Gaza versus Goliath

Published Nov 19, 2012 02:00am

Palestinian girls run away after an Israeli air strike on a house in the northern Gaza Strip.—Photo by Reuters

Five days into Israel’s aerial and naval assault on Gaza, I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop. Despite the call-up of 75,000 reservists, the Israeli Defence Force’s armour and troops remain poised to launch their expected ground assault.

By the time you read this, Israel may well have unleashed its army, but as days pass, there is growing reason to hope that the conflict will not be escalated further. There are some grounds for cautious optimism: Israel may well decide that the cost in terms of international criticism may be too high.

The fact is that in the IDF’s last ground assault on Gaza in January 2009, Israel was able to take advantage of the transition between the Bush and Obama presidencies to try and batter the tiny Palestinian territory into submission. Even though Obama has publicly given Netanyahu the green light, indications are that behind the scenes, his administration is trying to rein the Israelis in.

Politically, too, Israel lives in a very different neighbourhood. Nearly four years ago, it faced no opposition from autocrats that were allied to Washington. Now, the Egyptian prime minister and the Tunisian foreign minister have visited Gaza to show their support, and even Qatar, another US ally, has been vociferous in its condemnation of Israel.

This is not to suggest that Israel has lost the overwhelming military superiority it has long enjoyed over any combination of Arab states. What has been eroded is its complete freedom of action: before the Arab Spring, it had a free hand in deciding which target to attack, and when. Now, it must factor in the probable reactions from Ankara to Cairo.

Today, battles – especially completely asymmetrical ones – are waged as much on TV screens as they are on the battlefield.

Given this development, even pro-Israeli leaders in the West are advising against a ground invasion as this would cost Tel Aviv dearly in the media war. Chemi Shalev, writing in Haaretz, the Israeli daily, captures this reality well:

“Television cameras get closer to the battle, usually from the Palestinian angle, and the view of the campaign shifts to the side that is dramatically outmanned and outgunned. Lonely gunmen in narrow alleys of poverty-stricken slums confront IDF tanks and the homes of innocent civilians are seized, if not destroyed, as desperate old women wail in the background and dazed children peer directly and plaintively into the cameras. From this point on, it is only a matter of time before even Hamas terrorists are suddenly cast as valiant freedom-fighters opposing the forces of darkness, the oppressed fighting off the oppressors…

“This is the inevitable bottom line of the so-called asymmetric warfare that Israel has been waging for the past three decades against Hezbollah, Fatah and Hamas. It is a direct consequence of the continuing occupation of the West Bank, which, whether justified or not, prevents Israel from maintaining the higher moral ground for any length of time. No matter how despicable the specific group Israel is fighting against, how villainous its deeds or how depraved its ideology, the ‘David versus Goliath’ scenario inevitably kicks in, and it is Israel, much to its surprise, that is once again cast as the giant brute imposing his will…”

Clearly, it is the very fact of occupation and oppression that is the trigger for conflict, and until Israelis and their supporters accept this simple truth, the ongoing cycle of violence will continue. But as more time passes, the more difficult it becomes to reach a negotiated peace. Israel’s unending construction activity on occupied land has made a two-state solution all but impossible.

However, given the rapidly shifting political alignments in the region, Israel’s 45-year old occupation of the West Bank may soon be more vigorously challenged than it has been thus far. Another truth that policy-makers in Tel Aviv and Washington will have to come to terms with is that as popular governments are elected in Arab countries, leaders will be more responsive to their people. And the vast majority of Arabs are fed up of Israeli oppression in the West Bank, and its siege of Gaza.

From Netanyahu’s point of view, he has an election to fight in January, and no Israeli politician has lost votes by being tough on Palestinians. Then, he needs to show Hamas and Hezbollah that despite the Arab Spring, the IDF can pound its enemies any time it chooses. And he also wants to send out a signal across the region that Israel remains the bully on the block.

Hamas was forced to respond when its military commander Ahmad Jabari was assassinated by Israel. But once it began launching its rockets, attracting aerial retaliation, it could not stop on the “use them or lose them” principle: once Israeli fighters and drones started targeting the rockets, there was a real danger they would be destroyed on their launching pads or storage areas.

Thus far, Israel claims to have destroyed over 800 targets. How an impoverished, densely populated little strip of land could have 800 targets worth destroying is beyond me. And a senior Israeli commander has claimed his forces would “bomb Gaza back to the Middle Ages.” Considering that the territory is already the poorest place in the region, his valiant forces won’t have to do much to achieve his aim.

For Obama, this is a lose-lose situation. Given the open-ended support Israel has traditionally received from Washington, he cannot withhold his public blessings from a ground assault on Gaza. Yet he knows that by refusing to condemn the relentless pounding of a virtually defenceless people, he risks alienating newly elected Arab governments. If Washington wishes to retain some influence in the new Middle East that’s being shaped today, it will have to rethink its lock-step alliance with Israel.And Israel, too, will need to rethink its policy of continuing its colonial policies in the West Bank, as well as its siege of Gaza.

For more in-depth coverage on the Gaza-Israel conflict including stories, features, analysis and multimedia, visit: In-depth coverage: Gaza-Israel conflict

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Comments (56) (Closed)

Nov 19, 2012 12:57pm
Hamas was forced to respond when its military commander Ahmad Jabari was assassinated by Israel” November 8th, the Israeli Occupation Forces – eight tanks and four bulldozers invaded southern Gaza, shooting and killing a 13-year old boy. so sorry sir but it is trueeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
Nov 22, 2012 01:30am
@Raj, They are only moved by this blind dream of propagating islam. Not smart enough.
Nov 22, 2012 01:20am
We know what all your religious book state. Have thought outside of your book?
Nov 22, 2012 01:21am
Pretty much why islam is a supremacist religion and needs to be cautious about.
Nov 19, 2012 05:56am
i feel sick to my there no one to stop israel from this genocide??
Nov 19, 2012 11:24pm
Israel hasn't occupied Gaza since 05 and you don't see people in the West Bank launching rockets at Israel -- your argument is popular but lacks substance. Hamas attacks Israel because it doesn't believe Israel has a right to exist - not because it's trying to regain land which would otherwise be under the control of it's rival Fata.
Nov 21, 2012 06:53am
Please enlighten us.....those of us who do not understand...
Alex J.
Nov 23, 2012 08:23am
Superior, not supremacist.
Nov 23, 2012 08:28am
Rapid is wrong because he has based his argument on a false premise, not based on facts.
Nov 21, 2012 04:22am
Because all Muslims are one...brothers. When one bleeds all of us bleed...even when we can only shed tears, the grief and pain remains and reminds us that a time will come---Allah'spromise.
Nov 21, 2012 04:41am
Please check the facts. It did not begin two years ago. Israel has been slaughtering, strangling, suffocating the Palestinian people for decades...slowly systematically, accordingly to what is written in their Book.
Nov 19, 2012 12:50pm
someone has occupied part of my house and u say it my neighbor ...ha
Nov 21, 2012 01:39pm
Even the name of the present attack is named out of their Book.
Nov 20, 2012 08:16pm
He is refering to level ground, fair play, and justice for all. You only want one side armed to the teeth?
Nov 22, 2012 07:50am
Gaza has become the biggest open air prison the world has ever known. Israel is controlling water, medicine, food, fuel, space, movement in Gaza. The people are slowly becoming smaller, sicker, thinner, weaker...and dying. A World crime is being committed at genocidal scale.
Nov 20, 2012 04:18pm
As of today over 100 Palestinians dead and 3 Israeli causalities. Please dont make this about Israel's self defense. Israel is clearly the aggressor here.
Sandeep Kumar
Nov 21, 2012 04:49pm
Nothing can be said better than this..
Nov 19, 2012 05:52pm
I never really understand Israel. They continuously launch air strikes, naval bombardments, drone attacks, missiles, white phosphorous etc. on Palestine and cause utmost damage. Not only that, sometimes they send bulldozers to destroy some property. When the world shouts out against these so called acts of 'defence', Israel's best friend the US defends them and even gives them a hand in the security council by issuing vetoes left, right and centre. I just wonder how this brain dead state whose only aim is to slowly occupy the rest of Palestine gets so much support from people with brains.
Nov 19, 2012 04:07pm
You too need to remove your blinders, your hatred is obvious too.
M. Åžafi Noorani
Nov 19, 2012 02:49pm
Israels thirst for blood and land is never to end. If today they annihilate palestine the ?sraili regime will start war with other neighbours. MSN
Nov 19, 2012 02:52pm
As far as we know the ENEMY neighbor had RETURNED the neighborhood to you at his own 'volition'.
Nov 19, 2012 03:21pm
In your hatred for Muslims you have lost sight of humanity.
Nov 19, 2012 03:35pm
Syria? Number of people killed is 100 X.
Nov 19, 2012 04:05pm
Mentally challenged people like you will never understand. First You need to be a human being to understand.
Alice M.
Nov 22, 2012 11:32am
They have NO stated borders. Their Book requires all lands from the "Nile to the Euphrates" and beyond...
Nov 19, 2012 06:28pm
Get the education and civility first then arms.I don't understand the mind set of Islamic people. They don't have tecnology to match with fire power of Israel. They don't have unity among them and still they wants to take on world's best army. If Hamas has any feeling for their own brethern then they should stop fighting Israel for at least 5 years meanwhile get education, technologydevelop armary to match with Israel and then fight with them. In islamic world, their own rulers killing Islamic people like in Syria and in middle east.
Nov 19, 2012 11:41am
I never really understand Hamas , Islamic Jehad etc. etc. They continuously launch rockets on Israel without any specific target, hoping that these rockets do utmost damage. Sometimes they succeed in killing a few civilians or destroying some property. When Israel retaliates these so called Palestinian freedom fighters hide behind women and children, and pray that lots of women and children are killed so they can show to the world that Israel is killing women and children. I just wonder how these braindead [Hamas, Islamic Jihad etc. etc.) whose only aim is to get civilians killed on both sides get so much support from people with brains.
Nov 19, 2012 02:58pm
You want to give the entire West Bank and Gaza to Netanyahu -- as a "winner take all"?
Nov 19, 2012 06:46pm
It was my home. They took it from me by brutal force. Throw stones...that is all I can do. I will never give home, my land, they robbed me. Their Uncle gives them food and weapons. My brothers only talk and look away while I bury my children and grand children in shallow graves. What would you do?
Nov 19, 2012 09:05pm
And those earlier rockets were in response to continued Israeli land occupation and expansion activity in West Bank.
Dennis L
Nov 19, 2012 07:18pm
We already have enough problems in our own country to worry about, why we are wasting time to discuss others!
Nov 19, 2012 02:04pm
Absolutely, all these people should take off their Israeli propaganda glasses and look at the tragedy in human terms.
Nov 19, 2012 10:43pm
My simple answer: The neighbor also lives in a glass house.
Nov 19, 2012 01:10pm
So do you or don’t you support Pakistan’s right to attack the likes of Fazlullah and TTP in Afghanistan? In fact Pakistan shelled indiscriminately and many were killed on the Afghan side, mostly women and children. Do you support such behaviour, which is mirroring that of Israel? If you do condemn such behaviour, have you ever protested against Pakistani aggression on their poor Afghan neighbours?
andy fr dc
Nov 19, 2012 01:10pm
You forgot to mention that the Arabs of Gaza have been shooting rockets into Isreal for 2 months now. Why is it that when Muslims attack people or countries, and those countries defend themselves from Muslim terror, the Muslims always claim they are the victim ? See a partten here ? I suggest that is why no one pays attention to Muslims laments of victimhood. Experience suggest we know better.
Nov 19, 2012 12:03pm
No It doesnt have the right to live.. It has occupied the area by force and needs to be sorted out.. Self defense is for home land and Israel is a result of forced occupation...
Nov 19, 2012 12:03pm
Hamas can stop it, stop the rocket attacks. The 3 civilians killed initially in Israel by Hamas rockets were also human beings including the pregnant mother who died. Can you stomach that ?
Nov 19, 2012 12:01pm
really ? you are a war monger.
Nov 19, 2012 11:33am
How did it all escalate? First, on Monday, November 5th, Israeli forces shot and killed 23 year old Ahmad Nabhani when he “approached the border fence with Israel.” According to at least one account, Nabhani was mentally challenged. Then, on Thursday, November 8th, the Israeli Occupation Forces – eight tanks and four bulldozers, to be exact – invaded southern Gaza, shooting and killing a 13-year old boy. Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (via): According to investigations conducted by PCHR (Palestinian Centre for Human Rights) at approximately 16:30 on Thursday, as a result of the indiscriminate shooting by IOF military vehicles that had moved into the ‘Abassan village, 13-year-old Ahmed Younis Khader Abu Daqqa was seriously wounded by a bullet to the abdomen. At the time he was shot, Ahmed had been playing football with his friends in front of his family’s house, located nearly 1,200 meters away from the area where the IOF were present. So, even if honest observers brush to the side the cruel and inhumane Israeli blockade on Gaza and refuse to let it influence the equation of exactly which side started this flare up of violence, it is clear Israel started this latest clash. And in response to the response, Israel has waged a harsh, disproportionate military assault.
Dr. Qazi
Nov 19, 2012 07:55pm
Nothing inspires Pakistani Muslimness more than the Israeli-Hamas conflict. So here we are, again riled by the senseless death and destruction in that gad-awful place called Gaza. Again our intellectuals Mr. Irfan Hussain is talking about David vs. goliath. As per Quran, this story is between Prophet Dawood pbuh of bani-Isarel and Jalut the philistinian warrior. Jalut was ready to destroy Bani Israel but Hazrat Dawood killed Jalut and saved Bani Israel. So for Pakistanis It is not a straight forward issue. Israel vacated Gaza long time ago. So at least in Gaza, Iaraelis are not occupiers (West bank is a different story). Thus Hamas must protect Gaza citizens and not allow the launch of rockets from its territory. The only way forward for both Hamas and Israel is to live in peace and respect each other's areas and keep each others citizens safe. peace to all
Nov 19, 2012 12:22pm
this is not a self defense.. when you snatch other's land and make it your home.. this cant be self defense....
Nov 19, 2012 08:24pm
no dear. looking at likes and dislikes ratio on this comment page, I believe people dont have stomachs, hearts, souls and brains to feel sick. Most of the people on this page have favoured Israeli aggression. This page is a very good example for me to conclude my earlier suspicion that Pakistanis have almost stopped commenting on dawn reports.
Nov 19, 2012 12:36pm
Because your so called neighbor had stolen the very same home from you and forced you to live in the garage!
Nov 19, 2012 12:39pm
You mean the 6 month pregnant 19 years old? She was from Palestine.
Nov 19, 2012 12:45pm
I believe you all folks are in ignorance. Open your eye and see what is going on there. Shame on you that you are asking Hammas to stop rocket firing.
SB Puri
Nov 19, 2012 04:05am
"Hamas was forced to respond when its military commander Ahmad Jabari was assassinated by Israel" - Sorry Sir, but Jabari was killed in response to the rockets.
Nov 19, 2012 06:12am
Doesn't Israel has the right to self defense? Why did Hamas start the war by launching rocket attacks on Israel?
Nov 21, 2012 08:57am
Respectful sir, you have misunderstood the author's use of 'David vs Goliath'. You have also misrepresented not only his intention but also (your interpretation) the Quranic verse in which Allah states that He repulses one people by another or the world would be filled with unending tyranny and corruption.[Quran2:251]. Further, this verse prophesied the win at Badar by a handful of Muslims[Dawood] against the massive mighty Pagan Army [Goliath] onslaught intended to kill all Muslims and end Islam. Please read the Qur’an and reflect over what you read...after a while understanding will come if, Allah Wills. [PS: The illegal state of Israel was imposed on the Palestinian people by overwhelming force. It is Palestinian's land occupied by the Zionist cult...against the commands of Yahweh---ask any authentic Kosher true Jew: Israel is a sinning state and awaits the wrath of LORD Yahweh. Ask them, or study The Torah].
Nov 20, 2012 12:03pm
Where ever in my post did I say that I hated muslims ? I have a really no truck with either parties here... What I do have is a curious , rational mind.
Nov 22, 2012 01:25am
Saeed, You are a human being.. can you tell in clear terms where Rapid was wrong?
Nov 19, 2012 09:05am
My simple question -- why throw stones on a neighbor's house when you live in a glasshouse?
m h kayani
Nov 19, 2012 10:27am
No way the reality is shown, peace in the region, NOT while Israeli have the upper hand. give them both equal arms and let them sought it out in battle field. the winner takes it all.
Nov 20, 2012 12:14am
I Hamas cannot defend their people why started it. They only want propaganda. They launch rockets from the civilian population and expects to be safe. They don't care who got killed. They care to take the body of child or a woman got killed due to their strategy.
Fahim Khan, Canada
Nov 20, 2012 12:28am
True, you will only understand when someone will occupy your home. Occupation is a crime and resistance against illegal state of Israel is the right of oppressed people.
Nov 19, 2012 10:41am
remove ur religious binder and u will see truth that arabs/muslims have made their own life hell by encouraging hate...nothing unites them like hate...this is the blunt truth...
Nov 19, 2012 07:23am
Expected IH to at least get the facts right , but I guess there is no getting past religion induced prejudices . A few comments / questions : 1. Israel has Gaza under seize - Look at any map . Egypt shares border with Gaza . Why has Egypt kept it sealed ? Why isn't Egypt letting free movement of goods and people ? 2. Hamas was forced to respond when its military commander Ahmad Jabari was assassinated by Israel says IH . - Please please check the timeline again. It was after incessant firing of rockets into southern Israel by Hamas that Israel killed Jabari. This information is in public domain. 3. Hamas charter says it's goal is 'destruction' of Israel - What is Israel ( the goliath ) supposed to do ? Curl over and die ? 4. There is a famous line - " If Hamas drops it's weapons , there might be peace. If Israel drops it's weapons , there will be no Israel."