To date, there has been negligible attention given to what will be the ultimate fate of the approximately 2.3 million people living in the Gaza Strip enclave in Palestine. In response to the October 7 Hamas attacks, Israel, with the full backing of the United States, has undertaken a military campaign to destroy all infrastructure in Gaza, including homes, buildings, mosques, churches, hospitals and roads. Israel has decided to cut off all food, water, medical supplies and electricity for Gaza except for a minimal allowance of international aid through the border crossing from Egypt into Gaza.
So far, more than 22,000 people in Gaza have been killed in the war launched by Israel under the pretext of eliminating Hamas, and nearly all residents of Gaza have been forced to flee from their homes in order to avoid the relentless military campaign. Urgent action is required to prevent either of two catastrophic outcomes for Gaza: a Shoah or a Nakba. Shoah is the Hebrew word for catastrophe and refers to the Holocaust or the mass annihilation that the Nazis systematically carried out against European Jews. The other alternative for Gaza is the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians out of Gaza, which would constitute another Nakba. The Nakba, which is Arabic for catastrophe, refers to the ethnic cleansing of over 700,000 Palestinians that was carried out by Israeli and Zionist militias during the formation of the State of Israel.
Either catastrophe, whether it is a Shoah or a Nakba, would be a grotesque violation of international law and would rank among the top atrocities in modern world history. International law requires that Israel, as the occupying power, let the people of Gaza live and to integrate the Palestinians into Israel and be granted equal rights.
Background on Israel's Support for Hamas
Israel helped to create Hamas, which is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, in order to undermine Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Diplomat Charles Freeman stated, "Israel created Hamas. It was a project of the Shin Bet, which had a feeling that they could use it to hem in the PLO." (1)
Israel supported Sheikh Ahmed Yassin (2) by allowing him to establish mosques, schools and charities in Gaza. The mosques, charities and schools were used as recruiting vehicles and to support political organizing for Islamists. (3) In 1978 the Israeli government formally licensed Yassin's Islamic Association. (4) In the West Bank and Gaza, Israel fostered the creation of local councils that were supportive of Yassin and the Muslim Brotherhood and were opposed to the PLO. Israel gave paramilitary training to up to 200 members of these Islamist groups and the Shin Bet recruited paid informants. (5)
Israel regarded violence between Hamas and the PLO as beneficial. For example, Islamists and the PLO fought each other in West Bank universities. (6) Israel's military governor of Gaza in the early 1980s, Yitzhak Segev, stated that he was responsible for financing Hamas: "The Israeli government gave me a budget and the military government gives it to the mosques." (7)
In 1983, there was an incident in which critics of Yassin suspected that he was working for the Israeli Shin Bet. Israel arrested Yassin for ordering members of the Islamic Center to collect weapons and was sentenced to 13 years in prison. He was released after one year and claimed that the purpose of collecting the weapons was to combat other Palestinian factions instead of Israel. (8)
Israel viewed Hamas favorably because its Islamist ideology was in opposition to the PLO's Arab nationalism and could be used to undermine the PLO's quest to establish a Palestinian state. Islamists opposed nationalism including the creation of a secular Palestinian state and, instead, were primarily focused "on the necessity of Islamizing Palestine and the Arab world." (9)
Martha Kessler, a senior analyst for the CIA, stated that "We saw Israel cultivate Islam as a counterweight to Palestinian nationalism." (10)
During the Palestinian Intifada in 1987, the PLO accused Hamas and Yassin of colluding with Israel and reactionary Arab regimes. Arafat asserted, "Hamas is a creature of Israel, which, at the time of Prime Minister Shamir, gave them money and more than 700 institutions, among them schools, universities, and mosques." (11) Arafat also said that former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin described Israel's support for Hamas as a "fatal error." (12)
It is important to note that Israel has continued to support the existence of Hamas in Gaza to serve as a counterweight against the Palestinian Authority, despite the fact that Hamas has launched numerous suicide attacks against Israeli citizens and that Hamas and Israel have fought wars against each other in 2008, 2012, 2014 and 2021. Israel has also supported Hamas although the Palestinian Authority has recognized Israel since 1993 and seeks to create a Palestinian state based upon the pre-June 1967 borders alongside Israel, while Hamas has refused to recognize Israel and is considered to be a terrorist group by Israel, the United States, and the European Union.
Current Israeli Leaders Reiterate Support for Hamas to Undermine a Palestinian State
Why does Israel view the Palestinian Authority, which recognizes Israel and seeks a Palestinian state based upon the pre-1967 borders, as a liability, but views Hamas, a terrorist group that kills Israelis and does not recognize the State of Israel, as an asset?
Per current Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, (13) "The Palestinian Authority is a burden, and Hamas is an asset. It's a terrorist organization, no one will recognize it, no one will give it status at the [International Criminal Court], no one will let it put forth a resolution at the U.N. Security Council." (14)
Referring to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the diplomatic successes of the Palestinian Authority, Smotrich reiterated his belief that Hamas was an asset for countering the Palestinian Authority: "Abu Mazen [Abbas] is beating us in significant spaces...and Hamas at this point, in my opinion, will be an asset." (15)
According to a 2007 diplomatic cable, then-Israel Defense Forces intelligence chief Amos Yadlin said that "Israel would be 'happy' if Hamas took over Gaza because the IDF could then deal with Gaza as a hostile state." (16) Fortunately for the Israeli government and military, Hamas seized control over Gaza from the Palestinian Authority in a civil war and expelled the Palestinian Authority from Gaza.
In 2019, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed the importance of Israel supporting Hamas in order to thwart the establishment of a Palestinian state based upon the June 1967 borders. Netanyahu in a meeting of the Likud Party stated, "Anyone who wants to thwart the establishment of a Palestinian state has to support bolstering Hamas and transferring money to Hamas. This is part of our strategy—to isolate the Palestinians in Gaza from the Palestinians in the West Bank." (17)
By virtue of Hamas's control over Gaza, Israel has been able to declare that they cannot reach an agreement on a two-state solution because the Palestinians are divided between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority and that Hamas is a terrorist group that wants to destroy Israel. This stalemate allows for Israel to maintain control over Area C of the West Bank, which comprises the best land in the West Bank, and is used by Israel to construct illegal Jewish-only settlements.
For years, Israel has allowed Qatar, which is a strategic ally of the United States, to deliver cash to Hamas in Gaza. Qatar also hosts the Hamas leadership who live in Qatar instead of in Gaza. Why does the United States have a strategic partnership with Qatar if Qatar is the backer of Hamas?
Did Israel Ignore Warnings of an Impending Hamas Attack?
An Egyptian intelligence officer asserted that Israel ignored warnings from Egypt that Hamas was planning "something big" and that Egypt's Intelligence Minister, Abbas Kamel, directly warned Prime Minister Netanyahu that Hamas was planning "something unusual, a terrible operation."
Furthermore, unnamed Egyptian officials were shocked by Netanyahu's "indifference" and that Netanyahu said that he was "submerged" with the West Bank. The Times of Israel remarked that Netanyahu was focused on the West Bank because the Israeli government is comprised of West Bank settlers demanding a security crackdown on the Palestinians. (18)
The Times of Israel also declared that the Hamas attack was surprisingly successful despite constant Israeli surveillance of Gaza.
"But Israel's eyes appeared to have been closed in the lead-up to the surprise onslaught by the Hamas terror group, which broke through Israeli border barriers and sent hundreds of terrorists into Israel to carry out a brazen attack that killed over 700 people and wounded over 2,000.
Israel's intelligence agencies have gained an aura of invincibility over the decades because of a string of achievements. Israel has foiled plots seeded in the West Bank, allegedly hunted down Hamas operatives in Dubai and has been accused of killing Iranian nuclear scientists in the heart of Iran. Even when their efforts have stumbled, agencies like the Mossad, Shin Bet and military intelligence have maintained their mystique." (19)
The Times of Israel also reported that the October 7 Hamas attack was preceded by months of warning signs noted by IDF surveillance soldiers and dismissed as unimportant by intelligence officials. The surveillance soldiers provide real-time intelligence to soldiers in the field. They gather information through cameras, sensors and maps, and are "expected to be acutely aware of every small change that happens in the 15-30 kilometers of land that they are each responsible for monitoring."
Intelligence officials review the intelligence and determine what steps are needed to be taken. However, according to two surveillance soldiers stationed on a base in Kibbutz Nahal Oz, the warning signs were not taken seriously:
"At least three months prior to the attack, surveillance soldiers serving on a base in Nahal Oz reported signs that something unusual was underway at the already-tumultuous Gaza border, situated a kilometer from them.
The activity reported by the soldiers included information on Hamas operatives conducting training sessions multiple times a day, digging holes and placing explosives along the border. According to the accounts of the soldiers, no action was taken by those who received the reports." (20)
According to a surveillance soldier, militants trained at the border fence "non-stop" and the training included how to drive a tank and how to cross into Israel through a tunnel. "'It was just a matter of time' until something happened."
Another surveillance soldier stated that Hamas was practicing military drills:
"'We sat on shifts and saw the convoy of vans. We saw the training, people shooting and rolling, practicing taking over a tank. The training went from once a week to twice a week, from every day to several times a day,' she told Channel 12.
'We saw patrols along the border, people with cameras and binoculars. It happened 300 meters from the fence. There were a lot of disturbances, people went down to the fence and detonated an outrageous amount of explosives, the amount of explosives was crazy.'" (21)
The New York Times reported that, one year before the October 7 attack, Israel obtained a 40-page report, code-named "Jericho Wall," that detailed exactly how Hamas carried out the October 7 attack. An Israeli government official explained to The New York Times that they did not believe that Hamas was capable of actually carrying out the attack. However, Hamas followed the plan with "shocking precision." (22) The attack plan included details about the Israeli military, communications hubs, and sensitive information that led to questioning on whether there were leaks in the Israeli military. (23)
On July 6, 2023, an analyst with Israel's signals intelligence agency wrote to a group of intelligence experts that senior Hamas military officers recently observed dozens of Hamas commandos conducting training exercises. The New York Times article states:
"The training included a dry run of shooting down Israeli aircraft and taking over a kibbutz and a military training base, killing all the cadets. During the exercise, Hamas fighters used the same phrase from the Quran that appeared at the top of the Jericho Wall attack plan...
The analyst warned that the drill closely followed the Jericho Wall plan, and that Hamas was building the capacity to carry it out.
The colonel in the Gaza division applauded the analysis but said the exercise was part of a "totally imaginative" scenario, not an indication of Hamas's ability to pull it off." (24)
The New York Times stated that Israel failed to "connect the dots" and quoted a retired former senior CIA official, "The Israeli intelligence failure on Oct. 7 is sounding more and more like our 9/11." (25)
If October 7 Is Another September 11, Then Israelis Should Question If Israel Disconnected the Dots
The 9/11 intelligence failures were not a failure to connect the dots, but were actually the United States intelligence community "disconnecting the dots" to ensure that a terrorist attack occurred on U.S. soil on 9/11.
For example, the United States government granted visas to two known al-Qaeda operatives, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, who attended a senior al-Qaeda terrorist summit in early January 2000 before traveling to the United States. These two al-Qaeda operatives were known associates of the alleged mastermind of the USS Cole bombing, Walid Muhammad Salih bin Attash, known as Khallad, who the deputy head of the CIA's bin Laden station referred to as a "major league killer." Despite monitoring the Yemen al-Qaeda communications hub, listening to bin Laden's satellite phone, and closely watching the two al-Qaeda operatives, the two entered the United States and were among the "muscle hijackers" on Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon. (26)
The Donald C. Canestraro Declaration revealed that the CIA engaged in an illegal operation on U.S. soil in which the CIA claimed that they used Saudi intelligence to monitor and ultimately flip the two al-Qaeda operatives and that the CIA on numerous occasions failed to notify the FBI that the two al-Qaeda operatives were living openly in the United States until less than three weeks before 9/11. (27)
After finally receiving notification from the CIA that two al-Qaeda operatives were in the United States, the FBI treated the case as an intelligence matter instead of a criminal matter and placed a low priority on apprehending the two al-Qaeda operatives, and failed to apprehend them before 9/11.
Rather than support the genocide in Gaza, the Israeli public should question whether their government knowingly allowed the October 7 attacks to occur to create a pretext to wage a genocidal war on Gaza, similar to how the United States facilitated the 9/11 attacks in order to wage genocidal wars of aggression in countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen and Libya. (28)
The Israeli public should carry out an independent investigation into how the Israeli government, military and intelligence agencies failed to stop the October 7 attacks and to not rely on the Israeli government, military and intelligence agencies to investigate themselves.
Tragically, after 9/11, the United States decided to not objectively investigate the 9/11 attacks, thus denying the truth to the victims' families and the public. The Israeli public should demand the truth instead of reflexively supporting the collective punishment of Gaza.
The Purpose of Israel's Attack on Gaza Is to Carry Out a Genocide and Is Not Self-Defense
Israeli politicians and military leaders have unequivocally stated that their intention is to carry out a genocide in Gaza rather than to protect Israeli citizens.
On October 7, Netanyahu ordered the Palestinians in Gaza to "get out now" as "[Israel] will be everywhere and with all our might." (29) For decades, Gaza has been known as the world's largest "open air prison" and has been subjected to blockades by Israel and Egypt. There is nowhere for the people to go. Without a doubt, Netanyahu's statement was a call for the genocide of Gaza because the people of Gaza have nowhere to run.
Two days later, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant declared, "I have ordered a complete siege on the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed," and "We are fighting human animals and we are acting accordingly." (30) The purpose of Israel's war on Gaza is not to fight and defeat Hamas, the militant group that Israel has supported for decades. Instead, the Israeli government has decided to kill the Palestinians by bombs, starvation, dehydration, disease and a lack of electricity and medical supplies.
The next day, Israeli Major General Ghassan Alian stated, "Human animals must be treated as such. There will be no electricity and no water [in Gaza], there will only be destruction. You wanted hell, you will get hell." On October 10, the IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari declared that "'thousands of tonnes of munitions' had already been dropped on the tiny strip, adding that 'while balancing accuracy with the scope of damage, right now we're focused on what causes maximum damage.'" (31)
On October 12, Israel ordered the more than one million Palestinians in northern Gaza to "evacuate" to southern Gaza within 24 hours and Minister of Energy and Infrastructure Israel Katz said, "Humanitarian aid to Gaza? No electrical switch will be turned on, no water hydrant will be opened and no fuel truck will enter until the Israeli abductees are returned home." He also said, "They will not receive a drop of water or a single battery until they leave the world." (32)
October 13, Israeli President Isaac Herzog declared: "It is an entire nation out there that is responsible. It is not true this rhetoric about civilians not being aware, not involved. It's absolutely not true." Israeli Defense Minister Gallant asserted: "Gaza won't return to what it was before. We will eliminate everything." (33)
Knesset Member Ariel Kallner declared, "Right now, one goal: Nakba! A Nakba that will overshadow the Nakba of (19)48. Nakba in Gaza and Nakba to anyone who dares to join!" Knesset Member Haim Katz stated, "We need to deal a blow that hasn't been seen in 50 years and take down Gaza." (34)
U.S. National Security State Fully Supports Israel's Genocide in Gaza
Despite the clear intention to carry out a genocide, the United States government has provided military aid to Israel and used its veto power on the UN Security Council to reject resolutions demanding a cease-fire. The Biden administration has even bypassed congressional approval to send munitions to Israel to murder Gazans. The United States is fully complicit in the genocide in Gaza.
On October 15, Secretary of State Blinken proudly declared that "We will stand with [Israel] today, tomorrow, and every day, and we're doing that in word and also in deed." National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby has reiterated that there would be no "red lines" to the United States's support for Israel. (35)
Israel's Genocide of Gaza Is Ongoing
The UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner declared that Israel is "seeking to permanently alter the composition of Gaza's population with ever-expanding evacuation orders and widespread and systematic attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure." (36)
Paula Gaviria Betancur, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs) said, "Israel has reneged on promises of safety made to those who complied with its order to evacuate northern Gaza two months ago. Now, they have been forcibly displaced again, alongside the population of southern Gaza." (37)
Noting that the overwhelming majority of housing and infrastructure in Gaza has been destroyed by Israel, Betancur stated, "The only logical conclusion is that Israel's military operation in Gaza aims to deport the majority of the civilian population en masse." (38) As previously stated, the forcible displacement of Palestinians would constitute another Nakba or catastrophe.
Israeli leaders in their own words want to carry out another Nakba. Finance Minister Smotrich has called for Israel to ethnically cleanse 90% of the Palestinians out of Gaza. Israeli newspaper Haaretz writes, "Smotrich's comments are the latest in a growing list of troubling remarks by Israeli lawmakers to seemingly support expelling Gazans en masse out of the Strip in order to ensure Israel's security after the war." (39)
Smotrich is not the only senior Israeli politician to call for Israel to carry out another Nakba. Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel published an op-ed proposing the "voluntary resettlement" of Gazans. Haaretz also reported that Prime Minister Netanyahu suggested that he sees the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian civilians out of Gaza as "a positive outcome of the war." (40)
In addition to Israel's desire to ethnically cleanse Gaza, the health-care situation in Gaza is catastrophic. In November, the World Health Organization warned that "more people would soon die from disease than from Israel's bombings. "[There are] no medicines, no vaccination activities, no access to safe water and hygiene and no food." (41)
According to Gaza health expert Adnan al-Wahidi, tens of thousands of families live in flooded tent encampments, while starving children wait for hours every day at food distribution centers. In addition to the crowded conditions, the lack of clean water and bathrooms is leading to the rapid spread of disease in Gaza. (42) Al-Wahidi explained that a lack of water and electricity, and an inability to dispose of or treat sewage water, could be disastrous, adding that the risk of the spread of disease has been further increased due to the halt in Gaza's child vaccination programs. (43) Al-Wahidi also estimates that about 40% of children in Gaza are suffering from malnutrition, which severely impacts children's growth and development. (44)
There are also heightened risks to pregnant and nursing women, especially those currently in shelters. In addition to the psychological trauma of being displaced and sheltering in woefully inadequate facilities, women, infants and fetuses are at risk of malnutrition because of a severe shortage of food. (45)
In addition, a Gaza doctor said that the widespread contamination of water sources and the proliferation of sewage in public areas have resulted in an increased risk of people contracting diseases such as cholera. "The absence of adequate purification infrastructure further compounds this issue, exacerbating the risk of waterborne illnesses and gastrointestinal infections." (46)
A doctor at the Al-Nasser Hospital in southern Gaza stated that, within a 24-hour period, the hospital received between 700 and 1,000 children suffering from health issues, including "skin rashes, meningitis, epidemic hepatitis, respiratory distress, and gastrointestinal infections with severe dehydration." (47)
Most Gaza hospitals are non-functional due to Israel's bombs and evacuation orders. Medical staff in the still-functioning hospitals are "overwhelmed by the continuous influx of people with severe burns and other wounds as a result of Israeli airstrikes. Hospitals are facing shortages of essential products, including orthopedic devices to stabilize bones, surgical supplies, and treatment for burns."
Dr. Ashraf al-Qidra, the spokesperson for the Gaza Health Ministry, said,
"'The health situation in hospitals in southern Gaza is catastrophic and complex as a result of the lack of clinical, medical, and human capabilities required for the number and type of wounded people,' al-Qidra continued. He also described the conditions in the shelters for displaced people as 'catastrophic and inhumane.'" (48)
We should remember that many victims of the Shoah at the hands of the Nazis died of disease, dehydration, starvation, and exhaustion. It is a tragedy and shameful that Israel and the United States are carrying out a Shoah in Gaza.
International Law Forbids Collective Punishment and Requires Israel to Protect the People of Gaza
International law requires that Israel refrain from carrying out collective punishment of the people of Gaza. Israel is in violation of international law by indiscriminately attacking civilians, homes, schools, mosques, churches, hospitals, shelters and infrastructure under the guise of destroying Hamas.
As the Occupying Power over Gaza, Israel is responsible for the safety, security and well-being of the people of Gaza. Despite the fact that Israel disengaged from Gaza in 2005 by withdrawing the IDF and dismantling the illegal settlements, Israel continues to occupy Gaza because, through a land, sea and air closure, it has maintained effective control over Gaza. Israel has failed its obligations under international law to provide for the safety, security and well-being of the people of Gaza.
Israel and the United States are also bound by the Genocide Convention, which forbids them from carrying out the genocide in Gaza that they are currently implementing. Genocide is defined as any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
- Killing members of the group;
- Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
- Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
- Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
- Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. (49)
In addition, most Gaza residents are descendants of people who were expelled from Israel during the Nakba by Israeli and Zionist militias during the formation of the State of Israel. Under international law, the approximately 750,000 Palestinians who were expelled during the Nakba and their descendants are entitled to return to their homes in Israel. (50)
Israel must fulfill its obligations under international law to allow for the descendants of the victims of the Nakba who were exiled to return to their homes in Israel and be afforded equal rights. Furthermore, Gaza residents who were not victims of the Nakba or their descendants must be allowed into Israel because Israel has committed itself to destroying Gaza, which is an occupied Israeli territory.
Israel has for decades used Hamas as a tool to thwart the establishment of a Palestinian state, and Israel is currently using Hamas as a pretext to destroy Gaza. Israel, as the Occupying Power must provide for the welfare of the population of Gaza. Israel must integrate the Palestinians of Gaza into Israel and provide them with food, shelter, medical care, homes, citizenship and voting rights, and integrate them into the economy. Otherwise, the denial of equal rights based upon race, ethnicity or religion is apartheid, which is a crime against humanity. (51)
Israel and the United States are economic powers and have the money and resources to integrate the Gazan population into Israel. The United States has a military budget reaching $850 billion a year and gives Israel about $4 billion in military and economic aid annually. Clearly, there is ample money to save the Palestinians in Gaza from annihilation or exile and integrate them into Israel. Integrating the Palestinians in Gaza into Israel is also practicable because Arabic is already a widely spoken language in Israel and Israel has a sizable Arab minority population.
The international community must use diplomatic, financial and military pressure to force the United States and Israel to stop the genocide in Gaza and to immediately provide care for the people of Gaza. For example, the Houthis in Yemen are intercepting ships in the Red Sea destined for Israel. Iraqi militias are attacking United States military bases in retaliation for the United States's complicity in the ongoing genocide in Palestine.
Countries such as Bolivia have severed diplomatic ties with Israel over the ongoing genocide. South Africa has filed a complaint with the International Court of Justice against Israel for carrying out a genocide in Gaza. More pressure must be exerted on both the United States and Israel to stop the genocide. If the rule of law has any meaning or effect, the Gazans must not face either a Shoah or a Nakba.
Ultimately, Israel has decided that there should only be one state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. The two-state solution has been dead for decades, before Israel announced that it would destroy Gaza. Rather than annihilate the Palestinians in Gaza or drive them into exile, Israel must afford them equal rights and integrate them into Israel.
Israel must also provide equal rights for Israelis and the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories regardless of their religion and ethnicity. NBC News quoted an American Orthodox Jew, Shoshana, who eloquently stated the case for why Jews should have compassion for the Gazans and oppose the ongoing genocide,
"I think that it is our duty as Jews, as people who have been so incredibly oppressed for centuries, that we stand up for people who are in pain and for people who are suffering, that we shouldn't be turning around and doing the same things that have been done to us for centuries." (52)
If in fact a Shoah or a Nakba occurs in Gaza, years from now, people will question how the world stood idle while Israel and the United States carried out a genocide against innocent men, women and children. I hope that people will remember the war criminals and mass murderers in the Israeli and American governments as the monsters that they truly are.
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About the Author
Joshua Shoenfeld is a writer and researcher, who is a student of deep politics and is a critic of the U.S. national security state.
Joshua can be reached at joshua.shoenfeldgmail.com