Chained to the columns of Gaza’s Dagon temple, his hair shaved, his eyes blinded, his powers gone, and his freedom lost, Samson cried out to God for strength to execute his final revenge: “Let my soul perish with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the sergeants and all the civilians. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.
Thus concludes the peculiar biblical myth of Samson. With his superpowers, the super Hebrew was destined to lead his people and deliver them from the threat posed by the Philistines. But God put these immense powers in the wrong hands, and Samson’s arrogant acts of violence were mostly self-serving. His multiple love affairs with Philistine women led to political tensions, sectarian violence, and repeating cycles of vengeance that got him into trouble with both peoples. Finally, Samson’s only legacy became the body count buried under the rubble of his suicide mission in Gaza.
More than 3,000 years have passed. Peoples, religions, and empires came and went. But today, that same Gaza is once more in rubble. The body count of both sergeants and civilians is insurmountable. More than 22,000 dead in Gaza, most of them noncombatants, many wounded and unable to receive medical treatment, and almost all remaining survivors displaced and on the brink of starvation and disease.
The Gaza Strip has always been a blind spot for Israel, even more so since the unilateral disengagement from Gaza in 2005 and the strict blockade that followed two years later. Hamas took advantage of this blind spot in its horrific attack on October 7. The blind and arrogant Israeli leadership failed in every way. It failed to prevent the attack, failed to protect the hostages, failed to evacuate the wounded, and failed to manage the chaos that followed.
Civil society stepped into the vacuum with many initiatives of social solidarity. The unprecedented death toll and the sheer viciousness of the killings, torture, and rape by Hamas terrorists instantly united this divided country. And when Netanyahu declared war, every reserve soldier showed up. Citizens who for nine months had protested against the government stood behind it and against the threat from Gaza. This climate left very little room for anyone in Israel . It also left very little public appetite for criticism of the war. Israel shut its eyes and heart to the suffering in Gaza.
Blinded by fear and outrage, Israeli citizens bestowed immense powers in the wrong hands. Meanwhile, Netanyahu saw clearly what he always sees best: his own self-interest. He set unachievable goals for this war, and his government continuously seeks to extend and expand it. He knows his government’s days are numbered and that its fall may mark the end of his political career and possibly land him in jail on multiple corruption cases. Netanyahu has never been interested in peace. But now he has a clear interest in war.
Holocaust traumas weaponized, Israelis have been fiercely defending the state’s right to defend itself on every front or platform. The just calls to free the hostages blended with the denial and even justification of excessive use of force. Recently, this blindness to the Israel Defense Force’s own loose cannons backfired when three unarmed Israeli hostages wearing no shirts and waving a white cloth, begging for rescue in Hebrew, were hunted and killed by the soldiers who were tasked with saving them. Furthermore, according to , IDF figures reveal that 17.5 percent of the army’s casualties result from “friendly fire.”
The war, fueled by terror and vengeance, is led by those who failed to prevent it and are now scrambling to save face. Yet the faces of Israeli hostages are staring down at everybody from every wall on every street. And every day Israelis wake up to confront the faces of soldiers who saved no one, not even themselves.
Meanwhile, in the West Bank, racist fundamentalist settlers are singing Samson’s praises. The biblical womanizer who murdered and robbed to settle bets, who tied torches to the tails of foxes to set Philistine fields ablaze, who served as a judge to his people but mostly showed lack of judgment, who finally saved no one, not even himself, has become the model for Jewish supremacy. Willfully blind to the irony, the settlers sing, “Avenge but one of my two eyes,” as they terrorize Palestinian villages, burn Palestinian orchards, and force communities off their land. Under the fog of war, a faction of these homegrown terrorists amplifies these acts of ethnic cleansing as ministers and government officials. They continue to corrupt the police, the jail system, the judicial system, and the army to clear the way for further ethnocratic fundamentalism and annexation.
The genocidal statements from government officials that are widely reported around the world are not a gaffe. They present Israel’s most incompetent, corrupt, and irresponsible government ever as ideological, determined, intentional, calculated, strategic, disciplined … and nothing could be further from the truth. More than genocide, this is suicide.
As the country inches closer toward the edge, how can the United States, Israel’s closest ally, assist?
Western powers have been shocked by the horrific, unjustifiable massacre by Hamas and rushed to “stand with Israel.” The U.S. has not only given the Israeli government a blank check for this war, it has also been writing additional checks to fund it. Western leaders remain unconvinced at claims of “genocide,” but how can they claim to be “standing with Israel” and assist in its suicide?
President Biden rushed to Israel’s defense. He hoped he could contain the fire from spreading up north and avoid a regional war, which together with the war in Ukraine, may spiral into a third world war. On the geopolitical altar, Gaza was sacrificed for a higher cause. But the fires are not contained and have exploded beyond Gaza and Lebanon to the gulf of Yemen, and to university campuses all over the world. The Democratic Party is ablaze, and Biden could lose his chance of reelection. Donald Trump is watching from the sidelines in amusement, as Netanyahu, his former and perhaps future ally, delivers Biden’s head on a plate.
Shortly before October 7, Netanyahu’s government had a 28 percent , mainly due to its widely unpopular attempts to further weaken democratic institutions. Shortly after, with everything in flames and with the government nowhere in sight, that number was 20.5 percent.
Netanyahu’s government doesn’t have the legitimacy to rule; it doesn’t have the legitimacy to wage war; and it doesn’t have the power, the interest, or the will to end it. As long as the war continues, Netanyahu is in power. This war protects no one but him and his cronies. It is our job, as Israeli citizens, to remove them from power. No one else can or should do that for us. But we ask our American friends to at least not stand in our way.
To be a true ally, America should do the following: Remove the veto support of this government from the U.N.’s Security Council; pull funding from offensive military actions and support only defensive ones; demand and help facilitate a truly sustainable cease-fire that would allow the delivery of urgent humanitarian aid and an opportunity for a hostage deal; commit immediately to the long, costly, and complicated reconstruction and administration of Gaza by an international alliance with Arab leadership; and develop a firm framework of incentives and counter-incentives to support trust building and deradicalization on both sides of the broken fence.
Finally, a true friend would open Israel’s blood-shut eyes and help unchain the shackles of the occupation. The world has to seize this terrible and unique opportunity by supporting a strong, lasting, and just peace agreement. We can end the occupation, provide security for both peoples, and deliver this region from endless despair. We, Palestinians and Israelis at , have prepared the outlines for an updated two-state solution, one that is built on two sovereign states sharing the land from the river to the sea, rather than slicing and dicing it.
The book of Judges didn’t specify how Samson was expected to deliver the Israelites from the threat posed by Gaza. The tales of three other judges ended with “… and the land had peace for forty years.” In grief, terror, and despair, Israel pounds Gaza again and again, as if the next blow will somehow finally turn back the clock. America, Israel doesn’t need you to give its blinded leaders any more strength and allow its soul to perish with the Palestinians. This land needs peace. It could indeed last for 40 years, maybe even longer. We have to start right now.