Hamas, the governing authority in the Gaza strip, launched an unprecedented and brutal attack on Israel by land, air and sea massacring Israeli men, women and children in the early morning hours of Oct. 7, one day after the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur war. Hamas militants slaughtered 260 young people attending an outdoor music festival near the Gaza border and kidnapped an estimated 100 to 150 Israelis and brought them back to Gaza to hold as hostages.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded by declaring war on Hamas, and ordered airstrikes and missiles targeting the densely populated Gaza Strip home to more than 2 million people. As of Oct. 10, the death toll from the ongoing violence has passed 1,800, with more than 1,000 people killed and 2,700 injured in Israel and at least 900 people killed and 4,500 injured in Gaza. U.S. officials report that 14 American citizens have died in the attack. President Biden, who ordered a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group to sail to the Eastern Mediterranean, pledged full support for Israel in this crisis.
Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with John Nichols, The Nation magazine’s national affairs correspondent, who discusses Hamas’ horrifying attack on Israel which has provoked a new cycle of bloodshed and vengeance, killing mostly civilians, with the danger that the conflict could spread to other nations in the region including Lebanon and Iran.
JOHN NICHOLS: There is simply no question that what happened on Saturday morning — the slaughter of innocent young people who were at a raid and were there to dance, it’s incomprehensible. The kidnapping of elderly people and children from some kibbutzes. What Hamas did was was horrific. And anybody who a problem being unsettled by that, you know, I think I think probably is just kind of lost.
But at the same token, what the Israelis are doing in their response to the bombing of densely crowded neighborhoods in Gaza City is also horrific. And you’re seeing the death of children and elderly there as well. And so, again, to just simply casually accept that I think is a loss and unacceptable response.
And so we’re put in a situation. Those of us who are on the edge of it and who see it from afar here in the United States. I think if we’re honest, trying to say that we’re dealing with something that’s incredibly complicated and there aren’t easy answers here. And people who come to you and try to tell you that there are easy answers, I think either have not been paying attention or become so hardened by the events of the last 70 years that they, to some extent, given up on the possibility of finding a peaceful way out of this.
But I’m not in that camp. I remain a believer as somebody who spent a tremendous amount of time in Israel and in Palestine over many, many years, that there are tremendous numbers of good people in both of these places and that there are an awful lot of people, tremendous number of people who want peace. I think we feel farther from peace now than at any time maybe certainly in my adult life.
But I’m still in that camp of saying that we have to strive for it. And I think that the United States and other countries should be looking for a way to stop the killing on all sides and to try and renew a peace process that’s been allowed to wither and pretty much disappear over the last number of years.
SCOTT HARRIS: Thank you for that, John. President Biden has ordered a carrier group into the region. There’s certainly concern with reports whether they’re accurate or not. We don’t know about Iran’s involvement in this attack by Hamas on Israel. But there’s concern, of course, that what’s happened across the border from Gaza and Israel could erupt into a wider war across the Middle East, given the fact that the United States is firmly on one side in this conflict.
Is there not a danger of the United States being drawn into a wider war?
JOHN NICHOLS: There’s always a danger and that’s something that we should be genuinely concerned about. But the United States has been drawn into going into wars in the Middle East before. And we have seen little good come of it, right? It hasn’t been a positive result. And so I think one of the reasons why Americans are so resistant to the dispatch of U.S. troops, especially ground troops to war zones around the world is because the experience of the last not 20 years, you know, not just going back to the Bush administration’s war in Iraq, but really more than 30 years, going back to the previous Bush administration’s war in the Middle East, which, you know, obviously began in Kuwait and then moved into Iraq. And that maintained through blockades and other things during the Clinton years.
We as a country have had a terrible experience and frankly, the world has had a terrible experience. Our military interventions have not been good. They have not made things better. And so I think the American people realize that. That’s why so many people are so ill at ease with the idea of endless war.
And I think any time that there’s a dispatch of U.S. military to the region, there should be a discomfort. There should be a lot of questioning. And if we had a functional Congress, which we don’t, but if we had a functional Congress, people would be talking about this right now.
And, you know, there would be hearings and there would be discussions because it’s not that the United States can’t have a role in the Middle East. It obviously does — economic and military. But the role should be that of a major power in the world seeking to build coalitions, to dial down violence, to move back toward a peace process. And I would like to see more of that.
You know, that’s that’s right. I would prefer to see the United States aiming at this point. I hope and do not believe you’ll see an actual military intervention there. I think that wiser heads will prevail not just in the U.S., but in Europe.
But this is a deeply concerning moment. And we are at a point globally where it’s appropriate to pause and recognize that we’ve kind of reached a moment that we feared.
For decades, there’s been a fear that you would get to a point where you have massive deaths, open warfare and the prospect of the rest of the world getting drawn in, because I really do think we should all be pausing and thinking very seriously about how we respond to this, hoping the goal is an ending of violence, but dialing down the tensions and erring on the side of peace, as hard as that is, and recognizing that to get there is the very expensive and very complicated requirement of diplomacy. And diplomacy is really hard. But it is where, into my mind, the United States should focus a tremendous amount of its energy.
Listen to Scott Harris’ in-depth interview with John Nichols (27:44) and see more articles and opinion pieces in the Related Links section of this page.
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