David Horovitz, editor of the Jerusalem Post, is one of the finest reporters covering Israel and the Middle East in the world. Over the past couple of decades, he has been influential in two key English language publications, the Jerusalem Report and now the Jerusalem Post. I look forward to his editorials and often learn a great deal from them.
His latest essay is a must-read. He writes about the international fallout of the Israelis’ offensive in Gaza. As we’re showing here on Jewlicious, and as anyone traversing discussion forums and blogs on the internet can see, Gaza has given a wide opening to those who oppose Israel, and has forced Israel’s defenders into a defensive posture. The bigger problem is that the true haters of Jews, the pro-Palestinians who seek a one state problem, the extreme leftists who have long held Israel in contempt and many of the Jews who have taken to bashing Israel for whatever reasons, now have the ball in their court and they are pressing.
This is combined with a new war on the intellectual and political fronts, where a number of prominent individuals have taken the tactic of divide and conquer to the Israel-America partnership. The perception of the Obama Administration as open to “alternative” approaches to the Middle East is prodding the Carters, Walts, Mearsheimers, Freemans, Finkelsteins, etc. of the United States to go on the offensive to ensure their message is heard. Jews across the country are astounded to see an Oliphant cartoon with their Star of David pushed along by a storm-trooper. They are amazed to hear that other Jews, those called the “Israel Lobby,” are called immoral liars by a man who was supposed to lead the intelligence community of the United States. They find themselves lumped in with accusations of war crimes which they are supposedly supporting. And then, these people have to deal with the knowledge that after watching and reading the news about Gaza, they are also unsure about their footing with respect to Israel.
The problem is that asymmetric warfare produces different results than wars between two state armies. It’s one thing when the IDF beats up the Egyptians or Jordanians, but it’s another thing when the IDF, using its powerful arms and well-trained soldiers, fights a war inside civilian zones against enemies who view their own civilians as nothing less than prized media puppets who will gain for them the victory which they will not earn militarily. It is the height of cynicism, but it is a war and there are no rules governing war except that you had better win in some fashion. Hamas may have lost one battle over Gaza recently, but they are winning the war over Gaza by having won the media war. It is not entirely surprising, by the way, if only because as we saw in Lebanon 2006, the media in general has been skeptical and critical of Israel while willing to buy the narrative provided by Israel’s enemies.
Assymetric warfare is challenging for Israel in a way that it isn’t for large and powerful states such as the US or Russia. Part of the conflict, the part that exists in the ether of media publications and reports, is the perception of the Israelis as strong and rich Westerners while their foes, the Arabs, are perceived as weak, poor and unable to compete with Westerners. War scenes from Gaza and from Lebanon enhanced this perception and sealed it with some effective visuals about the damage caused to Arab civilians. Thus, you can’t win if you’re Israel. If you don’t attack, you keep getting attacked, but if you do attack and win, then you lose the public perception fight.
This is a big deal. Israel can’t survive on its own, and Israel has, for good or bad, tied its future to the US. However, this is not a balanced partnership because Israel can never supply the US with enough intelligence or any other form of support to equal what the US gives Israel. Which is why Israel has to behave in a manner acceptable to the Americans, and to some degree that is going to be determined by the views of the person on the street…the one who votes and who matters to politicians.
That is the heart of the latest battle in the war. We are now witnessing an assault on the mainstream American view of Israel with the goal of weakening Israel to a point where it will lose the support of American governments. To some people, the objective is nothing less than the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state. To others, it is merely a desire to punish Israel so that it is forced to offer a different range of compromises to the Arabs. There are those, of course, who may believe that Israel is harmful to American interests, but it’s hard to reconcile that view with people who support Western democratic values. For example, if Chas Freeman prefers that US foreign policy be friendlier to Saudi Arabia and less friendly to Israel because American interests will be better served, then the question that has to be asked is whether he actually believes that a theocratic dictatorship is the model of an ally he thinks the US should support over a vibrant democracy.
The last group is the key group the anti-Israelis are chasing: the mainstream voter who will come to view Israel as a liability. In order to make this case and to destroy the case that Israel is a strong democracy, they have to convince the public that Israel is immoral in its actions and that the Palestinians who live in Gaza and the West Bank/Judea and Samaria, are the victims here and not to be seen as the source for the conflict. This is precisely what Walt & Mearsheimer do in their work on Israel. They seek to undermine its credentials as a moral state first. After they spend a great deal of time doing so, they attack Israel’s relationship on the US. Why, they ask, should the US defend an immoral state?
Why, says Freeman, should unethical lying “Israel Lobbyists” be heard? How, asks Carter, can the US support a state that practices “apartheid?” How can people respect a nation that uses religion to drive its own soldiers to become stormtroopers, asks Oliphant.
After Gaza, this argument is much easier to make for these people, and renders many Israel supporters speechless.
David Horovitz’s editorial made me realize what I already knew from recent debates and attacks on this site and others: it’s going to be rough going for a while and it’s going to require getting hands on good, solid information whether it is in Israel’s favor or not, so that the enemies of Israel do not succeed. Success will not mean some magical return to 1967 lines. The Palestinians can’t even get themselves to seriously negotiate a two state solution where they get virtually all of the West Bank and all of Gaza. Success for these enemies of Israel will mean the destruction of Israel because the weakening of Israel will lead to a point where it will not be able to defend itself or hold on to the idea of Israel being the home of the Jewish people.
I ask you to read Horovitz’s editorial in its entirety. It’s an important article. I will, however, just point out one section from it. As we know, recently some Israeli soldiers reported heavily unethical behavior by other soldiers. This story was publicized far and wide across the world. Here is Horovitz on the subject:
They [consumers of news about the Gaza offensive] don’t know that the head of the pre-IDF academy who compiled the targeting-the-innocent allegations went to jail for refusing to serve in the West Bank, that key soldiers involved now say they were discussing “rumors” and have no direct evidence of any such crimes, and that the central terrible charges of “cold-blooded” killing have been refuted after investigation by the relevant unit’s brigade commander.
(As The Jerusalem Post was told by the IDF on Thursday, “In the [central] incident of the alleged shooting of the mother and her children, what really happened was that a marksman fired a warning shot to let them know that they were entering a no-entry zone. The shot was not even fired in their general direction… The marksman’s commander ran up the stairs of a Palestinian home, got up on the roof, and asked the marksman why he shot at the civilians. The marksman said he did not fire on the civilians. But the soldiers on the first floor of that house heard the commander’s question being shouted. And from that point, the rumor began to spread. We can say with absolute certainty that the marksman did not fire on the woman and her children… We know with certainty that this incident never took place.”)
Important information which has now been published by the IDF itself and that will undoubtedly NOT make it into prominent headlines in the same papers that have reported this story. Just as nobody bothered to run headlines about the UN school that didn’t have 43 kids dead and actually wasn’t attacked.
The truth is supposed to prevail, isn’t it?
Only if you fight for it.