Friday 18 July 2014

War's Brazen Face

War's Brazen Face: Binyamin Netanyahu's threat to use "all power" to quell the rocket barrage unleashed against Israel by Palestinian fighters was made good when, on Friday, 18 July, infantry and armoured columns of the Israeli Defence Force rolled into Gaza. Photo by Gali Tibbon.
IT IS A FACE that brooks no contradiction. The black eyebrows angled sharply like the wings of an Eagle poised to seize its prey. The lopsided mouth, all curves and creases clutching at a single line, like a snake coiled ‘round a stick. And the expression in those dark, unblinking eyes? How often do we observe lightly, “if looks could kill”? Just study the Israeli photo-journalist, Gali Tibbon’s, most recent photograph of Binyamin Netanyahu and you will know – to a chilling certainty – that they can.
Tibbon’s photograph was taken as the Israeli Prime Minister, disregarding warnings from the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights and cease-fire appeals from Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin, announced to the world: “No international pressure will prevent us from acting with all power.” This defiance of world opinion came after more than four days of Israeli military strikes against the Palestinian enclave of Gaza. “Operation Protective Edge” is supposedly targeting the individuals and groups responsible for launching a barrage of rockets against Israel.
“Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza are firing rockets at cities in the State of Israel,” Mr Netanyahu stated in a video released by his office at the end of last week. “No country on earth”, he said, “would remain passive in the face of hundreds of rockets fired on its cities – and Israel is no exception.”
The tragedy, of course, is that when Israel vows to act with “all power” its military capacity to do so is far beyond anything its Palestinian opponents can deploy. The rockets unleashed against Israel, for example, are crude, essentially unguided, weapons of, at best, haphazard (rather than mass) destruction. Indeed, at the time of writing, not a single Israeli citizen has been killed by the Palestinians’ desperate attacks.
The Israeli Defence Force (IDF), by contrast, is one of the best-trained and best-equipped fighting forces on the planet. It’s fighter jets, armed drones, computer-guided artillery, Merkava battle tanks and navy destroyers can strike Gaza anywhere, anytime and from any direction without the slightest risk of being harried by anything more effective than small arms fire and the occasional mortar round. Small wonder, then, that since the launch of Operation Protective Edge on 8 July 2014 hundreds of Palestinians, many of them women and children, have been killed or wounded in Gaza’s densely-populated streets.
The world has witnessed such tragic and unequal struggles between Israelis and Palestinians many, many times since Israel’s birth in 1948. What’s new and more than usually troubling about this latest eruption of violence, however, is the Israeli Government’s unabashed – almost cavalier – dismissal of the international community’s concern and condemnation.
Binyamin Netanyahu has clearly drawn some lessons from the neighbouring conflicts in Syria and Iraq. He has observed that in spite of the obscene weaponry (up to and including poison gas) deployed by the Syrian antagonists against defenceless civilians, the world has displayed a singular reluctance to intervene on their behalf. Likewise in Iraq, where a full-scale religious war between the Sunni and Shi’ite branches of Islam threatens to descend into unrestrained communal violence.
The Israeli Prime Minister must also have watched, intrigued, as the Russian Federation annexed the Crimean Peninsula – the highly strategic territory belonging to its neighbour, Ukraine – without suffering more than the most superficial of diplomatic wounds. Israel could hardly be blamed for concluding that lopping-off large chunks of one’s neighbour’s territory for strategic purposes, having been done once, and without effective reproof, might well be done again. The long lines of Merkava tanks snaking their way towards Gaza’s borders raise the very real possibility that the IDF may not simply be readying itself to re-occupy the Gaza Strip – but to re-absorb it.
And who will say them nay? Not Egypt – whose leader is still settling into the throne he stole from The Muslim Brotherhood. Not Syria – torn and bloodied by its vicious civil war. Not Jordan – clinging with rising alarm to the sword-arm of its Israeli neighbour. The United States? The European Union? If they were willing to watch President Putin re-absorb Crimea into Mother Russia, then is the re-absorption of Gaza into Greater Israel likely to mobilise anything more than their tongues?
Among the high purposes of the United Nations’ Charter was the determination to “ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest”. This noble attempt to put a leash upon the dogs of war, always more honoured in the breach than in the observance, now seems poised to follow its predecessors into the same dark place that swallowed the League of Nations.
And before we conclude that abandoned principles and institutions are irrelevant to New Zealand, let us cast our eyes across the Tasman and study the face of Tony Abbott.
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 15 July 2014.
AFTERWORD: In a grim example of how one hand of the God of War washes the other, the downing of a Malaysian airliner in the Eastern Ukraine on 18/7/14 has provided the global news media with a huge distraction - diverting international attention from Israel's decision to finally unleash the ground war against Hamas in Gaza.


TM said...

I used to think Hamas were reasonable, but I agree with Israel they are basically a terrorist organisation. They were in serious decline as their benefactors in Syria, Iran got pissed off with them for supporting the Sunni rebels and the supporters in Egypt jailed.

Hamas have been provoking Israel into a response for their own political gain. And Israel with their own domestic political pressure has played into Hamas's hands with a typical excessive response.

The biggest loser in all of this are the moderates who actually want peace. The reality is that many in Palestine in Israel don't actually want peace, as hate and politcal power is far more attractive.

Tim Mallory said...

Netanyahu is not his real name it's Benion Wiesneski and he's a Polish Ashkenazim (converted).

Israel is a state that was born in blood and fire and will disappear the same way. It's a state with a death wish and that saddens me as there are a lot of very good people there both Jewish and Palestinian.

jh said...

I don't think many people are worried that this is David and Goliath when David keeps throwing stones at Goliath.

Tim Mallory said...

@TM; Hamas is Shia as is the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt is Sunni (Mostly). Hesbollah in Lebanon is Shia too. So is Iran. Saudi Arabia is Sunni. The conflict that is right across that region is a Sunni/Shia sectarian war.

Some Israelis believe that they were promised all the land of Palestine, it's theirs and they are going about taking it all. They grabbed the land that is now Israel by ethnic cleansing before that became a dirty phrase.

Israel can't survive on it's own without the enormous financial help from the US and to a lesser extent, Europe. The US should cut them loose and let them stand or fall on their own merits.

greywarbler said...

@Tim Mallory
It's a state with a death wish and that saddens me as there are a lot of very good people there both Jewish and Palestinian.

So true Tim. One thing to note is never let your armed forces get power, winning the war using any means will be their goal. They don't understand the concept that sometimes the attempted cure is worse than the disease. Israeli citizens who can think and act in today's culture (and are not febrile Old Testament time-shifters) ought to think on that seriously and soon.

The armed forces failures get buried, and possibly that will be someone you loved or may have loved in a better future. Never mind if you are lucky, they will put a memorial over you and play sad music and murmur sad words. May the Force be with you is a play on words from a fictional film as we all know!

Guerilla Surgeon said...

It's ironic, Israel is reaping what it sowed considering it encouraged and supported the Islamist movements at the beginning as a counterweight to Fatah. That very few people on either side are bothering to think long term. In particular some in Israel seem to think it can go on for ever like this. Wasn't it Einstein who said something like "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is a definition of madness."?

Victor said...


I'm largely in agreement with you.

But as someone other than Einstein once said: "To a man with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail".

Tim Mallory said...

You're probably right Victor, I often get the two confussed. It matters little though, they are the Catholics/Protestants of Islam. Both sides believe that God is on their side.

Maybe one day we will get a US Pressie that has some spine and cuts Israel loose and damn the torpedoes! Not holding my breath though.

Remember Hamas won two elections that were free, open and fair. This is the problem with democracies in other countries, we don't always get a Govt. there that we like. Israel will never destroy Hamas or even weaken it unlike Fatah that they have all but taken apart. Every time Israel bombs and shells the hell out of Gaza it increases the support for Hamas.

With Benny Wiesnesky building more settlements on land that is not theirs and populating them with extremists the longer the conflict will go on. All the Yanx do is say to them don't be naughty.

CarbonGuilty said...

I asked an Israeli I met the other day what she thinks of Hamas.
She said:
"They must hate us more than they love their own children".

I think that sums up the Islamists completely.

Israel has my near full support, except they are mad if they don't move their religious nutters out of the West Bank and build a bigger wall. And they should just fire one missile for every one they receive and leave it at that. If Hamas fired missiles at any Arab country they would carpet bomb the place. Israel is very restrained.

And you who think the US supports Israel: They give exactly the same aid to the Arabs. Dollar for dollar. But who does what with that? Israel has a thriving society and culture on its own merits. The Arabs don't.

Tim Mallory said...

@Carbon; No they don't mate where the hell did you get your figures from?

Israel got $10billion just in shiny new techno-weapons from the US. That doesn't include the other money they get which is about another $10billion! The Palestinians got $500 million-a hell of a lot less!

Incidentally, Palestinians are not Arabs, they are Arama and closely related to the Hebrew Israelis. If they are Arabs then so are the Israelis!

Ask yourself, how would you feel if you came home one day and found some-one else in your house? Would you just say oh dear, how sad, never mind? Or would you do whatever you could to eject them?

Remember the French Resistance in WW II were "Terrorists" too. Just that they were on our side.

Also remember that Ariel Sharon's father 'Edruh' was the man who invented the car-bomb and used it with devastating effect on Jews, Palestinians and Peace Keepers are well. He was one who put land mines in school grounds and killed many children. So what makes him any different from the Palestinian "Terrorists"?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Jesus Carbon guilty. Your post contains so many idiotic statement is difficult to know where to begin. The quote your Israeli friend gave to you is actually a riff on something from Golda Meier from memory. You think that perhaps it should be acknowledged? Or do you just repeat what you hear without thinking.
Israel is the occupying power in Gaza whether it acknowledges it or not. It controls what goes in, what flies over and what comes out – apart from rockets maybe. Palestinians have a right and perhaps a duty to resist. They fire rockets because that's all they have. I'm sure they would love to have the precision guided munitions supply to Israel by the U.S. – then they could target Israeli leaders as Israel does to them. I wouldn't be surprised if the war ended pretty quickly in that case :-).
Remember the quote from the battle for Algiers?

Journalist: M. Ben M'Hidi, don't you think it's a bit cowardly to use women's baskets and handbags to carry explosive devices that kill so many innocent people?

Ben M'Hidi: And doesn't it seem to you even more cowardly to drop napalm bombs on defenseless villages, so that there are a thousand times more innocent victims? Of course, if we had your airplanes it would be a lot easier for us. Give us your bombers, and you can have our baskets.
Journalist: M. Ben M'Hidi, don't you think it's a bit cowardly to use women's baskets and handbags to carry explosive devices that kill so many innocent people?

Ben M'Hidi: And doesn't it seem to you even more cowardly to drop napalm bombs on defenseless villages, so that there are a thousand times more innocent victims? Of course, if we had your airplanes it would be a lot easier for us. Give us your bombers, and you can have our baskets.

CarbonGuilty said...

The US gives billions in aid & weapons to Arab countries like Jordan & Egypt too and overall it is carefully measured so it exactly matches what it gives to Israel. It buys off both sides in the ME. Very sensible.

GS & TM your foaming at the mouth bias and distortion of 'facts' only matches mine.

But what are we on about that minor spat between people who should be allied neighbours when way more horrible deaths are still occurring north of there. Oh I know, it's just Arabs killing Arabs isn't it! You guys only care if Jews are killing Arabs. This discloses your racist bias in two forms: You expect Jews to have higher standards don't you and you think Arabs killing each other is a norm.