Opinion |

Military Bluster Spells Disaster

The idea that Israel can be changed or defeated by the means at which it excels – war and killing – is the ultimate identification with Israel’s mentality.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Freed Palestinian prisoner Palestinian Yahya Sanwar, a founder of Hamas' military wing, is greeted by Gaza's Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh during a rally in Gaza City, Oct. 18, 2011.
Freed Palestinian prisoner Palestinian Yahya Sanwar, center, is greeted by Gaza's Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh during a rally in Gaza City, Oct. 18, 2011. Credit: Adel Hana, AP
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah says Hezbollah missiles can reach Israel’s nuclear plant in the Negev city of Dimona. It’s hard to suspect him of wanting to bring about the deaths of tens if not hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in nearby Gaza and in the Negev, or cause them to contract fatal illnesses. Hezbollah managed to expel occupying Israel from its country. For that, Hezbollah and the people of Lebanon deserve praise. But his statements today can be interpreted as boasting, which more than anything else reveal distress and weakness.

A new leader, Yahya Sanwar, has been elected in the Gaza Strip for the ruling movement. Hamas is a modern, organized party that holds regular internal elections, though clandestine, a feat that Fatah has not been able to manage even while operating openly and in relative freedom. Hamas changes leaders and none of them decides policy on his own, as opposed to the situation in Fatah.

In Gaza they say Sanwar was elected because he amassed impressive leadership skills in prison, and that he’s modest, listens to others and is level-headed. But even if he adheres to the current political tendency to avoid a military flare-up, the military wing of his organization is constantly working to arm itself and upgrade its capabilities. Its ostentatious military parades send a message, even when Iz al-Din al-Qassam holds its fire.

The parades and promises create an atmosphere of “resistance.” They spark the imagination of the people we are oppressing and crushing, giving them hope, a straw to hold on to. But some facts are being forgotten: After the 2006 war in Lebanon, Hezbollah didn’t dare open a second front when Gaza was being crushed in three Israeli onslaughts. From the time Gilad Shalit was taken prisoner in June 2006 until the onslaught in December 2008, Israel killed 1,132 residents of the Gaza Strip. Of these, 604 were men connected to armed groups, but not all of them had necessarily taken part in the fighting. Of the civilians killed, 207 were minors and 89 were women. They were also part of the price that was paid for the release of Sanwar and others.

Sanwar’s personal profile appearing on Hamas websites states that he executed collaborators as part of a strategy focused on deterring others. Thirty years have passed, and collaboration has not lessened. Murder – apparently usually of small fry and of the innocent – has not proven itself.

Hamas has armed squads in the West Bank, a spokesperson taking part in a conference in Iran said this week. Have their activities managed in the past to stop the Israeli colonialist binge? No. Nor have diplomatic tactics, that’s also true. But if the result is the same, why choose the dead-end road involving killing, imprisonment and destruction? You can say that’s a nave, feminist question, and we’ll respond: The tactic is a failed, masculine one.

Palestinians complain that their children adopt Israeli concepts and internalize the contempt for them. But the thought that Israel can be changed or defeated by the means at which it excels – war and killing – is precisely the ultimate identification with Israel’s mentality.

Israel has an ongoing interest in inflating the military threat posed by the two religious-Islamic organizations. This trend goes together with its methodical distortion of reality by presenting the Jews as victims of the Palestinians. Both Islamic organizations have an interest in Israel inflating their fearsomeness. That raises their political value.

Israel gets along without all-out military campaigns, using bureaucratic violence, organized sadism, concentration of Palestinians in enclaves and the blockade. But for its internal and external political needs it knows full well, when necessary, how to use military bluster. Then it spells disaster that requires years for even slight recovery. It must not be thrown this rope. Another means of struggle must be found.

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