Mike Carlton, former ABC correspondent and naval historian (through Crikey)
An Israeli military bulldozer pulls a tank out of the Gaza Strip after weeks of pounding the area. EPA/Atef Safadi
So Hamas wins. No matter how Israel and its friends spin it, the raw fact is that this ‘indefinite ceasefire’ leaves Hamas unbeaten in Gaza.
Bloodied and battered, yes, with an echelon of its senior military and political leadership killed by Israeli airstrikes. But it is only down, not out.
It lives to fight another day, which means that Benjamin Netanyahu and his hard-Right Likud-coalition government have failed, and disastrously so, in their stated aim of ensuring Israel’s security by a crushing military and economic dominance of the Palestinian people. They rolled the dice. They lost.
This is the nature of asymmetrical warfare. As we saw in Vietnam, one side deploys overwhelming military and technological muscle, and the propaganda to go with it, to crush its weak and primitive opponent.
Entire American infantry and air cavalry divisions, hundreds of thousands of men and machines, were hurled against an enemy that lived in tunnels and moved by stealth and guile. It was B52 bombers and napalm against little guys wearing rubber tyre sandals and driving clapped-out Russian tanks.
For years the United States navy and air force bombed the bejesus out of Hanoi and the Ho Chi Minh supply trail down along the Cambodian border with Vietnam. Henry Kissinger strutted his diplomatic magic in Geneva and Paris.
And it failed. Utterly. Voltaire got it right: God is not always on the side of the big battalions. Having beaten their French overlords, North Vietnam’s political and military leadership ratcheted the theory up a couple of notches.
They recognised that their regular northern army, and their subordinate southern Viet Cong cadres, could never defeat the United States in the field. But they knew they didn’t need to. No matter what their casualties, no matter how many thousands of their young men they committed to certain death, all they had to do was to still be standing when the Americans lost the will to fight and the shooting stopped. And they were.
So is Hamas. As its spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said on Tuesday: ‘Hamas is grateful to the people of Gaza who sacrificed their homes, children and money. We announce the victory today after achieving our goals. Netanyahu has failed to force Gaza to surrender. Yes, we defeated them by our standing and our resistance.’
The figures are horrifying. Agence France Press estimated that more than 2,000 Palestinians were killed in seven weeks of war, including 493 children. Some 10,000 people were injured, 3,100 of them children, of whom around 1,000 will suffer some permanent disability. And about 475,000 people have been left homeless.
By contrast, Israel’s ambulance service counted just five civilian deaths and 37 injuries, only one critical, from Hamas rockets and mortars over the 50 days. Technology again, Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence worked brilliantly.
But to what end? American historian Barbara Tuchman nailed what she called the march of folly: the wooden-headed (her words) pursuit by nations of policies catastrophically against their own interests.
Her examples included the Spanish King Philip II’s dispatch of the Armada against Elizabethan England, George III’s attempt to crush the rebellious 13 American colonies and, yes, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon in Vietnam.
To which illustrious roll we can now add the name Netanyahu. His reckless folly has ensured that Hamas and Islamic Jihad now have an abundant source of recruits for their next generation of fighters.
They will be those who survived this latest war, those children who saw their parents or their brothers and sisters blown to pieces and their homes, schools, and entire neighbourhoods obliterated. And they will rise again.
The entire history of this benighted land tells us there is nothing more certain. No Israeli now alive will know peace. Hamas can resume the strategy and tactics of terror at any time it chooses.
None of this is even vaguely understood by the powerful and sophisticated Likud lobby in Australia. The faintest criticism of Israel is always met with concerted howls of ‘anti-Semitism!’
It is a facile libel flung about by the comfortable kaffeeklatsch of Sydney and Melbourne, well-upholstered burghers who have never actually experienced a flicker of anti-Semitism in their gilded lives, let alone the Gestapo knock at midnight or even a rocket landing down the street.
In doing so, they demean the memory of those who truly knew what it meant: the dead of Auschwitz.
The final word can be left to 327 Jewish survivors and descendants of victims of the Nazi genocide who signed an open letter to The New York Times this week