Atrocity, Delusion and the Apocalypse: What the Gaza Disaster Reveals

David Finkel

Posted December 9, 2023

Jewish Voice for Peace-Detroit activists and allies swarmed the offices of Michigan Senators Stabenow and Peters on October 25, demanding ceasefire in Israel’s war on Gaza. (photo: Barbara Barefield)

To confront the almost incomprehensible scope of the disaster engulfing Gaza and all of Palestine, along with the no longer hypothetical specter of a semi-fascist dictatorship arising in Israel, it’s necessary to grasp two basic dynamics.

First and most immediate is the asymmetric but symbiotic barbarisms of the Israeli state and the Hamas nemesis that it did a great deal to empower, outlined in my article Catastrophe in Palestine and Israel: Apartheid on the Road to Genocide in Against the Current 227. Second, more broadly, we’ll consider how miscalculations by multiple parties, including “great” powers, contribute to a gathering apocalypse.

The fantasy that Hamas leaders were entertaining when they launched the October 7 raid is captured in a recent post by Middle East expert Gilbert Achcar (Al-Aqsa Flood and Miscalculation), worth citing at some length:

After this enormous catastrophe that is on its way to completing the 1948 Nakba with a Nakba in Gaza that is still more severe and ferocious than all that preceded it, while Zionist killing and persecution are escalating in the West Bank, it is necessary to examine what calculation might have gone through the minds of those who devised Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, leading them to launch it even though it was possible to predict what would happen as a result.

There are two polar hypotheses in this regard: either those who planned the operation were aware that it would result in a catastrophe, like what happened so far and is still ongoing, and they did not care about the matter; or they miscalculated. The second hypothesis is the closest to reality, and this in two main respects. The first is that the planners of Operation Al-Aqsa Flood did not take the full measure of the Israeli society’s complete shift to the far right, embodied in a government that includes the entire spectrum of the fascist Zionist right, from the Likud Party to the National-Religious Party and Jewish Power.

The interaction between this political reality and the gravity of the 7 October operation, which surpassed all military operations previously carried out by the Palestinian resistance against the occupation, made inevitable that the Israeli reaction would exceed, in turn, everything the Zionist army had ever done before, and that the Zionist far right would seize the opportunity of this trauma to begin implementing its plan to achieve ‘Greater Israel’ by erasing what remains of Palestine and annihilating its people through extermination and displacement, starting with the Gaza Strip.

The second miscalculation consisted in the exercise of wishful thinking and the expectation of divine miracles, along the religious logic that characterizes the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) and the political current to which it belongs. This translated in the belief that Operation Al-Aqsa Flood would unleash a general war on the State of Israel in which all Palestinians wherever they are, as well as all Arabs and Muslims would take part.

Achcar goes on to quote the October 7 proclamation by Muhammad al-Deif, the commander-in-chief of the armed wing of Hamas, notable for its delusional, messianic and frankly sadistic character. The notion that Iran or its regional client regimes in Syria and Lebanon would go to war against Israel ignored the elementary fact that the Iranian rulers are propelled by the same overriding imperative as Israel’s governing coalition: regime self-preservation. Iran essentially has told Hamas that “you didn’t tell us you would do this, so you’re on your own.”

For Iran, the result is that the regime’s “support” for Palestine remains verbal. For Netanyahu’s governing Israeli coalition, its preservation means genocidal war without limit or end point. While Hamas’ fatal delusion has dragged Gaza’s people into a suicide mission that they never chose, it’s within a far bigger matrix of miscalculations and fantasies that have opened the way to apocalypse.

It’s also necessary to confront the revelations of the rapes and sexual torture perpetrated by Hamas among its atrocities of October 7. It might be tempting to attribute these accounts to Israeli state propaganda, which notoriously lies about everything – especially the monstrous claim that it seeks to “minimize” civilian deaths in Gaza, dutifully echoed by the U.S. State Department, which knows it’s a giant falsehood.

But following that understandable instinct would be tragic blindness in the present instance. We are dealing here not with Israeli state PR but with survivors’ direct accounts, journalists’ reports, and documentation by organizations in Israel with track records in establishing rape crisis centers and dealing with the high levels of domestic and misogynist violence in that society.

While Israel’s political and military apparatus — of course — will exploit these facts of sexual brutality to the fullest, supporters of Palestinian freedom can under no circumstances ignore them. If nothing else, they should discredit any image of Hamas as a liberatory or progressive organization. More than that, they fit a larger picture of the organization’s methods and ideology, which lead Palestine to a dead end and ever-deepening tragedy.

Delusion All Around

Ten days before October 7, U.S. strategy was based on the premise that “the Middle East hasn’t been so quiet anytime in the past 20 years.” Israel’s rapidly proceeding “normalization of relations” with Saudi Arabia and repressive oil kingdoms would sideline Palestine into a corner where it could be safely ignored.

Israel’s military and intelligence apparatus complacently ignored their own on-the-ground observers’ warnings of Hamas’ preparation for a serious military operation. Those alarms just didn’t fit the prevailing “conception” that Hamas was tamed and deterred by Israeli power and the needs of governing Gaza.

October 7 shattered that security myth, with the deaths of as many Israeli citizens as were killed in the five terrible years of the Second Intifada (2000-2005). But one illusion is replaced by a deadlier one, that the present all-out war will not only crush Hamas but somehow rescue the hostages and make Gaza “safe” — depending on which Israeli official or politician or general may be speaking — either for some new, puppet Palestinian rule, or for military incursions at times of Israel’s choosing, or maybe for depopulation and Israeli re-colonization. Choose your pipe dream.

As usual, it’s United States’ delusions that are the biggest and most dangerous. In the immediate wake of October 7, the Biden administration saw the opportunity for political “victory” by making a full public embrace of Netanyahu while urging behind-the-scenes that Israel hold back from full-scale invasion and genocidal massacre. The response is exactly what we’ve seen: Israel pulverizing Gaza with its full arsenal, including the two-thousand and five-thousand bombs that the United States generously provides.

The indescribable results include well over the 16,000 actual counted deaths, physical destruction on a scale that may be irreparable, and the growing likelihood of a public health disaster that international experts warn could take more lives than the bombing.

The prospect of Israeli “victory” has become a global political disaster for the United States. Not only its pretext of caring about Palestine, but also the notion that it can curb the violent excesses of its strategic Israeli partner with a bit of gentle diplomatic pressure, have been exposed. Only a very explicit, open and almost unprecedented U.S. veto of Israel’s war and ethnic cleansing rampage can stop it now.

This is hardly likely new — especially in the fractured state of U.S. politics, with much of the Democrats’ voter base increasingly angry and alienated from pro-Israel policies, while the Republican Party functions as a foaming-at-the-mouth genocidal Amen Corner for Netanyahu.

Given the rage of the Arab American community and many Democratic voting constituencies over U.S. complicity in the genocide, it is entirely possible that when Netanyahu goes down following this war, he will take Biden down with him. In comparison to the unfathomable human toll in Gaza and the gathering settler-military ethnic cleansing in the West Bank, this would hardly be the greatest collateral damage from the post-October 7 holocaust. But its implications for U.S. politics have their own significance.

There are examples in history where miscalculations and illusions of various state actors have produced apocalyptic results, up to and including world war.

What’s needed more than ever now is maximum pressure on the complicit criminals in Washington DC to force a renewed and permanent ceasefire. CEASEFIRE NOW — STOP THE GENOCIDE!


2 responses to “Atrocity, Delusion and the Apocalypse: What the Gaza Disaster Reveals”

    1. David Avatar

      I think the FORWARD article speaks for itself. Meanwhile, the U.S. veto of the UN Security Council ceasefire resolution makes this genocide officially an Israeli-U.S. operation. On Israel’s clearly emerging ethnic cleansing goals, see Moshe Machover’s new article at

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