Playing Hamas's Game

Me, in Lebanon, at the border with Israel, summer of 1968 (Lebanon is behind me. I'm wearing the yellow shirt.)

I can not lie, so I will state here and now that what will be posted here was on the Editorial Page of today's (Sat., July 15, 2006) New York Times. I copy it here rather than write my own thoughts because this article expresses my thoughts to a t and I don't believe I could do it any better.

With the circle of violence in the Middle East expanding alarmingly, it is important to be clear about not only who is responsible for the latest outbreak, but who stands to gain most from its continued escalation.

Both Questions have the same answer: Hamas and Hezbollah. And Israel needs to be careful that its far-reaching military responses, however legally and morally justified, do not end up advancing the political agenda that Hamas and Hezbollah hard-liners had in mind when they conceived and executed the kidnappings of Israeli soldiers that detonated the fighting.

The Palestinian Authority, which Hamas controls, and the Lebanese government, in which Hezbollah is a minority participant, inexcusably failed to prevent or halt these incidents. Iran, which arms Hezbollah, and Syria, which shelters the most violent wing of Hamas also shares some responsibility.

Israel is fully justified in treating these two incidents as unacceptable acts of aggression. But it needs to better adapt its methods to the circumstances it now faces. The point is to weaken and isolate Hamas and Hezbollah, while denying them opportunities to rally broader Arab support. To that end, Israel must focus its fire much more directly at the leaders and fighters of these two groups, and do far more to minimize the damage to civilian by-standers.

Here's why: The military chieftains of Hamas and Hezbollah fully understand that their primitively armed guerrillas and limited-range unguided missiles are no match for Israel's world-class military forces. When they engage in provocative operations, like the recent kidnapping of Israeli soldiers and shelling of Israeli towns, they do not expect to win any kind of traditional military victory.

What they more realistically hope for is that the inevitably fierce and devastating Israeli military response will hand them an opportunity to radicalize Arab politics and thereby pressure moderate Arab leaders to distance themselves from Israel and embrace the guerrilla cause. That is a tactic that secular Palestinian guerrilla groups like Fatah pioneered decades ago, and that Islamist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah now use for similar ends.

This perverse dynamic is again coming into play after Israel's wide-ranging forays into Gaza and Lebanon. Most Arabs are not blaming Hamas and Hezbollah for provoking these Israeli raids. They are blaming Israel for carrying them out.

That is not fair. But it is the way things work in the real world, and the provocateurs of Hamas and Hezbollah and their allies in Damascus and Tehran understand how to use it to their long-term advantage. Israel's political and military leaders need to understand it too and not let themselves be drawn into the provocateurs' game.


Ricardo said...

In regards to these terrorists groups, they are very good at playing the victim. This is also the reason why they are able to make Israel seem like "big bad Israel" and by pulling the IDf into a military response, it's not just a chance to play the victim but a PR campaign to make Israel look bad no matter what is done. I agree with the authors point that if retaliation is taken it has to be different from the way we see now. but how? that's for the IDF generals to figure out. I hope the situation can be resolved peacefully but in the last resort that military action is needed, a more refined approach may be needed.

Ricardo said...

Okay, another post. I'm reading up on this latest confrontation and I see that even in this case Israel is using lots of restraint. I'm not sure if they can do much more when it comes to fighting back.

Sherril said...

When I look at this situation, I try to remain as open as possible in viewing it, though I admit that I can not be completely objective, what with my closeness to Israel. I don't agree that the Hezbollah is playing the part of the victim. When I saw the Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, delivering his extremely long statement yesterday, he was bragging about how strong they are and how formidable an opponent they can and will be against their enemy, Israel. Of course he states that theirs is the righteous cause and they have every right to bomb Israel and kidnap their soldiers. And, in their eyes, Israel is the "big bad Israel".

I think its important not to lose sight of what is motivating these terrorists. To act as if they are terrorizing simply out of their evilness (word?) is to give their side more strength than they actually have. I think what Israel is saying by this action is that they will not allow for terrorists to cross their borders, to kidnap their soldiers, nor to send their bombs into their cities under any circumstance. If they (the terrorists and all who back them) want to accept Israel's existence and then sit down and negotiate, Israel will do this. If they want to show their strength by continuing their incusions and indiscrinate mayhem and murder, then Israel will show them their strength. Israel wants to once and for all, remove Hezbollah from their border. They want Lebanon to be strong enough to support this and keep the Hezbollah out. What compounds the problem is that they know the Lebanese government is weak and can not influence Hezbollah. And as long as Syria is also involved and Syria is so much stronger than Lebanon, what hope is their for keeping Hezbollah at bay? So, I guess the strategy is to destroy as much of the Hezbollah infrastructure as possible and hope that maybe something will change in the interim while Hezbollah is rebuilding.

Ricardo said...

But what angers me is the rhetoric I'm seeing on other blogs and even some news sites that these Hamas and Hezbolloh guys are somehow, freedom fighters. That the kidnappings and rocket firing is because Israel is on occupied land and took it away from the Palestinians. The land is not occupied. It was given to the Jews by the UN and even before that Jews were buying up the land. In this respect many people who are not fully informed paint these groups as underdogs. That's how I sometimes get the impression that they are playing the victim. But maybe not.

I have always felt that these 2 terror groups have nothing to stand on but hate and as long as they use that they'll never win. The more I read about this the more I see that these guys don't want to talk it out. they want the Jews dead. Because of the other sides rigidness and kidnappings and the like, Israel is being forced to make a violent statement to push these guys out. You're right, the formal governments of these countries usually don't have the strength contain these groups either. This is unfortunate and hopefully this will someday change.

Sherril said...

Ricardo writes..
The land is not occupied. It was given to the Jews by the UN and even before that Jews were buying up the land.

The land is not occupied in so far as we believe in a Jewish State. The Palestinians do not believe that the Jews have any more right to this land then they do (in fact no right at all) and therein lies the strife. I don't know what the answer is any better than minds much greater than mine do. I do agree that that Hamas and Hezbollah do not want to negotiate. They want the land for themselves. As long as Israel is strong, they won't have it. Until there is some moderate Muslims Palestinians to negotiate with, the bloodshed on all sides will continue. Meanwhile my hub's nephew's son is to be Bar MItzvahed in Israel next month and one of his neices is to be married, both are large celebrations that the family has been looking forward to for a long time (we hadn't planned to go since we were just there in April). Who knows what will be.

mark said...

Yo Sherril very, very balanced and fair response to Ricardo. Sherill Im afraid Irael is walking a very fine line, between defending itself and creating maybe 100,000 terrorist. Im talking about Al Queda type terrorist. Please dont get me wrong I have not one shred of love for folks who kill civilians but as you said they believe that Israel has stolen that land from them. Also they claim that Israel is kidnapping Lebaneeze and Palestanians civilians and holding them indefinately. This is thier justification for kidnap of Israeli soldiers. Anyway I hope all is going well with you sherril peace.

Sherril said...

Hi Mark,
I would have to ask who "they" are? I am pretty certain that is simply propaganda against Israel. They have not kidnapped anyone. They are looking to permanently remove Hezbollah from their boundaries. What kind of evidence do you have to say that the Israeli attacks against Hezbollah are creating 100,000 Al Queda type terrorists. Again, this sounds like propaganda to me. Undoubtedly those who already hate Israel (and by association, Jews, and that is undisputable) will not see justification for them defending themselves. So, yes, perhaps this will give fuel to the fire, but the fire has been raging already whether or not Israel retaliates. Mark, do remember that Hezbullah has been sending ketushah rockets into Israel, killing children in their schools and people in their homes. They have been doing so, not only in recent weeks, but on and off since t968. You live in Washington, DC. Imagine that people were in Maryland or Virginia, right there on the DC border and shelling DC because they have some grievance with the government. And say that the grievance had some merit,not the only merit and sometimes disputable merit, but some merit all the same. So, what would you do? If a country is to exist, its people must be free from fear that at any time they could be shelled and bombed. You can't really say that on one hand you do not support terrorism (people who indiscriminately kill civilians) and on the other hand you justify terrorist acts because they believe they have been treated unjustly. It really is one or the other. I support dialog and some giving and some taking in finding middle ground. The Palestinians have not wanted to find middle ground with the Jews. Again, I do not say that whatever Israel does is justified, but every government in the world including ours does many, many unjustified things. If terrorism was the answer to the lack of justice, we would have anarchy. Until there are some moderate voices in the Muslim world, Israel will be forced to defend itself and to remain strong.

mark said...

Yo sherril I agree with you, Israel has every right to defend itself,

When I say they claimed that Irael is kidnapping civillians, Im talking about Hezbolla, and Hamas also I say a female Syrian govt. official she also claims that Israel is kidnapping civillians.

I dont necessarilly believe any of it I was just stating what Hamas, Hezbolla and the Syrian lady was saying.

As far as the 100,000 thousand terrorist. Between Israel, Afganastan and Iraq, the muslim world may close ranks even more in what they see as holy resistance against the west.

Even if Israel is 100% justified for all of its actions in Lebanon, 300 civilians killed is a very bad pr statistic.

You are absolutely correct moderate clerics and muslims need to totally denounce terrorism 100%

Sherril said...

I just began reading Tom Friedman's book, From Beirut to Jerusalem.http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0385413726/002-3983176-3537669?v=glance&n=283155 It really helps to put the situation in perspective. If you are so inclined, I recommend taking a look at it. Also, take a look at the post I wrote last night to get some viewpoints of people who live in both Israel and Lebanon.