Sunday, August 31, 2014


Melanie Phillips: 
Referring to Israel as a “life-affirming place of hope where Jews are not on their knees but are fighting for the defense of civilization against barbarism,” Ms. Phillips noted how, in the discourse surrounding the Gaza conflict, anti-Israel attitudes had morphed into overt anti-Judaism in a “tsunami of bigotry and hatred.”
Using the UK as a case study, Ms. Phillips addressed the prejudiced attitudes towards Israel from both Muslims and left-wingers and so-called liberals before criticizing the UK Jewish community for failing to respond adequately and preferring to keep their heads down.
Israel needs a new strategic vision. It needs to have a strategy to combat the psychological warfare strategy being deployed by the enemy and having been deployed so effectively against Israel for around four decades now.
Ms. Phillips stated that Israel needs to reframe the entire narrative about the Middle East, firstly by educating the uneducated through teaching the history of the Jewish people and Israel, through exposing the Muslim and Arab anti-Semitism so prevalent even among so-called moderates in the Middle East, and to position Israel at the forefront of the global battle for civilization by reclaiming the word Zionist for the moral high ground where it belongs.
She stressed that Zionism is an integral part of Judaism and to be hostile to Israel or Zionism is to be hostile to Judaism.
Israel should delegitimize the delegitimizers by calling the United Nations to account, particularly UNRWA’s relationship with Hamas and the credibility of the UN Human Rights Council as a mechanism for empowering dictators and rogue states.
Ms. Phillips also urged Israel to hold its allies to account for their silence in the face of years of demonization and delegitimization and the constant incitement against Israel and Jews.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

An Insider’s Guide to the Most Important Story on Earth
By Matti Friedman| Tablet Magazine August 26, 2014

A former AP correspondent explains how and why reporters get Israel so wrong, and why it matters

The Israel Story
Is there anything left to say about Israel and Gaza? Newspapers this summer have been full of little else. Television viewers see heaps of rubble and plumes of smoke in their sleep. A representative article from a recent issue of The New Yorker described the summer’s events by dedicating one sentence each to the horrors in Nigeria and Ukraine, four sentences to the crazed g√©nocidaires of ISIS, and the rest of the article—30 sentences—to Israel and Gaza.
When the hysteria abates, I believe the events in Gaza will not be remembered by the world as particularly important. People were killed, most of them Palestinians, including many unarmed innocents. I wish I could say the tragedy of their deaths, or the deaths of Israel’s soldiers, will change something, that they mark a turning point. But they don’t. This round was not the first in the Arab wars with Israel and will not be the last. The Israeli campaign was little different in its execution from any other waged by a Western army against a similar enemy in recent years, except for the more immediate nature of the threat to a country’s own population, and the greater exertions, however futile, to avoid civilian deaths.
The lasting importance of this summer’s war, I believe, doesn’t lie in the war itself. It lies instead in the way the war has been described and responded to abroad, and the way this has laid bare the resurgence of an old, twisted pattern of thought and its migration from the margins to the mainstream of Western discourse—namely, a hostile obsession with Jews. The key to understanding this resurgence is not to be found among jihadi webmasters, basement conspiracy theorists, or radical activists. It is instead to be found first among the educated and respectable people who populate the international news industry; decent people, many of them, and some of them my former colleagues.
While global mania about Israeli actions has come to be taken for granted, it is actually the result of decisions made by individual human beings in positions of responsibility—in this case, journalists and editors. The world is not responding to events in this country, but rather to the description of these events by news organizations. The key to understanding the strange nature of the response is thus to be found in the practice of journalism, and specifically in a severe malfunction that is occurring in that profession—my profession—here in Israel.
In this essay I will try to provide a few tools to make sense of the news from Israel. I acquired these tools as an insider: Between 2006 and the end of 2011 I was a reporter and editor in the Jerusalem bureau of the Associated Press, one of the world’s two biggest news providers. I have lived in Israel since 1995 and have been reporting on it since 1997.
This essay is not an exhaustive survey of the sins of the international media, a conservative polemic, or a defense of Israeli policies. (I am a believer in the importance of the “mainstream” media, a liberal, and a critic of many of my country’s policies.) It necessarily involves some generalizations. I will first outline the central tropes of the international media’s Israel story—a story on which there is surprisingly little variation among mainstream outlets, and one which is, as the word “story” suggests, a narrative construct that is largely fiction. I will then note the broader historical context of the way Israel has come to be discussed and explain why I believe it to be a matter of concern not only for people preoccupied with Jewish affairs. I will try to keep it brief.
How Important Is the Israel Story?
Staffing is the best measure of the importance of a story to a particular news organization. When I was a correspondent at the AP, the agency had more than 40 staffers covering Israel and the Palestinian territories. That was significantly more news staff than the AP had in China, Russia, or India, or in all of the 50 countries of sub-Saharan Africa combined. It was higher than the total number of news-gathering employees in all the countries where the uprisings of the “Arab Spring” eventually erupted.
To offer a sense of scale: Before the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, the permanent AP presence in that country consisted of a single regime-approved stringer. The AP’s editors believed, that is, that Syria’s importance was less than one-40th that of Israel. I don’t mean to pick on the AP—the agency is wholly average, which makes it useful as an example. The big players in the news business practice groupthink, and these staffing arrangements were reflected across the herd. Staffing levels in Israel have decreased somewhat since the Arab uprisings began, but remain high. And when Israel flares up, as it did this summer, reporters are often moved from deadlier conflicts. Israel still trumps nearly everything else.
The volume of press coverage that results, even when little is going on, gives this conflict a prominence compared to which its actual human toll is absurdly small. In all of 2013, for example, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict claimed 42 lives—that is, roughly the monthly homicide rate in the city of Chicago. Jerusalem, internationally renowned as a city of conflict, had slightly fewer violent deaths per capita last year than Portland, Ore., one of America’s safer cities. In contrast, in three years the Syrian conflict has claimed an estimated 190,000 lives, or about 70,000 more than the number of people who have ever died in the Arab-Israeli conflict since it began a century ago.
News organizations have nonetheless decided that this conflict is more important than, for example, the more than 1,600 women murdered in Pakistan last year (271 after being raped and 193 of them burned alive), the ongoing erasure of Tibet by the Chinese Communist Party, the carnage in Congo (more than 5 million dead as of 2012) or the Central African Republic , and the drug wars in Mexico (death toll between 2006 and 2012: 60,000 ), let alone conflicts no one has ever heard of in obscure corners of India or Thailand . They believe Israel to be the most important story on earth, or very close.
What Is Important About the Israel Story, and What Is Not
A reporter working in the international press corps here understands quickly that what is important in the Israel-Palestinian story is Israel. If you follow mainstream coverage, you will find nearly no real analysis of Palestinian society or ideologies, profiles of armed Palestinian groups, or investigation of Palestinian government. Palestinians are not taken seriously as agents of their own fate. The West has decided that Palestinians should want a state alongside Israel, so that opinion is attributed to them as fact, though anyone who has spent time with actual Palestinians understands that things are (understandably, in my opinion) more complicated. Who they are and what they want is not important: The story mandates that they exist as passive victims of the party that matters.
Corruption, for example, is a pressing concern for many Palestinians under the rule of the Palestinian Authority, but when I and another reporter once suggested an article on the subject, we were informed by the bureau chief that Palestinian corruption was “not the story.” (Israeli corruption was, and we covered it at length.)
Israeli actions are analyzed and criticized, and every flaw in Israeli society is aggressively reported. In one seven-week period, from Nov. 8 to Dec. 16, 2011, I decided to count the stories coming out of our bureau on the various moral failings of Israeli society—proposed legislation meant to suppress the media, the rising influence of Orthodox Jews, unauthorized settlement outposts, gender segregation, and so forth. I counted 27 separate articles, an average of a story every two days. In a very conservative estimate, this seven-week tally was higher than the total number of significantly critical stories about Palestinian government and society, including the totalitarian Islamists of Hamas, that our bureau had published in the preceding three years.
The Hamas charter, for example, calls not just for Israel’s destruction but for the murder of Jews and blames Jews for engineering the French and Russian revolutions and both world wars; the charter was never mentioned in print when I was at the AP, though Hamas won a Palestinian national election and had become one of the region’s most important players. To draw the link with this summer’s events: An observer might think Hamas’ decision in recent years to construct a military infrastructure beneath Gaza’s civilian infrastructure would be deemed newsworthy, if only because of what it meant about the way the next conflict would be fought and the cost to innocent people. But that is not the case. The Hamas emplacements were not important in themselves, and were therefore ignored. What was important was the Israeli decision to attack them.
There has been much discussion recently of Hamas attempts to intimidate reporters. Any veteran of the press corps here knows the intimidation is real, and I saw it in action myself as an editor on the AP news desk. During the 2008-2009 Gaza fighting I personally erased a key detail—that Hamas fighters were dressed as civilians and being counted as civilians in the death toll—because of a threat to our reporter in Gaza. (The policy was then, and remains, not to inform readers that the story is censored unless the censorship is Israeli. Earlier this month, the AP’s Jerusalem news editor reported and submitted a story on Hamas intimidation; the story was shunted into deep freeze by his superiors and has not been published.)
But if critics imagine that journalists are clamoring to cover Hamas and are stymied by thugs and threats, it is generally not so. There are many low-risk ways to report Hamas actions, if the will is there: under bylines from Israel, under no byline, by citing Israeli sources. Reporters are resourceful when they want to be.
The fact is that Hamas intimidation is largely beside the point because the actions of Palestinians are beside the point: Most reporters in Gaza believe their job is to document violence directed by Israel at Palestinian civilians. That is the essence of the Israel story. In addition, reporters are under deadline and often at risk, and many don’t speak the language and have only the most tenuous grip on what is going on. They are dependent on Palestinian colleagues and fixers who either fear Hamas, support Hamas, or both. Reporters don’t need Hamas enforcers to shoo them away from facts that muddy the simple story they have been sent to tell.
It is not coincidence that the few journalists who have documented Hamas fighters and rocket launches in civilian areas this summer were generally not, as you might expect, from the large news organizations with big and permanent Gaza operations. They were mostly scrappy, peripheral, and newly arrived players—a Finn, an Indian crew, a few others. These poor souls didn’t get the memo.
What Else Isn’t Important?
The fact that Israelis quite recently elected moderate governments that sought reconciliation with the Palestinians, and which were undermined by the Palestinians, is considered unimportant and rarely mentioned. These lacunae are often not oversights but a matter of policy. In early 2009, for example, two colleagues of mine obtained information that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had made a significant peace offer to the Palestinian Authority several months earlier, and that the Palestinians had deemed it insufficient. This had not been reported yet and it was—or should have been—one of the biggest stories of the year. The reporters obtained confirmation from both sides and one even saw a map, but the top editors at the bureau decided that they would not publish the story.
Some staffers were furious, but it didn’t help. Our narrative was that the Palestinians were moderate and the Israelis recalcitrant and increasingly extreme. Reporting the Olmert offer—like delving too deeply into the subject of Hamas—would make that narrative look like nonsense. And so we were instructed to ignore it, and did, for more than a year and a half.
This decision taught me a lesson that should be clear to consumers of the Israel story: Many of the people deciding what you will read and see from here view their role not as explanatory but as political. Coverage is a weapon to be placed at the disposal of the side they like.
How Is the Israel Story Framed?
The Israel story is framed in the same terms that have been in use since the early 1990s—the quest for a “two-state solution.” It is accepted that the conflict is “Israeli-Palestinian,” meaning that it is a conflict taking place on land that Israel controls—0.2 percent of the Arab world—in which Jews are a majority and Arabs a minority. The conflict is more accurately described as “Israel-Arab,” or “Jewish-Arab”—that is, a conflict between the 6 million Jews of Israel and 300 million Arabs in surrounding countries. (Perhaps “Israel-Muslim” would be more accurate, to take into account the enmity of non-Arab states like Iran and Turkey, and, more broadly, 1 billion Muslims worldwide.) This is the conflict that has been playing out in different forms for a century, before Israel existed, before Israel captured the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank, and before the term “Palestinian” was in use.
The “Israeli-Palestinian” framing allows the Jews, a tiny minority in the Middle East, to be depicted as the stronger party. It also includes the implicit assumption that if the Palestinian problem is somehow solved the conflict will be over, though no informed person today believes this to be true. This definition also allows the Israeli settlement project, which I believe is a serious moral and strategic error on Israel’s part, to be described not as what it is—one more destructive symptom of the conflict—but rather as its cause.
A knowledgeable observer of the Middle East cannot avoid the impression that the region is a volcano and that the lava is radical Islam, an ideology whose various incarnations are now shaping this part of the world. Israel is a tiny village on the slopes of the volcano. Hamas is the local representative of radical Islam and is openly dedicated to the eradication of the Jewish minority enclave in Israel, just as Hezbollah is the dominant representative of radical Islam in Lebanon, the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and so forth.
Hamas is not, as it freely admits, party to the effort to create a Palestinian state alongside Israel. It has different goals about which it is quite open and that are similar to those of the groups listed above. Since the mid 1990s, more than any other player, Hamas has destroyed the Israeli left, swayed moderate Israelis against territorial withdrawals, and buried the chances of a two-state compromise. That’s one accurate way to frame the story.
An observer might also legitimately frame the story through the lens of minorities in the Middle East, all of which are under intense pressure from Islam: When minorities are helpless, their fate is that of the Yazidis or Christians of northern Iraq, as we have just seen, and when they are armed and organized they can fight back and survive, as in the case of the Jews and (we must hope) the Kurds.
There are, in other words, many different ways to see what is happening here. Jerusalem is less than a day’s drive from Aleppo or Baghdad, and it should be clear to everyone that peace is pretty elusive in the Middle East even in places where Jews are absent. But reporters generally cannot see the Israel story in relation to anything else. Instead of describing Israel as one of the villages abutting the volcano, they describe Israel as the volcano.
The Israel story is framed to seem as if it has nothing to do with events nearby because the “Israel” of international journalism does not exist in the same geo-political universe as Iraq, Syria, or Egypt. The Israel story is not a story about current events. It is about something else.
The Old Blank Screen
For centuries, stateless Jews played the role of a lightning rod for ill will among the majority population. They were a symbol of things that were wrong. Did you want to make the point that greed was bad? Jews were greedy. Cowardice? Jews were cowardly. Were you a Communist? Jews were capitalists. Were you a capitalist? In that case, Jews were Communists. Moral failure was the essential trait of the Jew. It was their role in Christian tradition—the only reason European society knew or cared about them in the first place.
Like many Jews who grew up late in the 20th century in friendly Western cities, I dismissed such ideas as the feverish memories of my grandparents. One thing I have learned—and I’m not alone this summer—is that I was foolish to have done so. Today, people in the West tend to believe the ills of the age are racism, colonialism, and militarism. The world’s only Jewish country has done less harm than most countries on earth, and more good—and yet when people went looking for a country that would symbolize the sins of our new post-colonial, post-militaristic, post-ethnic dream-world, the country they chose was this one.
When the people responsible for explaining the world to the world, journalists, cover the Jews’ war as more worthy of attention than any other, when they portray the Jews of Israel as the party obviously in the wrong, when they omit all possible justifications for the Jews’ actions and obscure the true face of their enemies, what they are saying to their readers—whether they intend to or not—is that Jews are the worst people on earth. The Jews are a symbol of the evils that civilized people are taught from an early age to abhor. International press coverage has become a morality play starring a familiar villain.
Some readers might remember that Britain participated in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the fallout from which has now killed more than three times the number of people ever killed in the Israel-Arab conflict; yet in Britain, protesters furiously condemn Jewish militarism. White people in London and Paris whose parents not long ago had themselves fanned by dark people in the sitting rooms of Rangoon or Algiers condemn Jewish “colonialism.” Americans who live in places called “Manhattan” or “Seattle” condemn Jews for displacing the native people of Palestine. Russian reporters condemn Israel’s brutal military tactics. Belgian reporters condemn Israel’s treatment of Africans. When Israel opened a transportation service for Palestinian workers in the occupied West Bank a few years ago, American news consumers could read about Israel “segregating buses.” And there are a lot of people in Europe, and not just in Germany, who enjoy hearing the Jews accused of genocide.
You don’t need to be a history professor, or a psychiatrist, to understand what’s going on. Having rehabilitated themselves against considerable odds in a minute corner of the earth, the descendants of powerless people who were pushed out of Europe and the Islamic Middle East have become what their grandparents were—the pool into which the world spits. The Jews of Israel are the screen onto which it has become socially acceptable to project the things you hate about yourself and your own country. The tool through which this psychological projection is executed is the international press.
Who Cares If the World Gets the Israel Story Wrong?
Because a gap has opened here between the way things are and the way they are described, opinions are wrong and policies are wrong, and observers are regularly blindsided by events. Such things have happened before. In the years leading to the breakdown of Soviet Communism in 1991, as the Russia expert Leon Aron wrote in a 2011 essay for Foreign Policy, “virtually no Western expert, scholar, official, or politician foresaw the impending collapse of the Soviet Union.” The empire had been rotting for years and the signs were there, but the people who were supposed to be seeing and reporting them failed and when the superpower imploded everyone was surprised.
Whatever the outcome in this region in the next decade, it will have as much to do with Israel as World War II had to do with Spain
And there was the Spanish civil war: “Early in life I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper, but in Spain, for the first time, I saw newspaper reports which do not bear any relation to the facts, not even the relationship which is implied in an ordinary lie. … I saw, in fact, history being written not in terms of what had happened but of what ought to have happened according to various ‘party lines.’ ” That was George Orwell, writing in 1942.
Orwell did not step off an airplane in Catalonia, stand next to a Republican cannon, and have himself filmed while confidently repeating what everyone else was saying or describing what any fool could see: weaponry, rubble, bodies. He looked beyond the ideological fantasies of his peers and knew that what was important was not necessarily visible. Spain, he understood, was not really about Spain at all—it was about a clash of totalitarian systems, German and Russian. He knew he was witnessing a threat to European civilization, and he wrote that, and he was right.
Understanding what happened in Gaza this summer means understanding Hezbollah in Lebanon, the rise of the Sunni jihadis in Syria and Iraq, and the long tentacles of Iran. It requires figuring out why countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia now see themselves as closer to Israel than to Hamas. Above all, it requires us to understand what is clear to nearly everyone in the Middle East: The ascendant force in our part of the world is not democracy or modernity. It is rather an empowered strain of Islam that assumes different and sometimes conflicting forms, and that is willing to employ extreme violence in a quest to unite the region under its control and confront the West. Those who grasp this fact will beable to look around and connect the dots.
Israel is not an idea, a symbol of good or evil, or a litmus test for liberal opinion at dinner parties. It is a small country in a scary part of the world that is getting scarier. It should be reported as critically as any other place, and understood in context and in proportion. Israel is not one of the most important stories in the world, or even in the Middle East; whatever the outcome in this region in the next decade, it will have as much to do with Israel as World War II had to do with Spain. Israel is a speck on the map—a sideshow that happens to carry an unusual emotional charge.
Many in the West clearly prefer the old comfort of parsing the moral failings of Jews, and the familiar feeling of superiority this brings them, to confronting an unhappy and confusing reality. They may convince themselves that all of this is the Jews’ problem, and indeed the Jews’ fault. But journalists engage in these fantasies at the cost of their credibility and that of their profession. And, as Orwell would tell us, the world entertains fantasies at its peril.
Matti Friedman's work as a reporter has taken him to Lebanon, Morocco, Egypt, Moscow, and Washington, DC, and to conflicts in Israel and the Caucasus. His first book, The Aleppo Codex, won the 2014 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, and his second, about Israeli infantrymen holding an isolated outpost in Lebanon, 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Gaza that the UN is hiding--an informative new video posted to YouTube on Monday, August 25, 2015 
 shows how the damage in Gaza reported by the UN is only giving half of the picture, and skewing the facts on the ground.
In the video maps published by the UN showing Gaza buildings damaged in Operation Protective Edge are represented by red dots. However, the video goes on to clarify how these buildings - which include private homes, hospitals and schools - are being used to launch rockets and attacks from terror tunnels. 
The video corroborates an IDF report which was declassified last Tuesday, and which details how Hamas embeds itself in the civilian infrastructure of Gaza to launch terror attacks on Israel. According to the report, during the course of its recent terror war on Israel, Hamas has fired over 1,600 rockets from civilian sites, cynically using UN facilities, schools, graveyards, mosques and power plants, among others.

Richard Nixon and Barack Obama are rarely compared.  But the way these two presidents have dealt with crises in the Middle East provides instructive contrasts on the nature of leadership.
This summer marks the 40th anniversary of the resignation of President Nixon, a man more associated with skullduggery than leadership.  But in October 1973, when his Vice President was resigning in disgrace and the congressional investigation into his own misconduct was moving to its fatal conclusion, Nixon demonstrated how a leader can take command, master events, and shape history.
His example provides a contrast to the current President, whose concept of leadership involves “leading from behind.”  To the extent it involves taking initiative, it is the initiative of “avoiding doing stupid shit.”
President Obama has not abandoned Israel, nor has he declared himself neutral in its current struggle against Hamas. But time after time, he has undercut Israel’s position, in an effort to curry favor with a hostile world.
His Secretary of State tried to involve Turkey and Qatar, two implacable foes of Israel, in the cease-fire negotiations, even though their financial support enabled Hamas to amass the missiles and build the tunnels that threaten Israel. After an Israeli shell landed close to a UNRWA school in Rafah, his Administration joined the global anti-Israel chorus. Before any investigation could be conducted, the State Department immediately declared itself “appalled” by Israel’s “disgraceful” act – even though Hamas rockets have been found in UNRWA schools at least three times, and even though the U.S. armed forces conducted similar attacks against schools used by hostile forces in Afghanistan. (The Israeli 4-year old boy killed on Friday was the victim of a missile fired from a site near a UNRWA school.)
Most disturbing, Obama’s White House has recently changed the military-to-military relationship by which American weaponry has been transferred to Israel, to require White House and State Department approval. Now these are U.S. weapons, and it is of course up to the U.S. government to set the protocols for their transfer. But to change the rules so abruptly, while Israel is under daily bombardment, is unprecedented.
Once again, it represented the Obama Administration’s tendency to placate the world, rather than stand by a lonely ally. This emerges from an observation by a “senior Obama Administration official” to the Wall Street Journal:
“We have many, many friends around the world. The United States is their strongest friend,” the official said. “The notion that they are playing the United States, or that they’re manipulating us publicly, completely miscalculates their place in the world.”
In other words, the Administration was telling Israel by these leaked remarks: We have many friends.  You do not. Don’t ever forget it.
Sniping at friends to placate their enemies is not leadership. It is not even shrewdness. The United States has won no new friends from undercutting Israel.
To see a different kind of leadership, travel back in time and consider the performance of Richard Nixon in October 1973.
Israel faced a military crisis. Egypt and Syria, backed by nine Arab states and lavishly supplied by the Soviet Union, attacked on Yom Kippur. Israeli forces were thrown back in the Sinai and on the Golan Heights. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan told Prime Minister Golda Meir that Israel faced imminent defeat. The situation was so dire, that the Israeli government considered resorting to a last ditch nuclear option.
In this crisis situation, Richard Nixon ordered a massive airlift of military supplies to Israel. During a 32-day period beginning October 14, jumbo U.S. military aircraft touched down in Israel 567 times, delivering some 22,300 tons of material.
Conducting such an operation was a complicated task. Then, as now, Israel was not popular on the international scene. Fearful of the Arabs’ oil weapon, NATO allies refused to allow U.S. transport planes to refuel in their countries – even while NATO members Turkey and Greece were allowing Soviet supply planes to overfly their territory. Ultimately, the U.S. managed to pressure Portugal to allow landing in the Azores for refueling.
Meanwhile, in Washington, bureaucratic hurdles threatened to delay the airlift. Nixon took charge personally. White House counsel Leonard Garment recalled:
It was Nixon who did it. I was there. As [bureaucratic bickering between the State and Defense departments] was going back and forth, Nixon said, “This is insane….He just ordered Kissinger, Get your [behind] out of here and tell those people to move. “
Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger, concerned by the reaction of the Arabs and Soviets to the airlift, advised sending just three transports. Nixon responded: “We are going to get blamed just as much for three as for 300…Get them in the air, now.”
Nixon worked closely with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on the airlift. When Kissinger gave him a list of the type and quantity of weaponry sought by the Israeli military, Nixon ordered him to double it, then added: “Now get the hell out of here and get the job done.” Informed of a delay caused by disagreements in the Pentagon over which planes to use, Nixon shouted at Kissinger: “[Expletive] it, use every one we have. Tell them to send everything that can fly.”
The airlift helped turn the tide. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat proposed a ceasefire enforced by Soviet and U.S. troops on the ground. The U.S. rejected the proposal. Soviet leader Brezhnev then threatened to send Russian troops to the Middle East unilaterally. Nixon ordered that U.S. military to be put on high alert. Air Force strike units were prepared for attack, and two aircraft carriers were deployed to the Eastern Mediterranean. Brezhnev backed down.
Richard Nixon neither sought nor received any political gain for his decisive leadership. The Watergate investigation intensified, culminating in his resignation ten months later. American Jews, who voted overwhelmingly for Humphrey in 1968 and McGovern in 1972, remained, and remain today, hostile to the man.
But Golda Meir never forgot Nixon’s leadership. For the rest of her life she referred to him as “my president.” She once said, in tones reminiscent of the Passover haggadah: “For generations to come, all will be told of the miracle of the immense planes from the United States bringing in the material that meant life to our people.”
It is doubtful that any Israeli, of any political persuasion, will ever remember Barack Obama as “my president.”
It is also doubtful that friends of the United States in other parts of the globe will remember him that way. When Iranian populists remember Obama, they are likely to remember him as the President who reached out to the regime’s theocratic dictators, but failed to support the courageous demonstrators of the Green Revolution. When the Poles and Czechs remember Obama, they are likely to recall him as the President who reneged on the promise to build a missile defense shield in Europe, to avoid irritating the Russians.  When Ukrainians remember Obama, they are likely to recall him as the President who, after the non-irritated Russians annexed the Crimea, responded by airlifting, not weapons, but 300,000 ready-to-eat meals.
The irony of leadership is that it often proves a more effective tool to win over foes than supplication.  Obama’s forbearance has won the United States no points from Russia or Iran, or any of our other opponents.  It has only disappointed our friends. In contrast, Richard Nixon steadfastly supported Israel during wartime – and was lionized by Egyptians in the aftermath of that war after brokering a ceasefire.
In June 1974, just weeks before his resignation, Nixon visited Egypt and rode in an open railway car from Alexandria to Cairo with President Sadat. An estimated 6 million Egyptians lined the route, cheering him. Sadat saluted Nixon with these words:
Since the 6th of October, and since the change that took place in the American foreign policy, peace is now available in the area. And President Nixon never gave a word and didn’t fulfill it; he has fulfilled every word he gave.
Richard Nixon was a man of many flaws, not least of which was a strong strain of anti-Semitism. But he was also a leader. The current President, driven to make America liked again, may have more charity in his heart, but he has far less spinal fluid in his backbone.
Lawrence J. Siskind is a San Francisco attorney, who blogs on issues of politics, foreign policy, law, and culture, at

Two reasons the “I can’t be a Zionist because I’m a liberal” meme is false

By David Bernstein   Washington Post August 22, 2014

Another day, another essay by a “former liberal Zionist”, this time Antony Lerman in the New York Timesdecrying the fact that while it used to be okay to be a liberal Zionist, nowadays Israel politics is so right-wing that being a liberal Zionist is a contradiction in terms. Regrettably, the author sighs, he decided to choose liberalism.
This is silly (and pernicious). First, in practice today being a “Zionist” means that you support Israel’s right to continue to exist as a sovereign, Jewish state.  One could be a liberal Zionist, who wants Israel to withdraw from the territories and achieve full equality for its Arab citizens, or one can be an illiberal Zionist, and support a vision of “Greater Israel” with a suppressed Arab minority. One can be a secular Zionist, or a religious Zionist. There are Christian Zionists, and even a few Muslim Zionists.
But the only feasible alternatives to Zionism are themselves illiberal–have a majority Arab state in which Jews are, at best, a suppressed minority, or force all six million Jews living in Israel to flee to whatever countries (if any) will accept them, or some combination of the two.  The idea that giving up on “Zionism” makes you a “liberal” is false, unless creating yet another Arab dictatorship in what is now Israel at the cost of six million Jews’ lives and liberty, and of by far the most liberal state in their region, is somehow a “liberal” option.
Second, it’s entirely false that Israeli politics have taken a sudden swing to the right.  The main issue, of course, is territorial compromise with the Palestinians.  Israel has already withdrawn from Gaza (and also left Lebanon fourteen years ago), and also has given the Palestinian Authority control of parts of the West Bank, so it’s already more “left-wing” in that sense than it was in, say, 1988, when it was still supposedly okay to be a liberal Zionist.
Speaking of 1988, of the 120 seats in the Israeli Knesset, in that year’s elections 52 were won by parties absolutely opposed to a Palestinian state or giving up any of the West Bank: Likud (40); National Religious (5); Tehiya (3); Tzomet (2); Moledet (2).  Today, by contrast, the only party opposed to territorial compromise with the Palestinians is the Jewish Home party, with 12 seats.  Even if you assume that almost half of Likud/Yisrael Beitanu’s MKs are against territorial compromise despite their parties’ positions to the contrary, that still leaves only 27 MKs opposed to further territorial compromise, compared to the 52  in 1988 who were against the territorial compromises that have since occurred, much less anything more.
While the right-wing has declined, so, post-Oslo, has the left.  The (Jewish) left in 1988 had 39 Alignment seats, 5 “Ratz” seats, 2 Mapam seats, and 2 Shinui seats, for a total of 48 MKs.  Today, by contrast, the left has 15 Labor seats, and 6 Meretz seats, for a total of 21.
The obvious conclusion, one shared by most Israeli political analysts, is that since Oslo Israel had become a much more centrist country, with the electorate rejecting both what they see as naive peaceniks who brought the Oslo disaster upon Israel, and the right-wing vision of Greater Israel that sought to hold on to the West Bank forever not out of necessity (the absence of a peace agreement), but as a matter of principle.  The center of the Israeli electorate both wants an agreement that includes territorial compromise, and doesn’t think that such an agreement is feasible, given that past withdrawals have only led to more violence.
To many leftists, though, anything that’s not left-wing is right-wing.  But the fact is, if someone was a proud Zionist in 1988, it’s ridiculous to claim that that he changed his mind because Israeli politics is now dominated by the right-wing. Netanyahu’s  current government is practically pacifist compared to the Shamir government of the late 1980s.
There’s a much simpler reason why so many “liberal” (read: left-wing) Zionists are abandoning Israel, which is that the Western left, and in particular the American left, has broadly turned against Israel–in part precisely because Israel is now more centrist, which means its far left has declined, in part because the international left needs a vulnerable Westernized bogeyman to harass, and Israel is well-suited to playing that role, and in part because the far left has, crazily enough, decided that it should ally with Islamic radicalism, Israel’s sworn enemy.
Being hostile to Israel has, in fact, become virtually a litmus test for one’s political correctness.  So left-wing Zionists have to decide: do they want to be a member of the leftist club, or do they want to face barbs for being “PEP” (Progressive except Palestine), or, if they are Jewish, being PEP for “tribal” reasons?
It’s not surprising that many left-wing intellectuals are choosing the former.  That’s where their social and intellectual circle wants them to be, and that’s where the employment opportunities are.  What left-wing journals or organizations want to  hire pro-Israel individuals these days? Or consider John Judis’s book on Truman and Israel; he has no prior expertise on the subject matter, and what’s good in that book isn’t original, and what’s original isn’t good. The book wouldn’t have received anywhere near the attention it got had it been friendly to Zionism.  Further left, if Max Blumenthal and Phillip Weiss weren’t obsessively hostile to Israel, would anyone care what they had to say?
No one’s obligated to defend Israel from its enemies, intellectual and otherwise, or to consider himself a “Zionist.”  But let’s be frank.  If someone is claiming that are abandoning “liberal Zionism” because Israel’s political culture has shifted drastically to the far right, they are either lying or ignorant.

David Bernstein is the George Mason University Foundation Professor at the George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, VA.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Israel is 'Choosing not to Win', Says British Expert
Gil Ronen 8-25-14
Barak Seener of RUSI says Israel 'should have gone in harder,' must reclassify human shields as combatants and stop aborting airstrikes.

Barak Seener, an Associate fellow at Britain's Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies, thinks Israel is “choosing not to win” the war in Gaza.

Seener – who has provided analysis and expert commentary for a range of international broadcasters and news outlets including the Associated Press, Al-Jazeera, BBC, CNN, Chinese CCTV, Fox News, Sky News, Voice of America, Bloomberg, Reuters and Xinhua – told Arutz Sheva that Israel is pursuing a misguided approach to the war, both on the ground and in the battle of words and images. The result will inevitably a deterioration of Israel's international standing, as the war wears on.

“In general,” he explained, “modern warfare is not geared towards protracted conflict, and thus Israel should have initially gone in harder. This was prevented by a lack of extensive sound intelligence of tunnels and the whereabouts of Hamas operatives. Israel's diplomatic standing will decline as Europe does not anymore understand the power of ideologies, let alone a genocidal, zero sum game Islamist and suicidal ideology.”

Is Israel's hasbarah effort regarding the effort to avoid civilian casualties doing any good?

“There is so much that has been reported in Israeli news outlets but has not been reported in European outlets. This includes Hamas executing Fatah members, children digging tunnels, concrete being redirected to building tunnels rather than hospitals and schools, the affluence of Hamas's leadership who divert funding to the Palestinians to their own personal accounts, even pictures of tunnels were reported by the Washington Post a few weeks earlier than Reuters.

“The main issue is that Israel should take exactly the same initiatives (not more) as Allied forces have done in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. While it is natural that Israel should seek to avoid civilian casualties, its priority is to its own civilians and soldiers. Israel has failed as there is a current stalemate of its civilians under attack, Hamas perpetuating its firing of rockets with Israel's economy having been hurt as a result.

“If Israel chooses not to win a war against Hamas decisively then it will continue to conduct reprisal attacks while emphasizing its avoidance of civilian casualties. If it seeks to win decisively then Israel will not cede the initiative and strategic surprise to Hamas by announcing beforehand where it plans to strike. This serves to embolden Islamism and provokes them to continue their practices of human shields and firing of rockets.

“Paradoxically, the only way to win decisively is by reclassifying human shields as combatants and demonstrating that Israel will not abort strikes or hand Hamas the initiative by announcing beforehand Israel's plans. It is tragic that civilians unwittingly find themselves as combatants, but this may be the only way to demonstrate to Hamas the futility of their current strategy of human shields, which has already caused their popularity to plummet in Gaza and the broader arab world.

“Imagine, had US forces announced to ISIS its strike plans and in turn handed to them the strategic initiative. It would be considered absurd! Israel has nothing to be proud of with such a morally dubious approach of letting Hamas know where and when it plans to strike. Israel should be consistent. If it resents being subjected to double standards, then it should not subject itself to norms and procedures that no military of any western liberal democracy would ever consider. The way Israel is conducting its measures against Hamas may create a precedent for allied forces abroad."

How does the conduct of the war tie in to the rise in anti-Semitism?

“Anti-Semitism has spiked in Europe. The unfortunate irony of Zionism is that while it was intended to be an antidote to anti-Semitism, it led to its mutation from an ethnic to nationalistic critique. In the past, Israel failed to call for an international condemnation of the PA's outlets that projected classical antisemitism and incitement.

“Only recently has Israel recognized the genocidal ideology driving Hamas, and there is no reason why the international community should be more catholic than the pope on this matter. Israel in the past took the initiative in reframing the conflict as nationalistic and territorial and thus willing to make territorial compromises. The international community merely followed suit. Furthermore, Israel also did not preemptively take to task bodies that disproportionately critiqued, and delegitimized the state of Israel.”

What is Britain's Jewish community doing about anti-Semitism and Israel bashing?

“There is a causal relationship between disproportionate criticism of Israel and an increase of anti-Semitism in Europe and it is impossible to address one effectively without the other. Representatives of the Jewish community in Britain have been severely wanting in countering anti-Semitism. Every campaign has sprung up from the grassroots, and has not originated or been coordinated by the Board of Deputies or Jewish Leadership Council.

“The former chief rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, has condemned European anti-Semitism, but when he addresses the Middle East, the only thing he mentions is the plight of Christians. In this manner, he fails to effectively represent his constituencies' interests in the UK and represent his peoples' safety and security in Israel. Why should the non-Jewish leadership be any better than the Jewish leadership in the UK?”

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Top Five Media Fails of the Gaza War….  8-20-14

Reporting during wartime may be the ultimate challenge for the media. But the conflict between Israel and Hamas revealed, yet again, the severe limitations of traditional journalism.
Five media fails stand out in particular. The biggest threats to accuracy and understanding came not from individual pieces of biased reporting but from the mass of articles that adhered to the flawed standards of journalism today.
1. Casualty Figures as Moral Barometer
Benjamin Disraeli said there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. Casualty figures cited in virtually all reports on the Gaza war served as all three. The numbers are unreliable, the true percentage of civilians unknown, and their meaning obscured by a lack of context.
Reporters often relied on figures provided by the Hamas-run Gazan Health Ministry even though Hamas has a strategic interest in inflating the numbers.
Reuven Ehrilch of the Meir Amit Intelligence and Information Center told The Media Line that his organization checked 152 names supplied by the “Gaza government’s Ministry of Health”:
The list was done hastily and later changes were made. There were a number of false names listed; the details of the dead are only partial, making identification suspicious. There are names used more than once and some might have been killed by their own fire rather than by the Israeli army. The list doesn’t differentiate between civilians and terror operatives. All the dead are listed as “shahids” [martyrs].
To make sense of the numbers, media outlets often included the percentage of those killed considered to be civilians. The number often ran as high as 80%, according to media reports.
But as the New York Times noted when it took a deeper look at the figures, a suspiciously high number of people killed were males between the ages of 20 and 29, the primary age of Hamas terrorists involved in the fighting.
“At the same time, women and children under 15, the least likely to be legitimate targets, were the most underrepresented, making up 71 percent of the population and 33 percent of the known-age casualties,” the report stated.
Another element of distortion was the presentation of the Palestinian numbers alongside the Israeli numbers, which were much lower, as though there was a relationship between the figures, like a scoreboard at a sporting event.
These numbers, however, had moral undertones, implying either that Israel was the aggressor because it killed so many more Palestinians, or that the threat against Israel was not so serious, since so few Israelis were killed.
But that doesn’t tell the real story. It does not reveal the efforts Israel has made to protect its civilians, and it doesn’t take into account the ways Hamas endangers civilians by turning residential neighborhoods into battle zones.
As Bret Stephens wrote in the Wall Street Journal:
The real utility of the body count is that it offers reporters and commentators who cite it the chance to ascribe implicit blame to Israel while evading questions about ultimate responsibility for the killing.
Presented as raw numbers, the casualty figures obscure more than they reveal.
2. The ‘Battered Journalist’ Syndrome
Covering Gaza poses challenges for any reporters, not least of which is the ever-present pressure from Hamas to adhere to the Palestinian narrative. Even reporters who never encountered direct threats knew they were operating on territory that offered no protection for free speech.
And if their livelihood depended on being able to access Gaza in the future, they knew that reporting facts that Hamas would find objectionable would risk deportation or blacklisting, at the very least.
The situation was severe enough that the Foreign Press Association (FPA) issued a scathing condemnation of Hamas’s behavior towards journalists, citing a number of examples that had emerged during the weeks of fighting.
Even Hamas admitted it intimidated reporters:
Some of the journalists who entered the Gaza Strip were under security surveillance. Even under these difficult circumstances, we managed to reach them, and tell them that what they were doing was anything but professional journalism and that it was immoral.
Yet amazingly, the response from some of the most influential journalists covering Gaza was that the entire issue was over-blown. New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren even called the FPA statement “nonsense” in a tweet.
Why go out of the way to downplay something that had an obvious impact on the stories that emerged from the conflict?
Maybe if reporters were completely transparent about the challenges they faced, it would point to the fact that they should not have been reporting from Gaza in the first place.
As journalist Michael Totten wrote following the publication of the FPA’s statement:
The Gaza war was a huge story, of course, and it had to be covered, but it could just as easily have been covered from the Israeli side of the line. Covering both sides of the story is of course preferable whenever possible, but providing balanced coverage from Israel alongside censored coverage from Gaza is a form of journalistic malpractice. Stop it.
3. Failure to Disclose Missing Information
While many journalists insisted that their work was unhindered by Hamas, they could not explain credibly why there were noticeable gaps in their coverage. Most prominently missing, of course, were pictures of Hamas fighters in action.
When the issue was raised to the New York Times, the response was even more galling than the gap – the paper simply didn’t have any photos to publish. The paper’s star photographer Tyler Hicks went even further:
If we had access to them [Hamas fighters], we would be photographing them. I never saw a single device for launching the rockets to Israel. It’s as if they don’t exist.
Hicks explained that the Hamas terrorists were fighting from the margins, and if they ventured into public areas, they would immediately become targets for Israeli strikes.
Fair enough. Hamas fighters were hard to find. But there was no shortage of photos of Palestinians reacting to Israeli airstrikes or attending funerals. Maybe if the photographers had ventured out to the margins themselves, they may have spotted something.
And maybe those who did were stopped by Hamas.
The media, however, treated the issue exactly as Hicks said – as if rocket launchers and the people firing them didn’t exist. In photo gallery after photo gallery of Gaza, there was hardly any way to tell that there were two sides fighting, and not just one. Media outlets have an obligation to let the readers know what’s missing.
And if they couldn’t show it with pictures, they could have done more to explain that Hamas routinely fired from populated areas.
Of course, as the fighting started to die down, pictures and videos of rocket launch sites began to emerge, raising questions about whether the photos really were impossible to obtain or if Hamas threats were responsible for their absence.

4. Over-Emphasis on Grisly War Photos
While there were virtually no pictures of Hamas fighters during the days of heavy fighting in Gaza, there was no shortage of pictures of children or babies hurt in Israeli airstrikes.
Those pictures were particularly prevalent across the UK and other European cities and helped inflame the streets of Europe and beyond, where anti-Semitic sentiment ran to a fever pitch.
They also badly misrepresented the fighting taking place in the Gaza Strip. Taken together with the absence of photos of Hamas fighters and the message is clear: Israel is an aggressor that targets children.
5. Failure to State Hamas’s Real Goals
Throughout the weeks of fighting, and especially during the periods of negotiations for a cease-fire, the media claimed that Hamas’s main motivation was to ease the blockade around Gaza or to open a port or airport.
But does that really explain why Hamas spent the past several years building a complex of tunnels and bunkers that reached across the border and into Israel?
Does it explain why the terror group chose to smuggle or manufacture thousands, if not tens of thousands, of rockets capable of reaching the heart of Israel? Or why it continues to fire them at Israeli civilians?
Is it really looking for peace with Israel, or an easing of Israel’s security measures just to improve the lot of the people of Gaza?
It would be more honest to point out that Hamas is working toward’s Israel’s annihilation. It even has a charter that says so clearly.
As S.E. Cupp wrote in the New York Daily News:
Rarely is it mentioned in a news report that Hamas’ primary objective, its main goal, what it really wants and what its military arm is designed and determined to get, is the total destruction of Israel and the annihilation of the Jews.

It’s a crucial component that’s regularly left out of news reports. But any story that does not mention this among Hamas’ chief demands is not an intellectually honest or complete one.

Few in the media seem to grasp this, the effect of which has been to create a gauzy and nebulous moral equivalency between Israel and Hamas that isn’t really there.
Allowing Hamas to maintain its charter but ignoring it and letting the terror group present itself as a moderate force seeking the best for the people of Gaza distorts the reality.
The media has an obligation to present the conflict as it is – the aggression of a terrorist group working for the destruction of Israel and Israel’s efforts to defend its citizens. A framework that puts Israel and Hamas on an equal moral plane is another case of journalistic malpractice.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

To stop Hamas, Israel should cut electricity and supplies to Gaza
Author Shlomi Eldar  Augut 21, 2014  Translator Sandy Bloom


If Israel still wishes to regain its deterrence vis-a-vis Hamas without entering Gaza, it will be left with one option only: shutting off Gaza electricity and closing the crossing points to the 400 daily supply trucks entering the Strip.

After the seventh cease-fire collapsed and more than 160 rockets were fired from Gaza in a single day — a record number since the start of Operation Protective Edge — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the nation on Aug. 20. He said, “This is the harshest blow Hamas has taken since it was founded.” Even in the course of the speech, alerts were sounded in all the Gaza envelope communities. The sirens continued throughout the entire day. These alerts cast much doubt on the prime minister’s emphatic declaration.

Although Hamas absorbed a hard blow and many neighborhoods in Gaza were demolished and destroyed, Israel lost its power of deterrence and the leaders of the strongest state in the Middle East are in a quandary. The elimination of three high-ranking Hamas members, including Raed al-Attar, one of those responsible for the abduction of Gilad Shalit in 2006, together with the attempt to eliminate Mohammed Deif, (though it is still unclear if he is alive or dead) were not enough to deter Hamas. The fact that Hamas continues to fire proves it.
The military campaign in the Gaza Strip has been going on for 45 days (as of Aug. 21), twice the length of the 1973 Yom Kippur War that extended for three very harsh weeks. Then, despite that it had been caught by surprise, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) succeeded in surrounding the Egyptian Third Army and completely changed the battle alignment. Hamas is not the Egyptian army. Its rocket and mortar firing obstruct the lives of Israeli civilians, but do not constitute a threat to Israel’s existence.
Yet there is one thing that characterizes the two campaigns that are separated by about 40 years. In the Yom Kippur War, the most traumatic of Israel’s wars, the Egyptian army was prepared and determined to reclaim its honor at any price — its pride that had been trampled on in the 1967 Six Day War. Hamas, like Egypt, is also adamant to fight Israel in an all-or-nothing war for the honor and future of the movement. Therefore, nothing but a clear knockout victory will cause it to deviate from its goal. Not even the heavy price already paid by the Gaza Strip’s residents in the course of the operation can sway it.
In 1973, the State of Israel immediately recognized the danger of a large army invading its territory and threatening its security. By contrast, the current Netanyahu government remains stuck in the military conception of deterrence instead of tilting the military balance to defeat the enemy. But all attempts to bring about an arrangement in the Gaza Strip vis-a-vis Hamas (while allowing Hamas to retain sovereignty), and not generate substantive change on the ground, is slated for failure.
As long as no clear military outcome is achieved against Hamas, as long as its political leadership is unharmed and the survivability of the movement is not at stake, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades will continue to become stronger. They will continue to become more sophisticated to threaten and to disrupt the lives of Israeli citizens.
The dogma of "arrangement and deterrence" that was advanced in the Cast Lead (2008-2009) and Pillar of Defense (2012) operations did not stop Hamas from growing in strength. The fast increasing firing on Israel’s south has continued for almost 14 years, and it progresses and is perfected from year to year. This is, undoubtedly, the longest war of attrition ever suffered by Israel, though there were long periods when fire was held off. Now Hamas is trying to drag Israel into an incessant, daily war of attrition that involves rocket fire on the center of the country as well.
Israel cannot allow itself to be dragged into such a situation. A war of attrition was waged the length of the Suez Canal from 1968 until 1970, with two armies facing each other. However, the battlefield was far from the home front; the hinterland was not at all involved in the war. Such a long attrition war cannot transpire today, with Israel exposed to the ongoing threat of rockets on its cities and towns, including north of Tel Aviv. This would constitute a serious blow to its economy and would severely damage the morale of its civilians. Finally, such a situation would harshly impinge on Israel’s deterrent power not only in the Palestinian arena, but with regard to the entire Middle East.
Israel must initiate a plan of action and not allow itself to be dragged along. Israel must tilt the balance in the military campaign against Hamas. Israel will only regain its lost deterrence when it defeats Hamas and substantively threatens Hamas rule.
leak from Israel’s diplomatic-security cabinet dealt with the ramifications of conquering Gaza, implying that Israel would be entangled in an extended military operation that would entail heavy losses. This leak harmed Israel. The leaders of Hamas’ military and political wings well understood the soothing message: that the movement’s survival was not in danger. In other words: Since the IDF has no intentions of penetrating deep in the Gaza Strip and is only willing to deploy forces the length of the borderline, then Hamas can obviously continue to launch countless rockets against Israel. It is clear that in such a setup, the Hamas regime does not face real danger to its rule and its control of the Gaza Strip.
The Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated places in the world. A military operation within a civilian population is a complex affair with many implications for Israel’s public image. As it is, Israel’s image is already under strong international attack due to the harm caused to innocent civilians, many of whom served as human shields for al-Qassam Brigades. But there is still a great distance between conquering Gaza and between delivering a serious blow to a terrorist organization, an organization that is vastly inferior to the IDF in firepower and equipment. There are still many options open.
Israel squandered the international credit it received at the beginning of the operation to defeat Hamas in a ground operation. Israel’s highest defense and diplomatic echelons did not distinguish Hamas’ determination to fight what it viewed as the mother of all wars. In any case, encircling the city of Gaza with tanks and forcing the political leadership to leave their hideouts seems to be an unrealistic scenario today. The initial momentum was wasted and international public opinion will no longer allow Israel an extensive operation that will lead to more wounded and dead and additional destruction in ruined Gaza.
Hamas is fighting to remove the blockade that was imposed on the Gaza Strip by Israel following Hamas’ military coup seven years ago. Almost the only way that Israel can defeat Hamas without conquering the Gaza Strip is to prove to Hamas that the closure and strangulation can get even worse and even more dangerous to the Hamas regime and the survivability of the movement.
Gaza is geographically trapped between Egypt and Israel. Its access to the sea is also hermetically blockaded by Israel. But paradoxically, in the course of the Defensive Edge operation, the Kerem Shalom crossing remained open. Even while rockets were fired and al-Qassam fighters attacked from their tunnels, the crossing operated almost business-as-usual. Raw materials and foodstuffs continued to pour into the Gaza Strip. In other words, while one hand of the IDF delivered military blows, the other hand provided for Gaza’s daily consumption. This odd situation has no comparison in the world. During the days of warfare, just like former daily routine, about 400 Israeli trucks waited in line every day at the crossing and unloaded foodstuffs and raw materials to Gaza. It was as if there were no war, and as if Israel had no desire to adopt reasonable steps to defeat the other side. The truck drivers watched the war being waged around them, while the crossing’s conveyor belts operated as usual.
Wouldn’t the closing of the Kerem Shalom crossing constitute a reasonable means of exerting pressure on a movement that violates cease-fires time after time? Is it not logical that a state being attacked by rockets should refuse to provide basic products to those who launch those rockets nonstop and do not cease even after so many deaths and wounded casualties and tremendous destruction of its residential neighborhoods? As aforesaid, Hamas will only be deterred when the movement feels that its future as a movement is in danger.
After Israel struck the Gaza Strip’s power station, most of the Strip’s electricity comes from Israel. Cutting off Gaza’s electricity can lead to a humanitarian crisis and pressure from the entire international community on Israel. But Hamas must understand that when it escalates its attacks on Israel and continues to threaten its civilians, then disconnection of its electricity coming from Israel is a conceivable, even legitimate weapon. Israel must announce to the entire world that, if Hamas will not cease threatening Israeli civilians, Israel will completely disengage from Gaza. In other words, Israel will halt the transfer of goods to Gaza and sever the supply of electricity. A total disengagement from Gaza constitutes a significant threat to Hamas, more than blowing up empty houses of al-Qassam activists and shooting into open areas. To date, the IDF has attacked thousands of targets, to the extent that its "target bank" has been almost depleted. Yet the IDF has not yet achieved the main goal set by Israel: to bring peace and quiet to its cities and civilians.
Therefore, under the assumption that an additional ground invasion is likely to incur heavy casualties, one option is still open to Israel: to tighten the closure on Gaza and prove to the Hamas leadership that the situation can get a whole lot worse.
True, in the past I wrote here that a blockade on Gaza was a strategic mistake. But at this point in time, Israel has reached a dramatic and extreme stage in the war vis-a-vis Hamas. A deepening and tightening of the blockade noose is also an extremely dramatic step. When an organization threatens, even after 45 days of a military operation against it, to open the gates of hell to Israeli civilians, a different, extreme action is required — one which was not tested in the past, before it will be too late or become too complicated.