Sunday, 18 January 2009


On balance: Evaluation of the Israeli festival of slaughter and butchery in Gaza

As'ad AbuKhalil
Sat Jan 17th, 2009

[Excellent analysis, apart from the rather childish comments on Arafat - OURAIM]

From war to war (which is a title of a book by Nadav Safran),
that is the context in which we need to evaluate our century-old
conflict with Israel. You can't isolate each chapter or war or
slaughter and analyze it without the larger context of the conflict.

The press conference by the Israeli prime minister and his
defense minister was remarkable: less triumphalist than
usual, and certainly vague about goals and successes. Now
we can evaluate the goals within the context of Israel's
declared goals, and within the context of Israel's
strategic plan.

For somebody of my age, I can say this at first: that from
1948 until the 1990s, every Israeli military success more
smashing the one before: the 1973 was a different story
because it was the only Arab-Israeli war that was initiated
by the Arab side (remarkable when you think about the
propaganda of the "beleaguered Israel"), and it was bungled
by the Egyptian (Nazi) dictator, Anwar Sadat (Jimmy
Carter's favorite personality and friend), and Israel
(contrary to present-day Arab states' propaganda) wound up
winning overall at the end.

So Israel's strategic posture was predicated on
intimidating 1) the armies of the enemy; 2) the population
of the enemy. Israeli psychological warfare succeeded for
decades in convincing the enemy that Israel is way too
mighty and way too invincible to be damaged by any military
effort. Arabs reached a mood of defeatism that permeated
the political culture, and helped in securing the survival
and propaganda of the ruling regimes. Israel's tactic was
meant to discourage any political violence or even defense
from the other side.

You also need to compare to the times when Israel faced
non-state actors: we have different episodes: from
Al-Karamah battle in 1968 (a crucial watershed in
fida'iyyin recruitment), to the various chapters of Israeli
invasions of Lebanon culminating in the 1982 invasion of
Lebanon. I am quite familiar and witnessed the responses to
Israeli invasions of Lebanon. It is in that context that I
find Gaza (under siege and cut off from the world with
Egypt playing the role of the ally of Israel) to be an
utter failure for the Israeli side. I never expected much
from Hamas in terms of military effectiveness, and I think
that the Israeli-Egyptian-Saudi-Dahlan plan was based on a
low estimation of Hamas' military effectiveness.

In previous confrontations in the West Bank or in Lebanon
in the 1980s, the Israeli military would bomb from the air
for a day or two, and then advance swiftly. And that was
exactly what happened in the invasion of Lebanon in the
summer of 1982: now, the lack of stiff resistance back then
had to do with many factors, including the lousy leadership
of `Arafat (who cared about preserving his little empire
more than about resistance and who is not dead enough as
far as I am concerned, and may his grave deepen), the gap
between people of the South and the resistance, and the
financial regularization of the PLO's fighting force, and
the psychological factor that often curtailed the ability
of the fighting force, all helped the Israeli plan. True,
there was stiff resistance in some places: like Rashidiyyah
and `Ayn Al-Hilwah but it was sporadic and disorganized.
Only in West Beirut, a strong fighting force was prepared
and they were ready for a confrontation with Israel, and
that is why Israel never invaded the city: it only waited
until the evacuation of the fighters and then supervised
the butchery of the women and children in the Sabra and
Shatila camps--slaughter of women and children is a classic
specialty of the Zionist forces even before the
establishment of the state.

But Hamas performed far better than the expectations of its
enemies and even of its leadership in Syria and Lebanon.
Israel would have succeeded if it achieved what it wanted:
to achieve an unconditional surrender of Hamas. That's what
it used to get from Fatah in the West Bank: Arafat would
negotiate the terms of his surrender with third-parties and
that would be that (like in Bethlehem). Yet, Hamas defiance
and the launching of rockets continued to the last day--in
fact it continues as I write this from what I see on the
screen. Hamas leaders did not leave as Fatah leaders and
fighters would (in the era under Arafat-Dahlan-Rajjub in
the West Bank bantustan after Oslo), but continued in stiff
resistance and defiance to the very last end.

So Israel failed in 1) achieving a total surrender of

2) in propping up the Dahlan-Abu Mazen gangs who are more
discredited today than ever. Early in the campaign, Dahlan
appeared on Al-Arabiyya and on Egyptian TV and was quite
bombastic because he was expecting that the matter would be
over in the first week. When that did not happen, he
disappeared, and some say that he went back to
Montenegro--his news base.

3) Israel failed in achieving a victory that it needed: a
victory that would once and for all put to rest the
humiliating defeat of Israel in 2006. Hamas knew that its
performance was extremely influential in possibly
dramatically altering the image of the Israeli soldiers in
the eyes of all Arabs: fighters and lay people alike, and
it knew that expectations were in building on the
performance on Hizbullah in 2006;

4) Israel failed in creating a rift between the Palestinian
people and Hamas, just as it failed to create a rift
between the population of the South and Hizbullah, its
silly SMS messages notwithstanding;

5) Israel failed in putting an end to the rockets;

6) Israel failed in smashing Hamas;

7) Israel failed in creating a new psychological climate in
the Middle East: it was expected that Israel would use more
massive and indiscriminate violence than before, and that
it would try to "shock and awe" more than before because it
wanted to kill the image of its humiliation in South
Lebanon. That was not accomplished despite the high number
of casualties among the civilians.

8) Israeli prime minister today bragged about intelligence
successes: but that was inflated. It is true the killing of
two Hamas leaders (along with tens of innocent civilians
but that is how Israel "assassinates") was a success for
Israel but there are other Hamas leaders. Plus, Israel
policy of assuming that an organization would die by
killing the leader has always been one of the many dumb
Israeli miscalculations. The most recent case was in 1992
when Israeli terrorist leaders killed Abbas Musawi (and his
family) and they got...Hasan Nasrallah instead. I have no
doubt that they probably now regret killing Musawi. And
Hamas now operates on the assumption that all leaders may
die and they have most likely structured the organization
on that assumption, unlike the centrally run, say, DFLP or
Fatah under `Arafat.

9) Israel failed to build on the years-old Saudi policy of
mobilizing Arab public opinion against Iran, instead of
Israel. That clearly failed miserably. If anything, Arab
public opinion is more mobilized against Israel than any
other time in memory.

10) Israel failed to sell its slaughter as a legitimate
contribution to the "war on terrorism". Clearly, the scenes
of carnage offended public opinion around the world with
the exception of the US and the UN embassy of Micronesia.
But there are successes: if Israel was aiming to kill a
very large number of women and children, that was achieved
to a large measure. Very knowledgeable sources in Beirut
tell me that only 5% of Hamas' fighting abilities were
damaged in this war thus far, and there will be another
round no doubt. But think about Karamah battle. In Karamah:
a lot of the lore was built by Arafat's bombast and a unit
of the Jordanian army fought with the Palestinian
resistance. This time around, Arab and particularly
Palestinian public opinion will look with admiration at the
performance of Hamas during this 22 days. It is commonly
estimated that some 20,000 Palestinians volunteered in the
resistance movement after Karamah, and I expect a
region-wide campaign of recruitment to the benefit of

Israel's choice of Palestinian leadership (supported by
Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt), i.e., Dahlan gangs, are
discredited beyond repair. I mean, when I read in Saudi
newspapers description of Dahlan as an Israeli stooge, you
know how Palestinian opinion will regard him--and the
fleeing of his men in their underwear did not help either.
From 1968 to 1978, the Fatah movement transformed from a
band of fighters in Jordan to an army (badly run to be sure
by Arafat) with all sorts of heavy weapons.

There is now a point of no-return: Arabs are no more afraid
of Israeli soldiers. From that loss, Israel shall never
recover and it will expedite the inevitable process of the
elimination of Zionism from Palestine. The confrontation
with Israel is cumulative, and this culmination is now not
in the interests of Israel. Many Arabs now talk about the
defeat of Israel: I rarely heard those sentiments before

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