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Comments on the situation, 18/10/2023

The Gates of Gaza edited by Lihi Ben-Shitrit brings critical voices of Israelis and Palestinians following the October 7 2023 attack.

My article was written originally in Hebrew and published on the website of the Forum for Regional Thinking. After October 7 I was paralyzed and muted. Like many Israelis, I felt an existential threat. I think I felt for the first time like a Palestinian.

A few days later I realized that I need to speak up. I wanted to be modest and not make assertions following the shock we all went through. But others were not as honest and modest – those who brought this catastrophe on us tried to hide their shame and blame by doing more of the same – screaming and inciting, calling for revenge without any self reflection. A Hebrew proverb says that an indication of wisdom is silence (silence is golden). But this is not always true. I felt that despite my will to respect the pain of the victims and respect myself with silence, sometimes the right thing to do is to speak up.

A week after the black Saturday I wrote my initial thoughts. So did many of my friends and colleagues. These texts were written shortly after and under the fear, the anger and the shock of October 7. Mine was also written before the Israeli invasion into Gaza. Today I would have written some of the things differently. For example I am saying that those who commit crimes against humanity are no longer humans. This is wrong – only humans commit such horrors. They must be punished – yes, yet we must understand that such atrocities are part of humanity. It is our human obligation to be better and uproot such barbarism, but not by becoming like them and committing similar atrocities ourselves in revenge. As my friend and colleague Ameer Fakhoury writes in that same volume “human morality is indivisible […] it’s impossible to hold human morality in one hand and beat it with the other”.

Putting modesty aside now, it is time to say that almost every prediction of me and my friends turned out to be true. First we warned that it is impossible to ignore the Palestinian issue, that we need to resolve the conflict, end the occupation and open up Gaza. It was possible on so many millstones along the way. We warned that the Abrahamic Accords and the attempt to normalize Israeli relations with the Arab world without resolving the Palestinian issue is bound to fail and will be a disaster. After the attack we warned that invading Gaza without clear strategic-political goals will be disastrous. We said that massive and indistinctive killing of Palestinians in Gaza is not only immoral but also contradicts the Israeli interest and capacities and will end Israel’s credit in the world. We called for an immediate prisoners exchange, we argued that the current Israeli government is illegitimate and cannot fix what it broke. I remind you – we argued before October 7 that fighting the judicial overhaul and shouting “democracy” in the streets but ignoring the occupation is not only a paradox but is to misunderstand everything altogether. As always we were mocked and were denounced by many of our colleagues from the Israeli mainstream and center-left. Step by step every assertion we made (and denounced for) turned out to be true. Today almost all the mainstream analysts are saying what we said 8 months ago.

For this reason Lihi Ben Shitrit’s initiative to document these original voices from shortly after the October 7 attack is important. Thanks to such projects historians will be able to better judge the Zeitgeist in Israel in real time and define the Israeli policy as a “folly” according to Barbara Tuchman’s definition – an action that it was clear already in real time, as it was unfolding and not only in retro perspective, that clearly contradicts the interests of those who carry it.

I am thankful to Lihi, a professor at New York University, for choosing my text and translating it. In the comment below is a link to the original text in Hebrew.

History will judge us harshly, without mercy. For this reason we must walk with humility and at the same time speak our voices and our values loud and clear – now.

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