Nobody knows how to fight terrorism. In spite of having co organized the largest conference to study terrorism ever hosted, neither do I. Still I will make a statement about terrorism and Israel´s anti terrorist policies.
Terrorism is about angry people who hate the status quo and want change it through terror. The key to deal with terrorism is to focus on recruitement, in what turns a non terrorist into a terrorist. Terrorism is an industry that is fueled by anger. To make it harder for terrorists organizations to recruit we have to make it harder to make their case for anger. I imagine Hamas or Hezbollah recruiters as people who go to sympathizers and show them proofs that USA, UK, Israel, Spain, are countries who should disappear from the face of the earth. Some are convinced and the terrorist ranks are increased. So the more “proofs” we give these recruiters the easier we make their job.
I don´t think global terrorism will ever vanish. It will be more or less intense. I also believe that fighting terrorism is like trying to tackle a statistical process in which we don´t aim to stop it altogether, we simply aim to make it unlikely. Like many other forms of crime there will always be some frustrated individuals who believe that killing innocent people will somehow make the world the world a better place (remember Timothy McVay).
This leads me to a conclusion about Israel policies against Hezbollah and Hamas. Even though I am Jewish and have a natural sympathy for Israel I disagree with the Israeli invasion of Lebanon of 2006 and the current invasion of Gaza. I disagree on three grounds. One is that I believe attacks of this kind make the moderates in Lebanon and Gaza more likely to become radicalized against Israel. Secondly that I believe it is immoral to kill innocent civilians regardless of the fact that Hamas uses them as human shields. And thirdly I believe that just as Hezbollah went from being a minor force in Lebanon disliked by most Lebanese to being seen as the defenders of Lebanese sovereignty I see it likely that Hamas will emerge from this conflict as victors in the eyes of the Palestinian population. And while I think that Hezbollah has no reason to attack Israel nor hate Israel and should focus instead in making Lebanon a better country I do think that while I disagree with the methods of Hamas I and probably most of my readers agree that it is time that the Oslo two state solution is implemented. So far Hamas is easier to oppose because their aim is the destruction of the state of Israel but if their objective evolved to the creation of the Palestinian state they would be as legitimate as Fatah. And most of us want to see a sovereign Palestinian state alongside a sovereign and safe Israel.
Israel went into war with Hamas with a clear military objective, to make Hamas stop their rocket attacks on Israel. But these attacks that had not been lethal before the invasion are now both lethal and more intense making it easier for Hamas to claim that they are “winning the war”. Now when Israel negotiates a cease fire Hamas will be seen as victors by the Palestinian because they were able to fight until the negotiation, that they were not defeated just like Hezbollah was not defeated. And in the future it will be easier for Hamas to recruit members among the angry unemployed youth of Gaza.
What could have Israel done in both cases? More targeted and limited air attacks without a ground operation with an objective that is clearly military. If Israel invades Lebanon because they kidnap two their soldiers or kills 600 people in Gaza because they fire rockets without victims and in both cases there´s tremendous infrastructure damage the enemies of Israel will grow in numbers throughout the Middle East and around the world. If PR plays a significant role in conventional warfare in the case of terrorism it plays a crucial role and Israel is losing the PR game and so far not increasing its safety.
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