Israel Update – Week of September 4, 2022
Gaza Conflict 2021: This week I received a package from Jon Schanzer, the Vice President of Research at the Federation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD). Jon has been working with USIEA for the past few years, and so when I asked him for an autographed copy of his new book, “Gaza Conflict 2021,” Jon kindly sent one to Israel.
The topic of the book, unsurprisingly, is the Gaza Conflict of May 2021. During the days between May 10th and 21st, 2021, Israel was under fire. The Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) fired no less than 4,000 rockets at Israeli towns. Israel, in turn, relentlessly bombed the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza. A ceasefire brokered by Egypt returned relatively calm to the area until things “heated up” again about a month ago.
While Jon’s book intends to provide an unbiased view of the war, most of the book shows the Israelis in a far better light than the Hamas. This is not unexpected, as the Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by both the U.S. and Israel. Hamas fires unguided rockets into highly populated towns with the intent to produce as much carnage as possible. They fire these rockets from apartment buildings and hospitals, and they store their weapons under schools. This use of “human shields” is considered a war crime by the Geneva Convention.
Nevertheless, I found one chapter of the book perhaps too evenhanded. While my town of Moreshet was never under rocket fire, we suffered the effects of mass demonstrations by Israeli Arabs. My town lies at the cross point of three roads. Each one passes through an Arab town: Kfar Manda, I’billin and Kaukab Abu al Hija. I buy gas in I’billin, and my local supermarket is in Kaukab. And yet each night, for the better part of ten days, when the lights went down, the demonstrations started complete with burning tires, bricks, and broken glass. We were locked in our town from dusk to dawn. The police surrendered control, telling us that they could not guarantee our safety if we left home.
Jon’s description of the goings-on did not mention this forced lock-down. He quotes Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai who said, “There were terrorists on both sides.” He writes, “In the end, Israeli police arrested more than 1,550 suspects – Muslims, Christians, and Jews.” Compare this with a headline in the Israeli newspaper “Haaretz” – a left-leaning media outlet – that stated, “Israeli Arabs Make Up 90% of Indictments Over May 2021 Riots – Of the 616 indictments issued during last year's nationwide wave of violence in Israel's mixed Jewish-Arab cities, 545 were against Arabs.” In this war, there were the good guys and there were the bad guys. My family and friends were the good guys. The hooligans that tried to firebomb my daughter’s father-in-law as he drove home from seeing his newborn grandson were the bad guys (he was rescued by an Arab Resident of I’billin who took him through the local alleys around the roadblocks).
“Gaza Conflict 2021” is less of a book and more of a collection of articles that were written before, after, and during the conflict. The book contains a number of recurring themes, possibly the most important of which is the idea of proxy warfare. According to Jon, Iran is the root of all evil. Iran not only desires the destruction of Israel and a nuclear weapon with which to finish the job, but it also spreads conventional terror and malice throughout the Middle East. It does this through proxies. Jon shows how the Hezbollah in Lebanon and in Syria, the Hamas and the PIJ in Gaza, and the Houthis in Yemen, are all funded and supported by Iran. These countries serve as forward staging grounds for Iranian force. Not only are they used to facilitate strikes against Israel and other lesser enemies of Iran, but they give Iran plausible deniability. When Iranian drones are launched at Israeli targets from Syria, Iranians can claim that Tehran is hundreds of miles from Damascus. And when Israeli warplanes bomb the bases from which the drones were launched, killing Iranian operatives, Iran is not forced to retaliate. And all of this will be funded by money made available by the relief of sanctions planned as part of a new imminent Iran nuclear deal.
Which brings me to an interesting point that Jon made to me recently. In last month’s war, the PIJ launched all of the rockets. The Hamas were quiet. They made not one peep; they launched not one rocket. We Israelis were thankful – fighting the Hamas would be much more difficult than fighting the PIJ. Hamas is much larger and much better armed. They cannot yet be considered “near peer,” but they are getting there. Jon suggests that Israelis are being short-sighted. The Hamas owns and operates Gaza with an iron hand (Jon dedicates one chapter of his book to showing how the Hamas took over Gaza in fair elections and then proceeded to brutally evict and eviscerate their competition). Nothing happens in Gaza without the express permission of the Hamas. Jon suggests that this time, perhaps, it was the who Hamas was fighting by proxy. While the PIJ were firing the rockets, it was the Hamas pushing all the buttons.
"Never underestimate your enemy."
Wishing you a quiet week,