Understanding the Israeli-Palestinian Wars

by | Oct 31, 2023 | Middle East & Israel, Military

It is impossible to understand the enduring Israeli-Palestinian conflicts and the current war without understanding history, philosophy, and strategies.
Festival Attendee Abducted, Beheaded and Paraded by Hamas

It is impossible to understand the enduring Israeli-Palestinian conflicts and the current war without understanding history, philosophy, and strategies.



Jews have been arguably the most persecuted minority in world history, starting with being taken captive by the Babylonians in the 6th century BCE, followed by rule or persecution by the Seleucids, then the Romans, then the Christians, including the Crusaders.

Solomon’s Temple Destroyed 588 BCE


Judaism and Christianity have beliefs in common, a very important one being respect for reason, but also differences. For example, Jews do not believe that Jesus was the son of God. Jews and Christians have their own sacred texts and traditions.

For centuries, Jews were blamed for just about every disaster, including the Black Death. Next came the Islamists many of whom resented the Jews’ practical success, then the Ottomans, then South African neo-Nazis, then the Imperial Russians and Communists, and then the Nazis who tried to exterminate them entirely. They were persecuted in various ways in every country where they were allowed to live. They were the safest in the U.S., despite being discriminated against for many decades.

In 1948, they were granted a permanent homeland by the UN in one of its few great decisions. One would think that at last Jews could feel safe in their own homeland. This was not to be. They were immediately attacked with the support of tens of millions of Muslims, especially Palestinians who were determined to exterminate them. This was followed by several more invasions by the same people, including the latest attempt to destroy them by Hamas.

Israel won all the wars.

This was always followed by an alleged peace agreement followed by another planned war of extermination. Each time the losers then went to the press, claimed they were helpless victims and demanded financial aid. They got the money and then planned for the next war with the help of money and arms from various Muslim countries, especially Iran. Destroying Israel was, in effect. at the core of the Islamist’s de facto Constitution. Islamists have long been engaged in terrorism in Europe, the U.S., and other countries.



Islam, like all religions, including Christianity and Judaism is based on faith.

Faith means belief in the absence of evidence from the senses and reason. Without reason the only thing left to guide action are emotions, but emotions are not tools of cognition. Feeling that something is true does not make it so.

Conflicts about religious feelings make rational discussions impossible. There have always been endless conflicts both within and between religions.

Muslims, Jews, and Christians both viewed the prophet Abraham as their common ancestor. All were totalitarian. Questioning religious dogma within one’s sect group could lead to banishment, assassination, imprisonment, torture, and/or death.

However, these religions evolved differently. All initially studied and embraced the Greek philosophers, especially Aristotle.

Christianity was tamed by Aquinas, an Aristotelian, who said that both reason and faith were valid.

The Jews were influenced by Maimonides who was influenced by Aristotle. Greek philosophy helped lead to the Enlightenment which, at least in part, freed the West from religious dogma and led to the concept of individual rights, including freedom of religion.


The Islamic world evolved very differently. Ironically, early Islam also revered Aristotle. Many influential Arab/Islamic thinkers, such as al-Kindi, al-Razi, al-Rawandi, al-Farabi, and Avicenna were pro-reason,  based on Aristotle, and their views were widely read and respected. But it was not to last. A widely influential Islamist, al-Ghazali, was a Thomas Aquinas in reverse. He denounced the Greek philosophers in favor of total supernaturalism, rejecting reason and natural law. A last attempt by Averroes to defend reason failed. Religious totalitarianism won. While the Western world thrived, the Islamic world stagnated. This doomed the Islamic world to backwardness and poverty.

Israel under the Jews and their mostly enlightenment values built an advanced civilization. Orchards and camels were replaced by modern cities. Rights such as freedom of religion, freedom of speech and the press, universities, the study of science and technology, a multi-party system, and wealth creation through capitalism produced a thriving, civilized nation.

The advanced Israeli culture left the Islamic countries behind—and the Islamists knew it and became enraged. This left them with two choices: improve their culture, as a start, by going back and studying and learning from their best philosophers, or working to destroy Israel. They chose the latter.


Wartime Tactics and Strategies

Muslims acquired some weapons and technologies from other authoritarian countries, who acquired them, in turn, from somewhat more advanced countries. But they were never enough. The attacks on Israel were all beaten back in the end.

This put Israel in a quandary. How far should their counterattacks go?

It was a crime, said the Islamists and some people in the rest of the world, to attack the countries that started the wars. After all, many of the citizens of those countries were not soldiers; attacking them some claimed was, therefore, a crime.

However, it was an established practice by the Islamists to mix their soldiers with non-combatants including women, children, medical doctors, journalists, and others. This put the attackers in a seemingly no-win situation. If the enemy soldiers were not hunted down and captured, killed, or disabled, the attackers were free to fight on and start the next war. If the Israelis did attack without being able to identify all the attackers in advance, they could be accused of war crimes or at least of horrible cruelty.

This dilemma, however, is eliminated if the issue is formulated correctly. A free country has the absolute right to defend itself from foreign aggression; this includes the total defeat of the enemy and the destruction of all property used by the leaders.

The leaders of aggressor nations are fully responsible for initiating force. This means that they are fully to blame for putting their own citizens at risk.

Citizens who never supported their warmongering leaders, if they can be separated from the aggressors, should be allowed to leave, if possible, and should told to blame their own leaders who started the war for any suffering they have to endure. Any other policy, including setting the perpetrators free, would be unjust and would lead to endless warfare with the same enemy. The present Israeli strategy is morally and practically right.

It should be noted that the recent Hamas invasion differed starkly from previous invasions in one respect. The Hamas invasion was deliberately designed to kill Israeli civilians rather than soldiers.

Why would they do this? Because they knew they could not defeat the soldiers who could defend themselves. So, they decided to kill people who could not defend themselves, knowing full well that they could not win the war. This is just killing for the sake of killing. It represents nihilism not idealism.

I must add that the Israeli leadership today is starting to put their mainly enlightenment philosophy at risk by moving the country toward religious dogmatism. They are working with their own religious militants to reduce citizens’ rights. If this continues, it will be the end of a heroic, pro-reason nation.

Edwin A. Locke is Dean's Professor of Leadership and Motivation Emeritus at the R.H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland. He is a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science (APS), the American Psychological Association, the Society for Industrial & Organizational Behavior, and the Academy of Management. He is the recipient of the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award (Society for I/O Psychology), the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Management (OB Division), the J. M. Cattell Award (APS) and the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the Academy of Management. He, with Gary Latham, has spent over 50 years developing Goal Setting Theory, ranked No. 1 in importance among 73 management theories. He has published over 320 chapters, articles, reviews and notes, and has authored or edited 13 books including (w. Kenner) The Selfish Path to Romance, (w. Latham) New Directions in Goal Setting and Task Performance, and The Prime Movers: Traits of the Great Wealth Creators. He is internationally known for his research on motivation, job satisfaction, leadership, and other topics. His website is: EdwinLocke.com

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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