Tactics without strategy

Our media's dispassionate reportage has numbed Israelis to the daily deaths of Palestinians in Gaza.

October 29, 2006 02:32
4 minute read.
Tactics without strategy

death in gaza 88. (photo credit: )


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I am in the midst of a speaking tour in the United States. Whenever I am on such a tour, I try to paint a balanced picture of events in Israel. This is particularly important after the Lebanon war, as many people, though generally understanding of why Israel went to war, feel that its military actions were disproportionately excessive. When some of the more outspoken critics of Israel's actions in Lebanon are confronted by someone like me, who is on the Left of the political spectrum, their criticism is often neutralized. However, on this trip, I am having difficulty maintaining that balance - both emotionally and intellectually. My heart breaks when I consider the many errors in the recent war that unnecessarily cost the lives of so many of our soldiers. My mind boggles when I consider that there seemed to be little tactical or strategic planning for a possible military engagement with Hizbullah. Yet, despite this inner turmoil, I can still deflate the hostile arguments. But, when questions turn to the territories, particularly to Gaza, no longer am I able to call upon my defensive skills to ward off criticism of Israel's behavior. Simply, what we are doing in Gaza, as well as in the territories, can only be described as physically extreme, morally suspect and practically counterproductive. This is not to say that in light of the Lebanon war we should not apply lessons learned; that is, doing our utmost to prevent Gaza from turning into a south Lebanon clone, where, like Hizbullah, Hamas becomes armed with short- and long-range missiles. Most definitely, we must initiate some preemptive strikes to prevent such a possibility from becoming a reality. YET, WHAT we are doing in Gaza seems to follow the pattern of what we did during the Lebanon war, and what we have been doing in the West Bank for years - protecting ourselves from Arab violence by randomly attacking everyone and everything in sight. It almost seems that we, like the Palestinians, are employing violence for the sake of violence. We have said for years that Palestinian aggression will only bring continued suffering to the Palestinian population. Wisdom that we dispense so readily to others, we should apply to ourselves. Unfortunately, our media's matter-of-fact reportage of what is happening in Gaza has helped to numb the Israeli citizenry's reaction to the daily deaths of innocent Palestinians. Indeed, the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in the recent weeks and months has grown to the hundreds. Every time a targeted assassination takes place, the army announces that the head of some armed wing of the Aksa Martyrs Brigades or Islamic Jihad has been killed. By my count, we have killed the "heads" of these armed wings at least 50 times over. I would also estimate that a few innocent Palestinians are killed in the process each time. So commonplace has this practice become that no longer is there a word of apology or hint of investigation by the army into what happens. We have become immune to the deaths of innocent Palestinians, as they are caught up in what has been subtly defined, though not publicly articulated, as "a war of survival" - thus justifying the death of a 10-year-old boy, an 80-year-old grandmother, a family of seven. What is true of Gaza is true of the West Bank. Almost equally as devastating as IDF incursions into Tulkarm, Jenin and Ramallah that see more innocents being killed, are the daily humiliations that Palestinians suffer: roadblocks between Palestinian towns and villages, extended curfews, unchecked settler violence, continued expropriation of Palestinian lands, walls and barriers that establish ghettoized cantons throughout the territories with separate roads for Jews and Arabs. Measured steps that must be taken to maintain our physical well-being have given way to indiscriminate actions. Moral considerations have been cast aside in the name of national security. It is as if to cover up for our failures in Lebanon, we are proving our deterrent capabilities by attacking the Palestinians with a vengeance. Pinpoint military actions have been translated into haphazard killings. Such tactical methods only exacerbate the situation, creating more hatred and undermining any strategic goals the government may have for the territories; although the suspicion is that there are no strategic plans, which therefore sees Israel relying only on tactics. Without a long-term understanding of what we want to achieve, immediate military actions are not subject to any limitations. "Justice, justice you shall pursue..." (Deut. 16:20). Why is the word "justice" written twice? To indicate that a just cause must be pursued by just means. It is an absolutely just cause to defend ourselves - by stopping terrorists before they carry out their acts of murder, by halting the smuggling of arms, by blocking tunnels before there are more kidnappings and by putting an end to Kassam rockets. But we must employ just means to do so, and just means do not include the seemingly careless killing of innocent Palestinians to the staggering degree that we have encountered over the past months. Very quickly we will find that "victory attained by violence is tantamount to defeat, for it is momentary" (Mahatma Gandhi). Sadly, the type of morally unrestrained and undiscerning violence that we have employed both in Lebanon and in the territories has not gained us even a momentary victory.

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