As the conflict in Gaza has escalated, news of additional attacks by both sides has become a daily expectation. Just in the last 24 hours, Hamas has reiterated that there will be no ceasefire until its demands are met, including an end to the blockade in Gaza.
Yet while Israel may win military battles with superior firepower, they are in danger of losing the war of ideas. For critics of Israel, any actions against the “terrorist regime” are either completely justified or at the very least, to be expected.
Why doesn’t Hamas do more? While Israel admittedly receives foreign aid from the United States, with a fair amount of sympathy from around the world for the plight of Palestinians, one would assume Hamas should have funding from wealthy supporters, particularly in the oil-rich Arab world.
Historically, the Palestinian people have received words of support but little else. With the exception of large-scale attacks on Israel that were turned back, Arab leaders and indigenous Arabs from the region have acknowledged that the other Arab nations have never been there for the Palestinians.
But while the Arab nations have continued to express a default setting of support for Palestine, it appears many have become weary of Islamic militants themselves, as evidenced by the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
Aryeh Savir wrote for the Tazpeh News Agency earlier this month:
“The Arab world, as a default, rallies around Hamas against Israel on any and all issues…. Muslim countries came together last week at the UN in attempt to have Israel condemned for their so-called aggression in Gaza.
However…this seems to be only lip service, and the Arab World is actually interested in the IDF seriously hindering Hamas’ terror activities.
They see the atrocities and massacres committed by Islamists on a daily basis in Iraq and Syria and are beginning to ask themselves if these serve the interests of the Arabs and Muslims. A growing number of Arabs and Muslims are fed up with the Islamist terrorists who are imposing a reign of terror and intimidation in the Arab world.”
Critics of Israel routinely argue that Israel has vast military superiority and not only operates an oppressive occupation as a matter of course but grossly overreacts to harmless attacks from Hamas. This seems to garner some credibility presumably because Israel's defenses are also designed to...defend...and as a result, fewer Israelis have died.
With Israel's tactical advantages and Hamas pursuing a military campaign of any type that is largely ineffective and incurring what many feel is largely disproportionate retribution, why do they continue if they are underfunded and outgunned and the attacks only seem to make things worse?
To see most of the critiques of Israel, one might conclude you have to be an unapologetic Zionist to find fault with Hamas. But that really isn’t the case. As Michael Salatan wrote in Slate:
I’m not saying this to excuse Israel. Its pathological relationship with Gaza—war, occupation, radicalization, bombardment, blockade—is full of callousness and mistakes. The casualty list from the current air campaign, filled with Palestinian civilians, is grotesque. Israel thinks its need to respond outweighs the cost of killing women and children. But part of the travesty is how little Hamas has done for its own people.
Hamas seized control of Gaza seven years ago. Its reign has been disastrous. Unemployment and poverty are around 40 percent. The government is bankrupt. Israel’s control of Gaza’s borders has played a huge role in that. But Hamas has done everything possible to tighten Israel’s grip and delegitimize Palestinian resistance. Hamas is insane. It’s destroying Gaza.
Of course it's more than just negligence and spending millions to build elaborate tunnels into Israel rather than using it for humanitarian aid for the Palestinian people. Hamas also makes no secret that it encourages the use of civilians as human shields...but again, to what end?
The likely reality is that Hamas has realized that its greatest weapon is not rockets or any other pieces of hardware but rather, public relations. As long as a fair portion of the media worldwide focuses on the reality of Palestinian casualties that are much higher, as well as capitalizing on all anti-Zionism ranging from legitimate complaints to elaborate conspiracy theories linking all Jews to various and sundry evils from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to Rothschilds banking interests and the Illuminati New World Order, for Israel to be overly hawkish plays right into their hands.
Hamas stands to gain a great deal of moral and financial support from the recent Israeli incursion into Gaza and while the circulation of false propaganda of “Israeli abuses” is commonplace, the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian civilians can’t all be explained away satisfactorily as collateral damage.
In addition, even where some civilian deaths are understandable, the propaganda campaign against Israel even from major media outlets is strong.
Peter Mullen, a priest in the Church of England, wrote in the Telegraph about the BBC:
“Over the weekend the Corporation began to screen its horrific and heart-breaking accounts (with pictures, of course) of the Gazan children slaughtered by the nasty Israelis.
What is never explained – because propaganda aims not to explain but to seduce – is the fact that Hamas stores its rockets and high explosives in schools and hospitals, and those leaders who are not so far up the pay scale that they are allotted their personal bunkers are obliged to live in their own houses with their families. And even the most meticulously targeted airstrike cannot distinguish between a terrorist and his three-year-old son when they are sitting in the same front room.”
Beyond that, many might wonder why the United Nations simply doesn't intervene with some sort of peacekeeping force? There are a number of possible reasons but the first might be that the UN itself is a platform for some of the world's biggest violators of human rights to wag a finger at Israel. Indeed, one doesn't have to endorse Israeli policy to recognize that castigating the democratic Jewish State while remaining silent regarding Arab oligarchies that subjugate women and allow the murder of apostates and homosexuals is more than a little hypocritical...but surprisingly effective.
Indeed, it’s time perhaps for Israel to understand what the real danger is and make an offensive of their own, not with more attacks but with something Hamas will not provide: hope and peaceful solutions.
Despair is Hamas’ greatest ally. As effective as Benjamin Netanyahu has been at destroying Palestinian rockets, he’s been even more effective at destroying hope and strengthening despair. It grows stronger when Palestinians decide that settlement growth has made the two-state solution impossible.
Nothing would weaken Hamas more than growing Palestinian faith that through nonviolence and mutual recognition, they can win the basic rights they’ve been denied for almost half a century. Israel’s best long-term strategy against Palestinian violence is Palestinian hope.
For some, criticizing the Israeli government and defending Palestinians is as automatic as breathing and those who believe that whatever Israel has to endure is deserved may never have a change of heart. To be fair, there are ideologues on the other side as well but for those who aren’t saying that Israel shouldn’t defend itself but fear a never-ending cycle of diminishing Hamas temporarily, followed by a rebuilding process (lather, rinse, repeat), alternatives must be explored.
No matter how much one may disagree with Israel’s policies, it isn’t reasonable to expect that Hamas and and other Islamic militants should be free to attack Israel with impunity, particularly when the conflict is as much if not more religious than territorial. Their charter makes it clear that the Jews are to be defeated.
Military action can’t be off the table, but it’s time for Israel to understand that the Palestinians’ attacks are designed to influence a large number of pens that may eventually prove mightier than Israel’s swords.