Editorial: A horrific day for Israel

Chicago Tribune

October 7, 2023, is a day destined for multi-generational infamy in Israel.

Rockets and gunfire bore down and ordinary people were either murdered or snatched from their homes in the middle of a religious holiday, when most were praying or relaxing.

Aside from infiltrating scores of communities by land, sea and air in a massive operation on Israeli soil, the Palestinian Hamas militant group also uploaded hundreds of videos, now a potent weapon of war.

Many of them appeared to contain shocking footage of older Israelis led away from their lives, terror on their faces, or even of the bodies of younger Israeli women, shot and then their corpses desecrated for propaganda. A music festival near the Gaza Strip became a killing field, as attackers from the Hamas militant group with automatic weapons went “tree by tree,” one young Israeli told the BBC, shooting anyone they could find. All easily watchable on your phone.

As numb as so many are to violence and cruelty, a weekend with some 600 dead in Israel, according to the Israeli government, still was a terrifying reminder of how cruel and barbaric the human race can be. Americans were among that number. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority said that hundreds more on the Gaza Strip had been killed by Israeli air strikes launched in retaliation for the breaching of its borders.

Given Israel’s longstanding belief in the power of deterrence, and in the associated need for retribution, those numbers are sure to rise. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke immediately of war. And war is clearly what lies ahead.

In Israel this past summer, we heard firsthand of disaffection with leaders from both ordinary Israelis and ordinary Palestinians. But for most Israelis, Saturday’s events will render that moot, at least in the short term. And understandably so. Their country was brutally attacked and civilians butchered.

Joe Biden was right when he said “Israel has a right to defend itself and its people.” In the wake of the Hamas action this weekend, it has no other choice.

Words like “normalization,” much discussed this summer in the region, suddenly seemed risible.

Aside from its carriage of sorrow and despondency, this weekend was a reminder that that which simmers can rapidly return to the boil, even if the world’s media have mostly been focused elsewhere.

The same could be said of Biden’s administration, of course: As with the matter of immigration, the question of Israel and Palestine (let alone Saudi Arabia) long has threatened to splay inter-party disagreement. Biden has preferred to project and protect Democratic unity and put primary focus elsewhere. Not so easy now.

For Israel, there are many questions for the coming days. Who paid for the Hamas weaponry and this level of logistics? What other countries were involved in all this death? How must the presence of so many hostages change its actions? How did the famously skilled Israeli intelligence forces, not to mention the political class, apparently not have an inkling of the imminence of so major an operation?

That appears to have been a staggering failure, but then the U.S. was taken by surprise on 9/11, too.

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