Supporters of Hassan Nasrallah listen to the Hezbollah leader via a screen during a rally marking the 10th anniversary of the end of the 2006 war with Israel, in Bint Jbeil, southern Lebanon, August 13.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A common and justified criticism of hasbara (Israeli public diplomacy) is that until recently it has largely been reactive instead of proactive.
While important, debunking various lies told about Israel puts us on the defensive and therefore automatically at a disadvantage. The pro-Israel community should go on the offensive and promote the issues that we believe are most important in order to reclaim the narrative. One of those issues should be to prepare the international community for the war Hezbollah will inevitably initiate against Israel and that will be unavoidably devastating.
There is very little doubt that there will be another military conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, the only question is what will trigger it and when.
Hezbollah is Iran’s proxy, designated as a terrorist organization by the US, the EU, the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Israel, Canada, Australia and others. The very reason for Hezbollah’s existence is to give Iran – an apocalyptic radical Islamic regime – a way to directly attack Israel, something its leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, believes is “obligatory and necessary for Muslims.”
Iran invests around $100 million a year in Hezbollah, which has enabled it to become the dominant political and military force in Lebanon with a sophisticated militia that more closely resembles a national army than a terrorist organization. It has an estimated 150,000 rockets, which is significantly more than all 29 NATO countries combined, with the exception of the US. To believe that Iran would not use this “investment” to its full potential is simply not realistic. While Iran has mobilized Hezbollah to prop up its client Bashar Assad in Syria, the original and main purpose has always been to use it as a weapon against the Jewish state.
Although there have already been several military conflicts between Israel and Hezbollah, the next one is predicted to become tremendously more devastating because of Hezbollah’s military advancements.
Aside from the conventional military experience gained in the Syrian Civil War, Hezbollah’s advanced and numerous rockets pose a severe threat to Israel’s civilian population. Hezbollah’s stated goal in the next conflict with Israel is to launch 1,000 rockets per day, thus overloading Israel’s missile defense systems. Many of the rockets can target specific buildings throughout most of Israel, including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, possibly resulting in thousands of Israeli civilian casualties.
While the IDF could annihilate Hezbollah in a matter of hours, it is unlikely to do so because of its unparalleled efforts to minimize civilian casualties and because of discriminatory international pressure.
Hezbollah has learned from Hamas’ wars with Israel and has placed thousands of military installations in civilian areas throughout southern Lebanon and even in Beirut. Hezbollah, just like Hamas, is striving for maximum civilian casualties on both sides knowing that the international community will blame Israel.
Due to the severity of the threat Hezbollah’s weapons pose to Israel, the IDF is compelled to respond much more forcefully than in, for example, previous conflicts with Hamas. Just last month Israel Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel strongly implied that this would be the outcome: “What we could do in 34 days during the Second Lebanon War, we can now do in 48 hours.” Furthermore, because of the extent of Hezbollah’s use of human shields, tens of thousands of Lebanese civilians will likely be killed.
Photos of dead children and buildings, maybe entire villages, turned to rubble will fill the front pages of newspapers and social media pages worldwide.
This is where Israeli public diplomacy needs to step in and reveal the truth about Hezbollah in order to relieve some of the external pressure on the IDF to enable it to focus exclusively on its main task: to keep Israel safe. Different hasbara organizations and Israeli ministries are already engaged in promoting one or several of the arguments outlined below, however, to be truly effective there needs to be an intensified and united hasbara effort to devise a systematic long-term strategy to convince the international community of the following: 1) There is no moral equivalence between Israel, a Western-style liberal democracy, and Hezbollah, a radical Islamic terrorist organization that is similar to Islamic State.
2) Hezbollah does not only threaten Israel but is a part of the radical Islamic terrorist threat against the West and the entire world.
3) Hezbollah and Iran will be responsible for the war and all Lebanese and Israeli civilian casualties.
4) Hezbollah purposefully uses human shields to complicate IDF operations, a practice that will result in additional Israeli military and civilian casualties, and maximize Lebanese civilian casualties, under the assumption that the international community will punish Israel. Furthermore, if successful, it would only encourage more terrorist organizations to use the same method against the West.
By warning the international community of the true dangers and intentions of Hezbollah, hasbara might not only save Israeli lives but also Lebanese civilian lives. The democratic and civilized nations of the world must be convinced to unite and fight radical Islamic terrorism together regardless of its target, and that the barbaric terrorists who use human shields should be critically punished instead of the democracy acting in self-defense.The author is a member of the Jewish Diplomatic Corps, a flagship program of the World Jewish Congress, and a board member of the Zionist Federation of Sweden.Follow him on Twitter: @GabRosenberg.