A demonstration against the Israeli bombardment in Gaza on December 23 in Istanbul, Turkey. (lker Eray via Getty Images)

Matti Friedman: The Wisdom of Hamas

They understand the war they’re fighting. Many in the West still don’t.

JERUSALEM — In the days after Hamas terrorists invaded Israel on October 7, triggering the current war in Gaza, many believed that Hamas had erred. The word “miscalculation” recurred in news analysis and in statements from Israeli leaders. People here in Israel were galvanized into action by the massacre. Western governments responded with shock and revulsion. The civilians of Gaza were staring at a looming catastrophe. Hamas was in for it now! What were they thinking? 

But as I write nearly three months later, with several acquaintances dead in battle and one still held hostage in Gaza, it’s easier to understand what Hamas leaders were thinking. Indeed, it’s increasingly worth considering the possibility that they weren’t wrong. 

In many ways, Hamas understood the world better than we Israelis did. The men who came across the border, and those who sent them, may have grasped the current state of the West better than many Westerners. More than anything, they understood the war they’re fighting when many of us didn’t—and still don’t.

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