Purity of Arms

What we can learn from the IDF’s Operation “Summer Seeds”

Israel’s successful mission last week to free four of the hundreds of civilian hostages abducted by Hamas in October is one of the finest examples of special forces operations in history, and must in the first place be applauded for its exceptional beauty and valor.

According to official Israeli descriptions of the operation, special forces teams disguised initially as refugees from Rafah simultaneously stormed two separate buildings in the middle of a heavily populated civilian area following weeks of intense preparatory drills. Noa Argami, the young woman filmed being abducted on the back of a motorbike in October was being held captive in one of them, in the residence of an Al-Jazeera contributor and Palestine Chronicle contributor named Abdallah Aljamal, who was liquidated in the operation. After extracting the hostages from the second building, the rescue teams came under fire from Hamas operatives armed with RPGs and machine guns and IDF rescue helicopters entered the combat zone. Multiple Hamas operatives, Gaza civilians, and the Israeli commander of the operation Arnon Zamora, who led from the front, died in the exercise, but the hostages were unharmed. 

“The fire plan that was executed was focused but extremely powerful,” the IDF claimed. “There were four keys to the operation: deception, surprise, determination, and power.” The obvious reference point is to Israel’s 1976 Entebbe raid, which also cost the life of its commanding officer, Yonathan Netanyahu, but one also could mention the daring 1943 raid to rescue Mussolini from custody in the Gran Sasso d’Italia massif, led by Waffen-SS commando and future Mossad asset Otto Skorzeny.

Irrespective of secondary contextual factors, what unites all these operations is the beauty of a group of highly-trained, disciplined specialists acting together courageously with lethal efficiency — the dangerous military beauty which the West has lost or abandoned, and urgently needs to recover if it hopes to survive the upheavals of the decades to come. A sharp line can be drawn here between this “Kshatriya” morality and what has replaced it: a passive-aggressive, lachrymose sentimentalism indexed as a hierarchy of suffering victims, with the order of rank fixed by whoever suffers the most.

According to Hamas, two hundred Gazan civilians were killed by the IDF over the course of its rescue mission in what it describes as a massacre: this narrative is now being circulated by pro-Hamas Leftist journalists in line with similar claims, also based on Hamas-supplied figures, intended to frame the conflict in Gaza as the unprovoked genocide of a blameless and defenseless population. 

The real significance of civilian suffering from the point of view of Hamas is worth clarifying. Civilians inevitably are killed in war. If minimizing civilian suffering was a Hamas priority, it could have done several things differently. It could have, for instance, built bomb shelters. It did not build any. It could have chosen against holding its hostages in captivity in civilian areas, and it could still choose to release its remaining hostages tomorrow. It chooses not to do these things, because it believes that a higher objective — resistance to Israel through any means necessary— is more important. In truth, all of its rhetoric about suffering, and also its production of suffering, is simply a weapon in service to this higher objective, not a matter of any importance itself. Hamas’ strategy consists of seeking to maximize civilian suffering in order to mobilize it as entertainment-consumer pornography for voyeurs and hysterics in the videodrome of the West. One can here even respect the purity of its absolute will, notwithstanding its stupidity and squalor. 

Ultimately the amount of civilian suffering Hamas is prepared to incur is unlimited: Hamas is non-agreement possible. It will break every agreement that anyone makes with it, and violate every law in the service of its goals. For this reason it was existentially necessary for Israel to go to war with Hamas after October 7, and also to prosecute the conflict until Hamas surrenders or is totally exterminated. 

But does Israel have the strength to face this reality? The disunity of the state and its crisis of identity and vision — a crisis embodied by the intractable persistence of Netanyahu in government — has been frozen by the war against Hamas, but not resolved. The demographics of Israel are increasingly Middle-Eastern and religious rather than European and secular, and risk political and cultural regression to regional norms. Finally and most critically, the complex entanglement of the myth of the state with the rhetoric of antisemitism and what Israeli scholar Adi Ophir called the “sanctification of the holocaust” is a vector for the same strain of pathological victim morality which Zionism originally was conceived to overcome.

“We need to produce less of these kinds of people,” Gershom Scholem once wrote to his brother about Otto Weiniger. The same sentiment applies even more strongly to the ultra-destructive contemporary Jewish Left, and for the same reason, both inside Israel and elsewhere. Since October 7, Israeli citizens have been bombarded by a relentless stream of defeatist propaganda by the liberal newspaper Ha’aretz which reached a nadir in March when it splashed an article stating that the military operation in Gaza had failed by every measure. No state during war time can tolerate an ongoing demoralization campaign from its own central information channels. The fact that Israel continues to do so demonstrates the depths of the nihilism in Israeli society which is ultimately a greater threat to its future than Hamas. 

Israel needs to recover its roots as a modernist military democracy founded by artists and soldiers. The West faces a similar challenge. Here too, cynically weaponized empathy in the name of a fantasy universal humanity has corroded the political and spiritual foundations of every Western country. We observe with some melancholy that deranged Jewish Communists are heavily implicated in far-Leftist networks agitating for national suicide, and also their own suicide, through pro-Islamist mass migration and pro-crime domestic politics. Ever since October 7, these groups have staged increasingly aggressive pro-Hamas demonstrations in national capitals and occupied universitiesthis weekend they burned American flags and vandalized statues of American heroes within sight of the White House. 

For these groups, Israel, the United States, and the historic nations of Europe are the more or less interchangeable faces of the same illegitimate, colonialist, imperialist, racist power meriting the same tactics which Hamas applied to Israel on October 7. “Understanding Hamas/Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the left, that are part of a global left, is extremely important,” the ultra-influential academic ideologue Judith Butler, herself Jewish, already stated in 2006 in the wake of a Hamas deployment of suicide bombers in the Second Intifada. This mood and its agents ultimately represent a metaphysical and intellectual sickness of hatred and self-hatred as opposed to a strictly political stance. Its antidote is the beauty of disciplined and decisive action.

Daniel Miller is IM—1776’s literary editor.

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