Friday, August 8, 2014
Gaza and the Lessons Israel Must Learn
During the last few weeks I have been struggling to write anything about Gaza because I have been overwhelmed by the huge quantity of articles and emails relating to this, the third hot conflict to take place between Israel and HAMAS in six years. What has transpired since the hot war began on July 8th should not have surprised anyone because the so called “cold war” has been ongoing since HAMAS seized power in 2007.
The problem I have with the global reaction to the Israeli campaign is that the world remained silent as approximately 15,000 missiles and mortar rounds were fired indiscriminately, at Israel, and all this since Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005. Referring to the IS assault on Mosul and the flight of Christians from Iraq the world remained silent according to Patrick Coburn, (no friend of Israel) who, writing in The Independent said “It is the greatest mass flight of Christians in the Middle East since the Armenian massacres and the expulsion of Christians from Turkey during and after the First World War.” Between 170,000 and 200,000 people have been slaughtered in Syria during the Syrian Civil War but Muslim and anti-war demonstrators have been all but silent throughout. The world has conveniently ignored over 10,000 Black people (mostly Christians) killed in Nigeria – and no-one mentions the hundreds of girls who were kidnapped there anymore. There are more conflicts that we have similarly ignored – either due to Muslim ‘sensitivity’ or for some other inexplicable, likely racist reason.
Another problem, as I referred to in my previous blog, is that there exists a pattern of condemnation and non-debate representing a relentless campaign of condemnation of Israel and an incessant assault on our senses. This silence on the central role played by Gaza’s Muslim fundamentalists in ethnic cleansing and war crimes is not so mystifying when we understand the thought processes that afflict Gaza’s Western co-conspirators. This silence should not surprise us even when actions from Gaza into Israel are clearly manufactured to cause as many civilian casualties as possible. If a maximalist theology such as Islamism, views any casualty as no more than a sacrifice for the glorification of Islam then neither Israeli nor Palestinian lives are of any importance. Islam refers to itself as the religion of peace but its fundamentalist adherents have a frightening enthusiasm for what one article aptly described as “the human sacrifice of Gaza’s people on the altar of radical, Islamic ideology.”
There are five clear points to be made when looking at Operation Protective Edge. Israel should have understood this and taken all of the following into account well before the current conflict erupted.
1. The nation that controls the streaming of news to the outside world will win the propaganda war and as a consequence, the peace that follows on from the ceasefire.
2. Not everyone has the tools or the energy that is needed to defend themselves against incessant media attacks on Israel. Jews who have traditionally been Israel’s most fervent supporters are increasingly divided because of how Israel is portrayed in the media. It does not help that Jewish Uncle Toms become ever more vociferous in their condemnation of not only Israel but also ‘partisan’ Jewish support in the Diaspora.
3. Diplomatic attacks on Israel increase with frequency and greater visibility as Palestinian casualties rise. Politicians scramble to win votes from disgruntled Muslim and pro-Muslim voters. Diplomatic isolation will encourage those people who call for Israel to be economically isolated.
4. An asymmetric war is a war between belligerents with one side significantly weaker than the other. Civilians become both willing and unwilling participants in battle, which in the case of Israel-HAMAS is fought in an urban environment. Women and children become human shields for Arab fighters who quickly retire from the field of engagement. They deliberately leave the civilians to suffer the greatest proportion of the casualties while HAMAS fighters safely hide in those closeted underground shelters meant only for them.
5. Active or passive collaboration by UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) has resulted in UN funded clinics being rigged with explosives to kill, UNRWA staff being active HAMAS operatives and operating from schools, clinics and hospitals. Know your enemy.
I want to put forward my impressions, from afar; my lessons for any future conflicts that Israel must deal with. The sentences in quotation marks (excepting the Quote from the founder of the Huffington Post) come from an exhibition on propaganda, power and persuasion that took place at the British Library in London, England.
1. “Using appropriate symbolism can generate deep psychological resonances.” When pictures of devastation and death are prominently displayed people do not care how many terrorists are embedded within Gaza’s civilian population, or that they use human shields as a matter of tactical military design. Nor will they be interested in the niceties of international war crimes statutes which declare that it is illegal for a combatant to wear civilian clothing when engaged in hostile military activity.
“Too many reporters have forgotten that the highest calling of journalists is to ferret out the truth, consequences be damned.” Arianna Huffington
2. The truth is unimportant – only the sound bite counts. “Decide on your message and stick to it, repeating it in as many different media as you can mobilize.”
3. Israeli babies and Israeli children, brutally murdered by Palestinians, have been deliberately re-labelled as Gazan victims of the Israeli assault and then, their pictures forwarded, in some instances, hundreds of thousands of times, as proof of Israeli cruelty. The modern media is instantaneous, has no scruples and rarely apologies for its errors. Even when it is forced to make amends it is by then too late to have any impact. Initial impressions are what stick while afterthoughts are predictably disregarded.
4. “Be selective about the truth. Control how and when information is released. Ensure only stories that support your position are reported.” A picture tells a thousand stories. It is a cliché but nevertheless, in propaganda, it is truth. HAMAS has willingly sacrificed hundreds of its own people in the current conflict and that is a tactical decision as well. Every televised act of destruction, every picture of a wounded or dead child acts to create a lasting impression of unforgiving brutality.
There are eight issues:
1. The bigots and their purveyors of hate will always tell you that we (the Zionists) control the media. Gosh, wouldn’t it be nice if it was true? But it never has been. I once discussed this same issue with a senior Sikh manager at British Telecom plc (where I worked for many years). He told me that ‘the Jews’ controlled the global press. I said if that was true, how is it possible that Germany was able to incite Germans against their Jewish compatriots and how was it possible that the Shoah was ‘permitted’ to occur? He looked momentarily sheepish and then recovering, he said “I meant that since the end of WW2….” You cannot convince a racist that they are at fault, you can only isolate them.
2. People are offended when Jews label another person or group ‘Nazi,’ as if once they were defeated the toxic entity that ruled Germany between 1933 and 1945 was banished forever. The difference between fascism and Nazism is that the former may express an attitude of contempt for a minority but does not necessarily use violence as a means of controlling society. The latter expresses an exterminationist doctrine. HAMAS is a Nazi organization. If its target group are all Jews, it does not mean that like the Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS or ISIL), it will not turn on Christians and every other minority within its territory once it has disposed of us.
It may be argued that this war was inevitable given both the blockade of Gaza by Israel and Egypt, and continuous missile attacks from Gaza into Israel that preceded the initial blockade. Most Israelis do not believe that Israel provoked the conflict but are certain that its military tried to minimize enemy casualties. We are frequently reminded by those people who want us punished that Gaza’s civilian population democratically chose HAMAS to govern them. Gaza’s civilian population voted into power a Muslim Nazi political party. Time and again it has expressed a desire to kill every Jew and not just those in Israel. It is a message we should convey to reporters at every briefing or interview (but we fail to do it).
3. It must be emphasized that HAMAS rules Gaza with an iron fist. It may not be lobbing missiles and mortar rounds into Israel but if it rules Gaza by right then it is obligated to exercise control over those other groups that have fired rounds into Israeli territory. Governments cannot ‘have it both ways’. In November 2012 when Operation Pillar of Defense came to an end HAMAS operatives did not fire any further missiles at Israel. During 2013 five missiles per month on average, were fired at Israel but between January and June 2014 this increased to 33 missiles hitting Israeli territory each month. This is, by definition, ethnic cleansing and each indiscriminately fired missile, a war crime. Israel could never relax while missiles were being sent across its southern borders. Sovereign authority, which HAMAS claims to exercise in Gaza, means that it is responsible for any weapons fired from its territory.
We seem reluctant to remind people that the estimated 600,000 tons of cement HAMAS diverted from civilian projects was used instead to build a myriad of underground warrens to protect its ‘fighters’, to store offensive weapons and to launch attacks against Israeli civilian targets. Those thirty two known tunnels that were extended into Israel were a legitimate casus belli for Israel’s Gaza assault.
4. Michael Walzer explained the rule of proportionality thus: “If you are aiming at military targets (rocket launchers, for example) and know that your attack will also cause civilian casualties (collateral damage), you must make sure that the number of dead or injured civilians is "not disproportionate" to the value of the military target. Needless to say, this is a highly subjective calculation and has rarely been much of a limit on military attacks: This target is very valuable, the generals say; almost any number of civilian deaths is justifiable. Nor has proportionality provided much of a guideline for moral judgments: Even a very low number of civilian deaths, the moralists say, are disproportionate and a war crime.”
It is that final sentence that creates the dream situation for HAMAS and the nightmare for Israel.
5. After the Meir Amit Intelligence and Information Center (ITIC) published a list of hundreds of names of militants killed in the current conflict that same evening Gaza’s ministry of the interior issued a warning to all Palestinians not to divulge information about terrorist operatives killed in Operation Protective Edge. The New York Times explained the debate thus: “The difference between roughly half the dead being combatants, in the Israeli version, or barely 10 percent, to use the most stark numbers on the other side, is wide enough to change the characterization of the conflict.”
HAMAS talks with one voice. All casualty figures are released via the HAMAS run Ministry of Health. HAMAS does not draw a distinction between civilians and combatants. It categorizes all victims as civilian. The Times of London analyzed the available data and showed that the age group of 20 to 29 years was “most likely to be militants”. 9% of Gaza fits this age group but 34% of the killed fitted into this age-group. Other analyses put the militant deaths as high as 62% (based on fighting age alone). HAMAS are alleged to have “executed” dozens of civilians for protesting against the war and dozens more accused of being collaborators (often grudge killings). Then there are the misfires, the most infamous taking place at the Shifa hospital, plus at least two school ‘accidents.’ The following pattern would be amusing if it was not so tragic. The furore over a misfired rocket killing “dozens of civilians” and sparking outrage from presidents, prime-ministers, the secretary general of the UN and human rights commissioners subsides within a day if an Arab misfire is suspected but drags on for many days until the next alleged atrocity if it is the result of an Israeli strike.
6. Many journalists have now admitted that they were hostages to HAMAS during the time they spent in Gaza. Journalists not considered to be sympathetic to Israel have nevertheless reported that missiles were fired from densely populated civilian areas and that journalists were deliberately detained during military actions while HAMAS directed fire at Israel. Most reported their plight only once they had left Gaza.
7. The UN refuses to shut down what has become the largest (and arguably, the most corrupt) organisation inside the UN with some 30,000 staff (many of them HAMAS operatives). UNRWA does not work for the benefit of the Palestinian people nor does it work to resolve conflict. It is an essential weapon in the war of attrition waged internationally against Israel by the Muslim – Arab world.
In an article in the New York Times, internal dissent and “open discourse” about the conflict were listed as two of the casualties in Israel resulting from Operation Protective Edge.
8. During a time of war or imminent threat we pull together to help and support each other. It is a human survival strategy and not as the New York Times bizarrely referred to it. But the strategy which ensured that politicians kept their individual as well as collective mouths shut during the offensive failed when it came to Moshe Feiglin. What anyone thinks of Feiglin is irrelevant. What he said was so controversial that it deflected attention away from the conflict and potentially, he created divisions within Israeli society at a time when the nation needed to be unified.
He should have been sacked from his post of Deputy Speaker of the Knesset and expelled from the Likud. It should still happen.
In summary, you cannot win a conflict if your focus is on one threat at a time. The civilian campaign is both voluntary and coerced. It includes as its foot soldiers a whole swathe of the international press as well as Muslim and pro-Muslim – “anti-Zionist” activists in the West. For the next round Israel must take all of this into account. It must begin working on strategies to defeat this enemy now.