The World Today for October 31, 2023
Listen to Today's Edition
NEED TO KNOW
Oversight Versus Insight
On Sept. 11, Gen. Herzi Halevi, the Israeli military’s chief of staff, told members of the military at a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, that Israel must be on its guard, now more than ever.
“We must consider every statement of our enemies, in words or actions … not to underestimate them, and not to glorify ourselves … We must be more prepared than ever for a multi-pronged and extensive military confrontation,” he said, as reported by Maariv, an Israeli news outlet.
He believed the political turmoil in Israel over a planned judicial reform was emboldening Israel’s enemies and heightening the possibility of a serious attack. He and other senior members of the Israeli military and intelligence community had already tried to warn the country’s leadership, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but were ignored. Instead, after the general’s speech, Netanyahu’s allies went on television and condemned Halevi for causing panic, the New York Times reported Sunday.
Almost two months later, as Israel begins its ground war in Gaza, this retelling of this episode and others underscores another fight brewing in the country: This fight, an internal one, is over the political, military and intelligence failures that led to the devastating attacks by Hamas and its allies on Israel on Oct. 7 that killed more than 1,400 people.
Bibi, as the prime minister is often called, in a scathing post on Twitter (now known as X) that has since been deleted, denied over the past weekend that he was warned about any looming threats by the intelligence community, reported Reuters. But he was forced to apologize 10 hours later after his initial post caused an uproar and a public spat with members of his war cabinet.
Meanwhile, the ongoing post-mortem of how Israel was caught off guard has yielded some sobering conclusions, analysts say.
As the Economist wrote, Israel fumbled in intelligence collecting and then assessing that intelligence as Hamas planned its attacks, out of hubris and an overreliance on technology. Israel’s fancy technology failed to detect the importation, assembly, and deployment of thousands of missiles, for example.
That is though Palestinians in Gaza are subject to some of the most sophisticated surveillance anywhere in the world, the Middle East Institute explained, including drones, CCTV cameras, digital eavesdropping of Internet traffic and telephone calls and locations, and other snooping.
But Hamas and its allies kept their plans off of normal channels, using radios instead, a technology that Israel stopped monitoring last year because it deemed it a waste of time.
Also, Hamas managed to organize “dinghies, bulldozers, motorcycles, paragliders, and drones bearing explosives,” too, according to the Hindu. It must have taken months, and it was happening right under Israel’s nose.
And while Jordan warned Israel that its raids on the Al-Aqsa Mosque over the past months were heightening tensions with Palestinians to a dangerous level, Egypt was more specific, telling Israeli intelligence officials that “something big” was in the offing. However, the Israelis were focused on the West Bank, the Times of Israel reported, because they thought that Hamas was not a viable threat anymore.
In a Messenger column entitled “The Humility of Israel’s Intel Failure: Not One Source Penetrated Hamas,” former CIA officer Marc Polymeropoulos argued that Israel likely failed to maintain or leverage its network of spies and Palestinian assets within Gaza. A single human source who mentioned a weapons shipment or some other clue might have triggered a deeper look.
“Sources are the tip of the spear, burrowing into places we cannot enter and obtaining the nuggets that cannot be found in other ways,” wrote Polymeropoulos.
As the post-mortem goes on, and probably will for some time, already it echoes another failure in Israel’s past.
On Oct. 6, 1973, Israel was caught off guard by surprise attacks on two fronts by Egyptian and Syrian forces, even though they were warned.
“Israeli intelligence failed to see war coming … because it was wedded to a concept that the Arabs would not go to war because they would lose,” Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, wrote about the start of the Yom Kipper War. “(It was) a classic example of how intelligence fails when the policy and intelligence communities build a feedback loop that reinforces their prejudices and blinds them to changes in the threat environment.”
He could have just as well been writing about the attacks 50 years later.
THE WORLD, BRIEFLY
Colombian opposition candidates secured a series of victories in the country’s gubernatorial and local elections this week, dealing a blow to the leftist coalition government of President Gustavo Petro as it struggles with low approval ratings, Reuters reported.
Sunday’s polls for mayors, governors and other regional lawmakers saw more than 125,000 candidates participate. The campaigns were marked by deteriorating security and threats to candidates, but voting proceeded without any major incidents.
Results showed that voters in Colombia’s major cities, including the capital Bogota, rejected Petro’s allies in mayoral polls. Only two of 32 provinces elected governments supported by the ruling Historic Pact coalition.
Former Senator Carlos Fernando Galán of the New Liberalism Party was elected as Bogota’s mayor, a position considered Colombia’s second most important political post after the presidency, the Financial Times wrote.
Meanwhile, voters in the cities of Medellin and Cali elected as mayor candidates who are strong critics of Petro.
Political analysts told Reuters that the results sent “a very strong message” to Petro’s presidency, Colombia’s first leftist leader.
Petro campaigned on a promise to wean Colombia from oil, revamp the economy and end the decades-long conflict with armed groups in the South American nation.
But support for Petro has plummeted in recent months amid a series of divisive policies, as well as scandals involving his allies and family members.
Observers noted that Sunday’s outcome could influence the 2026 presidential election, even though Petro cannot seek reelection.
Still, others explained to the FT that the results will not deter Petro, whose Historic Pact remains a powerful bloc in the country’s legislature.
Hundreds of thousands of people are believed to have been abused by Spain’s Catholic clergy and lay people, according to a government-initiated probe, the first to investigate the allegations of sex abuses perpetrated by members of the Catholic Church in the country, Voice of America reported.
The country’s ombudsman, Angel Gabilondo, released a nearly 800-page report this month, where he criticized the Church’s role in minimizing and denying reports of abuse.
The findings were drawn from a survey based on 8,000 telephone and online responses. The report found that 1.13 percent of Spanish adults questioned were abused as children by members of the Church.
With Spain’s population of nearly 39 million, the survey suggested that around 440,000 minors could have been sexually abused by priests, members of religious orders, or lay members in recent decades, according to the Associated Press.
Gabilondo noted that while the Catholic Church has taken steps to address the abuse and undo efforts to cover up scandals, they have not been sufficient.
He urged for the creation of a state fund to compensate the victims, as well as for the Church to provide a way to assist them in their recovery and introduce reforms to prevent abuse.
The report came more than a year after Spanish lawmakers voted to initiate a probe into sexual abuse allegations committed by Church members. The move came after Spanish newspaper El País published abuse allegations involving more than 1,200 victims, provoking public outrage.
Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez welcomed the findings as a “milestone” for Spain’s democracy.
Chinese police rescued more than 1,000 cats from being slaughtered and sold as pork or mutton, an incident that sparked concern across the country over food safety and animal rights, the BBC reported.
State-affiliated media said this month that police conducted the rescue operation following a tip-off from animal welfare advocates in the eastern city of Zhangjiagang. The activists had noticed a large number of felines being held in wooden boxes, and monitored them for six days.
Authorities later intercepted the truck carrying the animals and moved the creatures to a shelter. However, there were no reports of arrests, nor whether the cats were strays or pets, according to CNN.
Even so, the rescue operation uncovered an illicit trade of cat meat, which could have raked in as much as $20,500.
One activist told local media that a pound of cat meat can sell for around $4 by passing it off as mutton or pork. Each cat can yield about four to five pounds of meat after being processed.
The incident quickly prompted condemnation across Chinese social media, with some users calling for tighter inspections of the country’s food industry.
While China has laws to protect livestock and endangered animals, there is no comprehensive legislation against animal cruelty for pets and strays.
Scandals related to food and safety have long plagued the country.
In June, a student at a college in Jiangxi found a rat’s head in his school dinner, resulting in uproar across the province. School officials initially denied the allegations, saying it was duck meat – before admitting that the student was right.
The Cosmos Calling
Astronomers spotted a distant and powerful radio wave burst which took eight billion years to journey across the universe to reach Earth, CNN reported.
In their paper, scientists explained these signals are known as fast radio bursts (FRBs), which they describe as intense blasts of radio waves that last only a few milliseconds.
The recent burst, named FRB 20220610A, was identified using the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder radio telescope in Western Australia. The researchers explained that this FBR was peculiar because of its incredible energy release – in less than a millisecond, it emitted the same amount of energy as our Sun produces in 30 years.
While the origins of FRBs have puzzled scientists for years, the recent finding could help understand the sources of these cosmic signals.
Current theories suggest that these radio bursts may be linked to magnetars, highly energetic objects that result from the explosive deaths of massive stars.
The team explained that they traced FRB 20220610A to what appears to be a group of galaxies that are in the process of merging, interacting and forming new stars.
Still, studying these phenomena could also help in calculating the amount of matter between galaxies that remains unaccounted for in the universe.
“If we count up the amount of normal matter in the Universe – the atoms that we are all made of – we find that more than half of what should be there today is missing,” said study co-author Ryan Shannon.
Thank you for reading or listening to DailyChatter. If you’re not already a subscriber, you can become one by going to dailychatter.com/subscribe.