As the finishing touches were being put to Al Majalla’s October issue – which includes extensive coverage of the 50th anniversary of the October War, when Egypt and Syria sprang a surprise attack on Israel in 1973 and changed the Middle East – the region and the world were surprised once more.
The 2023 shock had echoes of what happened half a century ago. There was a serious failure of Israel’s intelligence operation. Hamas breached the Gaza wall unforeseen, just as Egypt had crossed the Bar Lev Line in 1973.
Everything suddenly felt different.
But this new attack was also very different, in and of itself, from the equally surprising events of 50 years ago.
It did not originate from any of the armed forces of conventional nations. It was carried out by a faction, Hamas, and supported by some Arab and regional groups. And for the first time since 1948, when Palestinians were uprooted from their land to create the state of Israel, the attack successfully reached inside Israel.
When the West Bank, Jerusalem, Sinai, and the Golan Heights were lost to the Arab world in the June Setback of 1967, it occurred on Arab territory. Six years later, the October War reclaimed occupied lands in Syria and Egypt. The 1982 invasion occurred in Lebanon. Assassinations between these dates happened around the world, not in Israel.
But the events of 7 October happened there, which explains some of their resonance. Nonetheless, it is also important l to reflect on what happened, as well as where. There were many civilian casualties and numerous victims. Elements of the attacks stand out even in the Middle East, a place littered with the burial grounds of tragedies.
And now, the narrative prevailing in the West predominantly echoes the Israeli perspective. Israel is on high alert, exhibiting an unwavering collective determination for retribution against Gaza – its establishment, its political structure and the lives of its young inhabitants.
Amid the debris and bloodshed, there is an international scramble to establish rules of engagement and avenues of escape for Palestinian civilians caught in any onslaught.
Will 7 October change the course of history?
There appears to be more tumult ahead in a volatile region that is no stranger to bloodshed and violence. There is likely to be a fresh chapter of that. Conflict seems to loom at every turn, and following each conflict, a resolution is sought.