Was Israel's reported strike in Sudan an exercise in propaganda?
Nobody knows for sure what was bombed, how much and why; Sudan, after all, is far away.
Shhhhh, Israel has done it again. On the eve of the end of prime minister Ehud Olmert's term, in what appeared like a suspicious coincidence, we heard the report from distant America about another covert, impressive Israeli operation. This time it was carried out by planes or unmanned aerial vehicles. Israel had struck again.
The imagination-sparking report fit in well with Olmert's end-of-term celebrations. Everyone, including Olmert himself, spread broad hints about Israel's secret operations during his term, as a sign of his prowess in office. The sweet memories of taking over the boat Karine A at sea, assassinating Imad Mugniyeh (according to foreign sources, of course) and the mysterious shelling in Syria have barely faded. And suddenly we have Sudan.
A supply convoy, no less, with dozens of trucks carrying arms from Iran, no less, including a boat at sea, no less, making their way to Gaza were bombed, and several dozen people were killed.
Nobody knows for sure what was bombed, how much and why. Sudan, after all, is far away. But we can rely on our fine young men in the Mossad and air force to know what they're doing. We were right, it worked again. All our forces returned safely, leaving only dust and ashes from the dangerous convoy. The muttering of Sudan's government about innocent fishing boats that were bombed is irrelevant. Fishermen or terrorists, a la guerre comme a la guerre.
The military commentators and the entire Israeli nation in their footsteps were beside themselves with admiration. The Israeli James Bond is still here. An army that hasn't fought against another army for decades finds its glory in such operations. So does the political leadership. What did Olmert say with a wink after the Sudan incident? "There is no place where Israel cannot operate." Hooray. With a quarter of that imagination and daring we could have achieved peace already, but let's not go into such trivia.
Due to the character of the operation in Sudan we were unfortunately spared the regular spectacle: the first sergeant spreading a military blanket, on which soldiers lay out the loot - rows and rows of frightening guns. Countless reporters and photographers from Israel and abroad are invited, while officers and commentators recite - from a handed-down page - praises of the great achievement, descriptions of the dangerous weapons captured, and details of the "dangerous and complicated" operation.
They also show the public, which is ignorant in these matters, that the war on terror is in full swing and its achievements are enormous. They then reiterate the enormity of the danger facing us. Remember their reports of Hamas getting new arms and equipment before Operation Cast Lead? How they frightened us before the operation, which resembled at best a military maneuver - with no combatant army or real weapons facing us. The end is known: There was no war and no equipment except the primitive Qassams and Grads.
This is how the propaganda machine intensifies the danger and enhances the achievement. Thus it brainwashes everyone about the Israel Defense Forces' great, never-ending feats.
Now that the Sudan operation is behind us, let's remember its predecessor, Operation Noah's Ark. The story of seizing Karine A could have been taken from an action movie. We were told of Squadron 13 combatants descending from helicopters, rubber boats in the water and intelligence aircraft, photographs and refuelling in the sky. An F-15 Eagle fighter secured the operation and in a Boeing 707 sat - just imagine - the chief of staff and commanders of the air force and navy. The operation was sealed by the inevitable scene of the Israeli flag hoisted on the boat, which was towed to Eilat. There its loot was displayed - 50 tons of outdated guns and mortars. It was seen, of course, as one of the IDF's greatest achievements in the past decade.
Some of these operations may be significant to security, others are no more than propaganda and scaremongering exercises for internal and external needs.
The new government, with two Sayeret Matkal elite commando unit graduates in its leadership, raises fears that we have more escapades in store. These operations may also fail from time to time, and their contribution and price will be impossible to measure. Meanwhile, let's raise a toast to the glorious bombers who returned from Sudan.