Why Getting to the Bottom of the October 7 Attack is Important for Peace

HAMAS

The attack by the Hamas on Israel on October 7 resulting in about 1200 deaths and 250 hostages being taken was an important event which changed the world in significant ways. There have been several calls for establishing a more comprehensive understanding of this tragic event which in short may be mentioned as 10/7.

Such an understanding is possible only by an unbiased effort. An unbiased and sincere effort can freely mention wrongdoing on both sides and thereby contribute to the overall peace efforts.

This writer’s attempt is of approaching the entire issue from a perspective of peace with justice, in keeping with his earlier work.  The ultimate aim should be to secure peace and safety for the Palestinians as well as for the Israelis and for the people of all faiths. However as the Palestinians have suffered so much and this suffering is at a peak just now in Gaza, peace with justice and dignity for the Palestinians should be emphasized more at present together with the urgency of an immediate  ceasefire. With this perspective let us try to understand 10/7.


The first point of understanding is provided by the growing evidence that at least in its early days creation and growth of Hamas was helped by Israel. Israeli authorities wanted to foster Hamas as a militant religious force to counter the secular Palestinian force of PLO, or the Palestinian Liberation Organization, as PLO had much greater chances of gaining international recognition. The thinking of the more aggressive elements among the Israeli authorities, with Netanyahu as their leader, was that if an organization which can be condemned as a terrorist organization internationally emerges in a leadership role of Palestinians, then it will be easier to keep denying to them equal rights and statehood. Of course today this may be denied by some Israeli spokespersons or Hamas spokespersons or their supporters, but this reality can be seen historically from the help given by Israel for the early form of Hamas to get established as a charity and then to emerge as a much bigger political force. Israel helped with money and also looked the other way as Hamas fought and ultimately ousted PLO and Fatah to become the number one political power in Gaza.

While all this is well-known, what may be more difficult is to try to find till what time precisely this support continued. It is true that Hamas and Israel fought each other many times in recent years, but there were also other instances of collaboration. In particular it has been mentioned in several reports that Israel facilitated the availability of a lot of money from Qatar or elsewhere reaching the Hamas. This would not be surprising as the basic reasoning of the Israeli constituency represented by Netanyahu remained that the two state solution could be best thwarted by ensuring firstly that the Palestinian leadership in Gaza remained in the hands of an organization which could be described in the international community (particularly the USA) and the UN as a terrorist organization, and secondly, a gulf could be maintained between Gaza led by Hamas and the West Bank led by the Palestinian Authority.

Thus there are quotes from as late as 2019 with Netanyahu telling a Likud Party meeting—Anyone who wants to thwart the establishment of a Palestinian state has to support bolstering Hamas and transferring money to Hamas. Further he said that this is part of a strategy to isolate Palestinians in Gaza from the Palestinians in the West Bank. In the same year a senior officer supportive of Netanyahu stated that the strategy of Netanyahu is to prevent the option of two states and towards this end “openly Hamas is an enemy, covertly Hamas is an ally.”  Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich is quoted to have said that Hamas militancy, and hence its illegitimacy on the world stage, was a boon for the political strategy of his government. Hamas is an asset, he has been quoted to have said, while the Palestinian authority is a burden.

Now a question that needs to be explored further is that if the support of the Israeli deep establishment for the Hamas in some form had continued in the more recent years too, when apparently it was fighting Hamas, then what form this had taken and what kind of intermediaries were used for this purpose.

The next point of discussion is that about one year back the Israeli authorities came in possession of a document which has been called ‘the Jericho Wall’, as reported in the New York Times (report by Ronen Bergman and Adam Goldman titled ‘Israel knew Hamas’s attack plan more than a year back’ in NYT in December 2023). The actual 10/7 attack was very much in accordance with what has been mentioned in this document. So clearly Israel had sufficient advance information about this. Why did they not take adequate actions and precautions based on this? The reason given has been that in the perception of Israeli officials the plan in the document was considered to be too ambitious compared to what the Hamas is capable of. This appears to be a highly unlikely response. Even if Israeli officials considered this to be genuinely overambitious, they could have used it to propagate the high aggressiveness of the Palestinians in general and of the Hamas in particular, instead of entirely ignoring such an important 40 page document.

One must also keep in mind, as mentioned in the NYT article, that in July 2023 an Israeli intelligence analyst had sent one more warning to her seniors that Hamas had organized a very similar type of military exercise recently ( similar to what is mentioned in the plan). This too was, at the more apparent level, dismissed without taking the necessary actions and precautions. What is more likely is that both the Jericho Wall document and the July warning were actually known to very high level leaders including Netanyahu.

Another important point is that the 10/7 attack needed the kind of weapons and equipment which were not easy to assemble without getting detected, and also the kind of preparations which were needed without getting detected. As Gaza is a very small region where the presence of the Israeli intelligence agencies, generally known for high efficiency , is very high and this is in addition to the presence of other intelligence agencies which are friendly to Israel and share intelligence with it. Hence both keeping in view this factor as well as the prior availability of the Jericho document, it seems highly unlikely that the Israeli intelligence and leadership were not aware of the preparations being made for 10/7 over a fairly long period.

The next point is the one made by leading journalist Seymour Hersh quoting insiders that two battalions out of three guarding Gaza-Israel border were removed just before the attack for providing security for a festival so that the region which was attacked was left with a very small security force around the time of the attack, probably just a third of the regular security force. Was this just a remarkable co-incidence, sudden luck for Hamas and sudden misfortune for Israelis, or was there something more to this?

Finally, we have increasing evidence that several of the Israelis killed in the 10/7 attack were actually killed by Israeli forces, including by tank and helicopter gun firing which caused the kind of damage to cars and buildings that Hamas weapons could not have caused, the official explanation being that these killings took place in the process of crossfire, rescue effort and to prevent hostages being taken. Whatever the explanation, the fact remains that the tragedy of loss of lives of innocent persons became bigger because of the many killings caused by Israeli firing (in addition to those killed by Hamas attack). Further, the tragedy was also magnified beyond the actual happenings by exaggerated media reporting. Lastly, there have also been recent reports of cars crushed and having blood on them being hastily removed or even buried citing religious reasons, while others have alleged that this amounts to removing evidence relating to an attack or a crime.

If we add all these points then the conclusion appears to be different from the official narrative of a very sudden unexpected attack mounted by the Hamas on its own after making long preparations and obtaining weapons and equipment from several outside sources with all this remaining completed undetected from Israel authorities.

Hence alternative explanations of 10/7 should also be considered, also in view of the increasing domestic problems of Netanyahu as well as the extremely disproportionate response from Israel which has already resulted in the killing of nearly 30,000 people in Gaza and serious disruption in the life of almost all the people of Gaza and increasing difficulties in the ability of many of them to return to their homes. In addition, it is also very worrying that possibilities of a widening of the conflict have emerged at a time when the world really needs peace.

One question that needs to be raised is—Did Netanyahu actually want an attack on Israel which would give him, and others as aggressive as him, the pretext for a highly disproportionate response to the extent of causing the death of tens of thousands of Palestinians and driving away a very large number of people of Gaza towards the Egyptian border? If this was indeed the intention, then in that case after getting the Jericho Wall document instructions could have been given to merely look the other way and let the attack plan go ahead. In addition, a section of the authorities could have gone even one step ahead by removing security forces at a critical time, or even facilitating additional availability of funds or other resources to Hamas.        

Of course only a well-resourced and proper unbiased investigation can provide the most reliable answers but there appears to be adequate reason at least to raise these questions. These issues are worth exploring in detail not just for the sake of it, but because if there is a significant element of truth here, then this can provide a powerful means of strengthening the forces of peace on both sides, whereas at present both sides are dominated by the forces of aggression. Ultimately it is not a question of judging Netanyahu’s actions or Hamas’ actions, but instead it is a question of peace with justice for both sides.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Protecting Earth for Children, Man over Machine and A Day in 2071.         

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