J.J Gross

The ‘Seikhl’ Failure That Preceded the Intelligence Failure

Inconsolable grief. Collective frustration. Deep fear for the welfare of our hostage citizens. Profound worry about the safety of our troops as they stand poised to enter Gaza. All these are compounded by our bafflement over the colossal intelligence failure that precipitated this colossal train wreck.

No doubt, in due course, an autopsy will be performed on this lethal intelligence screwup. Heads will roll and barrels of Monday morning quarterback ink will be spilled. But the damage shall have been done.

If we are to be honest with ourselves, the intelligence failure on the Gaza border was an effect rather than the prime cause of this horror show, which long preceded the event itself.

Indeed, the prime cause was not a failure of intelligence, but a failure of seikhl, good old fashioned common sense. And this was the failure to understand what Hamas is and what Hamas is not.

The ideological relationship between Hamas and the goal of forming a Palestinian state is purely coincidental. It always was.

Indeed, Hamas was always, first and foremost, a radical, violent Islamist movement whose sole purpose was – and remains – the elimination of all Jews living in this part of the world. It’s right there in its charter. For Hamas, as indeed for any Islamist organization, the Palestinian issue is no more than a decoy to deflect from its core mission.

Hamas’s raison d’etre has never been political. It is a matter of religion. In this it was, and remains, no different than the Taliban or ISIS or Boko Haram or, for that matter, the Iranian mullocracy.

Yes, Hamas put on a more sophisticated face. Its leaders flitted about in private jets wearing tailored suits, reeking of designer aftershave. And we allowed this civilizing camouflage to lull us into an entirely irrational complacency.

We assumed that the differences and animosities between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority were the sort of teapot differences one always finds between two opposing, but virtually identical, groups, be they Hassidic sects, college professors, or Democrats and Republicans.

Hardly. Hamas was, from the get go, in the business of massacring Jews. And our political leaders, military leaders, professors and pundits refused to see what was staring us in the face.

To its credit, Hamas has never made the slightest attempt to present itself differently. Not only was the massacre of Jews engraved into its charter, but its behavior has been consistent.

By holding Gilad Shalit incommunicado for six years, without any Red Cross visits, without allowing any packages, without allowing even minimal communication, Hamas was making it VERY clear that he was alive ONLY to serve as a bargaining chip in exchange for 1,000 of its prime murderers. There was ZERO humanitarian consideration behind his being kept alive.

And yet we treated the Shalit case as an almost normal prisoner swap – much as an equally naïve America just did when it traded five Iranian criminals and $6 billion in cash for five hostages who just happened to also own American passports.

And when, in total disregard for the Geneva Conventions, Hamas has, for years, kept the bodies of two dead Israeli soldiers as trading cards for hundreds of its killers, it should have told us that we are not dealing with an opponent that can be dealt with on any level of civilized exchange.

It is no coincidence that Hamas is a proxy of Iran. Both are absolutist in their convictions. Both operate with ZERO heart regarding their designated enemies. Both are motivated by religious conviction rather than political goals and expediencies. Both assign no value to human life – including that of their own people. Both celebrate the ‘martyrdom’ of their dead fighters.

And yet, Israel, like the United States – certainly the United States under Barack Obama and Joe Biden – has been incapable of recognizing all this. And because of our self-delusion, we could not possibly imagine Hamas ever doing what it just did. We could not imagine its terrorists slaughtering women and children point blank, burning people alive in their homes, dragging ancient wheelchair-bound survivors, women and children into captivity, all while howling “Allahu Aqbar” in religious zeal and joyous celebration.

What happened on Simhat Torah may have been a colossal intelligence failure. But it is absolutely clear that such an intelligence failure could never have happened had we not blinded ourselves to exactly who these killers have always been.

Indeed, had we recognized Hamas as just a better dressed ISIS or Taliban, we would have destroyed it long ago.

Tragically, our prolonged, collective lapse of seikhl and concomitant concerns over what the world will think of us have now brought us to this moment of horrible truth.

About the Author
J.J Gross is a veteran creative director and copywriter, who made aliyah in 2007 from New York. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a lifelong student of Bible and Talmud. He is also the son of Holocaust survivors from Hungary and Slovakia.
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