Jeffrey Goldberg notes in The Atlantic: “It seems as if Israel is losing the war in Gaza, even as it wins the battle against Hamas’s rocket arsenal, and even as it destroys the tunnels meant to convey terrorists underground to Israel (and to carry Israeli hostages back to Gaza).” He suggests six reasons why this is so. I’d like to review his points and add my own thoughts.
One: “In a fight between a state actor and a non-state actor, the non-state actor can win merely by surviving.” So long as Hamas survives this war with Israel, it will be perceived as winning in the eyes of its supporters. Goldberg is right: as Henry Kissinger noted, “The conventional army loses if it does not win. The guerrilla wins if he does not lose.” U.S. forces faced the same reality in Vietnam that Israeli forces face in Gaza—what it takes to win the war exceeds what they are prepared to do. So long as Hamas survives as a result, it “wins.”
Two: “Hamas’s strategy is to bait Israel into killing Palestinian civilians, and Israel usually takes the bait.” Goldberg quotes The Washington Post: “The depravity of Hamas’s strategy seems lost on much of the outside world, which—following the terrorists’ script—blames Israel for the civilian casualties it inflicts while attempting to destroy the tunnels. While children die in strikes against the military infrastructure that Hamas’s leaders deliberately placed in and among homes, those leaders remain safe in their own tunnels. There they continue to reject cease-fire proposals, instead outlining a long list of unacceptable demands.”
I would add: To comprehend Hamas’s strategy, it is important to understand their view of “innocent civilians.” There are no such things in Israel—every Israeli is complicit in the Jewish attack on Islam, according to Hamas. Palestinians who die as a result of Hamas’s aggression become martyrs to the cause with a guaranteed place in paradise. Thus we should expect Hamas’s continued attacks on Israelis and use of Palestinians to defend themselves and their missiles.
Three: “People talk a lot about the Jewish lobby. But the world-wide Muslim lobby is bigger, comprising, among other components, 54 Muslim-majority states in the United Nations.” Goldberg accurately notes that “many Muslims naturally sympathize with the Palestinian cause.” I would add this factor: Muslims typically see themselves as part of the global Islamic community (the “Ummah”) before they are citizens of any other state, including their own. Thus they comprise a global “lobby” of 1.6 billion people (23 percent of the world). By contrast, the global Jewish population is 13.75 million (less than 0.2 percent of the world).
Four: “anti-Semitism is another source of Israel’s international isolation.” Goldberg cites a Lebanese journalist who demanded the nuclear eradication of Israel, and the Turkish prime minister who compared Israel’s behavior to that of Hitler. As I noted in a recent essay, “Is the media being unfair to Israel?“, prejudice has shifted in recent years from rich vs. poor to West/white vs. non-West/non-white. Hamas and its Palestinian subjects are thus automatically in the right while Israel is in the wrong.
Five: “Israel’s political leadership has done little in recent years to make their cause seem appealing.” I agree: while anti-Semitism makes their job much more difficult, Jewish leaders must continue working publicly for a solution that gives Palestinians a viable state as well. Sun Tzu observed that “there is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare.”
Six: A two-state solution would be helped if America’s secretary of state “realized that such a solution will be impossible to achieve so long as an aggressive and armed Hamas remains in place in Gaza.” According to Goldberg, John Kerry’s latest cease-fire proposals “seem to indulge the organization that initiated this current war.” He concludes: “Israel won’t have a chance of winning the current struggle against Hamas’s tunnel-diggers and rocket squads if its principal ally doesn’t appear to fully and publicly understand Hamas’s nihilistic war aims, even as it works to shape more constructive Israeli policies in other, related areas.”
I agree. Hamas’s charter obligates it to seek the destruction of Israel and all Israelis. Until America and the world realize that Hamas is operating in full alignment with its stated aims, we will not understand their actions or their intentions.
A wise military strategist prepares not just for what an enemy might do, but for what he can do. With Hamas and all other terrorist organizations, we must be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).