Sam Lehman-Wilzig
Prof. Sam: Academic Pundit

Post-Oct. 7: How Everyone’s “Concept” Has Collapsed (on Six! Sides)

Every so often, something occurs to upend everyone’s “concept” of how the world works (or should work). Hamas’s Oct. 7 barbaric attack on southern Israel has been such a conceptual earthquake for Israelis (Left and Right), moderate Arabs, extremist Moslems, world Jewry, and the democratic Western world.
In Israeli Hebrew, this is called “ha’konseptziah” – the mistaken way of viewing the world (or a specific issue). The term was first used widely after the Yom Kippur War to denote the Israeli government’s belief that it could easily withstand any Arab country’s attack – and more widely, that the Arab world under any conditions is interested in peace, a “concept” that proved wrong a mere few years later when Sadat came to Jerusalem and a peace treaty was signed thereafter.
The present Israeli government also has found itself holding the bag of a misplaced “conception.” But it is not the only one working under a mistaken “notion” of reality. One could even go so far as to say that almost everyone in the Mideast conflict has got things wrong from their own perspective. Here’s a list:

1) The Israeli Right thought it had the recipe for undermining peace with the Palestinians: “play one Palestinian side off another” i.e., “pacify” Hamas as a counterweight to the more moderate PLO. This was PM Netanyahu’s strategy for the past decade and a half, and it has now gone up in smoke (and barbaric fire). Indeed, even if it is proven that Bibi never received warning about an imminent, tactical Hamas all-out attack (we already have evidence that he did receive this several weeks and even months earlier), his strategic “conception” is what has utterly failed. That’s why his own party is also undergoing serious rethinking as to his continued leadership, with several Likud ministers and MKs arguing (albeit anonymously for now) that he has to go.

2) The Israeli Left over the past decades has been pushing for real peace negotiations with the Palestinians. However, post-Oct. 7 it has become clear to most of Israel’s Left that there was never any chance of peace when Moslem extremists (Hamas, Islamic Jihad) continued to be enabled, given their antipathy not only to “Israelis” but to Jews qua Jews. I use the word “Moslem” and not “Arab” because, for example, Iran is NOT Arab; it is extreme Islam that’s the core problem here. This doesn’t mean that peace is impossible in principle. Indeed, if the terrorists in Gaza (and the West Bank) are routed and uprooted, then the Left does have a case for trying to move peace forward.

3) Israel’s (Palestinian) Arabs – the non- (or anti-Zionist) wing e.g., the BALAD party is left with little to offer. After the Hamas atrocities, not to mention ongoing corruption in the PLO (and Hamas too), they too have to rethink their position regarding a “one-state solution.” Indeed, this concept of what ultimate peace should entail is further eroded by one of the few sectors in the arena whose “conception” seems to be working out: moderate Israeli Arabs (and the RAAM party). There has been no “uprising” in their hometowns and none even in mixed Israeli cities; quite the reverse: thousands of Israeli Arabs have volunteered their services while others (especially in Israel’s health field) continue to do their work in exemplary fashion.

4) Hamas and Iran seemed to have thought that with Israeli severely divided over the Judicial Reform program, and other issues (e.g., proposed Haredi military draft exemption law), the country was especially vulnerable. Here the false conception was strategic. Yes, Hamas scored a huge tactical success; but no, they are suffering a gigantic (and potentially fatal for them) strategic disaster, given that their Nov. 7 “success” has united all of Israel and led to the realization (as noted above) that only the decimation of Hamas and henchmen will suffice for Israel. Iran, too, is being shown up: its other “proxies” (Hezbollah, the Houtis in Yemen) are now proving to be paper tigers, indulging in a little muscle-flexing from afar, but no real threat to Israel and certainly not helping Hamas very much (another Hamas misconception). Even worse from Iran’s perspective: the only country that they really fear, the U.S., is now ever more ensconced in the Middle East (three aircraft carriers and thousands more marines), ready to respond to any aggressive moves by Iran or its militant proxies.

5) The Democratic West over time has tried to be somewhat “evenhanded” regarding the conflict. Hamas’ reign of terror on Oct. 7 has shattered that approach: Europe’s main governments now see that the Middle East conflict cannot be resolved as long as Moslem terrorists are given a relatively free hand – in Gaza, the West Bank, and within Europe itself – because the extremists “lead” local public opinion and will try to undercut any “peace” attempt. This explains why several leaders of central European countries (Germany, England, France, even Austria!) have taken a strong stance supporting Israel in its present war – compared to previous wishy-washy mumblings even during Israel’s limited military “campaigns.”

6) World Jewry come in many flavors, most having to rethink their situation post-Oct. 7.

For Jewish political moderates: anti-Semitism is not declining; they are not living in Jewish “heaven” (or even haven). The reverse: despite the travesties perpetrated by Hamas, anti-Semitism (no longer hiding behind anti-Zionist rhetoric) is spiking around the world. However, the need for reconceptualization is even greater for the Jewish Left. For them, even former “allies” (blacks, Palestinians, LGBTQ) have joined the anti-Semitic (or at least anti-Zionist) chorus. Not to mention some of their close brethren: Jewish, extreme Leftists who can show no pity for their own people brutally massacred in Israel e.g., tearing down the posters of kidnapped Israeli civilians, including children.

After any violent volcanic explosion, the terrain becomes transformed. What is true in Geology is also the case in Geo-Politics. Hamas’s attack on Oct. 7 and Israel’s present fierce response will leave the political landscape radically changed as move into the future. Everyone involved in the Middle East, near and far, is undergoing a cognitive process that will take a while to reshape. When that’s over, the potential for reaching a positive modus vivendi (if not real peace) might well be greater than before. Time will tell.

About the Author
Prof. Sam Lehman-Wilzig (PhD in Government, 1976; Harvard U) presently serves as Academic Head of the Communications Department at the Peres Academic Center (Rehovot). Previously, he taught at Bar-Ilan University (1977-2017), serving as: Head of the Journalism Division (1991-1996); Political Studies Department Chairman (2004-2007); and School of Communication Chairman (2014-2016). He was also Chair of the Israel Political Science Association (1997-1999). He has published five books and 69 scholarly articles on Israeli Politics; New Media & Journalism; Political Communication; the Jewish Political Tradition; the Information Society. His new book (in Hebrew, with Tali Friedman): RELIGIOUS ZIONISTS RABBIS' FREEDOM OF SPEECH: Between Halakha, Israeli Law, and Communications in Israel's Democracy (Niv Publishing, 2024). For more information about Prof. Lehman-Wilzig's publications (academic and popular), see:
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