Want to seem like brutal stormtroopers butchering children? Want to undermine a relative moderate (Mahmoud Abbas) and turn his people against him? Want to have Arab governments with no sympathy whatsoever for Hamas forced into denouncing you by the protesting hordes flooding on to their streets? Want to swell the ranks of al-Qaeda with bitter young men and women dedicated to killing Jews and Americans? Want to have massive anti-Israeli demonstrations in the capitals of all the countries you used to call your friends?
OK, let’s really go for it: want to seem like the SS in the Warsaw ghetto?
Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni could not have got it more wrong. Of course, Livni is right: Hamas need to be destroyed (“toppled” is the word she reportedly used). As do all terrorist organisations locked into rigid RED-BLUE thinking – see the feature, ‘Killing the Terrorists’ in the Global section. But this brutal onslaught on the Gaza Strip, one of the poorest and most populous places on the planet, is not the way to do it.
The Israeli military are doing their best to keep foreign journalists out of Gaza; but, in these days of the internet and video uploads from mobile phones, it’s impossible to impose a complete news blackout. We certainly know it’s bad, with an estimated 800 Gazans dead already and thousands more injured and maimed. Just how bad we might never really know if the Israelis manage to clean up a lot of the mess before the news crews arrive on mass. But it’s bad.
Ostensibly it’s Jews having a field day killing Arabs. That’s how it comes across on thousands of TV channels and internet news sites right around the world. Just imagine what the radical imams are ranting in the mosques!
So Israel alienates its friends and empowers its enemies. If Osama Bin Laden is still alive, he must be laughing and slapping his knees with delight!
Of course, we can safely assume the Israeli military are not deliberately targeting innocent civilians – so the Warsaw ghetto analogy is mischievous on my part – but the impression is one of complete, callous indifference on the part of the Israeli military to the loss of innocent lives and the suffering. It’s on a par with the Americans counting American and British dead in Iraq but no attempt to count Iraqi dead. The message taken by millions around the world is that Iraqi and Palestinian lives are not as important as American and Israeli lives.
And, for many, that has a racist sub-text: if Arab lives aren’t as important as American and Israeli lives, that must be because they are considered inferior.
Add to all this the fact that most Palestinians and Iraqis are Muslim and it’s all too easy to portray the Israelis and the Americans as anti-Muslim. So, for hundreds of thousands of Muslims all over the world, the Gaza video footage and the ranting anti-Zionist rhetoric that usually goes with it becomes a call to arms to rescue or avenge their Muslim brothers from the oppression of the Great Satans, America and Israel.
Of course, Hamas show an equal lack of concern for the lives of the Gazans they are supposed to govern. In their RED-BLUE zealotry, they refuse to sign up to the Franco-Egyptian ceasefire plan because it would mean the end of their arms supply route through Egypt. So being able to resume their war against Israel is more important to them than the deaths and suffering of their own people.
But Hamas have got better PR than the Israeli military. They’re the plucky little guys with peashooters taking on jets and tanks in the name of Allah. And, when they’re killed, why, they’re brave warriors for Allah, guaranteed a place in heaven.
And the ordinary Gazans who survive through this…will they spit on the name of Hamas? Unlikely because the memes which are replicating fastest are that it’s the evil Jews, with their American sponsors, who are responsible for the carnage. And Hamas were heroes who fought for Allah and the Palestinians.
The Israeli military have an enviable record for surgical missile strikes taking out Hamas officers and officials with a relative minimum of civilian casualties.
With the aid of American spy satellites, couldn’t the Israelis simply step up the surgical strikes? Every time a Hamas rocket takes off for southern Israel, it leaves a heat trail a spy satellite in anything like correct position should be able to pick up. It’s doubtful the Israelis could take out all the Hamas rocket sites this way but they could certainly inflict serious damage on Hamas’ capacity.
As to the supply tunnels from Egypt, couldn’t the Americans and the Israelis have incentivised the Egyptians to close them down? (I’m sure Hosni Mubarak would far rather have done that than have the streets of Cairo filled with outraged demonstrators!)
Or what about covertly beefing up Fatah to take Gaza back from Hamas? (Not very democratic – since Hamas were actually elected into power – and Fatah would have to be resourced to beat Hamas quickly and decisively to avoid a neo-civil war.)
If the Israelis really felt there was no alternative to going into Gaza, wouldn’t it have been better to go in without all the ‘shock & awe’ and hunt Hamas down in the streets and apartment blocks. For sure, the Israeli casualties would be much, much higher but the Palestinian dead would be a lot less and perhaps there wouldn’t be yet another generation of Palestinians growing up determined to kill Jews. How many more Israelis, Americans and probably Europeans too will die in the future at the hands of Palestinian terrorists because the Israelis blasted into Gaza the way they did? PURPLE will tell the tale again and again of how the Jews slaughtered innocent Gazans until it is yet another key tragedy in Palestinian folklore and yet another reason why the Arab can never trust the Jew.
Of course, Tivni is facing an election and her Kadima party is under pressure (in no small part because of Olmert’s incompetent handling of the 2006 Lebanon war and the corruption scandals he is implicated in). So truckloads of dead and wounded soldiers arriving home would not be conducive to a strong election campaign.
But something had to be done about Hamas resuming large-scale rocket attacks and a ‘shock & awe’ spectacle showing how strong a leader she is should have made good TV. Only Tivni’s myopic, power-seeking RED clearly hadn’t thought things through. That and/or she really doesn’t care – about Palestinian loss of life or about how she and her country are perceived in the outside world. Since rumours are starting to circulate that the Israeli military were to some extent unprepared for the kind of assault they’ve made on Gaza, it may indeed be that Olmert and Tivni did bounce them into it.
800-and-counting, plus all the lives that will be lost in the future for Palestinian/Muslim vengeance, with destabilisation of the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank and unrest in Egypt and Jordan, is a hell of a price to pay for looking good in an election campaign!