Israel and Hamas: A Shared Death Wish?

Ian Mitroff
4 min readDec 7, 2023

I’m publishing this series of articles to share and discuss my ruminations on coping with a troubled and messy world. You can “follow” me to never miss an article.

Although he refers to it in terms of “Losing Sight of Their Shared Humanity”, Nicholas Kristof puts the case starkly, if not brilliantly, in that both Israel and Hamas share a mutual Death Wish[i].

While Israel’s invasion of Gaza is certainly destroying Hamas installations and fighters, Kristof is also afraid that it’s destroying “the recognition of shared humanity that allows people to live beside one another in peace. The poisonous hatred in turn is already spilling over to the United States and other countries worldwide”.

During Kristof’s visit to Palestine, he interviewed a “sweet 57-year-old Gazan woman who…told me that she approved of Hamas’s attacks on Israeli civilians.

“I pressed her and she insisted it was fine even to kill a 5-year-old Israeli child, because ‘they are all Jews and Zionists’.”

As he says, “That conversation pretty much broke my heart”.

Further on, he writes:

“I’m astonished by a survey finding that 51 Percent of American 18-to-24-year-olds say that Humas’s killings could be justified. Have they seen the butchery committed by Hamas?”

But the worst statistic of all is that adjusted for population, the death toll due to Hamas’s attacks in Israel was the equivalent of about 15 9/11 attacks. It was even worse in Gaza where it was comparable to 400 9/11 attacks.

True, there are those on both sides who press for reconciliation. As a Palestinian Nurse put it, “The conflict will not be resolved in military actions. Because they cannot kill us all, and we can’t kill them all”.

Unfortunately, the feeling of the need for reconciliation is far from widespread.

In the U.S., the G.O.P. has used the catastrophe to attack America’s Colleges and Universities of Higher Education[ii]. Given extensive student support for Palestinians and violent Threats against Jewish students, Conservatives have upped their attacks on “Woke Culture,” which they claim is responsible for Anti-Israel sentiments. But most of all, they’ve used it as part of a larger ‘Cultural Battle over Education”.

Thus, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina “denounced what he called ‘poisonous antisemitism that has been allowed to fester on the radical left in American politics,’ adding that universities ‘had no problem speaking up about political controversies in the past,’ But now?

“They seem more offended by ‘microaggressions’ than by mass murder.”

In response, Representative Jared Moskowitz, Democrat from South Florida, said that “Republicans were intertwining liberal views about Palestinian rights with a dangerous trend of antisemitic messaging on campus.

“I don’t think ‘kill the Jews’ has anything to do with any woke agenda.”

Talk about a “Shared Loss of Humanity”.

Could we be any more divided?

As Lincoln said over a hundred years ago, “A house divided against itself cannot stand”. Of course, he was referring to Slavery. But it applies no less to the Polarization and intense Divisiveness which poisons our Body Politics.


Unfortunately, the clash is not far from where I live. Thus, the Oakland Teachers Union posted a declaration accusing Israel of Genocide and Apartheid[iii]. Indeed, it called into question Israel’s very right to exist.

While the Union backtracked, and there were calls for the resignations of Union leaders, it was only somewhat. No matter where they were, Jewish students and parents still felt Threatened.

[i] Nicholas Kristof, “Losing Sight of Our Shared Humanity,” The New York Times, Thursday, November 2, 2023, P A24.

[ii] Lisa Lerer and Rebecca Davis O’Brien, “G.O.P. Says Anti-Israel Protests Show ‘Woke Agenda” at Colleges,” Thursday,

[iii] Jill Tucker, “Union gets flak for anti-Israel statement,” The San Francisco Chronicle, Thursday, November 2, 2023, PP A1and A9.

Ian I. Mitroff is credited as being one of the principal founders of the modern field of Crisis Management. He has a BS, MS, and a PhD in Engineering and the Philosophy of Social Systems Science from UC Berkeley. He Is Professor Emeritus from the Marshall School of Business and the Annenberg School of Communication at USC. Currently, he is a Senior Research Affiliate in the Center for Catastrophic Risk Management, UC Berkeley. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Management. He has published 41 books. His latest is: The Socially Responsible Organization: Lessons from Covid, Springer, New York, 2022.

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