Foreword by AVI SHLAIM

“Indispensable . . . a tour de force” —Norman G. Finkelstein

“First-rate analysis . . . a truly important antidote” —John J. Mearsheimer

“Comprehensive and compassionate” —Cornel West

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About the Book

Contributors: Musa Abuhashhash, Ahmed Alnaouq, Nathan J. Brown, Yaniv Cogan, Clare Daly MEP, Talal Hangari, Khaled Hroub, R. J., Colter Louwerse, Mitchell Plitnick, Mouin Rabbani, Sara Roy, and Avi Shlaim

In September 2023, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan boasted that the Middle East “is quieter today than it has been in two decades.” One week later, unprecedented violence in Gaza and Israel shattered the status quo and shocked the world.

Hamas’s Operation Al-Aqsa Deluge punctured delusions of stability as hundreds of militants burst forth from the Gaza prison camp. In the ensuing carnage and firefights, 1,200 Israelis were killed and hundreds more taken hostage.

Israel’s retaliation turned the besieged enclave into a howling wasteland. Nearly 20,000 people were killed in two months, including more than 7,000 children, and over 60 percent of homes were damaged or destroyed. Israel targeted the wounded and infirm, newborns and near-dead, as Gaza’s healthcare system—hospitals, clinics, ambulances, medical personnel—came under a systematic attack unprecedented in the annals of modern warfare.

The Hamas massacre and the Israeli extermination campaign which followed together mark a historic turning point in the Israel-Palestine conflict. The reverberations have also shaken politics far beyond, not least in Europe and the United States, where gigantic, round-the-clock protests for Palestinian rights pitted politicians against the public and exposed a growing statist authoritarianism.

In this groundbreaking book—the first published about the 2023 Gaza war—leading Palestinian, Israeli, and international authorities put these momentous developments in context and provide an initial taking-stock.

Why did Hamas attack? What is Israel trying to achieve? Did this catastrophe have to happen? And is there a way forward? The book’s expert contributors address these and other questions, which have never been more urgent.

320 pages • Paperback ISBN 978-1-68219-619-9 • E-book ISBN 978-1-68219-620-5

About the Editor

jamie stern-weiner editor photo

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Jamie Stern-Weiner is an Associate Editor at OR Books and a doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford. Israeli-born and London-raised, he has written extensively about the history and politics of the Israel-Palestine conflict as well as the contemporary politics of antisemitism. His publications include Moment of Truth: Tackling Israel-Palestine’s Toughest Questions (OR Books, 2018), Antisemitism and the Labour Party (Verso, 2019), and How the EHRC Got It So Wrong (Verso, 2021). His articles have been published in The Nation, Jacobin, Jadaliyya, Middle East Eye, and elsewhere. He co-founded the New Left Project.

Read an Excerpt

After Hamas-led militants massacred Israeli civilians and soldiers on October 7th, prominent observers argued that the group’s ideological intransigence left Israel with no option but to eliminate it. US President Joe Biden rejected calls to “stop the war” because “[a]s long as Hamas clings to its ideology of destruction, a cease-fire is not peace.” Senator Bernie Sanders dismissed the prospect of “a permanent ceasefire with an organization like Hamas which is dedicated to destroying the State of Israel.” “People who are calling for a ceasefire now,” former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asserted, “don’t understand Hamas.” The group “will sabotage any efforts to forge a lasting peace, and will never stop attacking Israel.”

The practical corollary of this reasoning was set out with disarming frankness by the Economist. In an editorial published November 2nd, that august journal acknowledged that “Israel is inflicting terrible civilian casualties” in Gaza, accepted that Israel “has unleashed a ferocious bombardment against the people of Gaza,” recognized that a prolongation of Israel’s offensive would cause “the deaths of thousands of innocent people” in Gaza—and concluded that “Israel must fight on,” because “while Hamas runs Gaza, peace is impossible.” Given its lethal-cum-genocidal implications, the claim that no lasting truce or peace agreement with Hamas is possible merits careful scrutiny.

Attempts to blame Palestinian recalcitrance for the intractability of the Israel-Palestine conflict are not new. On the contrary, Israeli spokespeople long ago elevated into a public relations mantra the aphorism of Abba Eban, Israel’s one-time foreign minister: “The Palestinians have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity” for peace. The main problem with this claim is that it is flatly contradicted by the historical record. Palestinian leaders have sought for decades to resolve the conflict on terms approved by the international community. By contrast, Israel and the United States have consistently rejected those terms in favor of Israel’s territorial expansion. Furthermore, Israeli military offensives have often been directed not at combatting Palestinian terrorism but, on the contrary, at dispelling the “threat” of a peace agreement. Whenever Palestinian leaders moved toward accepting the international consensus framework for resolving the conflict, Israel responded with violence calibrated to force them back into militant rejectionism.

To neutralize these Palestinian “peace offensives,” Israel sought first to bypass Palestinian leaders as interlocutors, then to violently provoke them, and finally to coopt and contain them. Israel followed this playbook with both the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Hamas, in roughly the same sequence. In each case, Israel initially refused even to engage with Palestinian overtures. When moderate PLO and Hamas pronouncements threatened to win them international legitimacy, and thereby to undermine the tenability of Israel’s non-engagement policy, Israel in both cases conducted brutal military attacks aimed at derailing Palestinian diplomacy. Finally, Israel maneuvered both the PLO and Hamas into positions of subordinacy. Each organization found itself responsible for administering occupied territory and dependent on Israel for the resources and stability needed to do so. Israel thereby sought to reconcile the PLO and Hamas to its regime of domination over the Palestinian people without having to make any political or territorial concessions.

In the West Bank, Israel’s policy proved remarkably successful. By subcontracting the task of repression to the PA, Israel eroded the Palestinian leadership’s legitimacy and thus its desire and capacity to mobilize popular resistance to Israel’s occupation. By 2023, Israel believed that it had engineered a similar equilibrium in Gaza, with Hamas administering a besieged prison camp on Israel’s behalf. At first glance, Hamas appeared to be “pacified”: insofar as the Islamist movement prioritized its rule in Gaza, its resistance could be “contained.” It is now evident that the Israeli assessment was complacent. Fenced off from any diplomatic horizon and trapped within an unbearable and interminable siege, Hamas resolved to disrupt Israel’s equilibrium and violently refocus international attention on Palestine.

The bottom line is this. If, over the past half-century, Israel and its allies had desisted for but a moment in not merely missing, but actively spurning and sabotaging prospects for a just resolution to the Palestine Question, the 2023 massacre of Israeli civilians and incipient genocide in Gaza need never have happened. Indeed, the Israel-Palestine conflict would almost certainly have been resolved decades ago.

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