Gaza: Hamas Declares War

Last Tuesday I was privileged—or voluntarily burdened, by invitation of the Israel Consul—with the chance to view one of the restricted IDF videos documenting the atrocities of October 7th. This is a compilation of video recordings from bodycams, phone, and dashboard cameras belonging to attackers, victims, and rescuers as well as CCTV from the locations attacked.

As hard as this was to watch, it did not go as far as I expected based on reports by people who saw even worse video, surviving witnesses, and the unfortunately limited postmortem evidence. I will return to some of those. But first I want to describe this video. If you are squeamish, read no further than the next paragraph; even if you are not, you will probably be disturbed.

This is the paragraph anyone can read. What made the greatest impression on me in the video was the joy on the faces of the Hamas attackers as and after they did their atrocities. Because of the way the human brain is wired, the difference between video and verbal description is not as great for atrocities as it is for facial expressions. I had heard many descriptions of atrocities, and seeing them was important, but those facial expressions are seared into my mind—when these young men turned back toward their colleagues’ phones with faces bursting with smiles. Nothing diabolical here. The smiles were big, warm, and bright, conveying the  most spontaneous joy—pride, satisfaction, and triumph, yes—but most vividly, joy.

The video is chronological, beginning with victims becoming aware of the attack, moving to examples of what is done to them and how they react, to some of the dead being mutilated by Hamas, and ending with large numbers of the dead as they were found by rescuers. Here are a few examples.

Two little boys are sitting in their white underpants with their father in their home. He rushes them into the safe room as the attack starts. An attacker throws a grenade into the shelter, and when they emerge he shoots the father dead. The boys run into another room of the home. The younger one wails, “Where is Daddy?” His older brother says, “They killed Daddy.” The younger wails, “Why am I alive?” Their father’s murderer enters and starts eating from the refrigerator.

At the rave party hundreds of young people are happily dancing. The attackers arrive, seemingly surprised. One says they shouldn’t waste time there—perhaps they are assigned to attack a military base?—but his voice does not prevail. They start firing and murder many of the dancers, chasing and shooting them in the back as they run away. Attackers shoot through the front doors of a row of portable toilets, and we see the results from inside one of them. Many are murdered on roads as they try to flee in their cars. Kidnappings are also seen.

Other murder and mutilation scenes are shown. Houses and cars are set on fire with living people in them. One attacker tries to behead a deceased man with a garden hoe, eventually giving up. Another tries the same with a large knife on another man’s body, succeeding. They talk about playing ball with the severed head. As the rescuers arrive and make their videos, the number of dead people is staggering. Some are burned beyond recognition. Several dead women and girls are shown with their pants or pajamas on, their groins and thighs soaked in blood.

When such women and girls were described in October, the news attributed the blood to gang rapes by up to ten men. But no number of penises could cause that much bleeding, and I had written about rapes in other wars using knives and gun barrels. Eventually The New York Times led the front page with an article that documented how far those rapes really went. A woman had nails driven into her groin and thighs. Others were shot in the vagina. Others were knifed and mutilated while being raped. Everywhere Hamas went, they raped.

Also well documented but not shown in the video I saw were beheadings and dismemberment of babies and children, people of all ages tied up and burned  alive, and evidence of rapes of men.

Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, saw a different video, and in Senate testimony on November 1st, he described part of it: “…at one of the kibbutzes…a family of four, a young boy and girl six and eight years old and their parents, around the breakfast table. The father eye was gouged out in front of his kids, the mother’s breast cut off, the girl’s foot amputated, the boy’s fingers cut off before they were executed, and then their executioners sat down and had a meal.”

Many civilians have been killed during Israel’s operations in Gaza (see my previous post), and every one of those deaths is a tragedy. But nothing remotely like what is described above was done to them, unless it was done by Hamas.

One thought on “Gaza: Hamas Declares War

  1. Us and Them, a quintessential war song:

    Just listened to this today and also just read your article. Unfortunately I don’t have much to add except to say that your expertise is always valued and I’ll always continue to follow your work. Who better to get your information from on these turbulent messy human issues than a Socio-biologist.

    The whole thing is a real tragedy and reading your article here I need to ask, how much do we take intention into account when processing / coming to understand human criminal behavior or any human behavior for that matter? I know even dogs can distinguish when a person accidentally trips over them and intentionally kicks them. With humans, our facial expressions….body language….cadence….inferences of past histories etc and many other subtle and not so subtle cues add many more layers of abstractions that we need to take into account when wanting to understand why/where a certain behavior came from. Being better informed about the other (in-relationship), gives a more appropriate reaction to their behavior (Whatever appropriate may mean here.) Walls need to be broken (metaphorically or literally, however you wish) and a long standing relationship must be worked-on even if it means starting from zero. In the Palestine-Israel relationship, the starting point seems even below that, unfortunately. Many people have their work cut out for them if they truly want to see peace and co-existence in the region.

    I’m glad I did not watch the video you’ve seen. I’m sure it was horrific. Going back to my question on intention, I do ask it in good faith and not simply rhetorically or to make a point. How has the expressions on their faces shaped your view on this? We all know the actions of Hamas were criminal, that’s the easy part to ascertain. The harder part to understand is the actual details of the crimes and perhaps where their organization and criminal behavior comes from. I’m unfortunately not informed enough on Middle-eastern issues to comment any further, but i’ll continue to follow coverage of the situation.

    Here’s a debate between a trauma expert and a Rabbi that was streamed just a few days ago. I found it very informative and I hope you do too Dr. Konner

    By the way, I’m in the middle of reading Sapolsky’s newest book Determined and I’ve got, for the first time, Jury Duty all next month. Some of these human behavior issues are forcibly at the forefront for me at the moment.

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