Monday, November 19, 2012

Israel's Turkey Shoot and Hamas' Weapons of Minimal Destruction

There is no "war" in Gaza. There is a military operation by one of the most advanced militaries in the world against a cadre of militants that can't shoot straight because their weapons are relatively primitive and cannot be aimed well.

So much for offense. As for defense, one side has the most advanced shield in the world; the other has...well, no defense at all.

For illustrating the disparity, here is a convenient article and graphic.

So let's talk about civilian suffering.  For tribalistic reasons, the Jewish community in the US has been bombarded  with pictures of Israelis sitting in shelters and safe rooms. We are being told that hundreds and thousands of rockets have been fired into Israel, and that Israelis are being held hostage to Muslim terrorists.

I don't want to minimize the trauma that the Israelis have suffered. On the contrary, I know it is huge, and I fear for the long-term effects. But because I understand how much Israelis who are in harm's way are suffering, I also understand how that suffering, as great as it is, pales in comparison to the suffering of the Gazans. And yes, making discriminations in the amount and depth of suffering does matter.

Name your critirion: Fatality statistics? Death and injury of civilians? Destruction of property? Fear and trauma? Deafening explosives? Feelings of utter helplessness? Of being utterly exposed? On every possible metric, the Gazans suffer more than the Israelis. And after there is another cease fire, and things get back to "normal," the Gazans suffering because of the blockade and the restrictions in movement, not to mention the occupation, will continue

Israelis get this. Ask anybody in Sderot where they would prefer to be now -- Sderot or Gaza City -- and they will look at you as if you are crazy.

On NPR this morning there was a report of Israeli wedding guests who, when they heard the air raid siren, skipped the shelters and went outside to watch the Iron Dome intercept its missiles.Picture that in Gaza.

IDF rockets and missiles have killed more innocent civilians in the last three days than all the Hamas rockets combined in the last eight years!

When you say this to Israelis, they get very huffy. Some will say that it is sheer luck that rockets don't killl hundreds or thousands. But that's an uneducated argument. In fact, they don't kill that many, and Hamas soldeirs knows they won't kill that many. They know that they are just shooting off steam and hoping to beat the house odds that are stacked against them. . In the First Intifada, the Palestinians threw thousands of rocks against the IDF soldiers, and Menachem Begin justified the use of lethal force against them saying, "A rock can kill." But rocks usually don't kill, and we now have abundant evidence that Hamas rockets rarely do the same. That cannot be said for IDF bombardments.

I realize that statistics don't mean anything to most people; if they did, people wouldn't waste their money on lottery tickets. It is indeed scary to hear a rocket exploding, even if explosion was in an open area.

But how much more scary would it be if the rocket were launched by the most technologically sophisticated weaponry in the world? Who would you rather fight? David or Goliath?

Bombs fired discriminately that kill  large number of civilians are worse than rockets fired indiscriminately that have little chance of hitting anybody.

I suppose Hamas is learning this from the Israelis. When a missile was fired towards Jerusalem on Friday, the Hamas leadership said that they were aiming for the Knesset, which according to Israeli military ethics, is a legitimate target.

Instead, the missle landed miles away on the West Bank. Had it killed civilians, Hamas could have done what Israel does in such circumstances.

Express regret and set up an investigation.


Pierre Gilly said...

Well said, as usual.

Tamar Orvell said...

Wait a minute. I, too, am a sitting duck, albeit well-fed and well-protected (so far) by my new neighbor Iron Dome. Your post is readable, intelligible, and interesting… yet comments on numbers and conditions of sitting ducks in different neighborhoods distracts, even offends.

I follow your focus on killer-leader-politician-clergy-crowd thugs in thought, speech, and action. What end does it serve your focus to introduce a pecking order among sitting ducks like me and millions of others who are not thugs, do not rant, and cannot fathom demonizing "the other"?

pabelmont said...

Thanks so much, this all needed to be said, and you said it so well.

Man From Atlan said...

Well, Tamar, you are statistically more likely to be run over by a car than killed by a missile, and the missile is only due to a majority of Israeli support for the war machine.

No wonder you fear the existential, more than the real threat.

A decent Jew said...

Your argument is a very weak: Israel invests millions of Dollars in developing the "Iron Dome" and the fence between Gaza and Israel in order to protect its civilian population. Does Hamas do the same? On the contrary: they expose their non-militant population to threats by firing rocket from inside civilian neighborhoods. (not to mention horrendous executions of their own people)
This is the main reason for the disparity between the numbers of civilian casualties.

Jerry Haber said...

Decent Jew,

Welcome aboard! A few corrections.

American taxpayers invest millions of dollars in developing the Iran Dome, as well as Israeli WMDs.

Hamas cannot invest that money because Gaza is controlled to a great extent by Israel; there is a naval blockade, and many sorts of goods cannot enter Gaza. It is true that Gaza is not hermetically sealed thanks to the smuggling tunnels and border with Egypt. But Hamas has no way to defend itself against Israeli bombs and drones, though that may be changing,God wiling

The main reason for the disparity of numbers is that Israel can attack Gaza with impunity,using drones, advanced fighter planes, and the most advanced and expensive weaponry in the world. Gaza is supercrowded with refugees, many who were driven from their homes in 1948 and 1967, and they are in a big open air prison.

As I pointed out, Israel placed the headquarters of the IDF in the center of Tel Aviv.

As long as you put people in cages and restrict their movement -- Gazans cannot visit their family nor can they attend universities on the West Bank, they will act to free themselves. And the more they are afflicted the more they will increas (see the beginning of Exodus for that.)

Jerry Haber said...

One more point:

Israel only understands the language of force. Almost every major achievement the Palestinians have achieved has come after they used violence. Palestinians on the West Bank have adopted the tactic of unarmed violence and diplomacy at the UN and have achieved little. Hamas, with its rockets, will end up by achieving more.

It may be that this is Israel's strategy. They may not want moderate Palestinians who can put world pressure on Israel to obey international law. Better to empower the extremists in order to relieve that pressure. That's why Hamas developed with the active aid of Israel against the secular PLO. Isn't it easy to talk about radical Islam than about Abbas and Fayyad.

But you know, I have come to the conclusion that Israel really doesn't have a coherent strategy. It's just politicians staying in power and looking over their right shoulder Israel has not strategy except holding on to the status quo as long as possible. It's not working. Look how many millions of dollars it spends on hasbara? What kind of normal, decent state, has to do that? Yet no amount of hasbara is going to explain the death of civilians for no reason except to "establish deterrence".

Jerry Haber said...

Tamar, perhaps I wasn't clear. I was noting the vast disparity in the situations of the civilians on both sides. It may be that Israelis suffer davka because they are used to being in complete control of the Palestinians and not having to worry about the consequences of Israeli actions. From a psychological standpoint it is scary as hell to experience, even for a moment, the situation of those whose lives we control It is deeply humiliating to have to go into shelters when we have the fire power to wipe Gaza off the face of the earth.

As I wrote, I do not minimize of belittle the suffering of my children and the trauma of my grandchildren. But it is hardly to what the Gazans are going through, those who are truly defenseless...

Anonymous said...

This is a straw argument.
To say the efficiency of one related to the other somehow correlates with fault is absurd!

Notice the Hamas are shooting rockets from other people's homes and public places, not their own. Why? They know exactly what the result will be and hope sobs like you will be enraged.

I think the most important factor here is what the goals are.
Israels goes is to live.
Palestinian goal is to kill all Jews.

AIG said...

The average Israeli understands statistics very well. Are you against helping poor Israelis because statistically they are richer than most people in the world? Would you tell them not to complain because others are much worse off and would you send our bituach leumi money to poorer coountries? Just as we care about our poor and ignore the "statistics", why should we care about the level of fear of Gazans and our level of fear in comparison to theirs? We should solve our own problems.

You know very well that if Hamas would not shot rockets at Israel, we would not shoot back. If they had accepted, not our conditions, the Quartet's conditions, there would be no blockade.

The Quartet is not Israel. It is Russia, EU, US and the UN. All Hamas needs to do is accept their conditions. If they don't, they have just themselves to blame.

This is not a tale of morality. It is a tale of stupidity. Hamas are just idiots and I feel no pity for them. I do feel sorry for Palestinians that do not support Hamas, but then any country with stupid leaders suffers. When Israel's leaders make mistakes, we suffer also. There is just no way around that.

And of course I would rather be Goliath. That is the whole idea of having military superiority. Only idiots "poke the bear" and then complain when they are mauled. A little common sense can go a long way.

Jerry Haber said...

AIG, thanks for your comments. Here are my responses:

My post was directed against the hasbaraniks who cite (and, in the case of Michael Oren, inflate) rocket statistics in order to gain sympathy. For example, the IDF routinely counts Israelis treated for shock after an explosion among the number of wounded. I am not expecting the Israelis to feel worse about Palestinians killed in Syria than about themselves. But I do expect decent Israelis to protest their government and their army when they commit war crimes or when they decide to wage senseless operations that kill others and jeopardize their own people. Thanks God, some Israelis do.

Jerry Haber said...

AIG, Israel has a history of breaking cease fires.
so I am not sure why you say that Israel only responds to rockets. Israel may feel that it has good reason to break the cease fires, but it does.

The Quartet principles do not justify a blockade on Gaza, and while the Quartet opposes the illegal smuggling of weapons, has consistently called upon Israel to ease restrictions. So your reference to the Quartet is entirely misleading. The principles refer to diplomatic recognition of Hamas. Anyway, I remember the same sort of international dance with the PLO, just as I remember how Britain considered the Irgun (and the Haganah) as terrorist organizations. Lo mitragshim

So you would rather be Goliath, the bully felled by a stone? Al ta'am va-reah...just watch out what you wish for...

AIG said...

Why are people injured from shock not "injured"? You are a little outdated with your medical views. Psychological injuries can be just as debilitating as physical ones. If you were not convinced about this before, the mental state of American veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is ample proof.

Israel reports the figures just as they are and differentiates between physical and other injuries. If you want to see some real lies, check the Palestinian side. About 100 rockets or so fired from Gaza landed in Gaza. Do you know how many Palestinians were killed and injured by those?

I am sure you also thought the Second Lebanon war was senseless. But lo and behold, 6 years have passed and our northern border is quiet. Just compare the situation to the six years before the war when Hezbollah would frequently shoot rockets at Israel and attack across the border. The jury is out about the current operation. If it brings several years of quiet, then it was well worth it.

Of course the refusal of Hamas to accept the Quartet conditions by itself justifies a blockade. Why would you want to help in any way an entity that wants to destroy you? It is just common sense. Combined with the fact that the blockade helps stop smuggling of weapons, makes the blockade essential.

And yes, I would rather be Goliath as in recent years God has not deemed it worth his while to guide the hand of any David. The Goliaths win 99% of the time. Even as a statistically challenged Israeli, I think I may be right on this one.

Jerry Haber said...


Injuries and shock are medically distinct and are treated as such in statistics about the rockets, including those reported in newspapers such as the Jerusalem Post.

With regard to returning soldiers, you are confusing shock and trauma, which are very different.

and I should point out that wartime Iraq statistics such as those produced by the Brooking Institute distinguish between injuries and mental disorders.

So next time you defend considering shock as an injury, bring evidence that somebody else does.

You want quiet on the border? Negotiate a cease-fire. You want action? Break a cease-fire.

Well before Hamas took over Gaza, Israel blocked exports from Gaza. Exports not imports. Apparently, Israel decided that allowing Gazan farmers to export produce was an existential threat.

You believe that Israel has the right to wage war against anybody that does not recognize it, including many African countries and most Arab countries? That's an interesting thought that fortunately has no basis in international law, not to mention morality.

Anonymous said...

"There is a military operation by one of the most advanced militaries in the world against a cadre of militants that can't shoot straight because their weapons are relatively primitive and cannot be aimed well."

"that can't shoot straight"? Do I sense some regret here?
I am sure though that you would feel differently had the names of the targets been Rosenberg or Greenweld rather than Buzaglo or Mizrahi.

Suz said...

Jerry I don't understand your comment from Nov 20: "Palestinians on the West Bank have adopted the tactic of unarmed violence and diplomacy at the UN and have achieved little. Hamas, with its rockets, will end up by achieving more."

Achieving more what? I thought the West Bank Palestinians were in better economic shape. On a related note, as much as I think occupation is an undesirable status and is demoralizing, the exaggerated poverty of Palestinians blamed on occupation has a false ring. I've seen lots of examples of wealth, and at least a strong middle class in Gaza, Ramallah, and certainly the WB--with at least one of those examples coming from pro-Palestinian propaganda (on PBS). That has left a big question mark in my mind about what the truth is...It's like one big mind game over there.

Jerry Haber said...


By "achieving more," I mean that Israel apparently agreed to ease some restrictions in the cease-fire that was brokered by Morsi. Hamas was able to force concessions from Israel, something that the PA has not been able to do. Kidnapping Gilad Shalit, for example, enabled Hamas to force Israel into releasing Palestinian privileges. If you have power, you have leverage.

West Bank Palestinians are in a better shape economically than the Gazans because Israel oppresses them less. But that, as you know, is relative. Ramallah is a bubble, propped up by donations by the Europeans. As Palestinian American business Sam Bahour has written, the Palestinian economy cannot develop under occupation -- and he lives in Ramallah.

Read the following article which is a bit old; things are worse now:

As for Gaza,please read the Gisha website. The main issue is not so much food getting into Gaza as the restriction on the Gazans working, the high unemployment, the restrictions of their travel to the West Bank, etc.

Suz said...

Thanks for the links. I will read them.

I have to say, I don't trust the Palestinians one iota. I'd have to see a heck of a lot more proof of intent to self-govern and not war-monger. I think the Israelis do a lot of dunder-headed things, some of it attributable to extremist elements, but on the whole, I think they're just paranoid and rightfully so. I'm not sure settling that land would've ever had a different outcome given the players involved. The Jews are considered a problem just for being there at all. It's not like there wasn't enough unattended land to split between the two (like what happened in the rest of the ME).

All of that said, I'm 100% per cent behind ending the occupation and even severing the relationship. The Palestinians should not be dependent on the Israelis whatsoever for their economy or employment growth.

One also has to wonder if the Palestinians are equipped to run a state. This isn't a slur on them. I ask it in the same vein as any U.S. state wanting to secede and trying to survive as a separate infrastructure. I mean, even Quebec is ill equipped. Good luck with that! However, that shouldn't be Israel's concern.

Suz said...

Jerry--I have another question regarding your comment that Hamas gets more results with their aggression. For example the Gisha page says in the aftermath of Operation Pillar Israel freed up exports from Gaza.

Well, wasn't the lock down directly tied to aggression in the first place? Isn't this rather circular "evolution?" My understanding is that Gaza trade (similar to West Bank) rises and falls according to political activity (namely aggressive actions against Israel). It seems it's this exact point where all the finger pointing starts about who did what first.

Furthermore, Hamas et al instigate these skirmishes knowing full well what the outcome is going to be. I mean, Operation Pillar of Defense might as well be called Deja Vu IV. So where is the incentive for Israel to put a stop to all this? After all, Israel is a nation-state, that, like all nation-states, acts in its own interests. Nation-states are not compassionate, feeling, loving human beings. That's a bit too idealistic...

Jerry Haber said...


"My understanding is that Gaza trade (similar to West Bank) rises and falls according to political activity (namely aggressive actions against Israel)."

Your understanding is incorrect in the case both of Gaza and of the West Bank. Here's how to make it correct.

My understanding is that Gaza trade (similar to West Bank) rises and falls according to Israel's political and economic interests in having it rise and fall. That is because Israel has effective control over the lives and resources of the Palestinians. As long as the Palestinians don't get in the way of Israeli ambitions, they are tolerated

Jerry Haber said...

By the way, here is a good resource on Hamas