Three essays to help you think about this weekend’s horrors

The world has been following the barbarous attacks on Israel this weekend with horror. Our writers will have much to say on them, their origins, and their ramifications this week and in the weeks to come. In the meantime, we thought we’d send three relevant essays from recent years that, each in their own way, can provide some historical, political, and intellectual context to Israel and its adversaries.

The first, “How Gaza Became Israel’s Unsolvable Problem,” is from 2021 and is by the American-Israeli politician and historian Michael Oren. It narrates a history of Gaza that starts thousands of years ago and then zeroes in on the last three decades of conflict. Oren held cabinet responsibility for overseeing Gaza, and he shares some of what he learned. “Israel must determine its goals in Gaza, whether merely reducing Hamas’s capabilities or fully demilitarizing the Strip,” Oren concludes presciently. “It must state its intention to eliminate all of Hamas’s leadership, military and political alike.”

That essay kicked off a wider symposium on Gaza featuring six contributions from American and Israeli experts:

The second and third essays are more recent.

This month, the veteran foreign-policy expert Michael Doran has written a superb look back at the Yom Kippur War on its fiftieth anniversary. Little did he, or we, know just how dismaying the historical resonances and lessons would be for this moment. They were trenchant enough last week. They now are haunting.

Finally, last month, the Egyptian writer Hussein Aboubakr, now a refugee living in America, wrote a brilliant history of the idea of the Nakba and the way successive generations of Arab leaders and intellectuals hoped to use it as a springboard into a new and brighter future. There have been four revolutionary waves in the Middle East over the 75 years, Aboubakr points out, and nearly all have made Palestine their motivating engine—Hamas among them. Hamas is, of course, an Islamist organization. But many of its ideological motivations were forged in earlier secular understandings and messianic visions.

None of these essays contain breaking news, or offer the latest in tactical developments on the ground. There are other publications, valuable ones, that do that kind of thing, and we’ll all be reading and refreshing them in the hours and days ahead. These essays aim to offer something deeper, a level of analysis underneath the news that we hope can help you understand the movement of history.

With every good wish,