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The dog that isn't barking
The world is giving Israel far more leeway to destroy Hamas than it seems at first
Last week, the New York Times offered a long piece on why Hamas had chosen to attack Israel on Oct. 7 (aside from the sheer pleasure of raping and killing Jews).
As is so often the case, the simplest answer appears right: Hamas’s leaders felt marginalized as Israel moved towards peace deals with Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia. They wanted to remind the world that millions of Palestinians live in squalor and provoke a vicious Israeli counterattack.
So far, so good.
But near the end of the article was this paragraph:
Back in the day when I worked at the Times, we called this “burying the lede.”
Because, yes, Hamas has succeeded in dragging Israel back into Gaza. But the Israeli strike has not provoked the counter-counter-attack that Hamas wanted. At least not yet.
Where is the West Bank uprising?
Where is Hezbollah’s attack on Israel’s northern border?
Where are the million-person protests against Israel in Arab capitals?
Where are the jihadists mobilizing to find their way to Egypt and then to Gaza?
Where’s the Saudi promise of unconditional support for Hamas? Or the threat of an oil embargo if Israel doesn’t agree to a ceasefire?
(As long as I’m throwing out hypotheticals: What if you subscribed? I’d be so happy!)
Of course, any or all of those moves might still happen - especially the Hezbollah attack. But Israeli airstrikes on Gaza began over a month ago. Its ground invasion started two weeks ago. It has already forced hundreds of thousands of Gaza residents out of the northern half of the territory so its soldiers can operate more freely.
And still, for all the angry words at Israel, and all the cease-fire demands, the loudest protests have come from the same coterie of Western progressives who have spent the last decade in a snit about climate change, with a brief break for Black Lives Matter.
For now, the Arab world appears content to let Hamas fight Israel alone.
Wall Street’s attitude is telling. The Standard and Poor’s 500 index fell about 5 percent in the three weeks after the attack, as investors wondered if a wider war was imminent. The index bottomed Fri., Oct. 27, just before Israel began its invasion.
But since then, it has rocketed higher, rising almost 10 percent. The snapback isn’t solely because concerns about the war’s broader impact have receded. Big investors increasingly believe the United States has controlled inflation. But if they feared a wider conflict or oil embargo were likely, stocks would not be rising this way.
Wall Street isn’t always right in its forecasts, but it is worth paying attention to, because its judgments are inherently apolitical.
In fact, arguably the most important question at this moment is why the Arab and Muslim world has not rallied more strongly to Hamas’s side.
The Saudi and Egyptian governments have their own reasons to want Hamas smashed. A powerful Hamas helps Iran, the Kingdom’s greatest rival, and threatens Egypt.
But maybe the reasons go beyond the usual cynicism of Arab rulers.
Maybe the butchery of Oct. 7 was just too much.
Maybe the years of ISIS’s cruelty, which was directed mostly against other Muslims and Arabs, have made ultraviolence and its broadcast over the Internet less acceptable to the Arab street. The captured pilot whom ISIS burned to death in a cage in 2015 wasn’t American or Israeli. He was Jordanian and Muslim, but the jihadis killed him in the cruelest way imaginable nonetheless.
Maybe Hamas would have been better served to attack and capture only Israeli military bases and leave its fighters to die heroically with their boots on. Maybe taking dozens of women and children as hostages wasn’t the best way to demonstrate the righteousness of the cause.
Instead Hamas chose to follow ISIS’s example.
And - again, at least for now - the world appears willing to let it suffer ISIS’s fate.