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The Lessons of Gaza By: Steve Schippert
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, December 29, 2008

In early 2005, the Israeli Knesset passed the Disengagement Plan Implementation Law, which was the legal expression of Ariel Sharon’s desire to give the Palestinians in Gaza precisely that which they wanted and demanded; an end to Israeli occupation. But, true to its Charter, that is not enough for Hamas. For only the destruction of Israel and the creation of a first-time Palestinian state “from the sea to the river” will suffice. What has led to the ongoing and massive Israeli precision airstrikes within Gaza against carefully vetted Hamas targets bares this fact to be as true as the sea is deep.

One week after Hamas announced it would no longer abide by the six-month "lull agreement" between it and Israel, Hamas rocket and mortar barrages against Israeli towns, troops and border crossings wrought upon Gaza the most violent Israeli reprisal ever seen in the Mediterranean strip. Yet, even in its shattering violence, the Israeli response has claimed nearly exclusively Hamas terrorist casualties. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs released imagery and other intelligence explaining its target list.

Many of the targets were Hamas police facilities, where terrorists can and do receive official weapons and tactics training under the guise of law enforcement. This is why so many of the targets are listed by the Israeli MFA as terrorist training facilities that also contain detention centers and weapons stores. Dozens of Hamas’ deaths in the strikes were from the bombing of a facility hosting an ongoing graduation ceremony as the wave of attacks began.

Also key among Israeli targets were known Qassam rocket manufacturing and launch sites, often underground. These sites are increasingly strategically placed within civilian neighborhoods, providing Hamas with two useful advantages, in their eyes. First, placing them among civilian housing makes their targeting by Israel less likely, playing upon Israel’s desire to avoid civilian casualties. Second, if Israel does target them, it would then likely afford the Hamas terrorists and media coup with international news organizations which are more often staffed with journalists and editors more sympathetic to the ‘Palestinian cause’ than with Israel, Israelis and Jews – whose own civilian casualties are rarely met with the same anger and impassioned demands for an end to the violence.

In marked contrast, Palestinian Media Watch noted Hamas celebrating attacks on Israelis on Gaza television, where what passes as a Hamas public service announcement showed images of Hamas terrorists firing Qassam rockets, mortars and other assorted weapons at Israel. Within the video collage of Israeli emergency response and casualties, an image of skulls dripping with blood was accompanied by a horrific narration excoriating, “Let them taste violent death.” It concludes with angry exclamations of "Send them to Hell! Tear them to pieces!" and "Send them to Hell, Qassam missile!"

None of this, of course, is noted for context by the greater international media. Instead of revealing Hamas-run television’s propaganda and calls for the indiscriminate murder and “violent death” of Israelis, civilian and military alike, the vast majority of the context provided is that of Israeli blame. The fault is always placed unequivocally at Israel’s feet time and again; from humanitarian disaster within Gaza posited as the result of Israeli blockade to one-sided (and short-sighted) images of destroyed buildings and shattered bodies, rather than Hamas attacks and infiltrations which precipitate such lockdowns and strikes intended to cripple the relentless terrorist beast.

It begs when Paliwood will cart out its own version of Hizballah’s Green Helmet Guy along with more altered and editorially enhanced photo images, whetting the thirst of the world’s fawning media outlets clamoring to do Hamas’ bidding in their information war that follows such actions. The need for governments, such as Israel’s and its Ministry of Foreign Affairs has, to be prepared and get ahead of this information communications curve and blunt the InfoWar and propaganda efforts is wholly imperative in an age of instant global personal communications.

As the 2006 Summer War in Lebanon with Hizballah demonstrated, it is possible to begin with a general majority of world support behind you in justified defensive reaction to an attack yet conclude it with such support significantly eroded.

Much of this had to do with the nearly exclusive use of aerial bombardments in the war with Hizballah, providing for day in and day out ‘Green Helmet Guy’ coverage of destruction and rescue operations as well as the clever attempts at enhancing photos with added smoke and staged victim extractions. With a terrorist enemy enmeshed within the societies they dominate, sustained bombardment of infrastructure – no matter its physical gains and debilitating impact on the enemy – have short shelf lives within the context of maintaining support for assertive defensive reactions. There is no enemy discernable to the average news consumer, each of which contributes to a real or perceived public consensus. All buildings look like potential homes or businesses. Rarely are victims in any uniform or bearing any distinguishing characteristics, and thus all are potentially perceived as civilians.

As precise as Israel’s bombardment was in 2006, and as precise and intelligence-vetted its raids have been in Gaza over the past several days, they remain ‘big booms’ that, if left as the only measure, could serve Israel poorly in its greater efforts to defeat – or marginalize – Hamas. Without the face-to-face precision of ground troops engaging firing combatant enemy terrorists in short order, two things will occur; Israel will squander what general public support or belief in its justification that it currently has, and it will leave largely in place the human resources that make Hamas what it is, that can rebuild its infrastructure, that can re-arm even stronger – as Hizballah has – to attack its civilians another day.

As of this writing, a ground incursion into Gaza to combat the terrorists has not yet commenced, though IDF forces have been assembling en-masse along its border. The days ahead will tell much of whether or not Israel has learned this important lesson from its 2006 Summer War with Hizballah. With Israel extremely sensitive to casualties due to its limited population and many seemingly limitless enemies, a hesitation to wade headlong into an eyeball-to-eyeball fight with its terrorist enemies is understandable. Its ground operations are thus chosen and planned with even more care and diligence than just about any other nation. One seems imminent in the Gaza Strip, even as the UN’s Secretary General Ban Ki-moon calls for an immediate end to the fighting and other world leaders do the same.

Regardless, two things are certain. First, much of the world’s political leadership would rather leave Hamas to grow and continue to attack Israeli civilians deliberately than see Israel decisively defeat them in the terrorists’ chosen form negotiation: Violence. Second, that if Israel heeds the already (and predictably) mounting calls to back off and ‘show restraint,’ then Hamas will only grow stronger, will continue to attack with little rebuke, and those states which feed Hamas its lifeline will continue to so long as they attack Israel and stay where they are.

After all, the Palestinian anti-Israeli cause is the darling of many Middle Eastern regimes who enjoy the convenience of proxy. But as for the Palestinian people, historically nomads migrating from clime to clime? Give them a state, these regimes say with their enduring actions, but they can’t come here.

And in 2005, Ariel Sharon gave them the seed bed for that state, withdrawing all Israelis - soldiers and settlers – from the whole of Gaza. We are witnessing what the Palestinian people, through the election of a terrorist organization into governance, have done with that seed bed, plowing it asunder and poisoning the soil. Proof positive that Democracy, in and of itself, is not ‘the answer.’ Nor is land.

As the Sharon Disengagement Plan was being debated, then-Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said in March 2005, “We recognize that the effort to resolve our conflict with the Palestinians can have a positive impact on a broad range of other issues of international concern, and we are committed to this task. We are prepared to take risks for peace.” We are witnessing the fruition of that risk, a sign not of a failure of Israel or Ariel Sharon, but of the Palestinians themselves, dominated by the violence of Hamas, inviting more violence in return that it can generate itself.

Handing over Gaza was a gamble. Sharon knew it was. But he also knew it was necessary to allow the Palestinians room to succeed or fail of their own accord. They were returned Gaza without strings and they had free, open and democratic elections. They collectively chose the Hamas terrorist group. And Hamas chose destruction over development. Today, all Gazans - those who chose Hamas and those who did not - are reaping the whirlwind.

Americans like to say that, in a democracy, elections have consequences. Nowhere is this more evident and true than in the Gaza Strip.

Steve Schipper is co-founder of the Center for Threat Awareness and managing editor for ThreatsWatch.org.

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