INTO THE FRAY: Gaza – Mis-conceptualizing the conflict; miscomprehending the enemy

By Martin Sherman

One of the reasons that the conflict with the Palestinian-Arabs in general and Gazan Arabs in particular, has dragged on for years, is that Israel has failed to conceptualize the conflict correctly

There is a prevailing myth that the general population in Gaza is the hapless victim of its radical leadership. This is demonstrably false.

Crucible, not victim

Indeed, the population in Gaza is not the victim of its Islamist leaders! On the contrary, it is the crucible in which that leadership was forged and from which it emerged.

Nothing can underscore the gruesome truth of that assertion more indelibly than this excerpt from a chilling telephone conversation between an elated Gazan terrorist and his enthralled parents—rejoicing over the slaughter of Israeli civilians.

TERRORIST: Hello Dad. Dad Open your WhatsApp right now and see…how many I killed with my own hands. Your son killed Jews.
FATHER: God is great God is great. May God protect you.
TERRORIS: [F]ather. I am talking to you from the phone of a Jew, I killed her and her husband, I killed ten with my own hands.
FATHER: God is great.
TERRORIST: I killed ten. Ten! Ten with my own bare hands. Their blood is on my hands, let me talk to Mom.
MOTHER: Oh, my son, may God protect you.
TERRORIST: I killed ten all by myself, mother.
MOTHER: I wish I was there with you.

This is the nature of the enemy. This is the human condition—or rather the inhuman condition with which Israel is compelled to contend.

Nothing as practical as good theory

This failure of Israeli society to grasp the true dimensions—the depth, and durability—of Arab rejection of Jewish sovereignty has long been reflected in both its domestic policy and in its foreign policy towards the nation’s Arab adversaries. Nowhere is this failing more glaring than in Israeli policy toward the Palestinian-Arabs in general, and toward the Arabs of Gaza in particular.

At this point, we would do well to recall the wise dictum of eminent social psychologist, Kurt Leven, who observed: “There is nothing so practical as a good theory.” After all, action, without comprehension is a little like swinging a hammer without knowing where the nails are, just as hazardous—and just as harmful. In this regard, good theory creates an understanding of cause and effect and hence facilitates effective policy.

Accordingly, to devise effective policy to contend with abiding Arab enmity, Israel must correctly conceptualize the conflict over the issue of Jewish sovereignty in the Holy Land.

Archetypical zero-sum game

The unvarnished truth is that—correctly conceptualized—the conflict between the Jews and the Palestinian-Arabs over the control of the Holy Land is a clash between two rival collectives, with irreconcilable foundational narratives.

They are irreconcilable because the raison d’etre of the one is the preservation of Jewish political sovereignty in the Holy Land, while the raison d’etre of the other is the annulment of Jewish political sovereignty in the Holy Land—thus generating irreconcilable visions of homeland.

As such, the conflict between the Jews and the Palestinian-Arabs is an archetypical zero-sum game, in which the side’s gains inevitably imply the other side’s loss

As such it is a clash involving protagonists with antithetical and mutually exclusive core objectives. Only one can emerge victorious; the other vanquished. There are no consolation prizes!

Consequently, as a clash of collectives, whose outcome will be determined by collective victory or defeat, it cannot be personalized. The fate of individual members of one collective cannot be a deciding determinant of the policy of the rival collective—and certainly, not a consideration that impacts the probability of collective victory or defeat.

Grudgingly accepted or greatly feared?

Thus, Israel’s survival imperative must dictate that it forgo any expectation of eventual approval from the Arabs. For the foreseeable future, this seductive illusion will remain an unattainable pipe dream. Rather, Israel must reconcile itself to the stern, but sober, conclusion: The most it can realistically hope for is to be grudgingly accepted; the least it must attain is to be greatly feared.

Any more benign policy goals are a recipe for disaster.

To underscore the crucial importance of this seemingly harsh assessment, I would invite any prospective dissenter to consider the consequences of Jewish defeat and Arab victory. Indeed, a cursory survey of the gory regional realities should suffice to drive home the significance of what would accompany such an outcome.

Accordingly, only once a decisive Jewish collective victory has been achieved, can the issue of individual injustice and suffering in the Arab collective be addressed as a policy consideration. Until then, neither the individual well-being nor the societal welfare of the opposing collective can be considered a primary policy constraint or

After all, had the imperative of collective victory not been the overriding factor of the Allies’ strategy in WWII, despite the horrendous civilian causalities that it inflicted on the opposing collective, the world might well have been living in slavery today.

In weighing the question of the fate of individual members of the opposing collective, it is imperative to reiterate the point made at the start of this column: the Palestinian-Arab collective is not the hapless victim of radical terror-affiliated leaders. Quite the opposite. It is, in fact, the societal crucible in which they were forged, and from which they emerged. Indeed, its leadership is a reflection of, not an imposition on, Palestinian-Arab society.

Accordingly, the Palestinian-Arab collective must be considered an implacable enemy—not a prospective peace partner…and it must be treated as such.

Martin Sherman spent seven years in operational capacities in the Israeli defense establishment. He is the founder of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a member of the Habithonistim-Israel Defense & Security Forum (IDSF) research team, and a participant in the Israel Victory Project.

October 29, 2023 | 32 Comments »

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32 Comments / 32 Comments

  1. When I prefaced by these words “Some useful comments” I was thinking of OTHER people’s comments on this thread not my own.

    I cannot easily judge my own so would never say that

    There is other confusion…the writings of Marx are very relevant to today but not all in that massive works by any means.

    But of course he and Engels were well acquainted with ancient civilization

    He also attacked people who took his words as “gospel” saying of himself I AM NOT A MARXIST meaning stop talking in dogma

    Never works like that.

    Engels was intrigued by the Irish. He wrote heaps. He studied the Celtic Clan system. The names of townlands rooted in Gaelic

    How the Church collided with the Druids

    They knew all the Fenian leaders. Studied the resort of the Fenians to terror. Very much opposed that.

    Marx studied the demographic make up of Jerusalem. Knew very well the working of Islam.

    Wrote with empathy about their attachment to Jerusalem

    They were pioneers. Their breadth of study quite amazing. But they were mortal

    Plus Marx in London was poor, worried about his family welfare and in poor health

    As for me I know little

    But I do believe a conceptual development is happening to and in the Jews

    That is enough


    And there were and are other great thinkers of his time and ours

    I take people as they come. Caroline Glick is very accurate as is Martin Sherman

    I value what many say but remain critical. Very few today understand our predicament which terrifies me.

    For example take the turtles that species worries me greatly and in 100 years will they be with us…? Surely not on our watch??? And much much else today.


    We will not have done that will we?


    I do write much about Trotsky which unstated usually implies role of Lenin

    The Civil War intrigues

    To me the cauldron of so much in the present actually

    I refer and include the massive Pogrom movement the opening to the Nazi Holocaust 1919 to 1921 approx.

    Includes how the Jews opted for the most extreme communism when they knew it was their very survival at stake

    Not once quoted Trotsky

  2. Michael, Israel has no place to go, they have tried other nations and lands but the only place on GOD”S green earth is on the land of Israel.

    God gave it to them…… If they don’t accept it, then they have disrespected God and the consequence of those actions will follow.

    Man writes history after the fact. God wrote the TOARH before the fact.

  3. Felix,

    One thing that struck me while reading Marx, years ago, was that his concept of “history” did not go back more than a few hundred years: He said Communism was the “natural” replacement for capitalism, which was the “natural” replacement for feudalism, which was the “natural” replacement for everything before that. He didn’t seem to have any historical memory of the Romans, the Greeks, the Persians, the Babylonians, the Assyrians, nor especially the Kingdom of Israel. Your own personal grasp of history, moreover, doesn’t seem to predate Leon Trotsky.

    If you would actually read the historical texts, starting with the Bible and supplementing it with classic historians such as Herodotus and Josephus, you would have no trouble understanding the “Israel-Palestine” situation.

    BTW the Jews have often tried to establish themselves in other places — Babylon, Yemen, Spain, the “Jewish Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, the US, even Uganda! There has never been a suitable dwelling place for the Jewish people, other than Israel.

  4. Some useful comments.

    To my mind it boils down to…

    Will Israel up sticks and move elsewhere?

    Or will the Arabs?

    But while that is the reality to gain a peace it breaks down in that Jews have nowhere else and never had.

    And Jordan (plus other parts of huge Islamic territory) is possible for the Arabs

    Like everything with homo sapiens it is a conceptual thing

    Just have to really start selling idea

  5. Mr. Zorn

    You nor anyone else in the IDF have done a 100% on everything going into the Gaza strip. If you have then where in the hell are they getting all the missiles. FROM THE IDF?

  6. @Tanna

    nothing gets into Gaza withOUT 100% inspection.

    Been there, done that, and here we are. I agree with Ted’s suggestion that the Arabs should be confined to the southern 20 percent near Egypt as long as Egypt won’t let them in, and Israel should apply sovereignty to the northern 80 percent and rebuild Gush Katif. If Trump gets in, I’m betting he will recognize it. If not, who cares?

  7. That previous exchange was exhausting, but fun! In my opinion, part of Israel problem is worrying to much about what the Nations think of them instead of what God thinks of them. At this point in time, history. Israel should pull back from the nations and the only dealings with the other nations of the world is on Israel’s terms and for Israels enrichment.

    Israel must understand that it is all about the land and they must control the land 100%. I also believe that until Israel use’s the land as a tool to work in their favor, they will continue to go through what they have experienced for the last 75 years.

    The Gaza experiment is the first part they must control. If they don’t control Gaza 100% – they are not ready, and it is only a matter of time till they go through this all over again.

    In my mind control means – nothing gets into Gaza withOUT 100% inspection. Not by land -sea nor air. Bibi made a strong statement toward the USA and world this past weekend. I paraphrase – No one told America to stand down and have a ceasefire after Peral Harbor nor 911. Don’t tell us to focus on humanitarian efforts and a cease fire.

    Great statement! NOW LET”S SEE IF HE IS ALL TALK.

  8. @Felix News Flash: Banderism has no relevance, whatsoever, to Israel. None. Zero. Give it a rest, please.

  9. Michael the great criminals here and the great crime was keeping Banderism alive which takes us into the role of Britain and America but it happened. The next crime( s) was in the creation of colour revolutions aim to disrupt power elites out of ensuing chaos. And so on to the hiring of snipers and deployment in high buildings on the Azov side where they mowed down humans including their own
    Conditions of Pogrom in 2014 led to elected leader lucky to escape with his life. And the neo Banderites had achieved state power just as Hitler did in 1933.

    Then consider the long years when the Russia tried to avoid war but America Britain and Europe had other ideas.

    But since Michael is an empty vessel he hasn’t a clue about history.

  10. @Felix

    Not would I ever insult great Russia nation or great Israel nation by such a thought

    I got it. You like them. Mazeltov. I like East Asian TV dramas and movies, Kpop and Haydn string quartets.

    So the F what?

  11. @Felix

    Not would I ever insult great Russia nation or great Israel nation by such a thought

    That’s what you wrote. I understood you were just using the term, “great” to mean you really, really like them,like a teenaged groupie who can’t stop talking about their favorite band, and Mazeltov. Have fun with that. But to expect us to care?

    No cemment. 😀

  12. @Felix

    the life and deaths of the Jewish people then today and forever is very involved with these countries.

    No it isn’t. That’s why nearly all of us got out and are still getting out. President Trump nailed it. “Shithole countries.” Why do you suppose the mass base for Zionism in the beginning was from the Russian Empire, which included Ukraine and the Baltic states where Jews were forced to live?

    And, it’s really irrelevant, now! For God’s sake, give it a rest. “Great Russia?”

    Who cares? Even if they weren’t allied with our enemies.

    And you do owe Peloni an apology. You sometimes say useful things in the midst of all the hyperbolic ranting but he is the very best of us.

    Stop with the ad hominem attacks.

    Just cut it out. Moreover, it makes you sound like a Stalinist.

    Especially from someone as sensitive to criticism as you are. As Marx said in the preamble to one of the editions of Capital, Vol. 1.:

    “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

    Bertrand Russell coined the term, mimofant (noun) to describe a person with the sensitivity of a mimosa when it comes to their own feelings but the insensitivity of an elephant when it comes to others’. (My late mother used to quote that all the time. Don’t know where she read it.)

  13. @Felix

    I would like an UNQUALIFIED retraction and apology

    You have described me as being “superficial”, “backward looking”, “mischief making”, “rotten betrayal”, “dishonest”, and “down there with the very worst”, and now you want me to offer you an appology? No doubt you will excuse your remarks as something that Trotsky would do, but honestly I find I really don’t believe that Trotsky would be as argumentative and verbally abusive as you have demonstrated yourself to be. So instead of the apology which you have not earned, I will simply offer you a ‘so sorry Charlie’ and ignore your prattle til next you are in a mind to converse more competently and less abusively. So, til next I hear the word ‘Trotsky’, I bid you a kind and enduring adieu….

  14. Ukrainians don’t like people who target and kill women and children. That’s why they support Israel against Hamas.

    Details: Russian “law enforcement agencies” reported that bodies of civilians with gunshot wounds had been found in a private house.

    The Telegram channel Astra, citing local residents, neighbours and relatives of those killed, reports that the murder was committed by a Russian soldier.

  15. Peloni please stop your very dishonest selective quoting of what I am saying. In this time of terrible dishonesty I am finding you are down there with the very worst.

    You quoted me in one very selective sentence totally out of context and so this is exactly the methods that the Stalinist lie machine used again Trotsky

    The sentence reads
    “As if the destruction of Russia and China is of little consequence to Israel and Jews.”

    Totally out of context

    If a person continues to use that then it is time consuming to answer

    Your comment (5.43pm)

    And you do that every…single…time with me

    So therefore you are ending

    Hence, superficial as you may find it, it is not in Israel’s interest to fight Russia’s wars which is why she has not done so, will not do so, and should not do so.

    I said nothing about fighting “Russia’s wars ” by Israel

    Not would I ever insult great Russia nation or great Israel nation by such a thought

    I have said and said often on this site that the life and deaths of the Jewish people then today and forever is very involved with these countries

    HOW INVOLVED…Through the Holocaust and Ukraine is central in the Holocaust

    Israel is very involved because Russia fights IN THIS SMO precisely AGAINST those who were central in the Holocaust.

    See what I mean you lied about what I said. Because I never said anything about fighting wars Israel for Russia

    And that (distortion of someone’s thought) is not a good look for Israpundit or for anything

    As well as being very harmful to me both personally and politically

    I would like an UNQUALIFIED retraction and apology but I do not have high hopes

  16. One of the reasons that the conflict with the Palestinian-Arabs in general and Gazan Arabs in particular, has dragged on for years, is that Israel has failed to conceptualize the conflict correctly

    Here’s another one:

    Accordingly, to devise effective policy to contend with abiding Arab enmity, Israel must correctly conceptualize the conflict over the issue of Jewish sovereignty in the Holy Land.

    I really don’t get this. You’d have to be totally naive AND stupid to mis-conceptualize this conflict. The current war with Hamas is, of course, just a smaller part of the larger war. For those who fall into the category I have just described, I will “conceptualize” it for you as concisely as I can: Pretty much all Muslims, but especially the Arab and the Iranian Muslims, want to exterminate all the Jews, and the Jews are fighting for their lives, as they have always done.

    I could stop right there, but I’ll try to make it even plainer. [I know, I’m preaching to the choir]. Many believed that if the Jews had their ancestral homeland back again, then everyone would leave them alone. That was the “naive” part. The very existence of a single Jew, anywhere, is intolerable to devout Muslims, on religious grounds. Likewise, a substantial part of the rest of the world dislikes Israel for reasons that boil down to little more than “antisemitism”.

    Some think that they can placate the Arabs by giving them land in exchange for peace. That is the “stupid” part. Land is the last thing that the Arabs need. They already have millions of hectares of land.

    What then do the Arabs really want “for Christmas”? NO JEWS… anywhere… and they would also like to have the pleasure of killing all of them, themselves. After that is accomplished, I suspect that they will turn their attentions fully toward the Christians, who naively and stupidly think they will be safe.

    Conceptualization: complete

  17. I agree with Dr. Sherman, for the most part. I wouldn’t quite as far as he does in justifying all civilian or even military deaths inflicted in an effort to win a war. I have always had some doubts about the deaths inflicted by the two nukes in Japan, since they resulted in the lingering, extremely painful, slow deaths from radiation poison of many people, extremely painful non-healable, long-lasting burns, etc.

    However, the use of the “innocent civilians” argument to denounce Israel military operations against terrorists is not valid because a) Israel goes to extraordinary lengths to protect innocent civilians when it conducts military operations, more than any other country in history and b) it also treats any POWS it takes, weather military or civilian, humanely, even though its own POWS captured by its enemies are routinely murdered and tortured.

  18. @Felix

    As if the destruction of Russia and China is of little consequence to Israel and Jews.

    If Russia’s and China’s future were within Israel’s control, why do you think Israel would be supplicating to America’s demands that she break her recently declared siege of Gaza. Israel’s commitment must be to her own interests, and Russia to her own. This is why Israel opposes Iran and Russia is not doing so. The degree to which a nation’s self interest is served is the very measure by which their potential longevity will be determined. Hence, superficial as you may find it, it is not in Israel’s interest to fight Russia’s wars which is why she has not done so, will not do so, and should not do so.

  19. Peloni

    Looks like a campaign. You are consistently not seemingly reading my arguments on Israpundit and continually misinterpreting what I am saying.

    In this case it is rather superficial on your part because if Israel cannot speak on Ukraine, then who can.

    Israel is tied up totally with Ukraine

    And even more than that and that’s a great thing

    You seek to tear Israel away from the living world. As if the destruction of Russia and China is of little consequence to Israel and Jews.

    Jews have never done that. They have been at the forefront of every human development scientific and political

    So your points lead nowhere except to ignorance and mischief making (the 3 I mentioned)

    This is a backward looking viewpoint.

    It’s also a rotten betrayal of Jewish history.

    I think the great Jewish people will say to Peloni

    Get Lost!

  20. A map of the IDF operations, provided by Denys Davydov:


    Things are starting to get tough in the Caucasus, Ruzzia: local residents are calling for burn Jews and drive them out of the country.

    Meanwhile, in Nalchik, a Jewish center under construction was burned, the blocher Hasbik spoke out against Jewish refugees, and in Dagestan, Jews are not rented apartments and are prohibited from visiting public places.

    Ruzzia needs denazification

  21. @Felix

    Martin Sherman …draws his net too narrowly.

    I disagree. The net needs to be strictly focused on Israel’s interests, and not resolving the many menaces which exist around the world. Israel is a small but powerful nation, capable of great influence in many quarters, but she must remain devoted to her own immediate battles, and leave those more distant for others to manage on their own. As we have seen in this most recent betrayal by the world’s nations, Israel is left to resolve her own interests as best she can in a sea of abuse and fake news. She has neither the interest nor the ability to seek out monsters in foreign lands for which to slay, as she has monsters aplenty living beside her and amidst her borders with which to maintain a steady and constant vigilance.

  22. John Galt

    Yes you are getting to the heart of it because arms in the hands of Jews, an armed Jewish population, means that they will fight to defend a Jewish state, and that those even those millions of much talked about ISRAELI Arabs are there only as guests of the Jewish state, and of course will be protected as guests so long as they accept they are guests. So an armed Jews collective rules out any other armed collective (naturally) in that space. Part of a world defence against Antisemitism. A perspective not presently in existence but to be fought for and achieved. Taken in the round this WAS the perspective of Leon Trotsky in the critical late 1930s.

  23. Martin Sherman (I agree with what he writes) draws his net too narrowly.

    For 2 years news has been all Zelensky and the poor Ukrainian people

    But these weeks it is the same, no different, just different names

    On Israpundit this unreality and hiding of history has been around


    A country is surrounded by NeoCon forces backed by NeoCon propaganda. By what sources? Same as now taking word of Hamas as gospel. Re Ukraine it was non stop distortion by all Media and every word of the Banderites was also never to be doubted

    In Israel and this can’t be glossed over – I saw only one instance of truth telling, by Bennett after visit to Putin, he attacked Zelensky partially.

    Sherman omits this and has been silent as a grave

    Which is deliberate because he knows the background here and it is a lot of graves indeed 1.5 million of them in Ukraine which he has been silent about this past 3 and more years

    The most obvious answer to this is he does not care

    Indeed I argue that to understand what this Arab Antisemitism has always been about is far closer to the village and neighbours Antisemitism of the Holocaust by Bullets in such a wide area as Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine and Byelorussia

    Not ever a dickie bird from Sherman on this feature.

    While the above three on Israpundit worked consciously to deny the reality of Holocaust by Bullets in present day.

    There is a direct line from Zelensky and Ukrainian Fascists to the October 7 event

    And we all pay a horrible price for hiding that…

  24. Reports all over internet that ordinary IDF soldiers saw things in Gaza for months, reported to higher ups who then did nothing.

    The IDF general staff is full Leftists who are utterly clueless so when you see any article blaming Netanyahu, ignore it and try to find out what the IDF leadership has been up to and guess what? Their focus was on stopping judicial reform and helping with the demonstrations against the Netanyahu government for the entire past year.

    The same leaders who will not let the Jews of Israel to defend themselves because guns in the hands of ordinary Jews in Israel must not be allowed.

    Something needs to change and soon.