimes carrying clusters of small anti-personnel mines known as Petals, but Donetsk city is pretty much south of Kostiantynivka. Horlivka, a city under Russian control, is more or less to the south-east, as is the town of Niu (or New) York, around which fighting is taking place. On the front lines, Russian positions are being accurately peppered with cluster munitions from nearby artillery. A 152mm anti-personnel round would be more precisely targeted and have greater effect against Russian troops, one might reasonably suppose.

So, which “personnel” were being targeted? Was it a terror attack against Donbas civilians in, say, Horlivka, one which would have gone unreported in the West? One which turned into a “tragic mishap”? Or was it a terror attack that was precisely on target?

This story popped up in searches for information about flechettes. Many of the bodies found in graves outside Bucha had been killed by flechettes. Someone was using such rounds at that early stages of the conflict. Despite the loud protestations of The Week, bodies with flechette wounds do not testify as to who fired them. The only ones now known to have employed them are the Ukrainians.

More Tangling of the Web

First published at New Catallaxy blog on 20 September, 2023

Softly, as in an morning sunrise, General Mark Milley let it be known that the infamous Chinese spy balloon, whilst it definitely was a spy ballon, definitely did not phone home with any intelligence information, and definitely had blown off course.

See, for example, the RT story. If you’re concerned about Russian propaganda, try these versions.

Notice that Milley is still talking about the motor. The particular motor on that aircraft can’t go against those winds at that altitude. Show us the body, General Milley. After all, the corpse was recovered from the Atlantic after the triumphant shoot-down, so details of the propulsion and guidance mechanisms must be known to the eagle-eyed U.S. military and intelligence establishments.

If we give ourselves over to complete tin-hat fantasy for a moment, we might imagine that there was no motor or rudder. That the only manoeuvring system that might have been employed was like that developed for the Loon project. So, news stories like the one referred to in the RT item would have been complete fabrications.

In April, anonymous officials told NBC News that the balloon made “multiple passes” over US military sites to intercept electronic communications, before it “increased its speed” in an attempt “to get it out of US airspace as quickly as possible.” 

Worse, still, we would have to imagine that the Chinese Government’s version was accurate; that it was a civilian research balloon that had blown off course. Fortunately, we know that such a notion is absurd. Better get those tin-foil hats off now. Phew!

Back in the real world of high quality, dis- and mis- and mal-information free journalism, the Oz reports exclusively on the newly discovered aspects of a Russian atrocity in Ukraine: the Russian missile attack on a civilian market in Kostyantynivka.

Unfortunately, at virtually the same time, the New York Times, normally so reliable (see the missile attack report above, for example) suffered a disinformation attack, probably as a result of Russian hackers.

Again, we can be confident that the NYT suffered a momentary lapse of reason, because pro-Russian sources adduced within hours the same evidence (notably the reflection of the missile in the roof of one of the cars) to conclude that the missile was Ukrainian.

Let’s just be grateful for the quality of Australian reportage.

No such thing as Russia…

First published at New Catallaxy blog on 25 February, 2023

The backroom conversations and classified files of Foreign Ministries and Departments of State must be a wonderland of speculations and conditionals, of grand schemes and short-term crises. But, judging by the utterances of two former Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Poland’s Ministry is up there with the best of them.

Take Radoslaw (Radek) Sikorski, Minister from 2007 to 2014. Before that he was Minister of Defence, and for a year afterwards, Speaker of Parliament. According to the Center for Strategic & International Studies,

[H]e negotiated and signed the Poland-Russia regional visa-free regime, Poland-U.S. missile defense agreement, and—together with foreign ministers of Germany and France—the accord between the pro-EU opposition and Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych in 2013.

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