Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Israel's Two Wars

In Israel today, there are two wars going on, and each one has its own goals, tactics and results, and it is conceivable that the tactics of one may act against the other's interest.

I explain: war A is the physical one. It's cause is incessant rocket fire and other cross-border violence perpetrated against Israel. War B is the PR one - an abstraction of sorts - it is less "real" than the rockets but also important, since in our geo-political reality, it matters what other nations think. Let us look at each one in isolation, and then examine their convergence in the real world.

The physical war: Essentially, this goes back to the partition plan and the Arab refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist. The historical justification to our establishment in the Middle East is attacked by Negationist history - cynically and purposefully revised against historical evidence - to deny the facts. This battle is fought in many spheres, from the audacious denial of Holocaust to the philistine destruction and removal of artifacts attesting to 3,000 year old Jewish presence on the Temple Mount. While the PLO switched tactics in the '70's, and instead of announcing its plans to liberate all of Israel, discussed peace and a Palestinian State in pre-1967 borders, they never changed their open and honest plans described in their Arabic speeches - talking of the destruction of the State of Israel. What this all leaves Israel with is a hostile de-facto city-state on its southern frontier which is dedicated, not to statehood, but to the destruction of Israel. If we step back for a moment to a decisive (though ill-conceived, from the viewpoint of Israel's security) point in history - the Disengagement from the Gaza Strip, this all becomes quite clear. Israel took away any logical or defensible reason for the Gazans to assault Israel: their stated goal of "liberating Gaza from the oppressive occupation" (or as a friend calls it, the neo-colonialist argument), and yet still Gaza chose to ignore the well-being of their population and the building of their society, and rather used their new-found independence to attack Israel, now from up close - using the newly destroyed Jewish towns in the northern part of the strip as a base. At this critical point, there was no more rationale for attacks on Israel, unless one is willing to take the Gazans at their word: their purpose is not to liberate Gaza or the West Bank or even Jerusalem, but to destroy Israel.

Now, Israel is in a situation where their ability to fight back is hampered: they have left the alleyways that were otherwise supervised by the IDF, to the terrorists. Hamas controls a clandestine flow of materiel and explosives and uses them to fight Israel. And here we have another element, that of euphemism and newspeak or double-think - for when we say "fight Israel", we do not mean what most countries do - nor what most countries consider valid war. We mean attacking primarily civilians - the killing of civilians to sow terror - a war crime by the Geneva Convention. And yet, the world glosses over this unimportant point - and considers this a war. (The Geneva Convention and war crimes are only trotted out when Israel apologizes for inadvertent civilian casualties.)

And so, Israel must fight back. It is its most basic requirement, above and beyond any rhetoric, for a government to protect the security of its citizens. If a government that taxes citizens without representation was seen as self-evidently deserving of rebellion, how much more so if a government was to abdicate its responsibility to security? The response is far from excessive - and again we fall into the pitfall of double-think (by suggesting the concept we make it a real consideration): since when is any army concerned with proportionality when it is fighting a war? The objective of war is to win; in this case, to bring security to Israel's civilian population. The objective is not to do so while only using proportional methods! Heaven forbid if Hamas were to ever possess the capacity to be "excessive" to Israel – does one think anyone would call on Hamas to behave "proportionally"? Does one think Hamas would listen? Were any of the 5 7-army wars of annihilation fought against Israel since its inception proportional - masses of troops in the millions against a nation with less than 600,000 soldiers? 

Beyond this, the world forgets that Israel is not fighting a recognized country. (Again, it is fascinating how, as Whorfianism claims, language employed defines the categories through which we think - by calling them militants instead of terrorists we lose part of the foundation of our justification to fight them.) The only thing internationally recognized about the Hamas government is that its status as a terror organization. When a terrorist admit publicly in Arabic that its purpose is to destroy you, you don't act with proportion, you destroy them. The fact that they hide amongst civilians and therefore bring upon their population death is their fault, not Israel's. It would be a false morality indeed (not to mention against the ethics of the Torah) for Israel to place a higher premium upon Gazan civilian life than its own citizens'.

From all this, it is clear that from the physical war's perspective, we must go all-out. Israel has a moral responsibility to its citizens to protect them, and not one of their lives can be sacrificed for the PR war, to which we will now turn our attention.

The PR war: From this perspective, each side ignores the truth value and validity of the historical, social and religious nature of the conflict, and tries to impress with sound bites, pictures and video. And here is where "world opinion" holds such sway, for the primary purpose of the PR war is to turn international sympathy to one side or the other. And we must recognize that international sympathy is rooted in western liberal ideology. The problem with this ideology is that it accepts no ethical absolutes, and dogmatically avoids passing judgment upon the relative morality of one side versus the other. Essentially, since WWII, the liberal ideology has hinged upon the proposition that "the underdog is always the victim, and always to be helped". The amoral idea caused liberals to be supportive of Jews as they limped out of the gas chambers. The world saw David as caught between two Goliaths, one being Hitler, the other, a numerically overwhelming Arab world seething with blood-lust for the remnant of Israel. However, as soon as Israel demonstrated an ability to protect themselves and provide themselves, thank God, with security, by the sword if necessary, the Arab world shifted the focus from tiny Israel in a sea of Arab hate, to expansive Israel bullying small and weak Gaza. The world was happy to allow David to [I just had to take a break and run to our safe room, we had a siren with multiple booms following] become Goliath, it simply shifted its reference point.

And so, Israel is fighting a losing battle on the PR front. The fact that militarily Israel is powerful makes the liberals forget the justifications for our military might - that our "right" came before our "might", because they never really cared about the justifications. They only supported us when we were the underdog. Israel is at pains to show itself as the underdog currently, though it truly is, because the Iron Dome limits Israeli casualties, and our military boasts of knowing where all Hamas leaders are make us seem invincible. These things are beside the point. The point should be: does Israel have the moral right to exist? If affirmative, then Hamas is the aggressor completely, and the world must support Israel's destruction of Hamas. If negative, then not. However, liberal world opinion does not concern itself with that question in any real way, and instead side-steps it, and asks, but why should Israel sow such destruction upon a weaker enemy? This question, when asked without the moral judgment component of “who is right?” leads the liberal world to support Hamas, the perceived underdog. 

But how, one might ask, is Hamas winning the PR war? The answer lies in the international news media, who have bought the new Palestinian David vs. Israeli Goliath, hook, line and sinker. While there are plenty of images of wounded and damage on the Israeli side, these are under-reported. On the other hand, the pathetic images from Gaza are over-reported. Furthermore, the background is left out so that the viewer of the media is left with a stilted picture of what happened. The victims are used twice: once as human shields to protect the Hamas, who do their warfare from heavily populated areas, and again as props in the PR war, when their dead bodies are displayed to the world as evidence of Israeli heavy-handedness.

The liberal media is so notoriously against Israel that it essentially ignores the terror that Hamas commits against its own people for the sake of keeping the "Israel as the aggressor" story fresh. For example, yesterday, Hamas shot a number of people and dragged their bodies through the streets, as punishment for "aiding Israel". Did the NY Times publish these images? How about girls being killed for being raped (a capital offense in Gaza’s society)? No. How about the very real problem that western girls who go to "help the Gazans" or "Free Free Palestine" face, that of rape by the hands of Gazans? The international solidarity movements hush these complaints up, and tell the girls not to report these rapes, for they will "damage the cause"? Essentially, the liberal media has chosen sides - it has chosen Hamas, and they are willing to white-wash its sins for the "greater good". 

So, while Israel valiantly tries to get its story out there, it will never be as loud as the story the liberal media allow the Hamas to publish. Israel can mitigate this by being clear, concise, and to the point. Israel can voice insistently that there is evil and there is good, and Hamas is evil. They can publish the above stories, and let the world know. But the sad fact is that as long as Israel wins in war A, it will never win war B, since the liberal deck is stacked against them.

(Israel may decide as well to recognize an incontrovertible fact: the enemies of Israel and the Hamas sympathizers will continue to blame, berate and demonize Israel for even the lowest level self-defense. In this case, with the PR battle so imbalanced, Israel may calculate that it might as well do its best to truly intimidate the enemy into submission in as extreme a way as necesary, since the negative PR is almost certain, anyway.)

And so, Israel must choose: should we win the PR battle, or defend ourselves militarily? It is probable that it cannot win both at the same time. And if so, Israel's first responsibility is to its physical security. The response Israel is displaying is not excessive, it is necessary to remove the attack capabilities of an enemy that refuses to commit to the most basic rules of war. And talk of a cease fire damages Israel tremendously in that it reduces the perceived necessity of the military air-strikes.

Israel can do much to improve its PR campaign, and I hope they do, but I recognize that very few people in the world have not already taken a side in this conflict, based not on justice, but on liberal emotion.