In times of crisis, Israelis rally around their leaders. This time is different

By | October 9, 2023

Janine Zacharia writes:

I started hearing from friends in Israel on Saturday that the number of partygoers murdered at an all-night rave near the Gaza border was much higher than authorities were disclosing.

Soon after, distraught relatives began appearing outside hospitals, recounting on live TV their final conversations with their missing loved ones. “Nissim, I am dying,” one grief-stricken man recalled his brother saying before he lost contact with him. Many said they then heard conversations in Arabic before lines went dead.

At 10:02 p.m. Sunday in Israel, a headline flashed on the Haaretz news site: Rescue workers had found an inconceivable 260 bodies at the party site. As of 11 p.m. Sunday, the official total number of Israeli casualties from a little over one day of widespread massacres had surpassed 700. Israel’s Army Radio reported at least 900 dead on Monday.

This doesn’t include more than 100 civilians (including children and elderly) and soldiers taken hostage alive — or dead — into Gaza as documented in video clips posted on Hamas’ Telegram channel, or the bodies of those still on the streets of Israel.

“This is a different scale than we are used to,” Israeli anchor Udi Segal remarked on local Channel 13 as the shockingly enormous scope of the tragedy became apparent.

Alon Ben-David, the veteran Israeli defense correspondent for Channel 13, at one point became the fulcrum of the nation’s fury as anchors pummeled him with questions about how the vaunted Israel Defense Forces and the country’s thought-to-be unparalleled intelligence community could fail so completely. “We are giving the impression that everything is under control. Everything is not under control,” reporter Gil Tamary erupted.

There haven’t been hundreds of Israeli civilians killed in a single day for as long as anyone can remember, if ever. In the entire nearly five years of the second Palestinian intifada from 2000 to 2005, roughly 1,000 Israelis were killed. The country has never had grandparents and young children abducted like this so there was no mechanism in place for communicating with families as there is for kidnapped soldiers.

This attack is being compared to the 1973 Yom Kippur War when Arab armies surprised Israel almost 50 years ago to the day. But this is more traumatic. Not only because of the sheer number of murdered young civilians — in addition to young soldiers. But because of the way the horror is unfolding live on television, radio and social media and the way Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government — that millions of Israelis have been protesting for months over right-wing attempts to weaken the judiciary — seems completely absent and incompetent. [Continue reading…]

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