Photo Credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90
Armed and masked Hamas patrol in the streets of Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, March 1, 2024.

“In Palestine, I had been met every day by evidence of the Jewish blindness to the Arab problem,” asserted Richard Crossman, British Labor M.P., who served as a member of the 1946 Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry. “I was constantly reminded of the gallant politics of Vienna Socialists in 1934. There was the same misguided reliance on foreign aid, the same underestimation of the enemy, the same blind assurance a cause which is right is also strong.”

In the aftermath of the October 7 massacre, the media and pundits have been quick to note that Israel had been warned about an attack by Hamas–years, months, days and even hours before this catastrophe occurred, shocking the nation and world Jewry to its very core. An Israeli state commission will eventually investigate how this colossal failure in intelligence occurred. Hubris, the lack of humility, negligence, arrogantly dismissing intelligence assessments of a potential Hamas military confrontation, complacency, and refusal to share intelligence with other members of the government are clear contributing factors leading to this debacle.


Citing senior IDF intelligence officer Miri Eisin, The Washington Post reported that Hamas attempted to “lull Israel into complacency” by organizing large demonstrations at the Gaza border months prior to the attack, “to get the IDF used to the sight of crowds at the border.” Hamas even shared information about Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), demonstrating its eagerness not to engage in serious confrontation.

Yet it was a “blindness to the Arab problem,” and lack of historical perspective that led Major-General Aharon Haliva, IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate, and others to believe that in Gaza, “our military force and deterrence,” and efforts “to stabilize the economy, allow in workers, and improve the quality of life all have the potential to create years of quiet.” He made this prediction in June 2021, and again in September 2022, writes Yaakov Katz, former editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post.

What is the Jewish blindness? Understanding that the Arabs in Judea and Samaria and Gaza Strip do not want peace as Arabic scholar Mordecai Kedar explained. Judaism is considered a “false religion” (Din Al-Batel), while the “religion of truth is Islam “(Din Al-Haq). From this the Islamic position, it is impossible to have a Jewish state.

Destroying the Jewish state is a religious imperative. Article 15 of the Hamas Charter states: “The liberation of Palestine, from an Arab viewpoint, is a national (qawmi) duty and it attempts to repel the Zionist and imperialist aggression against the Arab homeland, and aims at the elimination of Zionism in Palestine.”

Financial Incentives Have Never Succeeded

Attempts to convince the Arabs they had more to gain materially by embracing the efforts of Jews to improve their economic well-being has been an ongoing process, which has been doomed to failure from the start. Zionist historian Yosef Gorny notes that in 1907, Yitzhak Epstein declared that the Arab people “must, for its own good let the Jews into the country, for it is powerless to improve its situation and to extricate itself from its poverty and ignorance by its own efforts; only our people can provide for their needs.” It was to be a win-win situation. The Jews would reclaim their homeland and the Arabs would be able to improve their lives. This would hasten “the renaissance of two ancient and gifted Semitic people with great potentialities, who complement each other.”

In 1921, Winston Churchill, then Colonial Secretary, echoed the same theme of “economic blessing” on a visit to Palestine. He urged the Arabs to give Zionism a “fair chance,” since Zionism would be “accompanied by a general diffusion of wealth and well-being and by an advance in the social, scientific and cultural life of the people as a whole.” He concluded by urging the Arabs to recognize the promising possibilities that lay ahead: “If instead of sharing miseries through quarrels you will share blessings through cooperation, a bright and tranquil future lies before your country.”

David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, said he shared the view of many early Zionists that Jews would be welcomed back to the land of Israel once the economic progress they brought with them “would convey a blessing to the Arab people.”

Years later he admitted that he was “naïve then to imagine …that the Arabs think like us.” In 1936, he acknowledged that “the economic blessing” had no impact on Arab leaders: “Even if they admit—and not all of them do—that our immigration brings material blessing to the land, [t]hey say—and from the Arab viewpoint I think rightly so-‘None of your honey and none of your sting.’”

While signing the Oslo Accords on the White House lawn, Shimon Peres remarked: “I could almost sense the breeze of a fresh spring, and my imagination began to wander to the skies of our land that may have become brighter to the eyes of all people, agreeing and opposing. On the lawn, you could almost hear the heavy tread of boots leaving the stage after a hundred years of hostility. You could have listened to the gentle tiptoeing of new steps making a debut in the awaiting world of peace.”

Having failed to learn from Ben-Gurion’s experiences, Peres assured his listeners that: “A higher standard of living is a precondition for mitigating the tensions among the Middle Eastern countries,” adding that he wanted to fight poverty in the region “as if it were a military threat.”

Ze’ev Jabotinsky, founder of the Zionist Revisionist movement, understood the futility of trying to convince the Arabs that their lives would be better because of the Jewish presence in Palestine. As far back as November 1937, Jabotinsky publicly warned of the folly of trying to entice the Arabs with economic riches. In the November 26, 1937 edition of South Africa’s The Jewish Herald he said, “The Compromisers in our midst attempt to convince us that the Arabs are some kind of fools who can be tricked by a softened formulation of our goals, or a tribe of money grubbers who will abandon their birth right to Palestine for cultural and economic gains…To think that the Arabs will voluntarily consent to the realization of Zionism in return for the cultural and economic benefits we can bestow upon them is infantile. This childish fantasy… comes from some kind of contempt for the Arab people, of some kind of unfounded view of this race as a rabble ready to be bribed in order to sell out their homeland for a railroad network.”

Furthermore, “As long as the Arabs feel that there is the least hope of getting rid of us,” he proclaimed” they will refuse to give up this hope in return for either kind words or for bread and butter, because they are not a rabble, but a living people. And when a living people yields in matters of such a vital character it is only when there is no longer any hope of getting rid of us, because they can make no breach in the iron wall. Not till then will they drop their extremist leaders whose watchword is “Never!”

Writing In 1946 George Antonius, an Arab nationalist, reiterated this point when he said, “no room can be made in Palestine for a second nation except by dislodging or exterminating the nation in possession.” Of course, one must make a distinction between the implacable Palestinian Arabs who seek to destroy Israel and that of other Arabs who may have reconciled themselves to living in the ancestral home of the Jewish people.


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Dr. Alex Grobman is the senior resident scholar at the John C. Danforth Society and a member of the Council of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. He has an MA and PhD in contemporary Jewish history from The Hebrew university of Jerusalem. He lives in Jerusalem.