Hamas Attacks Israel


Note: This is a blog post that I started on October 8, 2023, and have only recently been able to re-visit it.

It has been a momentous few days. Gaza-based Hamas fighters breached the border with Israel and launched indiscriminate attacks on Israeli citizens.

Teams of Hamas fighters roamed throughout southern Israel, shooting at cars, attacking a music festival, and invading towns and villages. They entered homes and slaughtered whole families. They snatched grannies and children off the streets and dragged them back to Gaza. They slit the throats of civilians in the streets. They beheaded men and boys. They raped women and girls.

As of this writing, more than 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians, have been killed. That number is expected to continue to climb as more victims are discovered. If you scale up Israel's population to the size of America's, then we are talking the equivalent of roughly 25,000 Israelis dead. This is no 9/11. This is much, much worse relative to Israel's small population. Further, this is the largest slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust.

This did not happen in isolation. American economist Noah Smith, New York Times reporter David Leonhardt , and New York University Abu Dhabi sociologist Georgi Derluguian argue that the transition from a unipolar, American-led world order – an unsustainable state of affairs – to a multipolar world order, is the culprit behind recent global seismic events. As George Friedman of Geopolitical Futures said today in his weekly commentary, the world is re-ordering itself. Various powers recognize that after two decades of the US waging war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the economic and military rise of China, the United States is no longer the world's sole superpower and cannot continue to act as a global policeman. Various countries and non-state actors believe that they can pursue their own geopolitical interests without necessarily accruing significant economic penalties. Exhibit A & B: War, like Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and terrorism, like Hamas' pillaging of Israel.

This re-ordering is not out of the blue. The collapse of the USSR in 1991 – which itself wasn't sudden or out of the blue – was the beginning of the re-ordering. The world then entered a brief period of relative political and economic stability. Russia had withdrawn from the world stage, leaving Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia to boil as once frozen conflicts were suddenly hot again.

In Europe, the Maastricht Treaty (1992) formalized the European Union, and it would rapidly expand to incorporate countries recently freed from the yoke of Soviet domination. In the Balkans, ethnic tensions flared and Yugoslavia violently disintegrated. With Russia reeling from existential post-Soviet economic and political crises, it was left to the United States and NATO to enforce an uneasy peace in a part of the world that was until then firmly within Russia's sphere of influence.

Globalization – the economic integration of countries around the world with cross-border investments and migration of labor(ers) – accelerated. Twenty years later, China – 'Kid A' of Globalization after the famous visit by US President Richard Nixon in 1972 – is all grown up and bristling with industry, technology, and a rapidly modernizing military to rival the United States while maintaining its authoritarian one-party political system (as Samuel Huntington, in The Clash of Civilizations, warned about). Russia, under Vladimir Putin, weathered what was for them a calamitous 1990s and has come out stronger on the other side: with a recovering economy, a modernizing military, and a reassertion of Pax Russica over the former states of the Soviet Union – including Ukraine – in what Russia calls its 'near abroad'.

That unsustainable unipolar world that emerged with the collapse of the USSR in 1991 is no more. We now live in a world of emerging great powers: China, Russia, and not too far behind, India.

Many pundits, politicians, activists, and the like around the world, see this as evidence of a West that is in decline. But it isn't so, at least not in raw economic and military prowess. The US, for example, is leading the post-Covid world in economic growth and technological progress. Its military power remains the world's most formidable.

What we are experiencing, according to Fareed Zakaria, is not a decline of the West, but a rise of the rest. Global poverty, especially the percentage of the world's population living in extreme poverty, had dropped dramatically over the last 40 years and beyond. Much of that decline can be attributed to urbanization and economic development in China, and we can expect the trend to continue as India mirrors China's progress. Urbanization rates in Sub-Saharan Africa, meanwhile, are the world's highest, and urbanization is a key driver in the reduction of extreme poverty which tends to persist in rural areas.

The takeaway is this: that we are living through a period of change and flux. New technologies and the economic 'rise of the rest' suggest a promising future for humanity. But they also come with social upheavals and challenges to the existing order. Hamas' attack on Israel is a case in point.

Hamas, a Palestinian anti-Israel organization, has never accepted the existence of a Jewish Israel. It employs terrorism at every opportunity to undermine Israel. It has ruled the unoccupied Gaza Strip – there are no Israeli troops, security checkpoints, or settlements in the Gaza Strip – since 2007. For 14 years, Hamas indiscriminately launched rocket attacks against Israeli cities and built hundreds of miles of tunnels to store weapons and from which to launch attacks. Those very tunnels now hold scores of Israeli hostages.

Israel is thriving as a society. The world is developing. But the Gaza Strip under Hamas is stuck in a doom loop of terrorism and authoritarianism. Hamas presumably sees the 'rise of the rest' as an opportunity to strike. They seek genocide. But Hamas' world view is quickly fading, so it was now or never.

Economist Noah Smith recently wrote that: 1) recent protests mostly on college campuses across the US protesting Israel's response to the Hamas attack as overkill and genocidal (despite the "from the river to the sea" chants that, if one looks at a map, demonstrates the genocidal view of Hamas, not Israel) does not reflect the priorities of the majority of young people; and 2) that the pro-Palestinian protests in the US and the West might very well be the last gasp of the social unrest that defined much of the 2010s.

Most likely, the war in Gaza will end soon with the military defeat of Hamas. In its aftermath, much of the world will (hopefully) see October 7 for what it was: a final lashing out by a terrorist organization promoting an obsolete and dying actual genocidal worldview.

What comes next for a post-Hamas Gaza is anyone's guess.