Skip to Content

Opinion: 6 months since October 7, there are no winners here

Opinion by Frida Ghitis

(CNN) — Almost exactly six months ago, Israelis awoke to a nightmare. Civilians in the southern part of the country, areas near the border with Gaza, were under a brutal, ongoing attack. It would become the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust and a prelude to unspeakable suffering on both sides of the border.

Six months after Hamas launched that deadly rampage, knowing that Israel’s response would be ferocious, there are only losers in this terrible war.

It’s hard now to find many winners with the death toll mounting among Gazans and hunger growing in the strip. And with Israeli hostages still held captive, perhaps in dank Hamas tunnels.

For Hamas, the fact that war continues may count as a victory, but thousands of Hamas’ fighters — the exact number is disputed — have been killed. Hamas may be decimated, perhaps unable to hold on to power, but that’s no victory for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is under growing global pressure and besieged by protesters at home, and whose legacy will be forever darkened.

Even US President Joe Biden has paid a price, caught in an election-year political vise between those who think he is too supportive of Israel and those who think he has been too critical.

The strife has also detonated a worldwide explosion of antisemitism, reviving a hatred that had lain lightly dormant. It’s causing anxiety across Europe, and leading some American Jews to conclude that one country where they had felt safe is no longer a haven, as they face antisemitism from the left and the right. Anti-Muslim bigotry has also increased.

This awful chapter started on October 7 last year, when Hamas terrorists breached what was supposed to be a secure border and slaughtered Israelis in their beds, in their living rooms, in their cars, at an outdoor music festival and bus shelters and parks.

They raped countless women with horrifying brutality.

Israeli security forces were nowhere to be found for hours. Hamas — the Iran-allied group that rules Gaza — killed more than 1,200 Israelis and dragged back hundreds more as hostages. The area lay in ruins. Israelis’ sense of security had been shattered.

Today, it is Gaza that lies in ruinstens of thousands of Palestinians killed by Israel in its quest to uproot and destroy Hamas. As Israel crushes Gaza, its global reputation is getting shattered. But still the IDF believes around 100 Israeli hostages remain captive of Hamas and other militants in conditions that one shudders to imagine.

This week’s Israeli strike on a World Central Kitchen (WCK) convoy, killing seven aid workers, adds to the calamity of this convulsion in the perennially unstable crossroads of the Middle East. Amid the outrage and heartbreak, WCK’s founder, celebrity chef José Andrés, accuses Israel of targeting his staff. Israel has apologized, saying the convoy was misidentified. Israel has fired two officers and reprimanded senior commanders after an inquiry into the strike.

There was never any question that Israel would respond to October 7. It had been attacked by a group that promised it would repeat the massacre of Israelis and is backed by Iran, a country whose leaders have vowed to destroy Israel. The attack led some there to conclude that whatever price Israel should pay for absolute victory — including in global public opinion — it is worth paying. Besides, the attackers kidnapped hundreds of its citizens, including women, children and the elderly. Israel needed to save them.

In the immediate aftermath, world leaders expressed support for Israel. But when the death toll in Gaza starting climbing, as Hamas knew it would, international support for Israel turned to withering criticism. In the most painful irony of all, Israel — the country that became home to Holocaust survivors, under attack by a group whose original charter outlined a genocidal ideology and a vow to destroy Israel — was itself perversely accused of genocide.

As always, the greatest suffering, the biggest losers, have been civilians on both sides. Palestinians in Gaza are enduring a living nightmare. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says more than 30,000 have been killed in the conflict. The figures don’t distinguish between combatants and civilians, but there’s little doubt that horrifyingly large numbers of them, including children, have been killed. The territory is a wasteland.

Gazans are caught between the cynicism of Hamas, the geopolitical concerns of their Arab neighbors and Israel’s determination to win at any cost. Hamas leaders, comfortable in exile, proclaimed early on that they are “proud to sacrifice martyrs.” Hamas fighters embedded themselves in Gaza’s population, including in hospitals, essentially daring Israel to kill civilians to get to them.

In most wars, civilians would have been allowed to flee the fighting, but the people of Gaza were not allowed to leave the territory whether they wanted to or not. Hamas urged them to stay. Egypt, worried about whether Israel would allow the people to return and concerned about instability on its soil, closed its border to all but a small number of Palestinian civilians.

The cruel fact is that the lives of Palestinians have not been the highest priority for anyone in this war.

Complicating the situation is the political crisis in Israel, which preceded the October 7 attack. Netanyahu — a political survivor who faces corruption charges — already presided over the most right-wing government in Israel’s history. Before the war, tens of thousands of Israelis took to the streets in nearly 10 months of weekly protests against a plan that would have severely weakened Israeli democracy by stripping the Supreme Court of much of its power.

Netanyahu was, in my view and others’, already the worst prime minister in Israels history even before October 7.

Polls have found that most Israelis want him gone. Now Benny Gantz, a member of the war cabinet but also the leading opposition figure before the war, has called for new elections in September. Recent polling says say he’s Netanyahu’s most likely successor.

The fact that Netanyahu is heading the government during one of the most dangerous, most damaging times in Israel’s history only adds to the disturbing nature of this conflict. Israel is not in good hands.

Would another leader, a different government, have been able to conduct the war with fewer civilian deaths, with less damage to Israel’s global standing, without eroding the vital relationship between Israel and the United States? I suspect the answer is yes.

If there’s any glimmer of hope in this dispiriting landscape it is that the young Abraham Accords — which normalized relations between Israel and some of its Arab neighbors — have survived the toughest of stress tests. That augurs well for the long run, for more stability of the region, eventually.

It opens the door to the possibility that once this war is over, once the post-war phase — whatever that looks like — also comes to an end, there could be a new architecture that leads to peace. For that to happen, however, two of the many losing protagonists in this conflict, Hamas and Netanyahu, cannot remain in power.

™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

Article Topic Follows: cnn-opinion

Jump to comments ↓

CNN Newsource


KTVZ NewsChannel 21 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content