How Israel Lost the Information War

Yesterday I was listening to a news program on the radio while preparing dinner. The host asked his subject – I don’t recall who it was, probably an opposition member of the Knesset – this question: how can it be that world opinion has become solidly anti-Israel only a few months after the worst pogrom since the Holocaust, in which more than a thousand Jews were murdered in the most brutal fashion imaginable, in which hundreds of women were raped and children tortured to death? The predictable and stupidly self-serving political answer was that it was the fault of the Netanyahu government, which had “mismanaged” the war. But what is the correct answer?

The real reason is that Israel, while successful in the “kinetic” aspects of the campaign against Hamas, has been overwhelmingly defeated in the less visible theater of information warfare.

The roots of this defeat go back decades. There was as yet no “mismanagement” on the day after the Hamas invasion, when there was an outburst of anti-Israel demonstrations and attacks on Jews around the world while the rampage was still continuing in parts of southern Israel. The ground was prepared as far back as the 1970s, when a wave of Arab petrodollars, guided by the Soviet KGB, flowed into a massive project of psychological and diplomatic warfare against the Jewish state. It wasn’t so difficult for them – the built-in antisemitism of the West, temporarily suppressed after the Holocaust, found a new outlet. It was easy, too, to nurture antisemitic elements in the Muslim world. In the West, the educational systems were infiltrated and subverted, starting with the “best” universities and continuing down to textbooks and curricula for elementary schools. A reality-inverting identification was made between Zionism and Western colonialism and racism, benefiting from both the anger of the formerly colonized and the guilt of the colonizers.

Funds for anti-Israel initiatives also came from the network of charities associated with George Soros, starting around the beginning of the 1990s. This money nourished many of the NGOs and human rights groups that became centers of anti-Israel propaganda, and continues to support them.1

In the diplomatic realm, the invention of the Palestinian Refugee after Israel’s War of Independence (a war of national liberation in which the formerly colonized Jews fought Arab proxies of the British Empire!), provided Hamas with the troops it needed, fed and educated to the point of fanatic hatred with Western money. Hamas combined the multi-faceted indoctrination against Jews and Israel, pioneered by the PLO after Oslo, with religious jihad. Both the West and the Muslim world were primed and ready to blame Israel for the murder, rape, and pillage of her people. And the great-power rivals of the US, Russia and China, were only too happy to join in the take-down of what they see (correctly?) as an American satellite, an outpost of the US in an important zone of contention.

Given the fertile soil, the propaganda offensive of Hamas and its supporters when Israel counterattacked blossomed into a worldwide flourishing of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish expression. The Palestinians, who have developed the technique of exploiting their supposed victimhood, sometimes by exaggeration, sometimes by invention (as in the alleged shooting of the boy Mohammad al Dura in 2000, probably the most blatant yet effective “Pallywood” production ever), and sometimes by deliberately putting their people in harm’s way, pulled out all the stops. Soon the horrors of October 7th were drowned out by the suffering of the Gazans affected by the war that their leaders had started. Western media and humanitarian organizations slavishly repeated Hamas propaganda about civilian casualties with proforma disclosures that their only source was Hamas.

Mismanagement on the part of Israel also goes back decades. It includes overdependence on the US and consequent weakness in the face of pressure from unfriendly administrations, inability to overcome wish-fulfillment illusions about Palestinian motives and plans, weakness in the face of domestic pressure (for example, the release of more than a thousand imprisoned terrorists in return for one kidnapped soldier), and the tendency to prioritize internal political issues over serious external threats. A very serious failure has been our sporadic, inconsistent, and poorly funded actions in the information arena, while our enemies have implemented a long-term, carefully planned and meticulously executed campaign.

Al Jazeera, began broadcasting in Arabic by satellite in 1996, and since then has added multiple languages, including English. Based in Qatar and very influential in the Arab world, it has been in the forefront of anti-Israel propaganda ever since. In wartime, it specializes in inflammatory stories and photos of “atrocities” allegedly committed by the IDF (pictures from Syria and natural disasters are sometimes used). Left-leaning Western media, like the British Guardian newspaper have always followed an anti-Israel line; and the BBC is far from impartial. More recently, mainstream media in the US like the NY Times and Washington Post newspapers, the NPR radio network, CNN, and others – staffed by the products of “good” universities – have become more than merely biased: at their worst (which is often), they are mouthpieces for Hamas. Pro-Israel media in the West are rare and marginal. Some of Israel’s own media – in particular the English edition of Ha’aretz, which is widely read throughout the world – is only slightly less toxic than Al Jazeera. Israel is overwhelmed on social media as well, in part by botnets, but also by individuals and anti-Israel NGOs which dedicate staff to this function.

The combination of governments, international institutions, NGOs, media, academic institutions, and the arts all promulgating the carefully nurtured myths of Palestinian victimization and Israeli malevolence have overpowered Israel’s woefully inadequate attempts at a response.

In short, Israel has been and continues to be outgunned in the realm of information warfare. There have been sporadic attempts to improve the situation, but the funds for such a massive undertaking have never been available, nor would there likely be agreement on precisely what the message should be and how it should be presented. And we don’t have decades to lay the groundwork and gradually uproot the deep-seated antisemitism and hatred of the state of the Jews that has developed over time, even if we knew how to do it.

The best strategy in the face of this defeat therefore will be to depend on the human tendency to cheer for the winner: to be the “strong horse” that everyone bets on. Israel will need to defeat its enemies on the physical plane, to humiliate them and strike fear into the ones that are left. Rather than a picture of “responsible citizenship” that the world has been conditioned to disbelieve, our image should be that of a violent and dangerous player. In an environment where we can’t create warmth, we should at least inspire trepidation.

1 Alexander H. Joffe, “Bad Investment: The Philanthropy of George Soros and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, How Soros-funded Groups Increase Tensions in a Troubled Region: May 2013
https://www.ngo-monitor.org/soros.pdf

Posted in Information war, Israel and Palestinian Arabs, Jew Hatred, Media, War | 2 Comments

America Takes the Side of Hamas

It is with great sorrow – and trepidation – that I observe America taking the side of Hamas in what is nothing less than the first phase of a war against the existence of the Jewish state.

Despite the declarations of “unbreakable bonds,” and “unconditional support,” the Biden administration is demanding that Israel not invade Rafiah, the last remaining stronghold of Hamas, the location of its leaders – and perhaps also of many or all of the roughly 100 living hostages still held by Hamas.

Virtually all of Israel’s political and military leaders agree that only a ground invasion of Rafiah will end Hamas’ control of Gaza, prevent it from reconstituting its army, avoid the promised repetition of the horror show of October 7, and allow the residents of the western Negev to return to their homes without fear of rocket attacks or terrorist incursions.

The Americans are also pushing for a hostage deal that will entail a months-long ceasefire, which will enable Hamas to better prepare for further action by Israel, and which they hope to stretch even longer. Thus, when the inevitable confrontation with Hezbollah, an outbreak of war in Judea/Samaria, or an Iranian nuclear breakout occurs – probably all three simultaneously – Israel will be forced to fight a reconstituted Hamas on her southern front as well as her enemies on her northern and eastern ones.

At the same time, they are calling for the Palestinian Authority, which has never stopped paying terrorists to murder Israelis, to take control of Gaza. It will then be integrated into a sovereign Palestinian state. Again, virtually all Israeli leaders and a majority of the Israeli people believe that such a state would almost immediately be at war with Israel, this time only a few kilometers from her center of population.

The Americans argue that the invasion of Rafiah would entail “unacceptable” civilian casualties. They insist that preventing such casualties, which (they say) are already excessive, must be Israel’s top priority1.

But they know that the casualty figures coming from Hamas (there is no independent source) are massively inflated. They know that the IDF has achieved a lower ratio of civilian to combatant casualties than any other army in similar urban combat. They know that reports of hunger and humanitarian crisis are exaggerated, and that food and medical supplies are entering Gaza in great quantities. They know that Hamas is stealing some of it for its own purposes and selling the rest at exorbitant prices. They know that Israel has promised to evacuate civilians from the area before invading (despite the Egyptian refusal, with American support, to accept any refugees from Gaza). They know that the international law of war permits a reasonable amount of collateral damage, proportional to the military advantage gained. And they know that Hamas’ method of fighting, which deliberately places civilians in harm’s way and multiplies casualties for a propaganda advantage, is a war crime.

The US has excellent intelligence of her own, and Israel has provided American officials with access to her data. They must know all of the above, but they also know that the worldwide campaign of anti-Israel propaganda has been highly effective, and that many people – including Americans in states critical to the coming presidential election – believe it. So they position themselves as the champions of the “innocent Gazans2” who are suffering at the hands of Israel, and continue to ramp up pressure on Israel to “do more” to protect them, and to ensure that more humanitarian aid (which now exceeds the amount that was flowing before the war) gets into Gaza. They place limits on the use of American weapons, and threaten to cut off the flow of ammunition if Israel doesn’t follow instructions. In addition to weakening Israel, the American position strengthens Hamas, both by ensuring its supply of food and fuel, and with the message that all it has to do is hold on until the US makes Israel stop fighting.

The cynicism and hypocrisy is blatant. It’s been said that “Biden is calling for a two-state solution: Michigan and Nevada.”

What the Americans do not understand, because even now they do not understand the Middle East, is that Israel does not have a choice. Encircled and outnumbered by Iranian-supported proxies, our only hope for survival is to maintain the deterrence that our qualitative military advantage can provide. Today our enemies are waiting and watching. If they know that Israel will be prevented from defeating them, If they see that the terror tactics of October 7 are rewarded with international aid and even Palestinian statehood, they will attack more fiercely, and they will be encouraged to do so in precisely the way that worked so well for Hamas: the combination of the most vicious terrorism imaginable, along with the use of human shields and psychological warfare. if they see – remember, this is the Middle East – that murder, torture, and rape on a massive scale are not avenged, then they will be convinced that Israel is weak and defenseless. Like a flock of chickens attacking a wounded individual, they will try to peck us to death.

But I can’t place all the blame on the Americans, although they are doing their best to hamstring us. Our weak leadership has already indicated that it would accept a deal which would allow some hostages to come home, in return for a release of thousands of imprisoned terrorists, including many of the bloodiest. In addition, it would agree to a ceasefire for at least six weeks – and this is the first stage of the deal; it would be extended by further negotiations for the remaining hostages. And Hamas will never give up all of them until its survival is assured. Ironically, Hamas, convinced that the Americans will force Israel to give up even more, hasn’t accepted the deal.

It’s hard to imagine that we will get up after a ceasefire of months and invade Rafiah. If Israel does not do it within weeks or days, the opportunity will be lost. If Hamas is not decisively defeated they will claim victory. And they will be right in doing so.
_______________________________

1This is rich, coming from the country that incinerated Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, bombed dams to flood North Korea, machine-gunned refugees in No Gun Ri, “destroyed [Vietnamese] village[s] to save them,” and killed tens of thousands in Iraq.

2In the only Palestinian election to date, Gazans voted overwhelmingly for Hamas. Many “innocent civilians” followed Hamas soldiers across the border to pillage and murder. Today polls show most Palestinians support Hamas; those that don’t still admire the October 7 atrocity and favor armed conflict with Israel.

Posted in Israel and Palestinian Arabs, Terrorism, US-Israel Relations, War | 5 Comments

What We Must Tell Blinken

With the resumption of fighting in the Gaza Strip, American Secretary of State Blinken has informed Israel of the restrictions under which the US will permit her to operate. No displacement of the civilian population, and fewer civilian casualties (although there are no numbers except those that come directly from Hamas). No bombing hospitals or schools, even when they are in fact sanctuaries for Hamas troops. No cutting off the supply of fuel, which Hamas uses to keep its tunnels lighted and ventilated. Nevertheless, we are told to finish up the war quickly, because our “credit” is running out. And just in case anyone thought that it should someday be possible for Israeli children to sleep peacefully in the communities of the Western Negev, no security zone on the Gazan side of the border, and no Israeli security control of Gaza. The implied threat is that if Israel goes “off the reservation,” the US will not supply her with essential ammunition and spare parts for our American weapons systems, nor veto hostile resolutions in the UN Security Council.

I don’t know how Israel has responded to these demands, made to our war cabinet where Mr. Blinken apparently has the right to sit. But I know how I think we should answer. And so I submit the following:

Dear Secretary Blinken,

We appreciate the support we receive from America in our war against the genocidal Hamas. We appreciate that you seem to understand that these monsters must be removed from power in Gaza, from which they have promised to repeat again and again the atrocities they committed against our people on 7 October, atrocities that were proportionally twenty times greater than those perpetrated against the US on 9/11. But despite your understanding, you insist on placing restrictions on how we may fight; indeed, on micromanaging the war for us.

Let us speak frankly: you are asking us, in the short term, to trade the lives of our soldiers for those of Gazan civilians, and you are measuring our performance in meeting this demand with numbers supplied by Hamas! You are asking us to fight in a way that at best will only partially defeat Hamas. You say you want Hamas removed from power, but the likely outcome of following your instructions will not accomplish that. You are asking us to fight in a way that Americans never have and never would. This is not how you fought in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

In the longer term, you are asking us to give up the entire Western Negev, which will become uninhabitable by Jews unless we retain security control of Gaza and unless we can establish a buffer zone between it and our population. You even aspire to create a unified, sovereign Palestinian state in all of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, something that would shortly bring about the end of the Jewish state.

We do not accept your restrictions and micromanagement of the war, and we will not trade the lives of our soldiers for anyone, not Gazans (who overwhelmingly support murderous violence against Jews, whether by Hamas or other groups), and not the electoral fortunes of the Obama-Biden faction of the Democratic Party.

We insist that when the war ends, appropriate conditions for the security of the Western Negev must be in place. And we must inform you that if you carry out your threat to cut off our supply of ammunition and parts for our modern American weapons, we will be forced to fight in less modern ways, and for much longer. The humanitarian crisis will, as a direct result, be far greater, and you will be responsible for it. Because we will not stop fighting what we see as an essential battle in the war for the survival of our nation and people, even if we have to fight with the most primitive of weapons.

We don’t have a choice. But you do. You can support us, or you can in effect support those who think that murder, torture, and rape are not only acceptable tactics, but praiseworthy. You can help us end the war quickly, or you can extend it, with all the pain and suffering that entails. But know this: either way, Hamas will not escape judgment.

Sincerely,
Virtually Everyone in Israel

Posted in Israel and Palestinian Arabs, US-Israel Relations, War | 8 Comments

How To Get Our Honor Back

Look for a moment at the Israel-Gaza war in a different way, a Middle Eastern way. Look at it in terms of honor and shame. Despite the fact that these ideas are almost gone from the West – replaced in some places by “woke” concepts that are almost unintelligible here – they are tremendously important. The tribes of the Middle East still operate in a zero-sum world, where the weak are prey, deterrence is paramount, and honor is deterrence. And Israel’s future, if she has one, will be dependent on her relations with her Middle Eastern neighbors and not with post-Christian Europe and North America.

Everything about the terrible attack on southern Israel on 7 October was designed and choreographed as an attack on her honor. The rapes and torture, and (especially) the video documentation thereof, the emphasis on the degradation of women, the inclusion of Israeli Arabs and foreign workers in the massacre (to show that we couldn’t protect them), the killing of men and the capture of women and children (to become slaves) were more important than the transient military advantage resulting from the invasion.

The crowning glory of the attack was the hostage-taking, because, as the Hamas leaders understood, it enabled the subjugation of the Jews to the will of Hamas. Suddenly all our tanks and F-35s are rendered useless, and we are required to jump to the commands of Hamas, to beg for the lives of the women and children in their cruel hands, as they strut around and preen themselves, to worldwide applause.

This, as they see it, is enabled by the essential weakness of Israeli society, the society that Hamas leaders learned about as they served prison sentences (in the case of Yahya Sinwar, a sentence that was cut short as part of the obscenely excessive ransom for one Israeli soldier).

From 7 October to today, everything has gone according to the Hamas plan. The deal that was made will enable its military capability and political control to survive. They have precisely calibrated it according to their understanding of our society, the political situation in the US, and the expected behavior of the international community. The message to the most important audience, the tribes of the Middle East, has been received. Israel has no honor; anyone can hurt us, even a group like Hamas that is little more than an ISIS-like militia. The Iranian axis is the “strong horse.”

It needn’t be this way. Even now, it isn’t too late to recover our honor and our deterrence. The war should be resumed, with a strong offensive to finish off Hamas’ military capability in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. We should demand that all hostages be released within a specified time period (a few days). If this does not occur to our satisfaction, not only will the Hamas leadership all be targeted and killed, but their families as well. In effect, they will be our hostages. In either case, the war will continue until the military capability and political control of Hamas over Gaza is ended.

I can only imagine the objections. It will endanger the captives. It is barbaric. It is collective punishment. Let me answer the last two first: call it what you will, it is the way a tribe must behave in the Middle East to survive. This is especially important for a small country without strategic depth like Israel, which can’t afford mistakes. Israel’s attempts to act according to the moral precepts of large Western nations (which, of course, the hypocritical Westerners violate with impunity whenever it is to their advantage) places her at a great disadvantage in asymmetric warfare with typical Middle-Eastern tribal societies like Hamas, possibly an existential one.

The first objection is more serious. It is true that anything other than complete surrender to all of Hamas’ demands will endanger the captives to some extent. But allowing Hamas to survive, giving it military advantages, and releasing terrorist prisoners will also have its price. We can’t put up posters of future victims of Hamas, but they are certain to exist. As Caroline Glick has said, the only difference is that we know the names of today’s captives. The others areas yet unknown, but they are no less real. And if we do not regain our deterrence, we can expect that there will be many more of them.

Posted in Israel and Palestinian Arabs, War | 2 Comments

Betrayal

The government of Israel has agreed to a stupid, shameful deal with Hamas. If the government continues along this path – and it seems almost certain to do so – it will mark the turning point of the war in Gaza. In retrospect, it will be seen as the point at which it became clear that Hamas will retain control of the Gaza strip.

The details of the deal, as I understand them this morning, are that Hamas will return some 50 of the 240 hostages they are holding, women and children. The Red Cross will be allowed to visit the remaining hostages. In return, Hamas will receive a cease-fire of four days, during which Israel agrees not to fly (I presume both drones and manned aircraft are included) over the northern part of Gaza for six hours each day. There will be no flights at all over the southern part. Israel has agreed to extend the cease-fire for an additional day for every ten hostages released. In addition, Israel will release some 150 to 300 Palestinian women and teenagers imprisoned in Israel for offenses less serious than murder. Israel will allow fuel and an increased amount of humanitarian goods to be brought into Gaza.

Not so bad, right? Wrong – it’s a disaster.

The IDF has been rolling up Hamas in Gaza. Another week or two of fighting would be decisive. It would liquidate Hamas’ military capability and civil control. All that would remain would be to mop up. What would happen next is a difficult question, but it will not be relevant if Hamas remains in control or retains significant military capability.

A cease-fire will allow Hamas to resupply its soldiers, to rebuild damaged communications systems, to reestablish the chain of command where key commanders (who were specifically targeted by the IDF) have been killed. It will allow them to reinforce their weak points and those places where they expect the IDF to attack. It will allow them to repair damaged systems for launching rockets. The no-fly restriction will allow them to move remaining hostages to more secure locations and extricate key personnel from areas where they are in danger without being tracked. At least some if not all of the fuel, food, and medicine that will be entering the Strip will be hijacked for Hamas’ purposes. Fuel in particular is needed to operate generators that supply power for ventilation of the tunnels where Hamas operatives live and from which they fight.

In short, a few days of cease-fire translate directly into a much longer extension of the war. From the start of the ground invasion on 27 October and until 20 November, 66 IDF soldiers have been killed in combat in Gaza (this of course is in addition to the 1200 civilians and soldiers killed on 7 October, and the unknown number of hostages who are no longer alive). For every day that the war is extended, IDF soldiers will be lost. And some of the toughest fighting is ahead.

It must be assumed that the international pressure to stop the war before Israel obtains her objectives will not go away; rather, it will probably increase as a result of the cease-fire. The obscene accusations of “genocide” will only become louder. There is concern that the cease-fire will expand, ultimately to become indefinitely long. The pressure on the Biden administration to force Israel to stop fighting will only grow.

The provision to release hostages in groups will present insupportable choices for the government: how will it be able to tell the families that have children or parents still in captivity that their family members will not be redeemed, when others have? Indeed, as long as Hamas has even one captive, its leverage will remain. The well-organized families of the hostages have underlined their – totally understandable, but also tragically wrong – contention that the primary goal of the war should be to return the hostages rather than to defeat Hamas, by blocking the main highway near Tel Aviv on Saturday night.

Indeed, this aspect of the deal is the most dangerous part of it. The first group of hostages will be traded for women and teen-aged terrorists without blood on their hands; but surely there will be more expansive demands made for the next group. The more hostages are freed, the harder it will become for the government to hold out against the pressure to give in to the increasingly severe demands of their captors. And Hamas has already announced that its objective is to obtain the release of all Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, including (especially) the worst of mass murderers.

Ariel Kahane, writing in Israel Hayom today, compared the choices facing the government to those facing the Judenraten in the Nazi-controlled ghettos, who were asked to provide lists of Jews to be deported to death camps, or see the entire ghetto liquidated.

If Hamas is not decisively defeated, it will encourage Hezbollah to increase the pressure in the north, as well as possibly to undertake a hostage-taking operation of its own. It will put the wind in the sails of Hamas and other terrorist factions in Judea and Samaria. It will send a message to Iran, and also to Israel’s hoped-for allies in the Arab world that Israel is weak, unable to stand up to extortion, and unable to defeat a force which is more akin to a terrorist militia than a real army. It will be a massive blow to our honor and therefore our deterrence.

In summary: this deal promises an extension of the war, which will cost Israel in the lives of the best of her young men. It will result in the release of numerous terrorists, most likely ultimately including the worst mass murderers, those who should not even be alive, rather than free to kill again. It will enable the “international community” to put the brakes on the IDF, both in the way it fights and in the time it is allowed to do so. It will, in my estimation, allow Hamas to remain in control of at least part of the Gaza Strip, and perhaps to retain some hostages for further leverage. It will encourage Israel’s enemies and damage her attempts to make allies in the Middle East.

Psychologically, it reinforces the false equivalence between kidnapped hostages and convicted terrorists. It legitimizes terrorism and hostage-taking – consider the absurdity that Israel has agreed to blind her eyes in the sky, because otherwise they might find the hostages and be able to rescue them!

The deal is a disaster, a surrender to the monsters of Hamas that murdered, tortured, and raped our people and who have said that they will do it again if given the chance. It is open-ended in a way that can only lead to even worse acts of appeasement.

Our young soldiers overwhelmed their commanders in their desire to fight; some reserve units didn’t have enough weapons for all of those who volunteered. They are fighting ferociously and heroically. As of yesterday, sixty-six of them will not go home to their families, and many others have been so severely wounded that they will never live normal lives. They were winning, and the decision taken by the government is nothing less than a betrayal.

Posted in Israel and Palestinian Arabs, War | 5 Comments

Passivity is Killing Us

Israel’s defensive strategy in recent years has been primarily passive. Passive defense does not target an enemy, but puts obstacles in his path. Our passive defenses include security barriers on our borders, with a billion-dollar one under and above the ground next to Gaza. We have built a technological marvel of a layered anti-missile defense system. Such means can – sometimes and to some extent – mitigate the damage that an enemy can do, and are an important part of a country’s defensive strategy. But even when they are successful, they do not deter or weaken the enemy. Indeed, they encourage him to improve his technology and his tactics and try again.

In the early days of the State of Israel, there were no Iron Domes or sensor-laden fences. We responded to terrorist attacks by vicious retaliation – for example, by the famous Unit 101, commanded by Ariel Sharon. That is active defense. Active defenses also have a flaw, especially for a country with little strategic depth, which is that an enemy can do a great deal of damage by a surprise attack before a response can be mounted. But an active defense has deterrent power that passive means do not. And, most importantly: a passive defense alone never won a war. The RAF won the Battle of Britain, but it took land invasions from the east and west to defeat the Nazis.

Over-reliance on passive defense can be dangerous. The Maginot and Bar-Lev lines were circumvented, and the Gaza fence penetrated. Iron Dome can be overwhelmed by mass launches of rockets, and is economically unsustainable. Hamas’ success in its murderous attack on southern Israel was made possible in large measure by our overemphasis, over a period of years, on passive tactics. With each round of fighting, Hamas improved its ability to get rockets through the Iron Dome. Because we haven’t seriously tried to destroy its infrastructure, Hamas was able to build and improve the tunnel system that we are now paying in Israeli lives to destroy. And because of our arrogance and overconfidence, the astronomically expensive security barrier proved almost worthless.

And there is another aspect that must be considered: the psychological effect, not just in Israel, but throughout the world. It has become generally accepted that Israel is a target, in way that Russia, for example, could never be. It became understandable that “frustrated” Palestinians could launch thousands of rockets at us while we bombed empty buildings in return, or Houthis in Yemen could launch Iranian missiles at our cities from 2000 km. away. Why not? We didn’t retaliate seriously.

Passive defense is more popular with the international community than active retaliation. You don’t often read in the NY Times or the Guardian about the suffering of the Qassam missiles that are blown to bits by Iron Dome. The world has gotten used to Israel responding in the most measured way to attacks that would cause other nations to strike out viciously, as the US did after 9/11. Although Israel’s record of fighting in populated areas while minimizing civilian casualties is much better than that of any other country, including the US, we receive daily warnings from President Biden to try harder in that respect. The unstated subtext is he can pull the plug on us at any moment.

I do not want to say that our unbalanced defensive posture is anyone’s fault but our own. But it appears to fit American policy, which since 1973 has been that Israel should never be permitted to win a decisive victory, and must return to her pre-1967 size. And the US uses the very powerful lever of military aid to encourage this. It’s easy to get funding for Iron Dome interceptors, but hard or impossible to get bunker busters or tanker aircraft for midair refueling. At this moment, the US Secretary of State is on his way here again to keep a tight rein on us, and an American general is sitting with our Chief of Staff to “help” us manage the war with Hamas.

Our dependence on American military aid and overemphasis on passive defense has gotten us into a very dangerous situation. Not that we can’t defeat Hamas, even though it will be significantly more costly than it would have been in January of 2009 (when Obama’s people told us to get the IDF out of Gaza before the inauguration). The real danger is in the end game, where the US State Department and administration believe they will finally be able to implement their long-sought goal of a unified sovereign Palestinian state in Judea, Samaria, the Jordan Valley, and Gaza, under the control of the PLO.

I won’t speculate today about whether they understand that this would be a major step toward the end of the Jewish state, but that is in fact the case. Israel must do whatever she can to prevent the imposition of this “solution.” The best way to remove the threat from Gaza, to prevent a Palestinian terror state from coming into existence, and to send a message to all of our enemies that we will no longer be a passive target would be to destroy Hamas, to force a large part of the population of the Gaza strip to emigrate, and to establish Israeli control over it.

Can Israel stand up against the US – or at least against powerful circles in the American government? We’d better. Our survival depends on it.

Posted in Terrorism, US-Israel Relations, War | 2 Comments

Tribal Warfare

The deliberate viciousness of the attack by Hamas on southern Israel was an announcement of the tribal nature of the conflict. Although it is true that the initial assault troops were followed by a civilian rabble that participated joyfully in the mass murder, rape, and looting, the Hamas soldiers themselves received explicit orders (this is documented) to perpetrate a terrorist massacre with all the trimmings, and they did so exceeding the expectations of their commanders.

This wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t merely an outburst of the hatred that is drilled into all Gazans by their Hamas-controlled (and UN-supported) educational system, although that is what made it possible for human beings to become monsters. The savagery was fully intended by the Hamas leadership.

A tribal war is fought for territory, but it is also fought for honor. And honor is gained (or in the case of Palestinians, lost honor is regained) by humiliating the enemy. And this is done here in the Middle East by exaggerated cruelty, especially to the weakest elements of the enemy tribe. That’s why Hamas fighters and their followers tortured women in unmentionable ways and overcame the normal human resistance to hurting children and the elderly.

There is little distinction between civilians and soldiers in tribal warfare, except insofar as soldiers are considered more dangerous. An enemy is an enemy, and you kill enemies.

This did not endear Hamas to some in the West, which had adopted humanistic standards for warfare after WWII, when the folks who had incinerated hundreds of thousands of Japanese and German civilians decided that they would outlaw tribal forms of warfare (indeed they even outlawed war itself). But tribal peoples, like those who inhabit our region, never signed on to the Western vision expressed by the UN Charter; indeed, they never really bought the idea of nations, and certainly not a framework defined by international law.

They operate in a different framework, one in which there are friendly tribes and there are enemy tribes; and what you do to an enemy is kill him before he kills you. You kill him by any means necessary, and you don’t spare women and children. And if you are Hamas or the PLO, you employ the Arab equivalent of WWII’s strategic bombing – murderous terrorism against enemy civilians. The object is to remove the enemy tribe from contact with yours. Genocide is a strategy.

But now we come to our situation. Americans and Europeans who seem to have forgotten Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Dresden, expect Israel to play by the rules that they made up (and don’t follow). Which is hard to do when you face an enemy whose very basic ways of fighting – human shields and hostages, terrorism of every kind, random rocketing of civilian areas, etc. – violate the laws of war that the West expects us to obey more carefully than they ever do.

One of the interesting things about humans is their ambivalence toward cruelty. On the one hand, we saw some reactions of revulsion to the massive pogrom (notably including the US president), even on the part of a few who had heretofore accepted claims that Israel oppresses the Palestinians in Gaza. But at the same time, there was a massive outpouring of support for Hamas, huge demonstrations in cities like London and New York, and of course on college campuses. Some of the demonstrators were Palestinians or Muslims who were expressing their tribal loyalty, but others were Westerners whose primitive, atavistic lizard brains reveled in the blood and suffering of the Jews. And of course it was cause for great celebration among the Arabs of Judea and Samaria, as well as throughout the Arab world. In this respect, the Hamas strategy paradoxically achieved a propaganda victory.

We in Israel do not want to fight like Hamas. We don’t want to rape their women and butcher their children. On the other hand, we are not interested in committing suicide for the sake of the moral principles of the hypocritical West. And we have a message to send to Hamas and to all our enemies: we can and will fight as brutally as necessary. If we don’t do this, if we allow this campaign to end with an inconclusive whimper as so many previous ones have, then it will just be a matter of time before we are forced to leave up our beautiful homeland, perhaps for the last time, for an increasingly dark diaspora.

Posted in Israel and Palestinian Arabs, Terrorism, War | 4 Comments

The Day After

I’m going to make this short, because it really is simple.

After Hamas is completely extirpated from Gaza, militarily and politically, and its leadership wiped out, then what?

The Biden Administration wants to see the Palestinian Authority put in control, which, they think, will finally enable the two-state solution they have been trying to impose since the 1970s. Israel cannot allow this.

The PA, dominated by the terrorist organization Fatah, is no more prepared to suffer a Jewish state next door than Hamas. The only thing that prevents PA Arabs from doing precisely the same thing that Hamas did on 7 October is the day in, day out activity of the Shabak and the IDF to arrest or kill terrorists and interrupt their plans.

If you don’t believe this, look at what the PA says in its own media. But even if this weren’t true, and the PA actually was a “moderate” institution interested in peaceful development of a Palestinian state, what prevents it from being taken over by extremists? After all, this is precisely what happened in Gaza after Israel withdrew its soldiers, expelled its civilians by force, and even exhumed its dead from Gazan cemeteries in 2005 (think about why this last step was necessary).

As long as there is Palestinian sovereignty in Gaza, there is no doubt that it will develop into a base for terrorism. Those residents of the Western Negev that survived the pogrom of 7 October will not return. In effect Israel will cede a large part of her country to her enemies.

Another suggestion is that there should be some kind of international control of the area. It’s hard not to burst out laughing at this idea, when one considers the history of such arrangements, like the UN force in Lebanon that stood by and watched after the 2006 Second Lebanon War, as Iran built Hezbollah into a existential threat to Israel with 130,000 rockets aimed at every inch of the country.

Only Israeli control of Gaza can guarantee the safety of the Western Negev, and ensure that the next war – which is certainly coming – will not have a southern front.

Possibly civil control can be rested in the Arab clans that are powerful in the various areas of the Gaza Strip; but there will be no alternative to an IDF presence to provide overall security and prevent an extremist takeover. The only other alternative is forced emigration of a large part of the population and military occupation of the territory.

What is true of Gaza is also true of Judea and Samaria. Palestinian sovereignty there would lead to a terrorist base a few kilometers from the population centers of Israel. This has happened consistently whenever Israel has withdrawn from territory she controlled and international guarantees have never made any difference. The topography of the region is such that Israel cannot be defended against attack from a Palestinian state there or from the east if she does not control the high ground of Judea, Samaria, and the Jordan Valley.

This isn’t controversial from a strategic point of view, though the Palestinians and their supporters find it unpalatable. But it cannot be Israel’s problem that the Arab leadership embraced, and never renounced, a fundamentally antisemitic position that rejects any Jewish state between the river and the sea. If they had the power that Israel has, they would kill or banish every last Jew, as happened in numerous Arab countries after 1948. We are (possibly wrongly) more tolerant. But we won’t tolerate being murdered.

Israel has several difficult tasks ahead of her, a consequence of the failure to see and understand reality in the Middle East that led to the Oslo Accords, the withdrawal from Gaza, and other strategic mistakes. In order of immediacy, they are: to eliminate Hamas and take control of the Gaza Strip; to remove the military threat posed by Hezbollah; to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons; and to establish permanent Israeli sovereignty in Judea, Samaria, and the Jordan Valley.

None of these are easy – maybe Gaza is actually the easiest – from a military and especially a political/diplomatic standpoint. But they are essential to the survival of the Jewish state, and therefore – as events in the diaspora are teaching us – to the Jewish people.

Posted in Israel and Palestinian Arabs, Terrorism, War | 3 Comments