Israel at war

Battle of Ideas festival 2023, Sunday 29 October, Church House, London


The first weekend of October was the darkest in Israel’s history. A murderous Hamas attack on southern Israel killed at least 1,200 and wounded about 3,000. At least 200 were captured and taken to Gaza. How is it possible to begin to make sense of such a terrible event? Is this the return of pogroms of Jews? Clearly Israel is having to contend with a force that can truly be described as evil.

One issue is why and how Hamas felt so emboldened to launch this murderous assault. There seems to be a broad consensus that the success of Hamas’s brutal assault represented a devastating failure for Israel’s famed intelligence services and military. Some are wondering if this year’s bitter conflict over judicial reform in Israel proved to be a distraction from the deadly external threat. The country has been sharply divided, and military reservists in elite units, including intelligence, were encouraged by the protest movement to refuse to serve.

Perhaps a proper review of what happened will have to wait. Israel has enough to deal with and faces many other imminent challenges. There is the possibility of it becoming embroiled in a ground war in Gaza, which could bring with it a heavy human cost for both Israelis and Palestinians. Israel faces judgement internationally on the scale of its response and the dangers posed to civilians in Gaza. The violent conflict could also spread to the West Bank and even within Israel itself. It is no exaggeration to say that Israel is facing the greatest challenge in its 75-year history.

How should Israel deal with the horrors it is enduring? What are the roots of these challenges and how can Israel best deal with them? Why was Israel so vulnerable in the first place? Will the unity of a country now under attack render recent divisions irrelevant? How can Israel deal with the strains of a war that may have to be fought on multiple fronts?

Daniel Ben-Ami
journalist; creator, Radicalism of Fools; author, Ferraris for All: in defence of economic progress and Cowardly Capitalism

Dr Jake Wallis Simons
editor, Jewish Chronicle; author, Israelophobia

Lord David Wolfson
king’s counsel; member of the House of Lords; former justice minister

Simon McKeon
archivist and writer