April 18, 2021

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New thinking required to defeat Hamas


Back when music came on Bakelite discs that spun at 78 rpm, the very fragile records would crack easily. When you tried to play a cracked disc, often the stylus (what everyone called the “needle”) would strike the crack and slip back into the groove it had just played, causing the last few seconds of the music to repeat. And repeat. And repeat.

This is the genesis of the expression “like a broken record.” And I am like a broken record.

Friday night Israel was hit with about 174 rockets and mortar shells fired from Gaza by our enemies in Hamas and other factions, whose credo is that for reasons having to do with religion and a narrative of lies, the Jews of Israel should be dead. Several Israelis were injured when rockets hit a synagogue and a private home in the city of Sderot.

Those of you who are thinking “but occupation, blockade, cycle of violence, open-air prison, blah blah” and so on can stop reading. I have nothing to say to you. Go read Gideon Levy in Ha’aretz. If you don’t know by now that this conflict is about killing Jews because they are Jews, you aren’t going to learn, at least not from me. You are part of the problem.

The recent escalation comes after a 15-year old child soldier was shot trying to climb the border fence to kill Jews, and an IDF officer was seriously injured by a grenade thrown over the fence. And in the background is several months of arson by firebombs attached to kites and balloons sent over the fence, which have burned thousands of acres of farmland and nature reserves, destroying plants and animals that will take decades to return.

Israel retaliated by bombing Hamas installations and tunnels in Gaza. “The IDF hit Hamas with the harshest blow since Operation Protective Edge and we will intensify our reaction as much as necessary,” said PM Netanyahu Saturday. A crushing blow, supposedly. We heard the planes on their way Saturday morning, and thought “that’s it, now we are finally going to teach them that they can’t burn our country and get away with it.” But that isn’t what happened.

The “harshest blow” was delivered according to the doctrine apparently invented by the IDF, our political echelon, and 10,000 lawyers, called “War Fighting Without Hurting (Practically) Anybody” (WFWHPA). Thanks to WFWHPA, only two Gazans were killed by all of Israel’s retaliatory strikes, teenagers who apparently ignored warnings delivered an hour before a structure used by Hamas was destroyed.

A ceasefire agreement was reached Saturday night with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, broken only by a few mortar shells. But Islamic Jihad says the ceasefire doesn’t include incendiary devices, which was one of Israel’s main demands, and as I write this they have been trying to prove that it is their God-given right to burn our country.

So here is my (rhetorical) question: why and how did it happen that they got to set the rules?

The world allows them to hurt us as much as they are able. Most of the media, international organizations, and many governments appear to accept their point of view that “resistance to occupation” permits them to do whatever they want. We are forbidden to shoot the launchers of incendiary bombs, especially since some of them may be “children.” But they are permitted – or at least, excused – the use of child soldiers. They use human shields, shoot randomly at civilians, take hostages, burn our crops, and deliberately destroy our environment, all violations of international humanitarian law. But the champions of humanitarianism in Europe call for arresting Israeli officials for war crimes.

Unfortunately, even in Israel we have gotten used to it. We fight according to a technocratic cost-benefit principle. The IDF calculates that the cost of the arson campaign is less than the cost of a war. They calculate that it’s better to destroy Hamas’ property than its soldiers, because they have plenty of soldiers and limited money, and because of the propaganda value of dead Arabs (who can be called “civilians” or “children,” as was done effectively in previous wars). Our leaders say “so what if they keep trying to kill us, because we are strong enough to stop them.” We can sit underneath our Iron Domes and improve our ability to locate and put out fires, and we won’t even notice that our enemies are trying to kill us and turn our land into smoke and ashes.

There are two problems with this. One is that it doesn’t work. We won’t let Hamas fall, because we are afraid of the alternatives, which are even more extreme groups or anarchy. We are afraid of a humanitarian disaster, which would be blamed on us. So in any event the cost-benefit warfare won’t be carried to a natural conclusion, the end of the Hamas regime. In addition, our declared enemies in Iran and our undeclared ones in Europe will always find a way to prop it up. This kind of war will go on forever.

The second problem is that it is a recipe for losing the cognitive war against the broader coalition of our enemies, which stretches far beyond the Middle East. It damages our own morale: our PM brags about how someone said we are the 8th most powerful country in the world, but try explaining that to the people sitting in shelters in Sderot or the kibbutzniks in the “Gaza envelope” racing to put out the fires breaking out everywhere. But more than that, what picture does it present throughout the world: the cowering, victimized Jews, brought to their knees by the low-tech (but courageous!) youth of Gaza.

It is as if we are saying “go ahead, hit me again.” We Jews must deserve it, because we never hit back. Our strategy announces that we are weaklings, cowards, and evil oppressors all at the same time. Goebbels couldn’t have expressed it better.

We need to win both the kinetic and the cognitive wars. We can do both by actually confronting and defeating our enemy. That requires certain changes in our attitudes.

First, we have to stop worrying about the poor, victimized population of Gaza. They supported Hamas (it won a relatively fair election there), or the Islamic Jihad or the PLO, all of which are officially dedicated to killing Jews. Yes, it’s wrong to deliberately target civilians – and you Brits and Americans who criticize us should look into what the US Army’s bombers and the RAF did to Germany in WWII (google “strategic bombing”) – but the primary goal is to win the war.

Second, we need to understand and act on the proposition that Gaza is not our responsibility. Hamas and friends have been making war against us since they got power in 2007, and it’s time to destroy their ability to do so any more. What happens after that is the responsibility of the international community, which nurtured the nest of vipers with billions from UNRWA and other aid.

And third, we must start realizing that we have a right to be here. For decades, we have been acting as though we too accept the anti-Zionist propaganda that flows from Muslim countries and Europe, and their tool, the UN. We are the oldest indigenous inhabitants of the land, the natives. Nothing epitomizes our failure to assert our aboriginal rights to the land more than the way we have clung to the disastrous Oslo accords, long after it became clear that the Palestinians do not accept those rights.

We don’t need to feel guilty for establishing a sovereign state in our historic homeland – and we don’t owe the local Arabs any of it.

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