Israel’s Irrational Response


It turns out that most Israelis agree with the “shock and awe” response of their government to Hamas’ intransigent use of rocket fire into their country.  But few think it will actually work:

Israel’s massive assault on the militant Hamas organization in the Gaza Strip shook the Middle East this weekend. Few people expected Israel to deal such a blow, with such carnage, against a group whose repeated rocket attacks posed no existential threat to the powerful country.

“What’s happening here is capital punishment,” said a stunned Sabri Saidam, a former Fatah minister of communications, and no friend of Hamas. This was “the fastest massacre in the shortest time span” he had ever heard of.

It should come as no surprise. Since before the founding of the state in 1948, Israel’s military doctrine has been about deterrence, about striking fear in the hearts of its enemies whenever possible. Israel’s weekend attacks were as much about instilling awe in future enemies as they were about shocking the country’s current nemesis.

Now, that power of deterrence is in doubt. A poll released Sunday night in Israel showed that 81 per cent of Israelis favoured the action being taken against Hamas, but only 39 per cent thought it was likely to be effective. Even Israelis appear to have lost faith.

Israel has succumbed to exactly the “strategy” that they condemn in Hamas:  neverending, ever escalating violence (thought it could well be argued that Hamas doesn’t have the possibility of escalation).  I am expected not to expect more from Israel.  Apparently, I am expected to expect the use of reason from people who are universally proclaimed not to have reason at their beck and call, that is, the members of Hamas.  What is apparent to me is that nobody has reason at their command.  At least, nobody who has any power to exert influence or take action, such as the United States or the governors of my own country.  Israel has embarked, once again, on a course of action that has no possibility of ending the violence, but only the surety of increasing it.

Well, what am I expected to think of that?  Or is thought and the use of reason simply to be discouraged?

Nevertheless, I continue to think.  What I understand of these views of the Israeli aggression toward Gaza is that many people find it understandable.  So do I.  On an individual level, if someone kept threatening my family by lobbing bombs into my backyard, I might well be inclined to strike back.  On the other hand, if I thought that would increase the danger to my family while harming people who had nothing to do with the backyard bombs and if I had lots of time to think about it, which Israel indeed has had, I’d think I’d better think it out again.

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