On Tuesday, when my newspaper, il manifesto, called me, I was attending a funeral rite with hundreds of people at a kibbutz north of Tel Aviv, where many survivors of the Kfar Aza kibbutz are housed. A funeral without yet knowing where the dead will be buried.
Among them was the administrative director of what had been my department at Sapir College, who was murdered on October 7 along with her husband. I had been to their house many times – she was a leftist peace activist – and I was always struck by the proximity of a flimsy-looking fence, a few meters from the border with the Gaza Strip, in a region that had been uninhabited during the British Mandate, until 1948.
Early that morning, on October 7, I got a message from her on WhatsApp as sirens were already being heard all over the country, but I still didn’t understand what was going on: “We woke up because of the noise, the banging on the windows, the screams. Now we are locked in the safe room, we don’t know if the screams are from Palestinians or Israeli soldiers.”
- – I will use her initial alone out of respect – and her husband had recently returned home after months spent elsewhere during renovation works. At 2:45 p.m., I wrote to her that the army had announced that more troops were being sent to the kibbutz. “Yes, I heard. What an ordeal,” she replied after a minute. Then there were no more messages from the two of them. I don’t know if they were shot, tortured, what violence they suffered. Many bodies were mutilated, even those of children. Some were taken hostage – the luckier ones (or are they?).
Yes, the horror has only grown enormously. In these pages, Judith Butler highlighted important distinctions, following her article in the London Review of Books. Amira Hass in Haaretz took a very drastic tone and wrote that the justification of the horrors is reminiscent of the position of certain communist organizations when it came to the organized systems of fear and repression in the Soviet bloc. My daughter sent me an article published on Facebook by Professor Gadi Algazi; I tried to convince him during the funeral ceremony to send it out in English as well. It does a good job of explaining what barbarism and non-barbarism means, and how the struggle, or war, against barbarism itself becomes barbarism.
Those who think they know what will happen tomorrow aren’t taking into account a number of unknowns, which haven’t been sufficiently analyzed by the media. The U.S. presence and its support for Israel has different traits from the usual ones of imperialist action. First and foremost, the United States is interested in avoiding a conflagration in the entire Middle East and believes that the ground operation in Gaza by the Israeli army would raise tensions in the entire region to very dangerous levels.
Among other things, putting the brakes on Israel has the function of preventing Hezbollah from entering the conflict. That would be hell, with terrible effects in Israel and not only: it would lead to the destruction of Lebanon. Avoiding such an involvement would also be an achievement for Iran, which in reality would like to return to negotiations with the United States and believes that the steps it took to support Hamas did not lead to the outcome they wanted. Iran’s position is closely tied to the U.S. position and is influencing the assessments of the different actors about the steps to be taken.
Egypt and Jordan see the possible mass influx of Palestinian refugees from Gaza as a real threat. The United States sees these two countries and Saudi Arabia as important players in a new Middle East.
In Israel, we’re not sure of the status of the division between the political and military elites. The real internal war in the governing coalition is extremely complicated, and is tied not only to views regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or peace, but also to the struggle for political survival of a corrupt group of leaders, driven primarily by their own self-interest.
Among the military leaders, there is a desire to avoid the possible effects of a crisis that has revealed them to be unprepared and weak, in the context of a very dangerous game likely to cost the lives of many Palestinians and not a few Israeli soldiers.
Those who have reacted with human compassion in the face of the massacre carried out by Hamas must now reflect, mobilize, and support all possible means to prevent a further widening of the Israeli offensive, which has already claimed so many civilian victims in Gaza. The war will result in even more Palestinian and Israeli casualties, and will make the possibility of reaching a peace agreement even more remote than before.
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