Analysis News

Dissent in Israel: On the margins, yes, in the mainstream, no

Regarding the controversy over Mairav Zonszein’s ‘New York Times’ op-ed: An ongoing climate of fear and suspicion is not conducive to ‘vibrant democracy.’ It is unfriendly to left-wing protest over security matters.   

Since my colleague Mairav Zonszein published her ballbuster op-ed “How Israel Silences Dissent” in the New York Times several days ago, there’s been – what a surprise – a backlash. There was one substantive counterpoint to the article, though, by self-described leftist Noah Efron in Haaretz, who wrote that the instances mentioned by Zonszein of threats, sanctions and violence against opponents of the Gaza war also disturbed him deeply, then he added:

Good point. So what’s the story – does Israel silence dissent or not?

It does. Not all dissent, of course, and Zonszein never argued such a thing, but what Israel does is prevent dissent from reaching the mainstream. The government in Jerusalem doesn’t do it directly – it doesn’t have to. The deed is done mainly by mainstream economic entities and the mainstream media acting on behalf of their customers, the Israeli Jewish public, which supports every last thing the government does in the name of security, such as Operation Protective Edge.

Read Zonszein’s response: Silencing dissent in Israel – continued

To illustrate: On August 22, a week before the war ended, “7 Nights,” the weekend entertainment magazine in Israel’s leading newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, ran a cover story titled “Prisoners of War” about the same subject Zonszein wrote about, but as a long feature article based on interviews, and with a lot more examples of silencing. An anonymous “senior figure in the [Israeli] entertainment world” said:

“Whoever understands marketing in the Israeli music business knows that today the big money comes from [contracts to perform for] municipalities, state-owned companies, cultural bodies funded by the government and by Mifal Hapayis [the national lottery] whose director is identified with the government. Any expression that is extreme or that contradicts the government’s official position is liable to lead to the cancellation of dozens of performances a year – at cultural events, municipal festivals, Independence Day celebrations, summer concerts and so on. …

Whoever understands is afraid, and whoever doesn’t understand – his managers are afraid. The people around the performer don’t leave him on his own – they brief him: which messages to put across when you’re a guest on [talk shows...

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Accusing Israel of ‘genocide’: Major fail

And deservedly so, because it’s a false accusation. This is not how to fight the occupation, this is how to help strengthen it.

Mahmoud Abbas’ speech last Friday at the United Nations General Assembly gave the highest-profile-ever exposure to the accusation, popular among anti-Zionists, that Israel practices “genocide” against the Palestinians, and that the war in Gaza was a genocidal one. That’s the highlight of the speech that was picked for the headline in any number of major international news outlets; in Israel the speech is already known, and will be forever, as Abbas’ “genocide speech.” That one word seems to have overshadowed everything else he said at the UN podium, which is a pity, because his basic message – that 21 years of internationally-sponsored peace negotiations have screwed the Palestinians, and they will stand for no more – is right and true, and must be heard, in exactly the furious, combative tone he adopted.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the UNGA during the general debate, September 26, 2014. (UN Photo/Amanda Voisard)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the UNGA during the general debate, September 26, 2014. (UN Photo/Amanda Voisard)

If his use of the term “genocide” to describe the occupation and the war in Gaza were truthful but “impolitic,” that would be one thing. But it’s not true – it’s plain false. And on top of that, it’s impolitic in the extreme – it’s politically suicidal, precisely because it’s so clearly false. It’s an Achilles heel in the argument against the occupation. It allows the right wing to sweep aside everything else, in this case every true thing that Abbas said at the UN, and zero in on that one blatant falsehood. It stamps the anti-occupation cause with fanaticism, with reckless disregard for the truth, with hysterical hatred for Israel. That one stupid word.

Using it against Israel may work well to “energize the base” in closed, anti-Zionist circles; it may also get some  college kids to join a protest. But now that Abbas has, for the first time, put the term out in the mainstream, it is so painfully obvious that accusing Israel of genocide is to shoot oneself in the foot, if not the head.

When you accuse Israel of committing genocide against the Palestinians, you are accusing it of deliberately, systematically executing them...

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Another Israeli act of military madness in Syria

On Tuesday morning the Air Force shot down a Syrian fighter jet for no good reason on earth.

For the first time in 30 years, a Syrian fighter jet on Tuesday morning strayed over the border with Israel – or rather, over the border with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, which rightfully belongs to Syria. Israeli military officials reportedly think it was an accident. They also think the Syrian jet was on its way to bomb Al-Nusra jihadists on the Syrian side of the border.

The incursion of the Syrian plane lasted two seconds. It got about 800 meters onto the Israeli-occupied side of the border. Then the pilots turned the jet back toward Syria.

So what did Israel do then? What else? It blew the Syrian jet out of the sky. The crippled plane landed on the Syrian side of the border. Thankfully, the Syrian pilots ejected safely.

All the details of the incident point to an Israeli act of incredible recklessness and stupidity.

Yedioth Ahronoth reports that “the IDF thinks the jet crossed into Israel by accident en route to attacking rebel positions on the Golan.” Same story: “According to a military source, the jet entered Israel for a couple of seconds, penetrating a few hundred meters before turning back (bold italics added), at which point it was hit by the Patriot missile.”

A Patriot missile is launched during a test. (File photo by IAF)

A Patriot missile is launched during a test. (File photo by IAF)

But then a few paragraphs later, an IDF officer tells Yedioth: “We identified the Syrian jet at a height of 10-14,000 feet. That’s a height considered comfortable for an attack run. A fighter jet can reach the Sea of Galilee in less than a minute and everywhere else in five.”

Yeah. The Syrian jet is looking to bomb Al-Nusra jihadists on the Syrian side of the border, it strays accidentally onto the Israeli-controlled side for two goddamn seconds, then it turns back toward Syria – and it was a threat to Israel.

The Haaretz story presents the IDF version of the incident a lot more simply: “Although Israel did not see any threat of attack on its own territory from that plane, its policy stipulates that any plane that breaches its territorial authority must be downed to avoid security...

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Against spy revelations, Israel doth protest too much

The nation’s establishment has called the whistle-blowers of Unit 8200 every bad name, but it has no answer to their charge that information deliberately gathered on innocent Palestinians is used to blackmail them into collaborating.

Illustrative photo of digital surveillance. (Shutterstock.com)

Illustrative photo of digital surveillance. (Shutterstock.com)

The 43 refuseniks in Unit 8200, Israel’s legendary high-tech snoops, are this week’s Gideon Levys, this week’s Haneen Zoabis – the focus of patriotic hatred in the land. “Baseless slander” is what Netanyahu called their letter, published Friday in Yedioth Ahronoth, in which they declared they would no longer spy for the occupation.

Aside from being called traitors, the 43 reservists have been called cowards, spoiled brats, cynical political operatives and, as mentioned, baseless slanderers. But neither Netanyahu nor any of the other accusers have answered the whistle-blowers’ most incendiary revelation: that Unit 8200 not only spies on the phones, emails and other devices of militants, but on those of completely innocent Palestinians, hoping to find out their secrets so the Shin Bet can use the information to blackmail them into becoming collaborators.

Interviewing six of the letter’s signatories, Yedioth’s Elior Levy wrote (in Hebrew), “According to them, the Israeli public believes that intelligence is gathered only against those involved in terror. They want to publicize the fact that a substantial portion of the targets they follow are innocent people who are not connected in any way to military activity against Israel, and who interest the intelligence branches for other reasons.”

According to “N.” one of the six dissidents interviewed, “At the base they told us that if we turn up some ‘juicy’ detail, this is something important to document. For instance, economic hardship, sexual orientation, a severe illness that they or someone in their family has, or medical treatments they need.”

“N.” continued:

The army spokesman’s response to these and other specific accusations goes as follows: “The concrete claims made in the report are unknown in the Intelligence Directorate.”

In an interview on TLV1 radio, I asked Noa Levy, a former draft resister who now defends others taking that route, what she thought of the army spokesman’s response. She gave a derisive laugh and said,

In Yedioth, Israel’s leading print journalist, Nahum Barnea, fully defended the truthfulness (though not the judgment) of...

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Israel's watershed moment that wasn't

Liberals abroad seem to think that for Israel, Operation Protective Edge was a turning point — a wake-up call telling this country that it couldn’t keep going on like this, from war to war to war with no chance for peace. +972 speaks to a number of powerful figures in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s inner circle, past and present, to hear their vision of where Israel is headed following the latest Gaza war.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem. (Photo by Haim Zach / GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem. (Photo by Haim Zach / GPO)

On the first weekend after Operation Protective Edge ended in a cease-fire, I drove down to Sderot, the original rocket-plagued Gaza-border town and a stronghold of the ruling Right, to hear what people had to say. The idea was to try to gauge Israel’s postwar direction in its conflict with the Palestinians. And since the right-wing calls the shots in this country, the thing to do was listen to right-wingers – on the street, in the media, in the think tanks, in the Prime Minister’s Office.

The car radio was tuned to the Friday morning talk show hosted by Judy Nir Mozes Shalom, wife of Likud cabinet minister Silvan Shalom and a rich, self-satisfied, often-caricatured socialite. She was talking to Boaz Bismuth, deputy editor of Sheldon Adelson’s pro-Netanyahu newspaper Israel Hayom about his recent trip to Turkey.

“Why did you go to Turkey? It sounds vile,” said Shalom, what with Erdogan and all the anti-Semitism. “I had to get permission to visit the main synagogue in Istanbul,” said Bismuth. “What?!” said Shalom, who seemed to think Jews in Istanbul now needed permission from the government to go to synagogue. No, Bismuth explained, he needed permission from a Jewish communal organization to make sure he wasn’t a security threat. And what about that Jewish couple who got murdered? “Purely criminal,” Bismuth explained; they’d evidently been killed by their housecleaners over money, there seemed to be no anti-Semitic motive. “But the atmosphere is tense. The atmosphere is anti-Israeli, which is anti-Semitic,” said Bismuth. “Why don’t the Jews there move to Israel, dammit,” said Shalom. “I hope everyone wakes up in time.”

In the center of Sderot, none of the people I talk to expect the cease-fire to last. They...

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Fight occupation, anti-Semitism, Islamic State at the same time

The first cause must not be a rival, or a left-wing alternative, to the latter two.

From what I read and hear, it seems to me the Left is talking about Israel’s occupation and onslaught in Gaza – but not about rising anti-Semitism in Europe or about Islamic State (IS) and jihadism, or at least not about how to combat them. My impression is that leftists see this as a zero-sum game: the more outrage about anti-Semitism or IS, the less about the occupation and Gaza, and since the occupation and Gaza is their main concern (mine too), they pay no more than lip service to anti-Semitism, often to say it’s being exaggerated by the Right. And though they deplore IS and jihadism, they’re also against any Western military response to it, often blaming Western military action in the Middle East for creating the problem in the first place, or at least for amplifying it.

A fighter from the Islamic State stands in front of a tank. (photo: Islamic State)

A fighter from the Islamic State stands in front of an armored personnel carrier. (photo: Islamic State)

The Right, on the other hand, is talking only about anti-Semitism, IS and jihadism, hoping that it will take people’s minds off the occupation and Gaza, or, better yet, convince them that it justifies Israel’s violent domination of the Palestinians, or, best of all, show them that Israel’s violent domination of the Palestinians is an integral part of the world’s fight against IS and jihadism.

I don’t have much to say to right wingers about this. People who think Israel is doing the best it can with the Palestinians, who think Israel was innocent of all the killing and destruction in Gaza – I have no interest in trying to convince them otherwise; by now it’s futile.

But I do have something to say to the Left, to the people who know the occupation is immoral and that Operative Protective Edge was a monstrous crime: anti-Semitism in Europe is a real and growing problem, and so are IS and other jihadi groups in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, and since you don’t like anti-Semitism or jihadism one bit, you should say so. Insistently. It should be clear to the public that the fight against the...

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No, Hamas isn’t ISIS, ISIS isn’t Hamas

But equating the two is Netanyahu’s latest way of hypnotizing people into supporting the Gaza war. He gets away with it because people are afraid that if they challenge this idiotic slogan, they’ll be accused of ‘defending Hamas.’

Anybody who isn’t a shill for Israel can see through Netanyahu’s new slogan, “Hamas is ISIS, ISIS is Hamas.” It’s such a crude attempt to brainwash people, to put the most horrifying image in their minds and associate it with Gaza, thereby cleansing Israel of those images of Gaza’s agony. Like he’s been doing his whole career, Netanyahu is insulting people’s intelligence, treating them like children, selling them the war with a short little singsong slogan they can all remember.

And he gets away with it, because people won’t challenge this idiocy for fear they’ll be accused of “defending Hamas.” Well, if anybody accuses me of defending Hamas in what I’m about to write, I accuse them in turn of supporting the war in Gaza because they enjoy seeing Palestinian children killed. One claim is as fair as the other.

A fighter from the Islamic State stands in front of a tank. (photo: Islamic State)

A fighter from the Islamic State stands in front of a tank. (photo: Islamic State)

Just to be clear, I know very well that Hamas is a brutal, dictatorial organization; the term “Islamofascist” is indeed descriptive of its character. So in that limited sense, it’s the same as ISIS.

But the difference between Hamas and ISIS in the degree of their brutality, and in their strength, is so great as to be a qualitative difference.

Hamas is not slaughtering and beheading and crucifying people by the thousands, it’s not committing gang rape, it’s not massacring people because they practice a different religion, or a different variant of their own religion, or because they belong to a different ethnic group.

“Hamas, like ISIS, is persecuting minorities,” Netanyahu said over the weekend. But there are churches in Gaza, Christians attend them freely, there is a seat in the Gazan legislature reserved for a Christian – that’s night and day from the way ISIS treats Christians, isn’t it?

About Hamas’ executions in recent days of some 25 suspected collaborators, it’s a sickening reminder of this organization’s ruthlessness – but the fact is that the...

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In ceasefire talks, Netanyahu is letting Hamas win Gaza war

The great mystery is: Why?

In the Cairo ceasefire talks, Netanyahu is snatching diplomatic defeat from the jaws of military victory. I have no explanation for why he’s doing this and I have yet to hear a convincing one. There must be something Netanyahu knows that no one else does. Otherwise his concessions at the Cairo talks, after blitzing the Gaza Strip for five weeks, leaving Hamas able to do no more than fire short-range rockets over the Israeli border, and being hailed in Israel as a warrior king, make no sense at all.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz at the Defense Ministry. (photo: Haim Zach / GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz at the Defense Ministry. (photo: Haim Zach / GPO)

Meretz leader Zahava Gal-On gave an accurate reading of the situation:

Also, the emerging truce calls for talks on construction of an airport and seaport for Gaza to begin within a month of the document’s signing.

Personally, I’m in favor of Gaza getting all those things. But Netanyahu could have offered them to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during the Kerry talks, or to the Fatah-Hamas unity government that Abbas forged, and the Palestinian benefactor would have been the non-violent, moderate PA instead of the violent, immoderate Hamas. Oh, one other thing: There wouldn’t have been a war that killed 2,000 people, made much of Gaza look like the Warsaw Ghetto, and traumatized hundreds of thousands of Israelis in the south. Gal-On again:

It’s not just leftists like Gal-On and me who see the Cairo talks in this light. “In the hands of Hamas” was the title of the highly-influential Friday column in Yedioth Ahronoth by Nahum Barnea, the country’s leading print journalist:

In the cabinet, meanwhile, the only sure ally Netanyahu has left is Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, his partner in devising the Cairo negotiating strategy. The other ministers, certainly to the right of Netanyahu but even those to his left, are turning away from this deal. Netanyahu, for his part, is barely talking to them. Political correspondent Yossi Verter in Friday’s Haaretz:

A week ago, Netanyahu seemed to have clear sailing; he didn’t need anything or...

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The world is letting Israel get away with it again

The assault on Gaza has hurt this country’s image, and it doesn’t care.

There’s no doubt that this past month of heavily televised overkill in Gaza – well, heavily televised everywhere but here – has hurt Israel’s standing in the world. The IDF has killed too many civilians, wiped out too many families, bombed too many UN shelters. Even Washington has used words like “indefensible” and “disgraceful” to describe some of Israel’s acts. And while the world’s powers-that-be don’t like Hamas, they do like the Palestinian Authority and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, and they know very well that the Netanyahu government has continuously trashed any chance of making peace with him.

So in terms of high politics, of Israel’s international relations, and considering Israel’s image in international public opinion, Operation Protective Edge has been a great failure. If before the war Israel’s liberal friends had warned that its policies were driving people away and leaving the country increasingly “isolated,” Israel’s behavior over the last month has aggravated that condition badly.

The Al-Susi Mosque lies in ruins in Shati' Refugee Camp following Israeli attacks, Gaza City, August 2, 2014. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

The Al-Susi Mosque lies in ruins in Shati’ Refugee Camp following Israeli attacks, Gaza City, August 2, 2014. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

To which Israel says: who cares? If I may mangle Ben-Gurion’s famous dictum, it doesn’t matter what the goyim say, it matters what the goyim do, and the goyim are doing nothing. Even now, after this month-long horror show in Gaza, which isn’t over.

And since the goyim – along with the liberal Jews who are appalled by Israel’s actions – are doing nothing, meaning they’re not punishing or penalizing Israel in any manner, not holding it in any way accountable for what it has done to Gaza and its people, then Israel indeed has no reason to care what the goyim or liberal Jews say.

The world is shocked by the death and devastation in Gaza, it understands that the “root cause” is Israel’s half-century denial of freedom to the Palestinians, and it knows that the Netanyahu government has no interest whatsoever in setting the Palestinians free – yet the world, even now, is letting Israel get away with it.

Just compare: Russia takes back Crimea, which made most Crimeans very happy,...

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Why Israel won’t sign any ceasefire that’s fair

A fair ceasefire would bring major relief for Gaza, which would mean Hamas wins the war.

The ceasefire that the world is now pushing for – one that, as UN chief Ban Ki-Moon put it, not only ends the fighting but also ends Israel’s “chokehold on Gaza” – is one that the Netanyahu government will not accept. It should accept it, because Gazans have the right to be free, but it won’t. Its rejection of John Kerry’s offer on Friday – which reportedly would have allowed the Israeli army to go on destroying Gazan tunnels even during a week-long ceasefire – is a sign of this.

Secretary of State John Kerry with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, September 15, 2013 (State Dept. Photo)

Secretary of State John Kerry with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, September 15, 2013 (State Dept. Photo)

If Israel agrees to end the war on terms that grant major, transformative relief to Gaza, that largely lift the blockade on the Strip and allow Gazans substantial freedom of movement – which is what Ban and even Kerry are talking about – then Hamas wins the war.

And this Israeli government will not allow that, not only because of false national pride, but also because if Hamas wins freedom for Gaza, it will take over the West Bank, directly or indirectly. The Palestinian Authority will collapse – to be replaced by Hamas or the Israeli military, either scenario being a nightmare for Israel – or the Palestinian Authority will refuse to go on playing Israel’s cop and begin demanding freedom for the West Bank, too.

As Noam Sheizaf wrote, Israel could agree to a ceasefire that ended the chokehold on Gaza if it was ready to end the occupation of the Palestinian territories altogether, in the West Bank as well. But it’s not. And so the only ceasefire the Netanyahu government will agree to is one that gains Gaza nothing or, at most, finds Israel throwing it a bone, thereby teaching Hamas and the rest of the Palestinians that firing rockets at Israel – even under extreme Israeli provocation – gets them nothing but a lot more pain.

So long as the Israeli government is committed to ruling the Palestinians, any meaningful  relaxation of that rule as a result...

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Israel during wartime: Loving our soldiers to death

War brings out the best in Israel, and the worst. But it’s the worst qualities that allowed this war to happen in the first place, and that are preparing the ground for the next one.

I’ve always thought, and still think, that if I were in real trouble somewhere, if I were being mugged in Miami, say, and I could choose the nationality of the nearest bystander, I would choose Israeli. They are brave, and they don’t hesitate to help someone in danger, even at risk to themselves. It’s a worn-out cliché, and I’ve found it to be very true.

And the war going on now, from an Israeli Jewish vantage point, is sort of that quality played out on a national scale. First of all, of course, there are the ground troops going into Gaza. As wrong as this war is, the young combat soldiers going in to fight are risking their lives, and some of them are dying or getting very badly wounded. They are brave. And they are ready to die to save their fellow soldiers. (And I don’t blame them for this war; they were born and bred for it.) I don’t think there can be many Israeli Jews today, no matter their political opinions, who, if they think about these soldiers, can help being moved by them and caring for them.

Funeral of Israeli soldier Banaya Rubel, Holon, Israel. Rubel was killed during clashes in Gaza. (photo: Activestills.org)

Funeral of Israeli soldier Banaya Rubel, Holon, Israel. Rubel was killed during clashes in Gaza. (photo: Activestills.org)

And Israelis’ instinctive readiness to help in a time of need is coming out abundantly across the home front, across Israeli society at large. One tiny example: This morning I went to the neighborhood grocery store and they’ve got a box for people to donate sanitary wipes, underwear and other items for the soldiers stuck for days and nights in the field. They have another box to donate nuts and cookies and stuff for the shiva, the seven-day Jewish mourning period, for a soldier in Modi’in who was just killed.

This is a very emotional experience. Most Israeli Jews have family members or friends in Gaza; I do, too. But even for those who don’t, everyone is just surrounded by this story of young guys going in to...

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‘Finish the job’

This is the watchword in Israel today, no matter the price.

Late last night (Monday), I was driving home from work and listening to the talk show hosted by Jojo Abutbul, who is sort of an old-time folk hero in this country – a Mizrahi Jew with down-to-earth wisdom. An Israeli common man. He speaks mainly to an older, Likud-oriented Mizrahi crowd, which is still very reflective of Israeli mainstream views, and is disproportionately represented in Sderot and some of the other towns near the Gaza border that have taken the brunt of Hamas’ rockets. Jojo Abutbul and his callers are an important voice in Israeli public opinion, especially now, during the war. They’re thought to be on the right wing of the mainstream.

They were speaking after a day in which seven Israeli soldiers had been killed, and a family of 26 had been killed in Gaza. The first tragedy overhung everything they said; the second was not mentioned. And the phrase that kept being repeated was, “Finish the job.” Abutbul said, “It hurts me, the number of soldiers who have fallen. But I think I’ll be able to withstand any number if they finish the job. But if even one soldier meets his fate and they don’t finish the job, then I’m going to find this impossible to take.”

A mourner carries the body of a child among 24 members of the Abu Jamea family, who were killed the previous day during an Israeli attack over the Bani Suhaila neighborhood of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip.

A mourner carries the body of a child among 24 members of the Abu Jamea family, who were killed the previous day during an Israeli attack over the Bani Suhaila neighborhood of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip.

I thought, well, that’s an “authentic” Israeli voice today, but it’s not the only one, and it’s probably somewhere to the right of the center of gravity. I still believed there were a lot of Israelis who are saying “enough” – not just left-wingers but centrist Israelis who cannot take anymore Israeli soldiers getting killed and want the fighting to end now. This, after all, is supposed to be a basic truth about the Israeli political mentality – that they won’t stand for large numbers of casualties in war. And seven soldiers were killed yesterday,...

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The ‘terror tunnels’: Another Israeli self-fulfilling prophecy

There were non-lethal ways to preempt Hamas’ underground attacks, but the Netanyahu government rejected them all.

Here is the current, ostensibly airtight rationale for whatever the IDF chooses to do in Gaza: armed Hamas militats are coming up out of tunnels that start in Gaza and end not far from kibbutz and moshav communities on the Israeli side. So if the IDF doesn’t go as far into Gaza as necessary to destroy the last of these underground passages, sooner or later Hamas will succeed in carrying out “catastrophic” terror attacks, as Netanyahu puts it. The army has stopped several of them since Thursday night’s ground invasion of the Strip; today (Monday) soldiers were wounded in Israeli territory stopping another one.

Funeral of Israeli soldier Banaya Rubel, Holon, Israel. Rubel was killed during clashes in Gaza. (photo: Activestills.org)

Funeral of Israeli soldier Banaya Rubel, Holon, Israel. Rubel was killed during clashes in Gaza. (photo: Activestills.org)

An unnamed IDF commander put the case very well to Yedioth Ahronoth’s Nahum Barnea:

The IDF’s war to wipe out the threat from the tunnels is not an aggressive operation. It’s a preemptive attack, a completely defensive operation. … Imagine if someone in Hamas makes the decision to send out on some dark night, by surprise, teams of commandos through all the tunnels, and they go on a killing spree in the communities near the Gazan border. …

It’s true that many soldiers [13 – L.D.] were killed tonight. It’s likely that more will be killed. But think of the alternative. How could we look kibbutz or moshav members near Gaza in the eye if a commando unit were to infiltrate and kill dozens of their people? Now that we know the tunnels are there, we can’t allow ourselves the luxury of doing nothing about them.

It sounds entirely reasonable – Hamas is using tunnels to try to kill Israelis on Israeli territory, so the IDF has to go into Hamas’ territory and wipe out those tunnels. And it might be reasonable – if there were no other way Israel could avoid being attacked through those tunnels. It might be reasonable if Israel wasn’t choking Gaza and the West Bank for 47 years. It might be reasonable if Israel hadn’t provoked the war that led to these underground...

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+972 is an independent, blog-based web magazine. It was launched in August 2010, resulting from a merger of a number of popular English-language blogs dealing with life and politics in Israel and Palestine.

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