Death And Destruction In Gaza

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by Portfolio Armor
Wednesday, Dec 20, 2023 - 11:44
Rubble and destruction.

The Man Who Predicted The Ukraine War Weighs In

Readers may recall that in 2015, Professor John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago presciently predicted Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Several years prior to that, Mearsheimer garnered attention for a controversial book he co-wrote called The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. This month, he turned his attention back to Israel, condemning its military operation in Gaza. We have posted Mearsheimer's piece on Israel below; following that, we have a journalist's explanation of the Israeli perspective on the Gaza operation. And then we'll close with a note about how Powell's pivot seems to be driving the market more than concern about the Mideast conflict, with an update on how that has impacted our system's security selection. 

We'll start with Mearsheimer. 

Authored by John Mearsheimer at 

Gaza rubble

I do not believe that anything I say about what is happening in Gaza will affect Israeli or American policy in that conflict. But I want to be on record so that when historians look back on this moral calamity, they will see that some Americans were on the right side of history.

What Israel is doing in Gaza to the Palestinian civilian population – with the support of the Biden administration – is a crime against humanity that serves no meaningful military purpose. As J-Street, an important organization in the Israel lobby, puts it, “The scope of the unfolding humanitarian disaster and civilian casualties is nearly unfathomable.”[1]

Let me elaborate.

First, Israel is purposely massacring huge number of civilians, roughly 70 percent of whom are children and women. The claim that Israel is going to great lengths to minimize civilian casualties is belied by statements from high level Israeli officials. For example, the IDF spokesman said on 10 October 2023 that “the emphasis is on damage and not on accuracy.” That same day, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced: “I have lowered all the restraints – we will kill everyone we fight against; we will use every means.”[2]

Moreover, it is clear from the results of the bombing campaign that Israel is indiscriminately killing civilians. Two detailed studies of the IDF’s bombing campaign – both published in Israeli outlets – explain in detail how Israel is murdering huge numbers of civilians. It is worth quoting the titles of the two pieces, which succinctly capture what each has to say:

“‘A Mass Assassination Factory’: Inside Israel’s Calculated Bombing of Gaza”[3]

“The Israeli Army Has Dropped the Restraint in Gaza, and the Data Shows Unprecedented Killing.”[4]

Similarly, the New York Times published an article in late November 2023 titled: “Gaza Civilians, Under Israeli Barrage, Are Being Killed at Historic Pace.”[5] Thus, it is hardly surprising that the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, said that “We are witnessing a killing of civilians that is unparalleled and unprecedented in any conflict since” his appointment in January 2017.[6]

Second, Israel is purposely starving the desperate Palestinian population by greatly limiting the amount of food, fuel, cooking gas, medicine, and water that can be brought into Gaza. Moreover, medical care is extremely hard to come by for a population that now includes approximately 50,000 wounded civilians. Not only has Israel greatly limited the supply of fuel into Gaza, which hospitals need to function, but it has targeted hospitals, ambulances, and first aid stations.

Defense Minister Gallant’s comment on 9 October captures Israeli policy: “I have ordered a complete siege on the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed. We are fighting human animals, and we are acting accordingly.”[7] Israel has been forced to allow minimal supplies into Gaza, but the amounts are so small that a senior UN official reports that “half of Gaza’s population is starving.” He goes on to report that, “Nine out of 10 families in some areas are spending ‘a full day and night without any food at all’.”[8]

Third, Israeli leaders talk about Palestinians and what they would like to do in Gaza in shocking terms, especially when you consider that some of these leaders also talk incessantly about the horrors of the Holocaust. Indeed, their rhetoric has led Omar Bartov, a prominent Israeli-born scholar of the Holocaust, to conclude that Israel has “genocidal intent.”[9]

 Other scholars in Holocaust and genocide studies have offered a similar warning.[10]

To be more specific, it is commonplace for Israeli leaders to refer to Palestinians as “human animals, ”human beasts,” and “horrible inhuman animals.”[11] And as Israeli President Isaac Herzog makes clear, those leaders are referring to all Palestinians, not just Hamas: In his words, “It is an entire nation out there that is responsible.”[12] Unsurprisingly, as the New York Times reports, it is part of normal Israeli discourse to call for Gaza to be “flattened,” “erased,” or “destroyed.”[13] One retired IDF general, who proclaimed that “Gaza will become a place where no human being can exist,” also makes the case that “severe epidemics in the south of the Gaza Strip will bring victory closer.”[14]

 Going even further, a minister in the Israeli government suggested dropping a nuclear weapon on Gaza.[15] These statements are not being made by isolated extremists, but by senior members of Israel’s government.

Of course, there is also much talk of ethnically cleansing Gaza (and the West Bank), in effect, producing another Nakba.[16] To quote Israel’s Agriculture Minister, “We are now rolling out the Gaza Nakba.”[17]Perhaps the most shocking evidence of the depths to which Israeli society has sunk is a video of very young children singing a blood-curdling song celebrating Israel’s destruction of Gaza: “Within a year we will annihilate everyone, and then we will return to plow our fields.”[18]

Fourth, Israel is not just killing, wounding, and starving huge numbers of Palestinians, it is also systematically destroying their homes as well as critical infrastructure – to include mosques, schools, heritage sites, libraries, key government buildings, and hospitals.[19]

 As of 1 December 2023, the IDF had damaged or destroyed almost 100,000 buildings, including entire neighborhoods that have been reduced to rubble.[20] Consequently, a stunning 90 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians have been displaced from their homes.[21] Moreover, Israel is making a concerted effort to destroy Gaza’s cultural heritage; as NPR reports, “more than 100 Gaza heritage sites have been damaged or destroyed by Israeli attacks.”[22]

Fifth, Israel is not just terrorizing and killing Palestinians, it is also publicly humiliating many of their men who have been rounded up by the IDF in routine searches. Israeli soldiers strip them down to their underwear, blindfold them, and display them in a public way in their neighborhoods – sitting them down in large groups in the middle of the street, for example, or parading them through the streets – before taking them away in trucks to detention camps. In most cases, the detainees are then released as they are not Hamas fighters.[23]

Sixth, although the Israelis are doing the slaughtering, they could not do it without the Biden administration’s support. Not only was the United States the only country to vote against a recent UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, but it has also been providing Israel with the weaponry necessary to wage this massacre.[24] As one Israeli general (Yitzhak Brick) recently made clear: “All of our missiles, the ammunition, the precision-guided bombs, all the airplanes and bombs, it’s all from the U.S. The minute they turn off the tap, you can’t keep fighting. You have no capability.… Everyone understands that we can’t fight this war without the United States. Period.”[25] Remarkably, the Biden administration has sought to expedite sending Israel additional ammunition, by-passing the normal procedures of the Arms Export Control Act.[26]

Seventh, while most of the focus is now on Gaza, it is important not to lose sight of what is simultaneously going on in the West Bank. Israeli settlers, working closely with the IDF, continue to kill innocent Palestinians and steal their land. In an excellent article in the New York Review of Books describing these horrors, David Shulman relates a conversation he had with a settler, which clearly reflects the moral dimension of Israeli behavior toward the Palestinians. “What we are doing to these people is actually inhuman,” the settler freely admits, “But if you think about it clearly, it all follows inevitably from the fact that God promised this land to the Jews, and only to them.”[27] Along with its assault on Gaza, the Israel government has markedly increased the number of arbitrary arrests in the West Bank. According to Amnesty International, there is considerable evidence that these prisoners have been tortured and subjected to degrading treatment.[28]

As I watch this catastrophe for the Palestinians unfold, I am left with one simple question for Israel’s leaders, their American defenders, and the Biden administration: have you no decency?


Below is a video of Professor Mearsheimer discussing this on Al Jazeera.


The Israeli Perspective On Gaza

Yesterday, journalist Yasher Ali summarized the Israeli perspective on Gaza. In a nutshell, Israel feels that what it's doing in Gaza is necessary, and no amount of international pressure will dissuade it. 

Authored by Yasher Ali on X

The Israeli government is not going to be guided by a United Nations vote, no matter who vetoes or doesn’t veto.


In fact, a resolution that calls for a ceasefire that doesn’t get vetoed will just serve to validate how the Israeli government feels about the UN: that it is a corrupt organization unconcerned with the safety of Jews at best, and going out of its way to ensure that Jews aren’t safe at worst.

And while the United States cutting off weapons and money would slow it down and make things much more expensive, that ultimately is not going to stop the Israeli government from attempting to achieve its military objectives, which, from the perspective of the government and most Israelis, is about the protection of the Jewish people.


Do Israelis and their government wish to be isolated from the world? Of course not. But many Israelis place the protection of Jewish life as the top priority…that’s why they live in Israel! So being isolated isn’t going to rank at the top of that list if it means giving up safety.

Bringing up historical examples of the Israeli government shifting its strategy based on outside pressure does not apply here, as there was no October 7th in the past. It is hard to describe in a few sentences how tectonic of a shift October 7 led to. For many Israelis, and as a result, the Israeli government, they are facing an existential threat. Some would even say an apocalyptic threat.

Bringing up quotes said by Netanyahu and others in the war cabinet about how they need the United States also doesn’t apply to this scenario. The Israeli government always prefers to have the full support of the United States. It’s much easier! They’ll take all they can get. But if they don’t have it, it’s not going to ultimately change long-term goals.


The bottom line is, if Israel is completely isolated by the international community, it’s not going to adjust what it thinks are the military actions that will preserve the state of Israel and protect the Jewish people. Even if that means going completely on its own.

Israelis, and to a certain extent many Jews, already assume they will be alone in protecting themselves anyway.

Now, when some people read this, they’ll say, “Ok fine then, we can cut everything off.” If you believe that the United States shouldn’t be providing weapons and money to Israel, then you should advocate for it to stop.

My point is, don’t expect Israel to ultimately change its military objectives. People want clean solutions, or as clean as possible. They hope if they push Biden and he cuts off Israel, it will stop Israel's military actions, but it won’t! And when they hear that, they get upset because the basis of their activism was so absolute it doesn’t allow for any nuance or a multi-layered strategy.

Israel is unique. It’s a state for the protection of a tiny minority of people; nothing else exists like it on the planet. Expecting it to follow the same strategies will just end up in disappointment.

The Market Continues To Ignore Gaza And The Red Sea

Yesterday, we wrote about how the situation in the Red Sea (in which the Houthis, who support Hamas in Gaza, are attacking international shipping) was worse than it looked. 

So far, the market doesn't care. The biggest driver behind recent market action seems to have been Powell's pivot, which has benefited heavily shorted stocks in particular. As we noted recently, our system seems to have anticipated this pivot. As regular readers know, we post our system's top ten names for our web app subscribers daily, and for our trading Substack subscribers weekly. On October 5th, our top ten names included two heavily shorted stocks, Affirm Holdings (AFRM) and Carvana (CVNA). 

Screen capture via Portfolio Armor on 10/5/2023. 

 Here's how those names have performed since, as of yesterday's close. 

As you can see, AFRM and CVNA have ripped higher. 

If you want a heads up when we post this week's top ten names, feel free to subscribe to our trading Substack/occasional email list below. You can also subscribe to our website and get our top ten names whenever you want. 

Finally: we also have our last two earnings trades for the year teed up for later today, so keep an eye out for them in your inbox this afternoon. 

Thursday Afternoon Update

One of those two earnings trades was on CarMax (KMX), which reported an earnings beat before the open today. We just exited that one for a 44% gain, but you could have gotten a larger gain exiting it earlier in the day. The second stock reports after the close today. You can read about that trade here.  

Also, you may be interested in our latest post: A Smarter Trump Strategy On Ukraine


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