Israel was Warned

by Walter E. Block (June 2024)

Nighttime Street Scene, Berlin— Lesser Ury, 1920


Many critics of Israel seize upon the claim that before October 7, 2023, Israel was at least several times warned of such an impending attack on the part of Hamas. Thus, the fact that the IDF did nothing to prevent this dastardly incursion and was completely unaware of it, means at least part of the blame for it is in Israeli hands.

Here is a Los Angeles Times headline attesting to this Israeli failure: “Why did Israel miss so many warnings of the Hamas attack? Here’s one answer.” This newspaper went on to maintain that “Benjamin Netanyahu’s secretive, ideologically rigid leadership style in that way helped undermine Israel’s security and imperil his people.” According to the Guardian: “Israeli intelligence leak details extent of warnings over Hamas attack. Officer who reviewed intelligence considered risk of big attack ‘an imaginary scenario,’ leak suggests.” In the view of the BBC: “Egypt warned Israel days before Hamas struck, US committee chairman says.” The New York Times averred that “Israel Knew Hamas’s Attack Plan More Than a Year Ago.”

Was this a case of the “boy who cried wolf” once too often, and was then ignored when a real wolf appeared upon the scene? Had Israel been warned of such attacks time and time again, previously, when nothing of the sort finally ensued? Was it a failure of the Mossad that the IDF let its guard down? The answers to all such questions will presumably duly emerge after Hamas is fully dealt with, and that country can hold an inquiry as to the actual facts of the matter.

The present essay is devoted to a different, but not unrelated, issue: does Israel’s undoubted intelligence failure lay any part of the blame—even a small portion of it—on that nation for the bestial Hamas marauding of October 7, 2023?

I respond with a resounding “No!” To make this charge is surely a gargantuan error of the “blaming the victim” phenomenon. Yes, had Israeli intelligence been fully on the job, this entire enterprise might well have been nipped in the bud. This would saved the lives of some 1400 Israelis, the terror undergone by the roughly 250 Hamas hostages and their families, and kept alive thousands of Gazans who succumbed to IDF bombing. But it does not follow even in the slightest that therefore the only democratic country in the Middle East is to blame to even the slightest degree for all of this carnage.

Consider the following. A woman wearing a miniskirt is warned not to walk in a dangerous neighborhood at 2am. She ignores this caveat, and takes a stroll there anyway. She is raped. Yes, she is responsible for this crime in the sense that had she availed herself of this admonition and stayed away from that area she would not have been brutalized, we may stipulate, arguendo. But does she bear even a single iota of guilt for this crime? Of course not. That would be a case of blaming the victim if ever there was a case of blaming the victim.

Consider the logical implication of taking any other view. The lawyer of the rapist now appears in court and states the following. Yes, my client did rape that woman. But she bears at least partial guilt for its occurrence. The usual penalty for rape is 10 years in jail. We claim that the woman’s guilt for this rape was 10%. Therefore, instead of sentencing my client to the customary decade in prison, you should lower his punishment to only 9 years. And by the way, we demand that the woman herself be imprisoned for one year; after all, she is guilty too, at least partially.

This, we contend, is preposterous. No, the rapist deserves the full 10 years and the woman not one single second in the hoosegow. She is entirely innocent of any crime whatsoever. She has a perfect right to walk anywhere she pleases wearing whatever clothing of her choosing.

In like manner, Israel’s admitted error of intelligence lays not the slightest guilt on its head for the mass tragedies created by Hamas.


Table of Contents


Walter E. Block is Harold E. Wirth Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics, College of Business, Loyola University New Orleans, and senior fellow at the Mises Institute. He earned his PhD in economics at Columbia University in 1972. He has taught at Rutgers, SUNY Stony Brook, Baruch CUNY, Holy Cross and the University of Central Arkansas. He is the author of more than 600 refereed articles in professional journals, three dozen books, and thousands of op eds (including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and numerous others). He lectures widely on college campuses, delivers seminars around the world and appears regularly on television and radio shows. He is the Schlarbaum Laureate, Mises Institute, 2011; and has won the Loyola University Research Award (2005, 2008) and the Mises Institute’s Rothbard Medal of Freedom, 2005; and the Dux Academicus award, Loyola University, 2007. Prof. Block counts among his friends Ron Paul and Murray Rothbard. He was converted to libertarianism by Ayn Rand. Block is old enough to have played chess with Friedrich Hayek and once met Ludwig von Mises, and shook his hand. Block has never washed that hand since. So, if you shake his hand (it’s pretty dirty, but what the heck) you channel Mises.

Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast


6 Responses

  1. Indeed, Carl. No matter what the context, there are always seems to be way to blame Israelis (nee Jews) for some failure or neglect. Beyond the pale and above criticism are not synonyms.

  2. Indeed, Carl. No matter what the context, there are always seems to be a way to blame Israelis (nee Jews) for some failure or neglect. Beyond the pale and above criticism are not synonyms.

  3. Yes- it is right and proper to look for the intelligence or policy failures but we need to remember at least two things:

    1. The identification of such a failure has literally nothing to do with the justice or not of the attack that gets through thanks to such a failure. These are utterly unrelated points.

    2. Even intelligence or policy failure has its culpability limits depending on what it is. In war, sometimes the attack gets through, sometimes the enemy wins. I do not understand why numberless millions of people in western countries do not understand this. When people want to kill you and put in the effort, sometimes they will succeed.

  4. Excess arrogance, forgetting history, and inadequate imagination in facing a hating, vengeful enemy, invites the dummy’s destruction.
    How to perfect Prevention deserves most attention.
    Cannibalize the aggressors as means of being fed-up with their follies.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

New English Review Press is a priceless cultural institution.
                              — Bruce Bawer

Order here or wherever books are sold.

The perfect gift for the history lover in your life. Order on Amazon US, Amazon UK or wherever books are sold.

Order on Amazon, Amazon UK, or wherever books are sold.

Order on Amazon, Amazon UK or wherever books are sold.

Order on Amazon or Amazon UK or wherever books are sold

Order at Amazon, Amazon UK, or wherever books are sold. 

Order at Amazon US, Amazon UK or wherever books are sold.

Available at Amazon US, Amazon UK or wherever books are sold.

Send this to a friend