E Things You Can't See From There

I live in Israel. At the moment, we are going through another bout of war with Hamas. While the rockets are bigger and are coming in larger salvos these flareups are a sadly regular occurrence. But something else is happening now. Something new.

Widespread ethnic rioting within Israel itself.

The lessons of this rioting have tremendous bearing on the United States and other countries at risk of sectarian division.

Israeli society is loosely held together. There are undercurrents of resentment and anger between lots of ethnicities. Knitting together a multi-ethnic society is hard. The *Jews* in Israel often have a hard time of it - with tensions across lines of religious and national origin.

Somali Wild Ass, Desert, Negev, Israel


One can watch and simply hope that they generally improve. I was *delighted* to see that an Arab party might be included in a right-wing or centrist government. I was delighted to see the Abraham Accords. These things heralded a new era - in which "the Arabs" and "the Jews" were not necessarily enemies.

Now, it is all falling apart. Yesterday, in cities with Arab and Jewish populations - cities that represented coexistence - there were anti-Jewish pogroms.

Today, there are anti-Arab pogroms as well.

Only a few weeks ago, the ethnic lines were cracking. A new light was just beginning to shine.

And I think that's exactly why we have the situation we have now.

The current tensions, by my reading, were sparked not by Sheikh Jarrah (a contested neighborhood in Jerusalem) or police on the Temple Mount. The tensions were sparked by the Palestinian elections. The PA is supposed to have elections every four years. The last parliamentary elections were in 2006. Fatah (the PLO party) and Hamas agreed to elections in May of this year.

Why does this matter? Because when March 31st arrived and official lists were needed, Marwan Barghouti’s wife and a few other breakaway members of Fatah formed a party separate from Fatah. The opinion polls showed Hamas would have 30% of the vote while Fatah would have 22%. The new party would have 28%. Fatah - Mahmoud Abbas' party - realized they'd lose.

Fatah needed reasons to cancel the elections. They started with Jerusalem voting. On April 29th (less than two weeks ago), they used that lever to cancel the elections. But as Reuters put it "many Palestinians regarded the Jerusalem issue as an excuse to avoid elections that Fatah might well lose to its Islamist rivals Hamas, as it did in the last parliamentary ballot in 2006."

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Mike Nolan 3 weeks ago Member's comment

So I'm a bit confused about something and maybe you can clear it up... So Hamas is a terrorist group... but also a political party? And they control Gaza. The Palestinian Authority under Abbas is another, more moderate party. in the last election, ages ago, the terrorists won the election and took over.... but only in Gaza? Are Gaza and the West Bank separate countries with separate elections? Or do they have one election to determine who governs both areas? And if the latter, how did Abbas end up in control of the West Bank even though he lost?

So then I read there were going to be Palestinian elections again for the first time in like 15 years (why so long?). Then I heard they were cancelled. But why? Now I hear that Hamas is a shoe-in to win the next election since they are now more popular than ever on the streets of both Gaza and the West Bank. The reason for their sky rocketing popularity? Because they were able to kill a few Israeli Jewish (and Arab) women and children in Israel, at the expense of a couple hundred of their own people.

None of this makes sense to me. What else am I missing?

Joseph Cox 3 weeks ago Author's comment

Technically Gaza and the WB are under the same entity, the Palestinian Authority. There are multiple parties. Abbas leads Fatah. Fatah was deeply surprised in the last elections (2005 or 2006) and has basically cancelled all elections since. They were physically pushed out of Gaza by Hamas (throwing people off buildings etc...). I *think* Fatah won in the last elections in the WB districts, but they also maintain the security forces there - ensuring Hamas hasn't challenged them yet. They lock up Hamas people all the time. But Hamas may well try now.

Hamas is a shoe-in because of their unerring dedication to Israel's destruction as compared to Fatah's deep deep deep corruption.

You have Western eyes. Whichever party delivers the tangible goodies (peace, prosperity, freedom) wins. But there are other eyes, *one* of which is: whichever party delivers Arab/Islamic honor wins. That can be more important than life or even tangible success in delivering victory.

Mike Nolan 3 weeks ago Member's comment

Thanks, very interesting and helps to clear up a lot of the confusion. But I still find it so odd since you are correct - I have western eyes and the Middle East quagmire makes no sense to me.

Don't the Gazan people realize that Hamas makes their lives harder? I don't even mean the islamic laws they have to live under, but don't they realize that when Hamas fires rockets, it barely hurts Israel at all (it certainly won't wipe the country out), and yet ensures hundreds of Gazans will die in retribution?

So are there going to be elections again? And if so, you think Hamas will win again?

Joseph Cox 3 weeks ago Author's comment

Hamas might force elections somehow. They are in the poll position. But I doubt it. There might also be intra-Palestinian violence unless Fatah takes a much harder line with Israel (which they are beginning to do).

Let me give a corollary argument more in line with the West. Let's say there was a government that made it illegal to say what you wanted to. Total lack of freedom of speech, no allowance to criticize the government.

There's a revolutionary group dedicated to speaking out. They regularly get arrested, killed, whatever. Their families and communities also get hit. They seem to have no chance of success.

There's another group that takes money from the government and occasionally says how good it would be if they could say whatever they wanted to. Materially and physically things are better, but they aren't making any progress on the freedom front.

If you had the chance for elections would you vote for the group that says what they want or the group that gets paid to be namby pamby?

Hamas is that revolutionary group and they are very popular because Arab/Palestinian/Islamic supremacy is worth more than everything else - and is worth risking everything else and worth standing up for even if it seems hopeless. Fatah is the corrupt group.

Mike Nolan 3 weeks ago Member's comment

I get what you are saying. But would my only two choices really be Hamas or Fatah? And you left out the most important part - Fatah may be corrupt, but Hamas would get me killed. No rockets were fired to or from the West Bank.

Joseph Cox 3 weeks ago Author's comment

Those are the choices now, in part because both Fatah and Hamas are good at limiting *other* choices. If anybody breaks the basic formation they get castigated as undermining Palestinian rights, polluting Al Aqsa with Jews etc... I think it is important to undermine these forces of conformance - which is why I think Ra'am and the UAE are so important.

Mike Nolan 3 weeks ago Member's comment

You make a lot of sense. I'm still left a little bewildered by it all. I think you are right that those of us in the West really don't understand the Middle East at all.

Joseph Cox 3 weeks ago Author's comment

I know it seems helplessly self-promotional, but I wrote a book that helps put people in the shoes of the locals and thus better understand (and understand what might actually make things better). It is a fiction thriller and so not a dry read at all. City on the Heights by Joseph Cox.

Mike Nolan 3 weeks ago Member's comment

Thanks for the tip!

Frank Underwood 4 weeks ago Member's comment

So when do you think this round of fighting with Hamas will end? And once a ceasefire is declared, will the internal riots end as well?

Joseph Cox 3 weeks ago Author's comment

Internal riots might simmer, but not end for a while. Hamas did very well in fomenting them and Israel did a very poor job of blunting them.

Adam Reynolds 1 month ago Member's comment

Nice to see some coverage of important global events here. This article on TM also has an interesting take on the conflict:

Gaza And Israel – “A Taste Of Armageddon” talkmarkets.com/.../gaza-and-israel--a-taste-of-armageddon

Danny Straus 1 month ago Member's comment

I agree that with Abbas' Arab Ra'am party about to join the government, it was truly an historic moment for Israel and Jewish/Arab coexistence withing the country. Don't you think that it's possible, that all this - the rocket attacks and the riots - were manipulated to prevent this from happening? It likely would have greatly improved Arab communities standard of living and led to a more normalization of internal relations.

The question is, who is pulling the strings? Iran controls Hamas. But who is instigating the rioters? I saw the pictures of piles and piles of rocks being stored at mosques right before the riots - all this was planned.

Craig Newman 1 month ago Member's comment

Might be who you least expect. Netanyahu has been in power for over a decade and reportedly would do anything, anything to stay in power. He was about to be ousted and replaced with a centrist-left government including the Arab Party. Now he's going to stay in power with a center-right government, with no Arabs. Very convenient timing.

Ayelet Wolf 4 weeks ago Member's comment

Craig Newman Bibi may be committed to staying in power. But he would never form an alliance with Hamas to do so. And they would never with him either. He also wouldn't put Israeli lives at risk. It's kind of a crazy suggestion. And as Mr. Cox said, there was no guarantee it would have worked in his favor.

Joseph Cox 4 weeks ago Author's comment

I could see this, but Netanyahu gaining something from this (which apparently he has) was extremely uncertain. He literally could be kicked out of government today if Ra'am, Bennet and Lapid had done what I suggested. The benefits for Bibi were uncertain. The benefits for Hamas and Fatah - in terms of maintaining their position - were undeniable.

Craig Newman 4 weeks ago Member's comment

It would have been impossible for Ra'am to join the government while their voters are being lynched and beaten in the streets (and doing plenty of rioting and lynching of their own. If you wanted to find a way to keep Ra'am out of the government, this was the only sure way to do it.

Joseph Cox 4 weeks ago Author's comment

Not quite. I think Ra'am draws more from the Beduin population in the South (Rahat, Be'er Sheva) where we haven't seen the same rioting. There's a mistake in drawing a single line between Arab and Jew. Both the Jewish and Arab populations (even the Palestinian population), has many different groups with many different experiences, perspectives and interests. That is critical for the future. The harder the lines are drawn (and the fewer lines are drawn) the worse the reality.

Craig Newman 3 weeks ago Member's comment

I appreciate your insights on this. As much as I thought I knew about the region, you clearly know much more.

Joseph Cox 3 weeks ago Author's comment

Nobody really knows, we just try to put ourselves in various people's shoes and understand as best we can.

James Madison 1 month ago Member's comment

American is a powder keg ready to go off. The hate and distrust between left and right are at an all time high. You are right that I can see the similarities between what is happening in Israel right now. I can also see what the same riots in Israel, boiling over into the US. Just yesterday, Palestinian protesters nearly lynched a man in Times Square in broad daylight. He was narrowly rescued by police.

Wendell Brown 4 weeks ago Member's comment

Funny how 'nearly lynched' isn't on the news anywhere. Are you watching the QAnon news? Oh, maybe Tucker Carlson? Please provide legitimate source.

James Madison 4 weeks ago Member's comment
Joseph Cox 4 weeks ago Author's comment
Leslie Miriam 4 weeks ago Member's comment

Wow, thanks for the video link. I can't believe someone can be attacked like that in broad daylight, right in Times Square, just for being Jewish. What is the world coming to?

James Madison 4 weeks ago Member's comment

Leslie Miriam, It's happening all over the world right now. Sadly, I believe Trump made it "cool" to hate, and it's now gone mainstream the world over.

Ayelet Wolf 1 month ago Member's comment

When you say there were anti-Jewish pogroms, and as are a result, there are now Arab pogroms, what are you referring to? I saw pictures of Lod and Haifa in flames, synagogues and Jewish owned stores burned to the ground. I saw pictures and videos of Jews being dragged from their cars and beaten to unconsciousness. I saw only one incident, in Bat Yam, of the same being done to an Arab.

Horrible yes, but one incident vs. hundreds is not the equivalency you imply.

And from what I understand, we don't even know the full details of what happened in Bat Yam - he was ramming cars before he was attacked, and they haven't even confirmed he was an Arab, last I saw.

Joseph Cox 1 month ago Author's comment

Also a stabbing in Mahane Yehuda, multiple rallies where "death to Arabs" was chanted and Jewish mobs in Tiberias and Haifa. Same amount? Probably not. But still a very troubling fracturing.

Ayelet Wolf 1 month ago Member's comment

Definitely not the same amount. I saw countless synagogues and Jewish stores burned to the ground in Israel. How many mosques or Arab stores were burned? Not a one that I saw. You have to be careful of falling into the trap that this is all a "cycle of violence" where both sides are equally to blame, and equally violent. That's simply not the case.

Brittany Lacey 4 weeks ago Member's comment

It must be terrible to live through it, but remember that on the world stage we see some stores in Israel being burned and whole apartment blocks in Gaza being blown apart. You may not equate the two, but to say no mosques or stores were damaged misses the larger point.

Ayelet Wolf 4 weeks ago Member's comment

Israel does not bomb mosques. Even when they know they are used to store weapons. Also, Israeli doesn't carpet bomb blocks of apartments. They use precision guided missiles to hit precise military targets. Hamas purposely embeds these military targets among civilians so create collateral damage which unfortunately is unavoidable.

At the end of the day, Israel only targets the military, Hamas only targets civilians. That's why the world classifies them as a terrorist organization.

Joseph Cox 1 month ago Author's comment

I didn't say that. i certainly didn't say that about Gaza. I did say that a massive fissure is happening (that hasn't happened in previous wars) and there is certainly a fissure happening on both sides. My point wasn't to apportion blame - even to both sides. It was point out that this split is happening. I've seen it in conversations with Jews, I've seen it on the streets on both sides (yes, more on the Arab side). My real concern is about unwinding it.

Texan Hunter 1 month ago Member's comment

Hamas is a terrorist organization sworn to the destruction of Israel. They aren't interested in peace. Israelis will never find the solitude they seek unless they get the backbone to march into Gaza and wiped those terrorists out.

Joseph Cox 4 weeks ago Author's comment

All my consolation had nothing to do with Hamas. As I put it in a post elsewhere: 99% of Jews were ethnically cleansed from countries governed by Muslims. Hamas wants to do the same in Israel.

Hamas is *not* all Arabs or Muslims. The Abraham Accords and even Ra'am showed that a more practical and ultimately positive reality can emerge. And it was deeply, deeply, threatening.

Susan Miller 1 month ago Member's comment

I understand that Hamas hates Israel and wants to kill all Jews, but I thought Israeli Arabs got along with their Israeli Jewish neighbors. Why are they rioting?

Joseph Cox 1 month ago Author's comment

"Got along" might be a bit strong. Coexist might be closer. But co-exist has a broad range of reality and is different in different places.

Why riot? It depends on who is rioting. Young hoodlums? Perhaps motivated by Islamic preachers or Palestinian nationalistic fervor. Others might be focused on inequalities - whatever their cause. Recent Arab riots/assaults - prior to this explosion - were focused on Jews buying homes in Arab neighborhoods.

As with many violent protest movements, there are many fathers.

On the Jewish side? I see mostly a reaction to Arab violence - albeit an unacceptable reaction. As with any mob, things have a tendency to spiral out of control.

Perhaps the fuel was provided by coming out of lock down and having the Israeli world re-open. There's a lot of pent up energy and all that was needed was a few well placed sparks.

Susan Miller 1 month ago Member's comment

Thanks for adding some color to the situation. It does make more sense now.

Adam Reynolds 4 weeks ago Member's comment

A really open look at the situation from Trevor Noah - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NeZ4yXyzUG0

Alexa Graham 4 weeks ago Member's comment

Trevor Noah has zero understanding of the complexities of the Middle East. Unfortunately, many celebrities know nothing more than what they see that's viral on social media - completely unvetted, and often fake or misattributed news.

For some reason, many celebrities and influencers think their fame actually gives them the right to consider themselves an expert on topics that they have zero expertise or personal knowledge of. Don't look to such people for guidance!

Joseph Cox 4 weeks ago Author's comment

Trevor's is an interesting question. I think the answer in the case of the kid is you can do enough to stop the kid from hurting you. Note that if Israel just wanted to kill, they could kill tens or hundreds of thousands in hours. If Israel doesn't go in, a few hundred, or many a thousand will die. They are holding their punches, but they are also not allowing Hamas to hide in media buildings or under residential buildings or all the other places they have stashed rockets. Allowing that sort of behavior just encourages it - treating those places as untouchable just encourages them to store weapons there and launch them from there.

The world's eyes are on Israel. You see condemnations from places like China - or are eliminating an entire culture because of a few knife attacks. Or Syria, where hundreds of thousands have died in the recent civil war and back in the 80s 20-50,000 were killed over a weekend. Or Turkey which, due to a few casualties, invaded Northern Syria and killed thousands and displaced hundreds of thousands. Or the West which killed thousands in Libya when they weren't even threatened. Proportionally, more Israelis were killed in the Second Intifada than Americans on 9/11. And yet America responded with massive wars that killed huge numbers in Iraq and Afghanistan. I'm not saying the situation is good - but the responses of the world can be a little self-serving when coming from people who regularly do far worse in their own defense.

But the real problem with Trevor Noah's argument is that Hamas does not stand alone. They have a big brother in the north (Hizbullah) and they have a really big brother in Iran (also Hizbullah). The Lebanese branch has the power to overwhelm Israeli missile defenses. It seems, if the missile from Dimona is an example, that Israel would also face attacks from Yemen. But Iran is holding back because they are waiting for the power to erase Israel. They are waiting for nukes. In a multi-front war between Iran (from Syria), Lebanon, Gaza and Yemen, Israel is no longer overwhelmingly powerful. It's survival is very much in doubt. Because Hamas decided to attack, Israel has the chance to remove one of those fronts now. I think that's why they are taking it.

And that comes back to the crux of the issue. Over 40% of Israel's population comes from Muslim governed countries. Those countries lost 99% of their Jewish population between 1948 and now. This was ethnic cleansing on a grand and incredibly effective scale. My sister-in-law's family is from Afghanistan and Egypt, my nephew just married a girl from Yemen, my ex-brother-in-law was from Iran, my street corona prayer group has people from Iraq and Morocco. All their former communities have been completely erased. Continental Europe, by contrast, removed only 80% of their Jews from before the Holocaust until today (and that was with the Holocaust).

The *reason* Israel has the military power it has is because it is the stated goal of Hamas, Iran and others to finish the job. They want to kill or expel all Jews from Israel. Quite simply, we're done running. I'm a dual citizen, I can run to the US. But the vast majority of Israeli Jews can't. We've run/been forced home and we've developed the ability to fight back and we'll hold our punches but we won't simply let our people get shot at. The time for Jews passively watching as people try to kill them has passed. The Chinese, Americans, Syrians, Turks and others don't do it, so why should we?

The best solution, of course, is to bring the ethnic conflict to a close. This is what I'm hopeful for. In my opinion, the very possibility of this is what sparked this war. Hamas exists to kill Jews and destroy Israel. They can't afford to have peace break out in a region of war.

Noah make fun of Kushner, but the Abraham Accords were the most important thing to happen here in decades. Kushner achieved more than anybody since the age of Sadat. I argue he achieved more. Egyptians hate Israel, but Israel has a warm relationship with the UAE etc...

Alexa Graham 3 weeks ago Member's comment

Excellent answer. You should pen an open letter to Trevor Noah with your response!

Joseph Cox 1 month ago Author's comment

FYI, "the City on the Heights" (the book I quoted from) can be found at www.josephcox.com