Thursday, August 28, 2014

Defining Wins & Losses in Mid East Conflicts - Assessing The Israel Gaza Summer Conflict

So weeks of conflict between Hamas's Gaza & Israel seem to be drawing to a close, at least for the short term, with a month long ceasefire in place and seemingly holding. So as we look back, people in Israel and worldwide are asking who won and who lost this war? 

Lets be totally clear - truthfully it is an obscene question because  nobody won. It is not a cliche to say that with modern urban warfare, especially in the Middle East, there are no winners. No longer do the good guys charge up the beach led by John Wayne, toward an inevitable victory, while the locals hide in their homes, emerging with big smiles on their faces to celebrate the American heroes arrival. These days innocent civilians are more often than not caught up in the fighting, and indeed in most Arab conflicts they are the target, not the regrettable "collateral" damage. So lets stop with the moronic talk about winners and losers. Instead lets see who gained the most, who met military goals, and who in the long run has been most hurt by this conflict:
Hamas held victory celebrations in Gaza after the ceasefire announcement a couple of nights ago, but is this just "Pallywood" spin? It seems that even within Hamas, they recognize they have suffered a humiliation - as their negotiator returned from Egypt today, his fellow Hamas officials greeted him by breaking his legs, so clearly they don't think Hamas won anything! Also today, when Ismail Haniyeh, Khaled Mashaal's top deputy in Gaza emerged from his bunker, he suffered an unfortunate medical emergency which we can specukate was an attack or assassination attempt by either disgruntled Hamas members or Gaza residents looking for revenge for the callous way Hamas treated the civilians they should be protecting. 

So do Hamas have anything to celebrate? Well they still exist, and are still running Gaza, at least for now - That in and of itself is a success for them  after they failed miserably to achieve any significant militarily goals: Their aim to cause huge damage to Israeli cities was derailed by the Iron Dome defense system; Their plan for an autumn terror campaign using their 'secret' tunnels from Gaza into Israeli kibbutzim and towns  to slaughter and kidnap Israeli citizens was also completely foiled by the IDF; their weapons stock was massively degraded and they lost both fighters and at the end key senior personnel. 

Hamas can legitimately say that at the end of all the weeks of Israel attempting to take out their ability to fire missiles, they did have some capability left, although how much is debatable. However, the ceasefire agreement that they made in Egypt was essentially the same one they had turned down weeks before - the sense that commentators have is that Hamas were not able to maintain their war much longer and that some people in Gaza were turning on Hamas, which is why Israel's intel seemed to improve so much over the past week. Hamas badly needed the ceasefire and that's why they agreed to terms that had been unthinkable for them not long before. In fact what Hamas agreed to was to stop and basically go back to how things were before the summer - so they achieved no military gains at a great cost to their own military and civil structure. Hamas maintain, as if it's a concession from Israel, that the Gaza border to Israel will now be open to aid, but then those borders were already open to allow aid in to Gaza even during the conflict. Nothing seems to have changed, except that the PA rather than Hamas will be in charge of the Gaza side of the border.

Politically, as the last remaining vestige of the Muslim Brotherhood with any power, Hamas have found themselves isolated from the vast majority of the Arab world - their only support coming from Qatar, and Iran & Turkey (not strictly Arab), while Egypt, Saudi Arabia and others clearly blamed them for the crisis. It is hard to tell if they are still in a power sharing PA government with Fatah, as news of an attempted coup was revealed by Israel a few days ago.

Where Hamas most certainly succeeded was in the PR war - they managed to force the international media embedded in Gaza to act as Hamas agents in their message of "Israel the child Killer", and the editors overseas ignored the obvious and broadcast verbatim these reports.  Sadly there was a ready audience ready to side with Jihadists over the Jewish democratic state, on even the flimsiest of propaganda evidence  and this was followed by an outbreak of antisemitism across Europe which was for Hamas a success. They managed to get the Muslim communities around the world to agree with their position even as the Arab world rejected them. They also found their position enhanced by an incredibly weak US president and a totally undermined UN who rather than supporting Israel in a war against Jihadists who were firing rockets at civilians, they pressured Israel to stop. While not handing them a victory, this enabled Hamas to put Israel under enough pressure to agree to  a ceasefire that leaves them in charge of Gaza. 

So can Israel and its Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu argue that they 'won' this war? Netanyahu can point to the fact that Hamas fired several thousand dangerous rockets to every part of Israel, and thanks to  a superb defense strategy, almost no damage and few deaths or injuries occurred in Israel. He could also say that the terror tunnels will now never be used against Israeli citizens, probably saving hundreds of lives. Hamas's military capability has been pushed back years by the IDF, and despite the loud anti Israel noise on Paris & London streets, Hamas has been exposed as being prepared -  happy even - to use Gazans as human shields, and to sacrifice their lives. Its use of schools and UN property to hide weapons has been demonstrated, and its manipulation of the media is now better understood. As the ISIS atrocities make the headlines worldwide, Israel has been succeeding in pointing out that fundamentally Hamas & ISIS are very much alike. This conflict has also exposed how deeply Hamas has infiltrated UNRWA and how it appears a UN agency was complicit in the Hamas policy of hiding weapons in schools and firing rockets from near these UNRWA shelters. 

All that is true, but still the Israeli public feel a disappointment with Netanyahu - they feel he had an opportunity to deal a fatal blow to Gaza and bring a level of peace that Southern Israel has not known since 2007. They point to the length of time this campaign took, the cost in lives, money and disrupted lives, and they feel he should have ignored the pressure and fought for a demilitarized Gaza. On the final day of fighting, Bibi said that he would not negotiate under fire, and then a couple of hours later announced a ceasefire while rockets fell on the South.  It is clear to all that Netanyahu and his government were surprised by Hamas's willingness to keep fighting, breaking 11 ceasefires, despite being unable to score any military successes of significance. Even after 70 years, Israel still underestimates the willingness of Arab states & organizations to allow their own people to die "for the cause" - Hamas was using civilian deaths as a weapons, and through them scored its only successes, so it carried on. 

The failure to remove Hamas, and to demilitarize Gaza, will mean that the Gazan Palestinians suffer more years of tyranny and hopelessness, and eventually the rockets will again fall on Southern Israel. In 1 or 2 years we'll be doing this again. That is indeed partly Mr. Netanyahu's failure to find a way to see this operation to it's conclusion, but it is also  a crime against humanity that the UN have encouraged and a reflection of the  incompetence of the current US president and his team. This will happen again, there is now no doubt  and there is plenty of blame to hand around. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

What Should Israel Do?

There's a huge moral difference between Hamas's four week rocket attacks on Israel + its planned terror tunnel  attacks, and Israel's response, and this difference should be blatantly obvious to anyone:
Hamas fired over 3000 rockets directly at civilian populations. Their aim was to slaughter families in their beds, children in their schools, and the sick in their hospitals. The fact that they did not succeed was entirely due to Israel's foresight in developing an effective anti missile defense - Iron Dome. There are several IDF bases near the Gaza strip, but they were not the targets of the rockets, nor the newly discovered tunnels, which all opened in purely civilian areas. Hamas wanted dead Israeli civilians - the more the better.

In contrast, Israel's response was aimed at Hamas - designed to take out fighters, leaders, weapons and infrastructure. Israel neither wanted nor was it helped by a single civilian death, in fact quite the reverse, the civilian deaths have been Hamas's only success in a campaign where they have utterly failed militarily. Hamas therefore places its weapons storage in schools, its HQ in a hospital, its rocket launchers next to UNRWA facilities and on top of apartment buildings - it wants Israel to fire back. Think about it ... it is OBVIOUS - its rockets are a failure, with 30% landing inside Gaza, the rest being taken out by Israeli technology, so why break yet another ceasefire and restart a futile war? Why waste ammunition and risk fighters? Again the answer is simple - they need Israel to fire back, they need death and destruction to manipulate world media, and through it international public opinion, into condemning Israel for the deaths of "innocent civilians".

So perhaps Israel should not fire back? This is not an option for Israel nor any sovereign nation. Thousands of rockets fired at your cities; 5,000,000  citizens in bomb shelters; 1,000,000 deeply traumatized kids, and of course eventually a rocket will land on a target full of people. If this were to happen, the government of Israel would not survive, so of course it has to fire back. It is the primary responsibility of a government, above all other things, to defend its citizens. That responsibility even outweighs the burden of trying to avoid civilian deaths in the enemy state. These are awful and sad , but the burden of protecting them lies with Hamas - a duty it has not only failed to fulfill, but has done the reverse by using them as human shields and leaving Israel no other choice but to fire back.

To those who say Israel's response is disproportionate - what does that mean? What should Israel do...nobody seems to say that? It honors ceasefires, pulls out its forces and comes under attack again - so please, we've heard the mantra of restraint for years - WHAT SHOULD ISRAEL DO ?

President Obama Adds Appeasing Terrorists to His List of Failures

A lot of American and British lives - not too mention Iraqis - were lost in the elimination of Saddam Hussein's regime & the establishment of a flimsy democratic system in that troubled, tribal country. Then the American's pulled out before Iraq had the means to protect itself, and this created a power vacuum which means that today Iraq basically no longer exists, as the ISIS Jihadists swarm out of the chaos of Syria into that vacuum. All those US & British lives given for the freedom of Iraq will count for nothing. Never mind  calling Bush & Blair criminals for the WMD's that were never found - President Obama's crime in walking away from Iraq is far, far worse. His betrayal, his failure, has let in ISIS who are committing horrors and abominations, only some of which we are hearing about - forced female genital mutilation of 100,000s of girls and the genocide of Iraq's ancient Christian community - one of the world's oldest.

So where is Sec. State Kerry? He was so very vocal over Gaza - a man who busied himself flying in to Egypt to save the day, only to irritate the Egyptians, fail with Gaza, and infuriate the Israelis, after which he left, expressing his personal hurt, never to be seen again. Kerry has not made any statements over the very real genocide in Iraq. Where is President Obama? Is he busy looking into ways the US military can assist the truly innocent civilians being obliterated by ISIS? Well they say he is considering either airstrikes or food drops..or perhaps nothing  - after all, red lines have been crossed by ISIS and we know how strongly President Obama feels about those! It was 12 months ago that he moved the US Navy into range of Syria, determined on a course to bring down Assad and end the slaughter there, but he was out maneuvered by Putin, backing down and becoming the greatest laughing stock of US weakness since Jimmy Carter's ill thought out helicopter raid to rescue the American hostages in Iran failed when the choppers crashed en route.

However when it comes to Gaza, despite the further damage already done to US standing by Kerry's incompetence, President Obama has an idea and it amounts to:
"Let appease those Hamas guys, that Nancy Pelosi & our Qatari allies say are Humanitarians"

This is the situation: currently there is a ceasefire, so desperately needed by Gazans, honored by Israel, brokered by Egypt & tacitly agreed to by Hamas. That ceasefire runs out tomorrow at 8am and Israel is quite content to continue the ceasefire while indirect talks take place in Egypt. Hamas on the other hand, are not willing to continue talking - they want to start firing again, and Obama is already beginning to prepare to blame Israel when they do. You see Hamas want the blockade of their borders & sea port to be lifted, something both Egypt and Israel are strongly against, because both sides know that this will only make the re-arming process easier and faster, which is all Hamas care about. Hamas don't give a damn about ordinary Gazans - in fact a dead Gazan is merely a weapon to attack Israel with. So Hamas won't continue the ceasefire unless Israel - and Egypt - capitulate on the blockade and President Obama is openly supporting Hamas on this demand. When they launch a rocket barrage tomorrow, it will be Israel's fault, he will say, heaping more pressure on Israel to appease the Jihadists. 

So we have a President of the United States who turned away from action of one genocidal war, ignores a new horrific genocide in Iraq, and is openly appeasing Jihadist terrorists in Gaza, against the clear & present danger they represent to the USA's only allies & ideological brethren in the MidEast, and over the objections of a rapidly stabilizing Egypt. If he gets his way it is patently obvious what will happen - The good intentions of the world community to help Gaza, will be perverted by Hamas. Instead of a building program and investment in the economy of the Strip, they'll re-arm, with some new planning twist in their blood lust for Jews. Thanks to Obama's help, they won't have to rely on smuggling tunnels from Egypt to achieve this, they'll be able to do it faster than last time using the open borders, and in 18 months, maybe sooner, this violence will happen again, and again Israel will be blamed. 

Israel imposed those border sanctions because it said Hamas was importing weapons - we've seen 3000+ rockets fired on Israel, so they has patently been vindicated. A few years ago Israel was told 
"cement is used for building, not weapons, so limiting the amount of cement that enters Gaza is collective punishment". 
Israel gave in to this pressure from the US, UN and EU and allowed cement to pass from Israel into Hamas's hands. We know now what they did with it - they built dozens of sophisticated tunnels into Israel, the plan was to slaughter Israelis on the Jewish New Year next month. Again, Israel has been shown that its concerns were 100% correct but Obama doesn't care:
"They are firing rockets because of the blockade - its about food and basic needs - collective punishment" he says. 
What he is doing is ensuring that there will be another round of this violence in the near future. Yet another abysmal decision by a President whose foreign policy failures have made the world more dangerous than at any time since the Cuba Missile Crisis ! Fortunately for the world, Obama's term ends on January 8th 2017 - unfortunately that's 900 days away and a lot of people alive today will not live to see the 45th President sworn in, entirely due to the 44th's  failure to act in the Middle East where needed, to support his allies when required and to see sense when it is obvious.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Gaza: The Media's Overwhelming Failure is Costing Lives.

The reporting of the conflict between Israel and Hamas has been so poor and so  manipulated by the jihadists  that it has prolonged the conflict, causing many further deaths and may directly lead to  a new round of violence in a  few years. let me explain:

When I was in grammar school, I was lucky to have a superb history teacher - Mr.King - and one of his principles of teaching history, which stayed with me to this day, was that although we studied wars, we never studied battles. Why? because he told us that what matters most is causes & resolutions of wars: The details of all those famous WW1 battles: The Somme, The Bulge, etc matter only to survivors and military historians, but for geopolitical history what is important is how the world got dragged into a 4 year world war over an assassination and how it ended based on President Woodrow Wilson's  plan, which was ignored at Versailles, sowing the seeds of bitterness and anger in Germany that would lead to Hitler's rise to power. Critical analysis - that's how lessons are learned in history and it is exactly the same for good journalism.
Yes - an exploding house in Gaza makes great footage, people's emotions are tugged by the site of a dead 
child, but what is the context? If the journalist doesn't explain and his editor doesn't push him to talk beyond the immediate moment, then nothing is learned. So we never learn the house was booby trapped, or that children were deliberately placed next to weapons as human shields. Worse, it allows forces in conflict to horribly manipulate world opinion and what we are seeing right now out of Gaza is the very worst example of poor "in the moment" journalism that I have witnessed, with the focus of context so narrow, and so controlled by Hamas, that world opinion has been manipulated to sympathize with a jihadi terror movement that makes mass use of human shields, has so infiltrated UNRWA that it is able to hide rockets in schools without fear of reprisal, which stole billions of dollars of aid money from Gazan citizens to build a huge weapon stockpile, killed hundreds of Gazan kids to dig its terror tunnels, and started not one, but three wars with Israel, firing exclusively on civilian populations, from civilian areas. How has Hamas managed to convince the world that it is  - as House leader Sen. Pelosi described -  it "a humanitarian organization"? By the epic failure of much of the media to do its job, ask the right questions, and join the dots! 

Let me give an example - Israel it seems, has managed to hit refugee centers on an alarming once a day
Tweet from an Italian journalist who's reporting changed drastically after he left Gaza.
schedule, with a clear civilian death toll. This is strange because it is highly unlikely that Israel is deliberately targeting these places, and it is generally aware where they are situated. There is nothing positive in these actions for Israel - the only success Hamas has had in all this violence is world opinion - so why are these places being hit? Well one answer is that some of these strikes have been Hamas rockets misfiring - although initial reporting and condemnation focused on Israel, a few days later the truth came out. In other cases there is little doubt that Israel hit the refugee centers - but whats missing is a context the journalists on the ground are totally aware of, but unable to report: Hamas fire on Israeli or Israeli forces from positions in or near these centers - this is deliberate use of human shields designed to cause civilian deaths, as weapons against Israel. Hamas has clearly failed militarily to cause significant damage to Israel or to slow the IDF in any way, but they have succeeded, as I say above, in hurting Israel through the media. Hamas is clearly, crudely and obviously drawing fire to places where civilians are located. It is Hamas's long standing, well documented, policy of using human shields and it is not being reported.

This tweet from Nick Casey - in Gaza - was quickly removed!
Here is where the media is culpable: it has allowed Hamas this success without which they would have very little reason to continue fighting. It is no secret that journalists within Gaza are unable to freely report what they are witnessing, due to threats from Hamas. This is why we see plenty of photos of dead or injured children and mourning mothers as well as general destruction, but absolutely no images of Hamas fighters, rocket fire, and no suggestion of where the fire is coming from. I don't blame the 'in-situ' journalists for this failure - they are scared, with good reason - but I do blame the editors & news directors back home, knowing the threat to their people, for not telling their readers and audiences that journalists are unable to
report what they are seeing, and for not reporting the truth from their studios outside Gaza. If this is because they fear for their team's safety, then why the hell are they there in the first place? What this stream of propaganda - which essentially is what a manipulated media source becomes - causes is prolonged fighting, and suffering in Gaza. It puts pressure on Israel to stop while Hamas still hold onto power - that will inevitably lead to Hamas again oppressing the people of Gaza re-arming, stealing resources from civilians for their next campaign, and in 1-2 years, we will witness the destruction of Gaza once more.

Make no mistake - those years of oppression and horror in Gaza and the next round of violence, will partly be the fault of the failed media reporting of this round.