Israeli Assassinations and Public Scrutiny

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by Ron Unz, The Unz Review:

The ongoing Israel/Gaza conflict just passed the six month mark, an astonishing development that almost no one would have imagined at the time it first began.

The length of the fighting is without precedent across the last seventy-five years of Israeli military history. In 1956, Israel allied itself with Britain and France and suddenly attacked Egypt, conquering the Sinai in a war that lasted little more than a week. Israel’s 1967 surprise attack against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan achieved complete military victory in just six days. Then Egypt and Syria returned the favor in 1973 and came close to overrunning Israel until an unprecedented American military resupply airlift allowed Israel to turn the tide and win a decisive military victory in less than three weeks. The main fighting in Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon only took a couple of weeks, while its 2006 invasion of that same country lasted about a month and its 2008 assault on Gaza was even shorter. Most of these previous half-dozen campaigns were fought against heavily-equipped conventional armies but their combined length totaled considerably less than the time Israel has now spent trying to defeat Gaza’s lightly-armed Hamas militants.

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Furthermore, Israel’s lack of battlefield success against the entrenched Hamas fighters has become rather obvious. Few if any of the Israelis captured in the October 7th raid have been successfully freed and none of Hamas’ top commanders have been killed or captured. The extent of Hamas’ battlefield losses is unclear, but since the group consists entirely of adult males and the demographic profile of the Gazans reported killed seems very close to that of Gaza’s general civilian population, it seems likely that only a small fraction of Hamas’ 30,000 combat troops have fallen. Indeed, Israel’s failure to capture almost any Hamas members has led to grotesque incidents in which the Israelis seized and stripped male Gazan civilians and falsely paraded them around as captured Hamas militants for a propaganda video.

For decades, the Israelis had boastfully proclaimed their army to be one of best in the world, but the huge humiliation they suffered on October 7th punctured that illusion, and six months of fighting in Gaza has hardly restored it. Although the IDF is lavishly equipped with top-quality weaponry, its discipline appears rather poor and its troops and their commanders seem extremely risk-averse perhaps even cowardly. As a consequence, Israel has apparently avoided taking the battle to Hamas in the latter’s network of defensive tunnels and instead concentrated on punishing Gaza’s population of two million defenseless civilians with relentless bombardment and starvation, seeking to drive them out into Egypt’s Sinai desert, thereby allowing the Israelis to annex their land and create a Greater Israel.

As part of that process, Israel has annihilated most of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure. More than a hundred thousand residential buildings have been destroyed, including most of the mosques and churches, along with all of the local hospitals, schools, and universities, constituting the greatest series of public war crimes in living memory. Tens of thousands of Gazans have died in what is certainly the worst televised massacre of helpless civilians in the history of the world. That enormous death toll together with a multitude of explicitly genocidal public statements by top Israeli political and military leaders led to a series of near-unanimous rulings by the International Court of Justice declaring that the Palestinians were at serious risk of suffering a “genocide” at Israel’s hands, an almost unprecedented international legal verdict, let alone one directed against the once sacrosanct Jewish State.

So although Israel’s brutal and indiscriminate methods have minimized its military losses, they have also failed to defeat or destroy its determined opponent, amounting to some tactical Israeli successes but a potentially strategic victory for Hamas’s far weaker forces. Indeed, the front-page lead story in the print edition of Friday’s Wall Street Journal carried the headline “Israel Wins Battles But Risks War Loss.” A day earlier, a leading columnist in Israel’s most influential newspaper had even more boldly declared that Israel had lost the war, suffering “a total defeat.”

However, I think even these negative appraisals of Israel’s strategic situation ignore the broader consequences of this six month conflict. Therefore, they severely underestimate the potentially dire outcome for Israel, perhaps extremely damaging or even fatal to the survival of the Jewish State.

A central theme of my numerous American Pravda articles has been the enormous power of media in world affairs. By shaping the thoughts and beliefs of the individuals who control armies and nuclear arsenals, media influence is far more powerful than those merely physical weapons. And I believe that the greatest strategic impact of the Israel-Gaza conflict of the last six months has been in that realm.

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