For many, even in the Arab world, the gratuitous attacks of Hizbullah and Hamas on the Israelis seems incomprehensible. Why pick a fight with so strong an enemy? There are two answers, and they both relate to the problems of paradigmatic perception that we’ve discussed before.
#1: Retreat is weakness and invites aggression. (JP in action)
I remember a conversation about a year ago with someone in the Israeli army about whether the Gaza withdrawal would lead to more or less violence. “That’s the million dollar question,” he replied. Not wanting to be too pushy, I mumbled gently something about how it’s pretty clear that it will, like Israel’s retreat in 2000 from Lebanon, appear on the Palestinian’s radar screen as a sign of weakness, that Hamas will claim it as a victory of violence (which it was in part), and that they will step up the violence.
He, like many Israelis, didn’t seem interested in such councils of doom. It’s a favorite ploy of the left in Israel to dismiss as fascists those who (in their words) think that “they only understand force.” Actually it’s not that “they” understand only force, but that without force they do not understand. There is obviously more to do than apply force, but the fantasy that we (and by this I mean the West) can talk our way out of this one — a fantasy the Europeans seem particularly addicted to — is the real misunderstanding.
#2: Picking a fight with Israel works insofar as the Western Media will then give the victims of Israel’s response the PR victory. (PCP in action)
The strategy of picking a fight with Israel even when you are bound to lose has two dimensions. The aspect that we cognitive liberal egocentrists would call “irrational” has been dealt with above: for honor’s sake whatever happens. The more rational one comes from the basic strategy of Palestinian and Arab suffering: the more we suffer, the more indignant the world gets with Israel; the more indignant they get with Israel, the more they villify her, feed the anti-Zionist attacks like divestment and boycott, and feed their hopes that they can, at the cost of immense suffering to their own people, somehow destroy her. This time, apparently, it’s started to get harder. But, as Chad Evans notes,
But there’s always much more behind it these attacks and it’s usually centered around attention. In that respect, Hezbollah has already won and the international community is allowing Hezbollah to score much-needed sympathy points.
The usual suspects line up, but then we have the big surprise: Saudi Arabia condemns Hizbullah (hint: Sunnis vs. Shiis).