Dec '23

Rosner's Domain | The Massacre and the Mustache – Jewish Journal

What happened that led to the catastrophe of Oct. 7th? Israelis are eager to get their answers and there are players that seem eager to provide them with their version of the truth. That’s becoming a problem: Things that ought to be discussed by serious people, whose access to all the necessary information is full, are currently rehashed by, well, politicians, hacks, journalists, activists, spin doctors, pundits and other people for which seriousness is not always a first priority.  
Let’s give an example: Earlier this week, military analyst Roy Sharon aired a juicy piece of news. Just two days before the October 7th massacre, two elite IDF platoons were moved from a base near Gaza to Samaria in the West Bank. This information had the effect of adding fuel to a fire. Why? Because when the war started, many Israelis (on the center-left) bought into a narrative of a neglectful, politically motivated, abandonment of the Gaza border. The IDF was not ready to stop the invasion – so the story goes – because its main forces were sent to defend the settlers in Judea and Samaria. And why were the troops sent to defend the settlers? Because of political pressure of the right-wing government. Case closed: the government is guilty of putting politics before security. 
Supporters of the government and of the settlers (right-wingers) responded with understandable fury to this narrative. They assume that IDF troops were in the West Bank because of operational considerations. And besides, the rumor concerning troops that were transferred from Gaza just days before the attack was fake news. How do we know it was fake news? Because the IDF denied it. Right-wing Israel, backed by the IDF denial, accused the opposition of trying to make the settlers seem guilty for something they had nothing to do with.  
Enters Sharon and his piece of news. And suddenly the IDF confirms that platoons were actually moved. Aha! – opposition activists say – we told you so! Then they add another layer of blame: Why were the troops moved? To defend the far-right Member of Knesset Zvi Sukkot. Following a shooting attack, MK Sukkot decided to set up a sukkah in the Palestinian town of Huwara, south of Nablus. Huwara is a dangerous place, and the IDF was forced to guard the MK. So, case closed: The Gaza border was abandoned because of a protest of a right-wing politician.
True? Not true. The platoons were sent to the West Bank on Thursday morning, Sukkot built his (admittedly idiotic) Sukkah on Thursday evening. But narratives are spreading and are becoming entrenched. This is not really a factual debate. It is a shouting contest of people for whom the facts are merely a tool with which to prove a predetermined story. For the right: The IDF failed without political involvement. For the center-left: the IDF failed because of political involvement. 
Faced with an incessant flow of news, half-news, rumors and leaks, we must remember that what we see is not a picture. We see a selection of pieces from a puzzle. These are pieces chosen by someone. Either by an officer, or a politician, or a parent of a soldier. These leakers of information don’t necessarily mean to manipulate the public, but some of them certainly do, even those who don’t only see, well, their pieces of the puzzle. If the full picture is a cat, there is someone who sees a tail, and someone who sees a left ear, and someone who sees the tip of a mustache. What we – the public – get is exactly that: The tip of a mustache. But an image of a cat is becoming fixed in our minds, when it may be the case that when the full picture is revealed the mustache would belong to a different animal altogether, or there will be a cat, but next to it also a dog and a giraffe. Alas, we have already decided that it is a cat, and convincing us otherwise is going to be hard.
The task of the investigative committee that is expected to be formed after the war will be difficult and complex, and as more details about what happened before the attack are leaked, the more difficult it will be. 
Thus, the task of the investigative committee that is expected to be formed after the war will be difficult and complex, and as more details about what happened before the attack are leaked, the more difficult it will be. It’d be difficult because the members of the committee will come to the table when they have already been exposed to a great deal of unfiltered, incomplete, sometimes manipulative information. It’d be difficult because by this time the public have already developed certain expectations regarding what the committee is supposed to find. 
If the public expects to see a cat, it will have a difficult time with an investigative committee that will come to the conclusion that there is a dog or a monkey in the picture. This means that either the committee will find what the majority of the public wants it to find, or the committee will find itself under a deluge of manipulative leaks of various kinds, and will be exposed to endless claims of bias, political pressure, misjudgment and misunderstanding. 
How can you conclude that settler pressure was the cause of IDF redeployment? How can you conclude that settler pressure was not the cause of IDF redeployment? We already saw the mustache – don’t confuse us with a full picture of facts.
The leaders of Hamas are probably saying to themselves: Our containment plan is working. We attacked, we murdered, we kidnapped, then we were hit by the IDF, then we had a truce, and from there we will roll into another truce and another one, until Israel no longer has the energy or desire or backing to keep the war going. There is no cure for such calculation other than stubborn determination. Free some hostages — and then continue. Have a truce – and then continue. Negotiate with the world — without ever giving up on the principle that has guided this war from the start: Hamas must fall.
Whether Israelis like it or not (and most of them dislike it), A JPPI survey of ultra-Orthodox Israelis found that most of them still oppose a mandatory military draft for Haredi men – the war didn’t change many Haredi minds. They still want an exemption.

A question from Danny: “Do you really think that a religious movement like Hamas can be eliminated by war?” My answer: Israel doesn’t intend to “eliminate Hamas,” it intends to get rid of Hamas rule over Gaza. And yes, that’s possible (if not easy). 
Shmuel Rosner is senior political editor. For more analysis of Israeli and international politics, visit Rosner’s Domain at jewishjournal.com/rosnersdomain.
As the URJ (Union for Reform Judaism) prepares to observe its 150th anniversary in Washington, D.C. (December 15-17), this affords us an opportunity to assess the impact of our largest denominational movement.
“The Light of Seven Days” is a compulsively readable, lyrical first novel by River Adams, a former concert pianist from the former Soviet Union.
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What happened that led to the catastrophe of Oct. 7th?
Maman, which means “mother” in Persian, became a registered nonprofit in 2022 and has over one thousand volunteers in the United States and Israel.




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