Whether by Israeli accident or Hamas engineering, expect a spectacular civilian massacre in the coming days, followed by an orgy of Pallywood photography, amplified by a compliant Western media, and even greater fury in the streets of the Muslim and Western world. It’s in the Hamas playbook… and will be until the media gets sober. Here’s the background, and the obscenity that will probably be played.
Barry Rubin has laid out the various endgames open to Hamas, and how, when all else fails, it’s the media reserves you draw on to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. And it’s an old story: Arafat called the Western media, busy drinking at the Commodore Hotel in Beirut under the protection of his mafiosi while his “guerillas” participated in a civil war (1975-82) that killed 100,000 civilians, his best division.
The pattern has long been clear, and most recently carried out with explosive effectiveness in the Lebanon war of 2006… when Israel is winning, get yourself a civilian massacre. Make sure that you have shocking civilian casualties that rally all the key players to your side — the other Arab nations and groups and individuals who are secretly, quietly rooting for your defeat, but who, once the images of dead children appear on the TV screens, watch the Arab street riot, and eventually can’t avoid siding with you, the “victim”… the European leaders and diplomats who piously kept an even-handed approach in the hopes that Israel might swiftly decapitate the snake… and the journalists and talking heads who have been chomping at the bit to jump on Israel for their disproportionate response.
At that point, as in the weeks after Kfar Qana, the Israelis have lost the media war: the pressure to withdraw grows daily; the damage to Israel — and to any Jew who dares defend her — becomes unbearable. For the terrorist organization that targets both its enemy’s and its own civilians, just sit back and watch all your pieces fall into place.
But what if the Israelis don’t make a mistake and kill a significant number of people in one blow, like Gaza Beach or Kfar Qana? Would Hamas actually concoct a massacre of their own people?
To even suggest it is disgusting, even racist. How could anyone imagine that a leadership would deliberately kill their own people in order to win a war? Alas, that’s liberal cognitive egocefntrism. On the contrary, pre-modern elites do not hesitate to use violence against the unarmed populace in order to secure their authority. Machiavelli openly laid out the strategy, what Sheldon Wolin called “the economy of violence.” When the population is restive, as Napoleon put it so eloquently, give them a “whiff of grapeshot” and they’ll calm right down.
And of course, in Arab political culture, this approach is not just the norm, it’s taken to pathological extremes… what Thomas Friedman called Hama rules. In 1982, Hafez al Asad, troubled by the increasing power of the Muslim Brotherhood, surrounded the town of Hama where they were strongest (population 20,000) with tanks, and for one week leveled the town with artilery fire, not letting anyone escape. At least half the town died in the process. And Syria has had no trouble from the Muslim Brotherhood ever since.
In the case of Hamas in the early 21st century, the logic is equally ruthless, but far more hypocritical. They are, of course, capable of playing the economy of violence card, and the world saw if clearly (if only briefly due to the ADD of the newsmedia), back in 2006, when they took over Gaza in a bloodbath that saw 160 people killed, some children and old ladies shot execution style to make the point that no one messes with the new bosses.
The tragic results were amply documented by a courageous Palestinian Human Rights organization, the PCHR:
The first section details the developments in the Palestinian National Authority that followed the Palestinian parliamentary elections of January 2006, including acts of violence between the supporters of Fatah movements and those of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which developed into several rounds of fighting between the two movements from April 2006 to June 2007. The second section highlights the latest round of fighting; how it began, how it developed and its end with Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip. The third section details violations of human rights and international humanitarian law perpetrated or allegedly perpetrated by the parties of the conflict, including extra-judicial and willful killings, abduction and torture; using houses and apartment buildings in the fighting; attacks on civilian property; attacks on hospitals and medical and civil defense crews; endangering the lives of civilians in the streets and houses; attacks on peaceful demonstrations; and seizure, robbery and destruction of public, private and non-governmental institutions.
The whole point of such exercises in the “economy of violence” is to let the population know that you are ruthless, that resistance is worse than useless, it is a ticket to oblivion.
But Hamas is now playing a different game now, one that plays out in the media theater of war where you can’t openly attack your own people. On the contrary, in order to play the victim, you need someone to victimize you.
Would Hamas secretly blow up its own people in order to blame Israel? Certainly, their ideology would justify such a move. As Hamas representative Fathi Hamad said last February, “Palestinains have created a human shield against the Zionist bombing machine.”
For the Palestinian people, death became an industry, at which women excel and so do all people on this land: the elderly excel, the Jihad fighters excel, and the children excel. Accordingly [Palestinians] created a human shield of women, children, the elderly and the Jihad fighters against the Zionist bombing machine, as if they were saying to the Zionist enemy: We desire death as you desire life. [Al-Aqsa TV (Hamas) Feb. 29, 2008]
As if to illustrate both the international reach of this Islamic ideology of death and martyrdom and it’s repugnant quality (at least to a Western liberal), a Saudi cameraman filmed live the “making of a martyr” when the doctors pulled the plug on a girl in a Gaza hospital. Could she have lived, had Hamas allowed her to go to Egypt in one of the many unused ambulances waiting at their southern border? We will never know.
What we can know with some assurance, is that, when the civilians die, the Western MSM will play their role in blaming Israel and either exonerating or remaining silent about the Arabs.
This is an old story. The same year that Asad killed over 10,000 Syrian civilians in 1982, the Phalange (Lebanese Christians who were Israeli allies at the time) killed some 800 Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps south of Beirut. The media scarcely covered Hama, and lavished attention of Sabra and Shatilla, largely in the framework of holding Israel responsible. Thus, Peter Beaumont could doubly mislead his readership at the Guardian by comparing the “massacre” in Gaza with Sabra and Shatilla – in the former case it was Israelis attacking Hamas with minimal civilian casualties (under 20%, possibly under 10%) – hence not a massacre of civilians; in the latter case, a civilian massacre not carried out by Israelis.
In the more recent case of the 2006 summer war, the key moment came when a building not far from Kafr Qana was hit in the middle of the night. Only nine hours later did the media arrive to a carefully orchestrated scene of rescue workers digging out dead babies. The ghoulish spectacle, amply enhanced with special effects aimed at tugging at the heart strings of viewers the world over, became a massive, grotesque exercise in misplaced moral indignation that easily slipped over into vicious anti-Semitism. While “rescue workers” triumphantly held aloft dead babies, cameramen, both Arab propagandists and Western ideologues, snapped their money-shots.
So even as Hizbullah coerced Lebanese civilians into playing the role of human shields, the media excoriated Israel for their lack of concern for human life.
In a rather courageous recent press conference in which Mahmoud Abbas criticized Hamas for its mad intransigence, he also gave the world a brief insight into the mentality that moves Hamas and other Palestinians:
“We want to protect Gaza, our people there, we don’t want genocide for our people. There are some who say, even if Gaza is wiped out, so be it. We reject this, this logic annot be accepted, has nothing to do with the interests of the people. We want to protect every drop of blood of our people… ”
And these remarks (in bold) probably refer not just to Hamas swearing to fight to the last drop of Palestinian blood, but the mobs in the West Bank street calling for war with Israel and support for Hamas, and surely more than one of his advisors, for whom the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians would be an acceptable loss if a) Hamas was also destroyed, and b) the Israelis would take the blame. Don’t forget, after 1948, members of the Arab League argued that the loss of a million Arab lives would be acceptable for the sake of destroying Israel.
The pathological symbiosis between Arab victimization politics and Western MSM moral Schadenfreude has become, over the last decades, something of a routine, inured to correction. It is predictable, and Hamas’ strategy depends on it. Thus, Palestinian media openly engage in the propaganda war, right under the nose of the Western media, from Pallywood in the streets, to Pallywood in the hospitals. A West Bank Palestinian recently complained of the manipulation:
“A mother of one of the martyrs stood by the door of the intensive care unit while crying… relatives and those around her were telling her what she should say to the television cameras: ‘Say your son [before he died] prayed and went out.’ Another tells her: ‘Curse the Arab leaders’… The journalists [in the hospitals] are going overboard in their insensitivity and taking advantage of the [difficult] moments, with the explanation that they are showing this to the world. One cameraman told a mourning mother: ‘Hit your face, cry, do some action.'”
[Al-Ayyam, December 29, 2008]
Pierre Rehov caught a similar scene from 2002 of a doctor coaching a couple to lie about having their baby born while the father was driving because the Israelis stopped him at a checkpoint (used in Pallywood).
So far, Hamas has Israel exactly where they want them, exactly where Hizbullah had them — thinking they’ve won the media war even as, for days the world has been treated to a constant barrage of Palestinian victims in picture and narrative, with violent demonstrations in the streets of the Arab and Western world pressuring their unwilling governments to side with feared and hated Hamas, with Jews around the world endangered, and no end in sight because Hamas will fight to the last drop of their own people’s blood…
Time for a media spectacular.
And Israel will only be the most obvious loser.