David Saks
David Saks

Another round concluded in the Gaza dance of death

The following imagined scenario seems to me to sum up pretty accurately the latest round of hostilities between Hamas and Israel: imagine a man who drives a Mini and another who drives a large lorry – let’s call them Abdul and Avi. Now imagine that Abdul hates Avi – really hates him. One day, Abdul can’t restrain himself any longer and drives his Mini full-tilt into the back of Avi’s lorry: Kerprangg!!! Of course, the Mini is totalled, while some limited damage is sustained by the lorry. Abdul now totters, bleeding from multiple injuries, from the wreck of his vehicle and commences taunting Avi: “Nyaaaa! Look what I’ve done to your lorry! Nyaaaa!!”

Anyone who genuinely cares for Abdul’s welfare would have tried to talk him out of such self-destructive behaviour failing that, they could at least have confiscated his car keys. That no-one did so suggests that they don’t really care about Abdul, and don’t care very much for Avi either.

A few hours ago, a “truce” frantically brokered by the international community to forestall a ground invasion of Gaza came into effect, bringing the eight-day war between Israel and Hamas to an end. How long will it be before the next missile from Gaza is sent on its way to Sederot, Ashkelon or even Jerusalem? A week? A fortnight perhaps? At any rate, one thing both Israelis and Gazans know for sure is that the bombs will soon be falling again sooner or later – probably sooner.

Bragging Hamas communiqués to the strip’s beleaguered residents are claiming that the Zionists have learned a sharp lesson. On the other side of the border, the Israeli Defence Force is patting itself on the back for a job well done and issuing reams of statistics proving how badly Hamas have been mauled. The bald figures certainly appear to bear out its claims. Successfully targeted during the operation were over 1500 sites including 19 senior command centres, 30 senior operatives, hundreds of underground rocket launchers, 140 smuggling tunnels, dozens of Hamas operation rooms and bases, 26 weapon manufacturing and storage facilities and dozens of long-range rocket launchers and launch sites. The Iron Dome defence system knocked most of the on-target Palestinian rockets out of the sky and most of the remaining incoming missiles either missed hitting anything or did limited damage.

In the context of the propaganda war, it was equally important that Israel maintained once more a low civilian to militant casualty ratio, and this it did through, among other things, making thousands of phone calls to Gaza residents warning them of IDF strikes in the area, dropping leaflets warning civilians not avoid the vicinity of Hamas operatives, diverting missiles in mid-flight due to civilians being present at the target site and whenever possible, singling out militants and targets in a way that endangered few or no bystanders. Ultimately, Palestinian fatalities of about 150 were roughly evenly divided between combatants and non-combatants. According to an International Committee of the Red Cross study (2001), the ratio of civilian to soldier deaths in all wars fought since the mid-20th century has been 10:1. The UN estimate is lower, namely that in conflicts worldwide, there has been an average 3:1 ratio of civilian to combatant deaths. Either way, a civilian to soldier casualty ratio of 1:1 testifies to the extraordinary success Israel achieved in minimising Palestinian civilian casualties, despite Hamas having deliberately based its fighters in civilian areas.

Neither side are portraying the outcome accurately. Yes, damage to Israel was limited and that sustained by Hamas extensive. However, Hamas’s operating capacity was only damaged, not destroyed, and moreover it had demonstrated an increased capacity for hitting Israeli cities as far as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Its stature in the Arab world has been significantly boosted and worldwide anti-Israel sentiment cranked up anew. The enormous number of weaponry it has amassed has also demonstrated how much the Israeli blockade of Gaza has failed.

This time round, the fighting generated relatively moderate hostility against the local Jewish community. Personally, I received only one ugly letter – not anonymously but by email, so I was able to respond. This read in part: “You guys should be ashamed of yourselves. All you can do is rant and rave about people who criticise Israel. Then you kill 100 innocent civilians in Palestine … you are the guys who are the cause of the problem with your illegal expansion into other people’s territory. You are a disgrace to the noble principles of Judaism.”

This was a red rag to a bull, and in my sharply-worded response I, among other things, wrote that by continually bombarding Israeli towns and then hiding the perpetrators among the civilian population, the Palestinian leadership were killing their own civilians. They were engineering the death of innocents of their own sides for propaganda purposes, and by according them that propaganda victory, the writer had made himself complicit in that tactic. Moreover, had Israel adopted the Palestinian tactic of deliberately targeting civilians, the Palestinian death toll would be in the tens of thousands by now. Finally, re “illegal expansion into other people’s territory”, Israel withdrew from Gaza completely as early as 2005, since which well over 12 000 missiles had been fired at it.

My correspondent replied by accusing me of losing all sense of balance. “To be in such denial is bordering on psychotic … try for once to see things in historical context. You guys don’t forget the past – now think about how other people, but more so, the Palestinians see the past. Just try for one moment. I bet you can’t do it. Because if you did you would start crying for forgiveness … get fucked.”

I won’t bore you with a summary of my response. Overall, I am just relieved that communications like these were relatively few, while we also received many heartening messages of support from Christian groups.

To taunt the Israelis and give a kind of twisted morale boost to their own beleaguered population, Hamas broadcast a host of propaganda messages: “From the Al-Qassam Brigades to the Zionist soldiers: The Al-Qassam Brigades love death more than you love life.” One video showed mourning Israelis and scenes of funerals, accompanied by such voiceovers as: “All of Palestine is ours … there is nothing here for you but death … do not send your sons to fight; you will never see them again – they will return as body parts.” In an interview with Al-Quds Radio, a Hamas spokesman was recorded urging Palestinian civilians to ignore IDF warnings that attacks were imminent. A transcript of the programme, picked up by Israeli intelligence, is readily available. Unbelievably, while the world sheds crocodile tears and urges Israel to exercise more restraint, Gaza’s demented Islamist leadership is trying to bring out more civilian deaths so that it can achieve what it has really been aiming for in starting this war: propaganda victories, an enhanced culture of victimhood and martyrdom, Israel’s isolation in the international community.

My Israeli sister, with a mixture of amusement and exasperation, wrote telling me that some people, much to the annoyance of the Israeli military, were setting up picnics next to the Iron Dome, arriving with their cameras and sandwiches as they waited to see the Dome take out the incoming rockets. Such a casual attitude towards an enemy so utterly implacable and so focused on spilling Jewish blood as to sacrifice the lives of their own young children to achieve it is dangerously myopic. For my own part, I am feeling more fear than anger. With a sister in Hod Hasharon, a daughter in Jerusalem and a son in Betar Ilit, this has been a Middle East war that has hit closer to home than anything that has gone before. I await the next eruption of hostilities with mounting dread.

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    • Wildcat

      Palestinians are perpetual victims and I don’t know whose agenda that suits.

      Fear not, there are many sound minded people who do not blame Israel for defending itself!

    • http://www.sane.org.za Yaj

      .Very one-sided , bigoted.A Goebbel’s -like piece of nonsensical propaganda defending disproportionate and indiscriminate violence against a population entrapped and under siege by a merciless , violent and oppressive apartheid-like state.

    • Rich Brauer

      ” ‘The more qassam fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, they will bring upon themselves a bigger shoah because we will use all our might to defend ourselves,’ said [deputy defense minister Matan] Vilnai.”

      I can see your dread for the future, when a senior Israeli defense official threatens to rain down a greater Holocaust on Gaza.

    • Juju Esq.

      @David Saks. In my experience South African Jews are compassionate, understanding, intelligent and talented people. I love them. So many of them are human rights activists we can be proud of. I cannot believe you write from such a hard-core militant Zionist perspective.

      There are financial vested interests in the USA that do not want the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to end, and you are doing their bidding.

      Note: – “Israelis and Palestinians are inching closer to agreeing on a two-state solution based on the Clinton Parameters, according to the yearly Hebrew University Joint Israeli-Palestinian Public Opinion Poll released Wednesday.

      According to the poll, 58 percent of Israelis and 50% of Palestinians supported the Clinton Parameters in 2011, compared with 47% of Israelis and 39% of Palestinians in 2003, the first year of the poll.”

      @David – why do you speak for the forces of destruction and war who want to further their own agenda and not for the people who want peace?

    • Thomas

      Yaj – …”disproportionate and indiscriminate violense,,” – are the rockets fired from Gaza not indiscriminate? Are the targeted retaliations by Israel indiscriminate? Given that the brave fighters in Gaza do not physically separate themselves from the general population, the general population will unfortunately and sadly also be in harms way – whose choice is that?

      What would proportional be? A missile for a missile, just fired indiscriminately from Israel, who should just carry on doing this until one or other side runs out of missiles? Should Israel just turn off their anti-missile defences so that the proportionality gap could narrow?

    • ian shaw

      BY lettingv su knwo thathe has a sister in israel, he inadvertedly betrayed his bias for Israel. The rest is just the usual Israelian propaganda.

    • Thomas

      @Juju – you make some good points, but then why do the people who want peace still continue with missile attacks? You cant expect Israel to take no action whilst waiting for Palestinian politics to sort itself out?

    • Juju Esq.


      ” Should Israel just turn off their anti-missile defences so that the proportionality gap could narrow?”

      Israel should stop building illegal settlements on Palestinian land. They should withdraw to 1967 borders. It would be good not to use white phosphorus in densely populated residential areas in Gaza or bomb the United Nations head quarters and a hospital in Gaza City with white phosphorus “Israel: White Phosphorus Use Evidence of War Crimes”

      Then there is a good chance Hamas will stop retaliating with rocket attacks: “Hamas wants peace, dialogue with America”


    • Interesting stuff

      Short and sweet, the best summary I have read:

      “A Synopsis of the Israel/Palestine Conflict”


    • The Realist

      QUESTION: How do the Israeli’s stop Palestinians firing rockets at them?

      ANSWER: The Israeli’s must stop building settlements on their land and terrorizing them, lift the siege on Palestine and treat the Palestinians with dignity.

    • Cross Culture

      @ The Realist
      Q: Do magicians levitate?
      A: No. It is illusion and trickery
      Q: How does one desist from repeating lies, propaganda & political garbage?
      A: Learn the facts.
      Q: Why does Israel have to defend itself against constant terrorist attacks and rockets raining down on its citizens?
      A: The inhumanity and religious insanity of suicide bombers and terrorists expedites what Iran wants. Palestine is the play – the illusion – put on for political deception.
      Q Why is nothing said about them wanting to annihilate Israel and all Jews? Or about terrorism? – They kill innocent people.
      A: ‘Palestinians’ are victims of an indoctrination urging people to hate and kill. They are caught up in the iniquity and madness of power-hungry leaders. (Many of us did not vote ANC – nor want Zuma as leader; but are caught up in ‘majority rule’ – as are the victims of crime, protests etc.) Look at the atrocities committed in the name of this ‘religion’: Never mind 9/11. There are daily reports of suicide bombers blowing up mosques in Afhanistan.
      And … why don’t the so-called ‘good Muslims’ condemn the abominations committed in their name by fundamentalists? Why do they rejoice at news of death and destruction?
      Israel is a tiny strip of land compared with the magnitude of the surrounding Arab countries.
      ‘Palestine’ has never been an autonomous country.

    • The Realist

      @Cross Culture

      ‘Jews for Justice in the Middle East’ have the perfect answer to your above post:

      “As the periodic bloodshed continues in the Middle East, the search for an equitable solution must come to grips with the root cause of the conflict. The conventional wisdom is that, even if both sides are at fault, the Palestinians are irrational “terrorists” who have no point of view worth listening to. Our position, however, is that the Palestinians have a real grievance: their homeland for over a thousand years was taken, without their consent and mostly by force, during the creation of the state of Israel. And all subsequent crimes — on both sides — inevitably follow from this original injustice……………………….”

      Read the whole rest of this article especially the “Conclusion for Jewish Readers” (and the “Conclusion ll”, as well):

    • Juju Esq.

      Hello David Saks, I am still waiting. I asked you a question further up in a post dated “November 23, 2012 at 9:41 am”.

      i really would like an answer.


      Yours Juju

    • Brent

      Interesting stuff, that site you recommend is very biased against Israel and should not be throught of as balanced. In the hurly burly of give and take about this conflict what is totally ignored by the Palestinian side is that Israel has had peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan since ± 1974 (not sure of date but a long time) that have worked very well. No deaths and fightening betwen these three countries for over 30 years. Why cant Hamas and the PLO learn from that good example of how to deal with the Jewish state. Jaw jaw not rocket rocket it does work if you accept the other sides right to exist – ask the people of Egypt/Jordan.


    • Chopper4

      @ Realist…then please explain why there was a conflict pre-1967? Why was there a need for war 1948? Why are the Palestinians agreeing to what was given to them 1947 only now and not then?

      Why should Israel give back land which the Arabs lost in a war they initiated?

      Was the refugee problem created by Israel? If yes please explain…and give reference to why there is an Arab population if they were meant to have been cleansed in 1948…

      These are just simple questions which you are conveniently turning a blind eye to…

    • Lennon

      @ Realist: While I think that both sides really need to chill out, it still gets me that the solution offered by the UN in the 1940’s was rejected by the Arab states.

      The territorial layout was a tad weird I grant you, but I still think that it’s the best solution.

    • The Realist


      Answers to your questions here:
      “A Synopsis of the Israel/Palestine Conflict”

    • http://www.systass.org/biennial2001/index.asp .systass.org/biennial2001/

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