Opinion

Anatomy of a debacle

One cannot escape the thought that Hamas derived self-confidence from the internal controversy within Israel since January and the constant negativism that the protests adopted.

Palestinians riot at the Israeli border fence, east of Gaza City on Aug. 21, 2023. Photo by Atia Mohammed/Flash90.
Palestinians riot at the Israeli border fence, east of Gaza City on Aug. 21, 2023. Photo by Atia Mohammed/Flash90.
Yisrael Medad
Yisrael Medad is a researcher, analyst and opinion commentator on political, cultural and media issues.

The waves of Hamas terrorists who poured through the openings that they blasted at the fence along Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip are proof that a determined enemy, especially one combining both a religious eschatological vision as well as a political ideology, cannot be stopped by rational thinking and ordinary planning, strategic as well as tactical.

I learned one military lesson from my late father and thought it important enough to pass on to my sons: Wherever you are and whatever you are doing during army service, take a moment to think about how the enemy is observing you and consider what he is learning.

For the past year, Israeli officialdom has been proclaiming that the sharp rise in terrorist actions in Judea and Samaria, which led to the unprecedented “Operation Home and Garden” in July 2023 that was to suppress a Hamas effort, was a combined Hamas-Iranian move both to kill Jews and undermine Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas’s fiefdom. Despite the appearance in the following weeks of albeit seemingly primitive rocket firings at Jewish communities on both sides of the former Green Line, the opinion was publicly expressed that Hamas had been deterred from attacking Israel.

As Israel’s National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi stated, “We really believed that Hamas learned the lesson from [the 2021 fighting],” acknowledging that “it’s my mistake, and it reflects the mistakes of all those making (intelligence) assessments.”

The mistake, however, goes back to Gaza disengagement in the summer of 2005 and the thinking that a full withdrawal and the removal of any trace of Jewish life would satisfy the enemy. The mistake was in not learning the lesson from the June incursion by an Egyptian soldier into the Negev Desert as to how easy it was to cross the fence, move about for hours without detection and kill soldiers in isolated locations. The mistake was in not establishing a “free fire zone” before the fence, as well as allowing, during the previous two weeks, demonstrators yet again to approach the fence, lay charges and even shoot at soldiers.

What we all witnessed was Hamas overcoming Israel’s multibillion-dollar electronic system that was to monitor just this type of attack with Iranian assistance as drones hit sensor towers disabling communications, facilitating paragliders (perhaps those with whom recently retired E.U. Ambassador to Israel Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff practiced) and allowing AK-47-wielding assault teams to invade army bases and Jewish rural communities.

Many of the errors of judgment, admittedly, can be the result of Israel’s other war front, that of international bodies, NGOs and Jews, seeking to undermine Israel’s legitimate rights and needs.

For example, in February 2019, a U.N. Commission of Inquiry on the “Great March of Return and the Breaking of the Siege” declared in its report that “Israeli soldiers committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Some of those violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity … .”

For example, Peter Beinart, writing in The New York Times, mourns the effort of “Jews and Palestinians to resist together in ethical ways. …That potential alliance has now been gravely damaged.” That alliance, he suggested, was one in which “more Jews in the United States, and even Israel, were beginning to see Palestinian liberation as a form of Jewish liberation as well.” Beinart, however, was more malevolent in an MSNBC interview on Oct. 10 (see 6:58) when he asserted that the root cause driving the violence was the denial by Israel of a decent life for Gazans, and he explained, simplistically: “New Palestinian organizations will grow up, and they may do terrible things, too, because brutalized people do brutal things sometimes.”

Ian Lustick also tried to excuse Hamas, writing, “The fanaticism and bloodlust of the militants who carried out the attack and perpetrated war crimes … are not products of a special Palestinian and Muslim prowess or innate evil,” but was countered by blogger ElderofZiyon. Beinart and Lustick are part of what I termed the neo-Bundist anti-Zionism strain of self-hating Jews. And they have been all too successful over the past two decades, as we are witnessing on U.S. and British college campuses. Their effort was not countered commensurately by either Israel or Diaspora leadership and, even if indirectly, Hamas has been able to benefit from that.

One also cannot escape the thought that Hamas derived self-confidence from the internal controversy within Israel since January and the constant negativism that the protests adopted. That needless tension continues as opposition leader Yair Lapid refuses to join the Emergency Government Cabinet and the so-called amorphous Kaplan Force spin-off group ratchets up its poster campaign for the moment. The Achim Laneshek group got a boost even from U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who visited their IDF volunteer activity center.

The Hamas attack was codenamed “Al-Aqsa Flood.” As one pro-Palestinian wrote, the attack “was triggered by scenes and footage of Israel storming Al-Aqsa mosque during Ramadan, beating worshippers, attacking them” in 2021. Israel’s government bodies have been unwilling or unable to counter effectively the “Al-Aqsa is in Danger” campaign waged, essentially, ever since Mandate days. The prime minister and foreign minister announced that Israel observes the “status quo”—that is, no Jews may pray, while not consistently countering the fabrications from Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan or even Saudi Arabia of Jews “storming” and “desecrating” the holy site. Israel has not upheld the Temple Mount’s status as a Jewish holy site.

As the war enters its second week, we witness scenes of haunting biblical echoes, as in Psalms, Chapter 79: “O God, the heathen are come into Thine inheritance. … We are become a taunt to our neighbours, a scorn and derision to them that are round about us.”

To our benefit, the Bible also contains uplifting directives as well:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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