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OpinionIsrael at War

One hundred days after Oct. 7, Part 1: Double Helix over Gaza

From the Black Hundreds to the Nazis to Hamas and its supporters on the streets of London in 2024. Never again? It's happening before our eyes.

Graves of Kibbutz Be'eri residents whom Hamas terrorists murdered on Oct. 7, at Kibbutz Revivim, south of Beersheva, Nov. 15, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.
Graves of Kibbutz Be'eri residents whom Hamas terrorists murdered on Oct. 7, at Kibbutz Revivim, south of Beersheva, Nov. 15, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.
Gwythian Prins
Gwythian Prins
Gwythian Prins is Research Professor Emeritus at the London School of Economics and a past member of the British Chief of the Defence Staff's Strategy Advisory Panel.

Almost four months to the day, and not in a good way, the world has turned upside down.

In a risibly threadbare case, the victim of a depraved genocidal attack was accused at the U.N.’s International Court of Justice in The Hague of committing genocide. Lacking evidence of mens rea (criminal intention) that is prerequisite, or indeed any vestige of substantive evidence, South Africa sought to invert the object and purpose of the Genocide Convention of December 1948, which is specific to the “crime of crimes.” The accused is not just any victim, but the Jewish state, whose re-establishment in the May of the same year that the Convention was brought into effect was no coincidence.

Raphael Lemkin’s coinage of the concept of “genocide” was occasioned by the need to find words to describe the systematic killing of six million Jews by the Nazis. South Africa’s case, rather than putting Israel on trial, instead parrots, in places, the genocidal views of Hamas and other fundamentalist splinters of the Muslim Brotherhood, and surely must be an embarrassment to some of the distinguished jurists who lent themselves to that litigation. Unintentionally no doubt, it also puts the credibility of the court itself in the dock.

At the end of the week in which the ICJ heard this shoddy case, and within the massed ranks marching “for Gaza” (meaning against Israel) for the seventh time on the streets of London, a new poster could be spotted. It explained that in fact the United State and Israel itself were together responsible for the Oct. 7 pogrom. Why did they do it? Our race-baiting poster-writer—whom the Met Police failed to arrest—opined that it was to steal Iran’s oil, just as they stole Libya’s and Iraq’s. So, in the poster’s world-view, the Jews inflicted genocide on themselves because of their scheme of world domination, starting by incriminating the “true” victims—Hamas—who were the actual perpetrators. In this moral inversion, Hamas may have wielded the instruments of rape, torture and murder, but they did so blamelessly.

All that was lacking was one of the visual cues to complete the full repertoire of antisemitic tropes, re-framed as “Israelophobia”—no more and no less than the old blood libels revived in new form.

From the Black Hundreds to the Nazis to Hamas and its supporters on the streets of London in 2024. Never again? It’s happening before our eyes. How? Why? Where did all this dark energy come from?

Now that more than one hundred days have passed since the pogrom, and with Israel still fully engaged in what has become its longest and most technically difficult war since its War of Independence in 1948, there are three aspects to an adequate answer to those questions, aspects which hitherto have not been prominently interlinked in one place. One facet is historical, a second is ethical, a third is legal; together, they might help to form a view of what might—and what should—come next.

Why have so many Western journalists and academics been culpably blind and biased in their reporting? What are the ethics and laws of armed conflict which actually pertain in such warfare? That is the structure of what follows.

History has the form of a double helix: history is indeed the DNA of living memory. There is what actually happened and there is what people believe happened. They are not the same but they are inseparable; both are the proper study of historians. The bitter joke told in the days of the USSR was that the future was certain; only the past kept changing. Now this joke has become the bitter reality of the morally gutted universities of the English-speaking world, where the long march of wokeness through all our institutions first quickened its step. Nowhere is the entwining of history’s double helix more weaponized and deadly than in the modern Middle East.

In the intelligence communities, where countless warnings appear every day, it is often difficult to know what to believe and what is just clutter. In the United States, warnings of the pending Sept. 11, 2001 attacks were not heeded, nor were warnings ahead of the July 7, 2005 transit attacks in the United Kingdom. It is still not clear whether Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was even told that documents warning of the possibility of the October attacks existed.

We do not know, and possibly never will, whether the failure in Israel on Oct. 7 was comprehensive: whether it was an epic intelligence failure based upon too great a reliance on technology and not enough attention paid to human intelligence, or whether it was a political failure to accept intelligence warnings as well.

What is clear is that Hamas seemed to have persuaded many in Israel at the time that it was not seeking war. There is evidence that a Hamas psyops deception strategy, well prepared for weeks and with the fingerprints of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps all over it, “played” many Israelis. Hamas had told Israel that it intended to focus on helping its people in Gaza and that it did not want war. Israel, to show good faith, had even provided work permits for thousands of Palestinians to enter Israel every day for better wages than they could earn in Gaza. What Israel did not know was that many of them were spies who would tell Hamas exactly where in the villages to attack.

Meanwhile, on the other side of Israel, near Jordan, before the Oct. 7 attack terrorism had been on the rise in the West Bank, so Israel’s attention and many military forces were concentrated there. For some weeks, there had been discounted reports from female IDF border surveillance soldiers warning of “red flags” in suspicious activities in Gaza, and there is some indication that early on that fatal morning, tactical intelligence from a Gaza border watchtower, which was analyzed by a female soldier, was passed through before she was killed, but not acted on in time. Agonized telephone calls came from the kibbutzim near Gaza, many members of which were peace activists. Despite the pleading telephone calls, disastrously, the IDF could not get there in time.

There was, then, nothing to prevent the dawn invasion, which began with a barrage of rockets, motorized hang-gliders, bulldozers and nearly 3,000 Hamas operatives and their followers, who stormed 22 towns and villages. On hearing the news, it was left to individual IDF personnel, Israel Police and first responders to drop everything and rush south, spontaneously, tragically too late.

That day, more Jews were killed than on any day since the Holocaust. Nor were they simply killed. The conduct of the Hamas men fell short of standards set by the most educated of the commanding officers of one of the four Nazi SS Einsatzgruppen A-D (paramilitary genocide units).

On trial for his life at Nuremberg, Otto Ohlendorf was commander of the southernmost Einsatzgruppe, responsible for murdering 91,000 Jews, Gypsies and Communists.

During his examination, Ohlendorf said that genocide should be carried out “as humanely as conditions would permit for the unfortunate victims, and to prevent brutal excesses by any of the [SS] men.” Executions were to be conducted by firing squads on command in a military manner: no maltreatment, no undressing, no belated on-the-scene confiscation of personal possessions and no outsiders present. Any man evincing pleasure in this task was barred from future assignment. No-one could volunteer. Ohlendorf’s affidavit statement reads like veterinary instruction for conscientious conduct of an abattoir.

Copious photographic evidence and testimony from all areas A-D produced at Nuremberg showed naked or semi-naked victims before execution. Such orders, if given, were simply not followed; and under cross-examination, Ohlendorf conceded that in fact outer clothing was removed just before execution but not any earlier, in order to minimize distress. Yet Ohlendorf plainly sensed that it might help his defense at Nuremberg if he said that these orders should have been followed. He told the court that these “humane” orders were his alone.

We have seen none of Ohlendorf’s Nuremberg scruples in his successors. On Oct. 7, the attitude of Hamas’s pathological murderers was that the Jews deserved what was coming to them, so the terrorists’ blood-lust was unconstrained. Their own body camera evidence shows that there were no moral or command-ordained restraints whatsoever on what they might do. Those who have viewed this footage, especially military men whose minds are inured to horror, told this author that the glee and joy of the rapists, torturers and murderers as they perpetrated these crimes had left the strongest abiding shock.

An elated youth named Mahmoud called home to his father and mother in Gaza using a murdered Israeli woman’s phone to boast about how he had just killed 10 Jews with his own hands (“oh my son God bless you”… “Mom, your son is a hero”). Part of the recording was played to the judges of the ICJ as part of the State of Israel’s must-see rebuttal of South Africa’s accusations. Victims ranged from babies decapitated or burned alive, to actual Holocaust survivors. By the terrorists’ evident choice, young women were tortured, raped, brutalized, sometimes all at once, and then murdered, their corpses further mutilated in appallingly sadistic ways.

Jeffrey Gettleman, in The New York Times on Dec. 28, published details of the unimaginable mass depravity committed by Gazan men on Israeli women, mainly at the Supernova music festival. The nearly naked body of murdered, free-spirited Shani Louk was taken back and contemptuously paraded through Gaza in the back of a pick-up truck, where she was spat upon. Others in great number, including her boyfriend Orion Hernandez Radoux, were abducted as hostages and, at this writing, remain captive. According to the report, others endured even worse atrocities.

Many of the first responses to these events, as with the Holocaust, were denials that such savageries had ever taken place.

Originally published by The Gatestone Institute.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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