Analysis & Opinions - The Atlantic

A Devastating Attack by Hamas

| Oct. 07, 2023

How did Israel not see it coming?

The attacks by Hamas against Israel beginning early this morning, some of which are ongoing, will be met by Israel with force. How all of this will unfold, and its impact on domestic and global politics, is not clear, but a simple answer may suffice for now: It will not go well. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already warned his citizens that they are at war; civil reservists have been called up; videos are showing hand battles on the streets. The country is on lockdown, with the potential for future strikes in the south by Hamas and new ones by Hezbollah in the north. A country torn apart by domestic divisions seems to be united against a common enemy. As of this writing, the death toll is confirmed at a minimum of 70 Israelis, with hundreds more wounded.

One aspect of this needs little analysis, but a lot of explanation: How did Israel's extensive counterterrorism efforts fail to pick up an attack waged by land, sea, and air? How did its defenses fail so extensively? This wasn't just an intelligence failure. It was an everything failure. Israeli and American commentators are already describing this as Israel's 9/11, but that comparison is a crutch—9/11 was about, in the words of the commission that reviewed it, a "failure of imagination" to understand what could happen in America, a nation that had not encountered foreign terror threats of any significant magnitude. Israel has existed, still exists, with that very imaginable prospect as part of its national being....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Kayyem, Juliette.“A Devastating Attack by Hamas.” The Atlantic, October 7, 2023.

The Author

Juliette Kayyem Headshot