Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Israel Is Losing This War

Israel Is Losing This War


Published on Monday, January 12, 2009 by The Progressive


by Uri Avnery




NEARLY SEVENTY YEARS ago, in the course of World War

II, a heinous crime was committed in the city of

Leningrad. For more than a thousand days, a gang of

extremists called "the Red Army" held the millions of

the town's inhabitants hostage and provoked retaliation

from the German Wehrmacht from inside the population

centers. The Germans had no alternative but to bomb and

shell the population and to impose a total blockade,

which caused the death of hundreds of thousands.


Some time before that, a similar crime was committed in

England. The Churchill gang hid among the population of

London, misusing the millions of citizens as a human

shield. The Germans were compelled to send their

Luftwaffe and reluctantly reduce the city to ruins.

They called it the Blitz.


This is the description that would now appear in the

history books - if the Germans had won the war.


Absurd? No more than the daily descriptions in our

media, which are being repeated ad nauseam: the Hamas

terrorists use the inhabitants of Gaza as "hostages"

and exploit the women and children as "human shields",

they leave us no alternative but to carry out massive

bombardments, in which, to our deep sorrow, thousands

of women, children and unarmed men are killed and injured.


IN THIS WAR, as in any modern war, propaganda plays a

major role. The disparity between the forces, between

the Israeli army - with its airplanes, gunships,

drones, warships, artillery and tanks - and the few

thousand lightly armed Hamas fighters, is one to a

thousand, perhaps one to a million. In the political

arena the gap between them is even wider. But in the

propaganda war, the gap is almost infinite.


Almost all the Western media initially repeated the

official Israeli propaganda line. They almost entirely

ignored the Palestinian side of the story, not to

mention the daily demonstrations of the Israeli peace

camp. The rationale of the Israeli government ("The

state must defend its citizens against the Qassam

rockets") has been accepted as the whole truth. The

view from the other side, that the Qassams are a

retaliation for the siege that starves the one and a

half million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, was not mentioned at all.


Only when the horrible scenes from Gaza started to

appear on Western TV screens, did world public opinion

gradually begin to change.


True, Western and Israeli TV channels showed only a

tiny fraction of the dreadful events that appear 24

hours every day on Aljazeera's Arabic channel, but one

picture of a dead baby in the arms of its terrified

father is more powerful than a thousand elegantly

constructed sentences from the Israeli army spokesman.

And that is what is decisive, in the end.


War - every war - is the realm of lies. Whether called

propaganda or psychological warfare, everybody accepts

that it is right to lie for one's country. Anyone who

speaks the truth runs the risk of being branded a traitor.


The trouble is that propaganda is most convincing for

the propagandist himself. And after you convince

yourself that a lie is the truth and falsification

reality, you can no longer make rational decisions.


An example of this process surrounds the most shocking

atrocity of this war so far: the shelling of the UN

Fakhura school in Jabaliya refugee camp.


Immediately after the incident became known throughout

the world, the army "revealed" that Hamas fighters had

been firing mortars from near the school entrance. As

proof they released an aerial photo which indeed showed

the school and the mortar. But within a short time the

official army liar had to admit that the photo was more

than a year old. In brief: a falsification.


Later the official liar claimed that "our soldiers were

shot at from inside the school". Barely a day passed

before the army had to admit to UN personnel that that

was a lie, too. Nobody had shot from inside the school,

no Hamas fighters were inside the school, which was

full of terrified refugees.


But the admission made hardly any difference anymore.

By that time, the Israeli public was completely

convinced that "they shot from inside the school", and

TV announcers stated this as a simple fact.


So it went with the other atrocities. Every baby

metamorphosed, in the act of dying, into a Hamas

terrorist. Every bombed mosque instantly became a Hamas

base, every apartment building an arms cache, every

school a terror command post, every civilian government

building a "symbol of Hamas rule". Thus the Israeli

army retained its purity as the "most moral army in the world".


THE TRUTH is that the atrocities are a direct result of

the war plan. This reflects the personality of Ehud

Barak - a man whose way of thinking and actions are

clear evidence of what is called "moral insanity", a sociopathic disorder.


The real aim (apart from gaining seats in the coming

elections) is to terminate the rule of Hamas in the

Gaza Strip. In the imagination of the planners, Hamas

is an invader which has gained control of a foreign

country. The reality is, of course, entirely different.


The Hamas movement won the majority of the votes in the

eminently democratic elections that took place in the

West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. It won

because the Palestinians had come to the conclusion

that Fatah's peaceful approach had gained precisely

nothing from Israel - neither a freeze of the

settlements, nor release of the prisoners, nor any

significant steps toward ending the occupation and

creating the Palestinian state. Hamas is deeply rooted

in the population - not only as a resistance movement

fighting the foreign occupier, like the Irgun and the

Stern Group in the past - but also as a political and

religious body that provides social, educational and medical services.


From the point of view of the population, the Hamas

fighters are not a foreign body, but the sons of every

family in the Strip and the other Palestinian regions.

They do not "hide behind the population", the

population views them as their only defenders.


Therefore, the whole operation is based on erroneous

assumptions. Turning life into living hell does not

cause the population to rise up against Hamas, but on

the contrary, it unites behind Hamas and reinforces its

determination not to surrender. The population of

Leningrad did not rise up against Stalin, any more than

the Londoners rose up against Churchill.


He who gives the order for such a war with such methods

in a densely populated area knows that it will cause

dreadful slaughter of civilians. Apparently that did

not touch him. Or he believed that "they will change

their ways" and "it will sear their consciousness", so

that in future they will not dare to resist Israel.


A top priority for the planners was the need to

minimize casualties among the soldiers, knowing that

the mood of a large part of the pro-war public would

change if reports of such casualties came in. That is

what happened in Lebanon Wars I and II.


This consideration played an especially important role

because the entire war is a part of the election

campaign. Ehud Barak, who gained in the polls in the

first days of the war, knew that his ratings would

collapse if pictures of dead soldiers filled the TV screens.


Therefore, a new doctrine was applied: to avoid losses

among our soldiers by the total destruction of

everything in their path. The planners were not only

ready to kill 80 Palestinians to save one Israeli

soldier, as has happened, but also 800. The avoidance

of casualties on our side is the overriding

commandment, which is causing record numbers of

civilian casualties on the other side.


That means the conscious choice of an especially cruel

kind of warfare - and that has been its Achilles heel.


A person without imagination, like Barak (his election

slogan: "Not a Nice Guy, but a Leader") cannot imagine

how decent people around the world react to actions

like the killing of whole extended families, the

destruction of houses over the heads of their

inhabitants, the rows of boys and girls in white

shrouds ready for burial, the reports about people

bleeding to death over days because ambulances are not

allowed to reach them, the killing of doctors and

medics on their way to save lives, the killing of UN

drivers bringing in food. The pictures of the

hospitals, with the dead, the dying and the injured

lying together on the floor for lack of space, have

shocked the world. No argument has any force next to an

image of a wounded little girl lying on the floor,

twisting with pain and crying out: "Mama! Mama!"


The planners thought that they could stop the world

from seeing these images by forcibly preventing press

coverage. The Israeli journalists, to their shame,

agreed to be satisfied with the reports and photos

provided by the Army Spokesman, as if they were

authentic news, while they themselves remained miles

away from the events. Foreign journalists were not

allowed in either, until they protested and were taken

for quick tours in selected and supervised groups. But

in a modern war, such a sterile manufactured view

cannot completely exclude all others - the cameras are

inside the strip, in the middle of the hell, and cannot

be controlled. Aljazeera broadcasts the pictures around

the clock and reaches every home.


THE BATTLE for the TV screen is one of the decisive

battles of the war.


Hundreds of millions of Arabs from Mauritania to Iraq,

more than a billion Muslims from Nigeria to Indonesia

see the pictures and are horrified. This has a strong

impact on the war. Many of the viewers see the rulers

of Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority as

collaborators with Israel in carrying out these

atrocities against their Palestinian brothers.


The security services of the Arab regimes are

registering a dangerous ferment among the peoples.

Hosny Mubarak, the most exposed Arab leader because of

his closing of the Rafah crossing in the face of

terrified refugees, started to pressure the

decision-makers in Washington, who until that time had

blocked all calls for a cease-fire. These began to

understand the menace to vital American interests in

the Arab world and suddenly changed their attitude -

causing consternation among the complacent Israeli diplomats.


People with moral insanity cannot really understand the

motives of normal people and must guess their

reactions. "How many divisions has the Pope?" Stalin

sneered. "How many divisions have people of

conscience?" Ehud Barak may well be asking.


As it turns out, they do have some. Not numerous. Not

very quick to react. Not very strong and organized. But

at a certain moment, when the atrocities overflow and

masses of protesters come together, that can decide a war.


THE FAILURE to grasp the nature of Hamas has caused a

failure to grasp the predictable results. Not only is

Israel unable to win the war, Hamas cannot lose it.


Even if the Israeli army were to succeed in killing

every Hamas fighter to the last man, even then Hamas

would win. The Hamas fighters would be seen as the

paragons of the Arab nation, the heroes of the

Palestinian people, models for emulation by every

youngster in the Arab world. The West Bank would fall

into the hands of Hamas like a ripe fruit, Fatah would

drown in a sea of contempt, the Arab regimes would be

threatened with collapse.


If the war ends with Hamas still standing, bloodied but

unvanquished, in face of the mighty Israeli military

machine, it will look like a fantastic victory, a

victory of mind over matter.


What will be seared into the consciousness of the world

will be the image of Israel as a blood-stained monster,

ready at any moment to commit war crimes and not

prepared to abide by any moral restraints. This will

have severe consequences for our long-term future, our

standing in the world, our chance of achieving peace and quiet.


In the end, this war is a crime against ourselves too,

a crime against the State of Israel.


(c) 2009 The Progressive


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