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  • Brian Ebarb

The Gazan "Gordian Knot"

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The Gazan "Gordian Knot"

When we write about Israel, it’s never simple. If we pull on the thread of politics, it leads to the thread of national security. If we pull on the thread of international relations, it leads to the thread of human rights. If we pull on the thread of religion, it leads to Zionism. If we pull on the thread of Jewish self-determination, it leads to antisemitism.

The October 7 attacks managed to take all of these threads and tie them into the Gordian knot of the Gaza Strip.

For those unfamiliar with the fable, the "Gordian Knot" is an ancient Greek tale associated with the conqueror Alexander the Great. In the city of Gordium, a rope with a tremendously complex knot secured an oxcart to a post. Much like English Arthurian legend, whoever could release the Gordian knot was destined to rule all of Asia.

In 333 BCE, Alexander was challenged to untie the knot. Instead of laboriously untangling it as anticipated, he simply cut through it with his sword. Today, “cutting the Gordian knot” is a metaphor for a seemingly intractable problem with a simple or neat solution.


The September 11, 2001 attacks manufactured a Gordian knot that the United States attempted to unravel strand by strand. However, after twenty years of military operations throughout the Middle East, the United States spent trillions of dollars and achieved almost none of its strategic goals. The Gordian knot tied by Al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban remains firmly in place from the Levant to Kabul.

Now in April of 2024, President Biden has retreated from the facts on the ground, instead letting the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen know that their terrorist attacks on shipping lanes in the Red Sea have been successful.

Such cowardice in the face of terrorism by the leaders of a developed nation should receive international reproach. But the United States enjoys a double standard when it comes to making mistakes on the international stage.

When the United States erroneously kills British soldiers during aerial maneuvers, or mistakenly kills Afghan noncombatants–including children–in a drone strike, or accidentally kills American soldiers in a friendly fire strike, the world has typically responded with a finger wag and a “boys will be boys” admonition. This same standard applies to other “first world” military mistakes, which are an inevitable part of military operations.

Worse, the world applies another standard entirely to the horrific actions perpetrated by dictators and fascist governments around the world. These are often ignored and purposefully overlooked:

Yet the international community all too often turns a blind eye to these atrocities, despite their quantity and severity.


Not so for Israel. Unlike the United States, or even many dictators, the state of Israel has existed under an international microscope of condemnation since its inception. Even now, the international community expects Israel to laboriously unwrap the Gaza situation strand by strand, while under extreme scrutiny and without any assistanceall while taking incoming rocket fire.

Only Israel is forced to operate under a “triple standard” for every action it takes.

  • If Israel defends itself against horrific terrorist attacks, it invites international condemnation. It may not make a single mistake, much less repeated ones, like the United States or NATO countries.

  • If Israel's war takes too long, the international community's calls for "ceasefire" become deafening, even though no similar call existed for the United States to negotiate with ISIS.

  • If Israel fails to feed and otherwise provide for Gazans, many of whom are hostile and actively seeking to murder Israelis, the international community rails against Israel.

Even when saving more lives than we have ever before witnessed in urban combat situations, Israel still is criticized on the world stage. Urban combat is among the most dangerous of military operations, especially for noncombatants. Yet Israel has–at the cost of Israeli soldiers’ lives–reduced the noncombatant death ratio in urban combat from 1:9 to 1:1.5

Compare this to the US's siege of Sadr City in 2008, where thousands of people were killed or injured over the span of a few months.

Israel’s respect for life is absolutely unprecedented, establishing an entirely new paradigm for how militaries handle noncombatants in urban warfare. Israel has not just followed every rule in the book; they’ve actually re-written the book to protect more lives and show more respect for noncombatant life than ever before.

Eretz Israel has achieved great things, not just for Am Israel, but for all people around the world who love and respect life, and received little but condemnation in return.


The situation Israel finds itself it makes me think, oddly, of the fate of Mordecai at the close of the megillah:

For Mordecai the Jew ranked next to King Ahasuerus and was highly regarded by the Jews and popular with the multitude of his brethren; he sought the good of his people and interceded for the welfare of all his kindred. (Esther 10:3)

Despite all his efforts to seek the good for his people and defend the welfare of his kindred, we learn that Mordecai was popular with and highly regarded by "the Jews" only. Not by "everyone."

I interpret this to mean that, despite all of the endeavors Eretz Israel undertakes on behalf of all the people around the world who respect and defend life, the world at large is not ready to "highly regard" Eretz Israel for its efforts. The world is not ready to accept Eretz Israel as its partner. 

Historically, both Am Israel and Eretz Israel have made the analytical mistake of believing that we would be accepted by the outside world, if only we adhered to their overbearing requirements of us. This has been a strategic failure on Eretz Israel’s part--and, like the Gordian Knot, one with a simple solution.

While the world demands we pull each thread apart separately, we must instead be willing to ignore the world, accept its criticism, and take the hard actions necessary to do what must be done, for the future of both Eretz Israel as well as peaceable people throughout the world.


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