Operation "Cast lead" in Gaza: analysis and prospects



  1. Introduction



The beginning of 2009 was marked by a new earth tremor and a stench of sulphur in the Middle East where violence has not ended by undermining our make-believe ideas that were lulled by the end-of-history ideal of perpetual peace. The spasms of the turbulent history of this region cut across time, casting a heavy stamp on this land, as if it were too heavy for its inhabitants to bear. Thus, during nearly three weeks, Israel and Hamas squared off in the Gaza Strip, filling the media battlefield with their now ritualised accusations of war crimes and their parade of experts of all sorts. Even the Old Continent has not escaped this and was caught up in several weeks of demonstrations that were sometimes violent, a sign of the fever that had given it a rough time while the battles raged at the other end of the Mediterranean. At the end of this new war, a cease-fire was nonetheless decreed by the two belligerents and seems more or less to be respected on the ground, though sporadic firing of rockets has still been observed, followed sometimes by Israeli air force raids.


            The time has come to look closely into these dramatic events and to draw some lessons from the conflict, with the traditional questions that an analyst asks in such cases. How did all this begin? What were the issues of this new Middle Eastern explosion? Was there a winner? Was the Israeli reaction disproportionate, as some people have said? How did the various actors in the conflict behave? Can one discern some breaks with the past? How can we appraise the media coverage of this war of three weeks? What about the accusations relating to respect for international law? And then, based on the results of the Israeli operation, what prospects can be sketched out for the future of this region of the world which is so decidedly tormented at the moment when a new American administration is taking shape and when the Israelis have just elected their new Knesset ?




  1. Origins      of the conflict and context


            The decision of the Israeli government to launch Operation ‘Cast Lead’[1] (‘Oferet Yetsouka’ in Hebrew) followed the decision of Hamas on 19 December not to renew the six month long truce. This was decreed in June 2008 following Operation ‘Hot Winter’ of February-March 2008. Nonetheless, it should be recalled that this truce never was totally respected and that dozens of rockets and mortar shells were fired during the six months of the truce, even though during the first months there was in fact a considerable reduction of these firings.[2] As a consequence, the pressure on the inhabitants of the South of Israel by various Palestinian terrorist movements from the Gaza Strip remained constant, resulting, in turn, in regular pressure from these same inhabitants on the Israeli government.


            In reality, this was not the first Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip. Beginning in 2004, one can list the following: ‘Rainbow,’ which already had as its goal to put an end to the tunnels used for smuggling arms, and ‘Days of Penitence’ (2004), ‘Summer Clouds’ and ‘Autumn Rain’ (2006), as well as ‘Hot Winter’ (2008). The outcome of the last operation was the conclusion of the six month renewable truce. Hamas’s decision not to renew the truce was taken in a complicated political context. First of all, one can mention the triple context – American, Palestinian and Israeli – as regards the renewal of their top level leadership. Aside from the arrival of Barack Obama in the White House as the 44th President of the United States on 20 January and the Israeli legislative elections of 10 February, one should remember that the term of President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmud Abbas expired on 9 January,[3] reviving the appetite of Hamas in terms of its power and legitimacy within Palestinian society.


            Even if officially Hamas did not demand the departure of Abbas during the war due to the Israeli operations, one must emphasise the triple setback of the Islamists ever since their taking power in Gaza during the bloody Putsch of 2006. Right at the start, they failed to break out of their international isolation. On the domestic and strictly local level, they failed to handle the daily affairs of residents of the Gaza Strip. To be sure, they ‘established order’ according to the theme they had repeated many times, cracking down on the corruption of the Fatah administration, but they imposed an iron fist, transforming local society into a repressive dictatorship and turning their armed elements into not very popular police forces. Furthermore, they failed to ensure economic prosperity, instead encouraging arms smuggling through the infamous tunnels passing under the Egyptian border. Finally, they are in difficulty in the West Bank, where the forces of the Palestinian Authority loyal to Mahmud Abbas, assisted by the Israelis and the Americans[4], have been tracking down the Islamists and preventing them for the moment from repeating what happened in Gaza when Hamas took power.[5]


            Thus one may imagine that Hamas tried to play the card of confrontation and ‘resistance’ to restore its prestige at a key moment, counting on the division of the Israelis these past several months over getting involved in a massive engagement in Gaza and on a weakened Israeli leadership ever since 2006 that was now engaged in an electoral process. Can one therefore speak of an error in calculations by the Islamists, who underestimated the pressure of the population of the South of Israel on Israeli government decisions on the eve of legislative elections and ignored the window of opportunity created by the end of George Bush’s term in office for the Jewish leaders, leaving their hands free to act militarily in Gaza ? It is difficult to respond clearly in the affirmative, given how the Islamists have become masters of the practice of the politics of the worse, the better. It is possible that even if it underestimated the action of Tsahal and its effectiveness on the ground, Hamas thought that the Israeli government would not go all the way and would halt its military action before it was completely destroyed, leaving it in the worst case militarily impaired but politically still live, letting it claim victory and reap the political benefits of events.


  1. Objectives      of the Israeli action and how the operations unfolded


    1. Israeli objectives


            The Israeli military operation began on 27 December 2008, i.e., one week after the breaking of the truce by Hamas. Clearly, the Israeli leadership chose to take diplomatic credit for an effort at restraint that a delayed reaction could represent. The immediate and declared objective of the Israeli authorities was to stop the firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip towards the South of Israel and thus to put an end to a situation that lasted already eight years. This objective was linked to a second: to stop the smuggling of arms coming from Egypt. The achievement of such an objective involved two elements: the destruction of the tunnels between Gaza and Egypt and securing the Philadelphia Line, i.e., precisely the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Finally, as concerns Hamas itself, two objectives were put forward. On the strictly military level, it was a matter of significantly weakening Hamas by destroying its military capabilities, meaning its stocks of arms and its military organisation on the ground. On the political level, the Israeli objective was more fuzzy, as the Israeli authorities remained rather vague and regularly floated the threat of purely and simply overthrowing Hamas.[6]


    1. How the operations unfolded


The Israeli military operation began by powerful and targeted air strikes that were especially well coordinated over all the Hamas command centres, its principal arms caches, its missile launchers ready for action and its chiefs.[7] These air raids drew both on fighters and on helicopters and they visibly surprised Hamas by operating on a Sabbath. In reality, these air strikes were supposed to constitute the first phase of the Israeli military operations and to last several days. They were also supposed to extend to the smuggling tunnels between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, estimated to number in the many hundreds on the eve of the conflict.


            Phase two of Operation ‘Cast Lead’ saw the entrance on the scene of the ground forces, which took over territory, cutting the Gaza Strip in three in order to prevent any possibility of re-supplying the Islamists of Hamas and to hinder their movements. This permitted the forces of Tsahal, composed of infantry troops and tanks, with artillery and air force support, to control the land and to drive back Hamas, by trouncing its best forces and eliminating its military chiefs, in a slow but cautious and controlled advance, in order to avoid losses as much as possible, both at the level of Palestinian civilians and their own men. In order to do this, Tsahal was able to count without fail on  both electronic and human intelligence gathering, relying as much on the massive and ubiquitous presence of drones above the battlefield[8] as on a network of informers among the Palestinian population itself, allowing it thus to avoid the many booby-traps that Hamas laid down.

            The Israeli authorities declared that the operations of Tsahal would consist of three phases, and one could imagine that the encirclement of GazaCity presaged the imminence, indeed the start, of the last phase. However, despite fighting that was at times very violent in the very midst of the Hamas apparatus, one did not truly observe the launch of this final phase, at least not in a frank and visible manner. Was this due to international pressure and to a determination of the Israeli government not to expose its flanks to media criticism that was already very harsh on Israel? Is it on the contrary due to internal motives, especially divisions within the Israeli cabinet itself? What is certain is that the three main leaders of the Israeli government, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Minister of  Foreign Affairs Tsipi Livni and Minister of Defence Ehud Barak were not on the same wave length as regards the end of hostilities and the final objective of military action: whether or not to overthrow Hamas in Gaza.


  1. Assessment      of the Israeli operation


    1. Was this a partial achievement of the objectives?


            After the unilateral cease-fire declared by Israel on 18 January, one could begin to write an appraisal of the operations. Though it seems undeniable that Hamas took terrible blows and that Tsahal clearly was victorious on the ground, can one also confirm that all the objectives enumerated by the Israeli leaders were attained?


            An observer must remain skeptical on many points. Certainly, the forces of Tsahal could act with remarkable freedom of manœuvre and did much better than when confronted by the Lebanese Hezbollah in 2006. Israeli losses were remarkably low (10 soldiers killed, 5 of them by friendly fire[9]) and no heavy equipment (tanks, planes, helicopters…) appears to have been lost. However, it is appropriate to underline that not all the tunnels between the Gaza Strip and Egypt were destroyed. Because while many hundreds seem to have been put out of action by the intense air operations of Heyl Ha’Avir in particular, many obviously remained in service. That is evidenced by the rapid resumption of smuggling by Hamas which was very well publicised.[10]


            In addition, Israel withdrew its troops immediately after announcing the cease-fire without keeping control over the Philadelphia Line and without real diplomatic guarantees on this matter with Egypt. To be sure, an accord was signed between Tsipi Livni and Condoleezza Rice on smuggling of arms intended for Hamas, but without Egypt.[11] Above all, this is what does not inspire confidence, given Egypt’s game, suspect at the very least, these past eight years. And if Cairo seems to agree to strengthen the control over its border with the Gaza Strip, there is nothing to ensure at this stage that the Egyptian statements will translate into something effective in the future, given the apparent weakness of President Mubarak’s authority over an Army that seems not very motivated and organised to confront the problems posed by Hamas.[12]


            However, if the situation does not seem to have been definitively resolved at the moment when Jerusalem halted Operation ‘Cast Lead,’ it seems that there is no need at once to come down on the side of pessimism and to conclude that it was a setback.  Indeed, various countries, particularly Western countries, have understood perfectly well the issue represented by the stopping of contraband weapons intended for the Gaza Strip and are seeking to implement military and technical means to help the Israelis and the Egyptians in this task, which is, to tell the truth, complicated. In fact, the arms  smuggling is not going on solely across the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt or from the Mediterranean, but also in a general manner across Sinai, where the Bedouins play a role in the matter. And one must not forget the other routes, in the South, such as the Red Sea, the Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea.[13]


            Concerning the question of the survival of the Islamist regime of Hamas in Gaza, it has to be admitted that Hamas has remained in place. And the blind repression which it has been exercising ever since the day after the war shows that it intends to remain the master of the place and to dig still deeper the trench now separating it from Fatah.[14]


            Finally, the Islamists of Gaza have resumed their firing of rockets on the South of Israel, demonstrating that they have no intention of disarming. And even if their military capabilities seem very much weakened, these firings also seek to show the Israelis that they still have arms, preserving a certain psychological pressure on the residents of the urban areas near Gaza even on the day after the end of Tsahal operations. Nonetheless, it is appropriate to note the significant decline in Hamas’ capacity to launch rockets all during the war. Clearly Hamas was truly weakened by the Israeli Army.  Therefore, one can say that the objective with respect to the firing of rockets was partly attained. But there, as well, everything will depend on the future of this famous smuggling of arms.  Thus, one must hope that the various foreign powers and Egypt will manage to assume their responsibilities. It is thus too early to pass judgment on this point as these lines are being written.


            In a word, just as in 2006 against Hezbollah, some people are wondering in Israel if the political authorities have not once again halted Tsahal too early, with a technical knock-out that left the enemy still standing.[15] It should be said that the debate on evicting Hamas from the Gaza Strip does not seem to have come to a conclusion as yet in Israel. The problems surrounding this are so complex that some Israelis, for example, seem to worry as much about anarchy in Gaza as about Hamas itself.[16]


    1. The return of Tsahal to basics


            Nevertheless, one thing is certain: Tsahal has taken on board the lessons from its past errors and erased the difficult memory of the war of 2006 against Hezbollah. Clearly the tandem formed by Ehud Barak at Defence and Gaby Ashkenazy in the Army HQ is more effective than the one that prevailed in 2006 with Amir Peretz and Dan Halutz respectively. Moreover, all the Israeli commentators, whether coming from the media or political milieu, have not failed to address their compliments to these two men for the conduct of the war. One must say that, unlike Amir Peretz, Ehud Barak knows perfectly well how an Army functions. The reason is that he was a former chief of staff of Tsahal.  As for Gaby Ashkenazy, he is  a man of action who broke with Dan Haloutz’s model of brilliant communicator wrapped up in a hyper-technological paradigm of  aviator.


            In fact, one can say that Tsahal has returned to its fundamentals. It was able to put to the test in 2006 the famous Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) initiated in the United States in the 1990s and known in Israel as the Israel Security Revolution (ISR). This vision of war focused on the exponential development of high technologies since the 1980s puts the accent on computer sciences, electronic communications, management in real time of information on the whole battlefield and on aviation, and it translated especially into the famous concept of network-based war. Armies which incorporated this Revolution Transformation for the Europeans– were supposed to render deaf and blind any other army in the world. Tsahal very early on combined this technological  and doctrinal model with the development, for example, of drones. It also perfected ultra-sophisticated electronic technologies which were a marvel in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon in 1982 by annihilating without meeting any opposition the entire latest generation Soviet anti-air system put into operation by the Syrians.


            This hyper-technological development, associated with problems of training the reservists depending on adaptation to the various Palestinian Intifadas, on the one hand, and to budgetary cuts linked to regular financial difficulties (above all, at the start of the new millennium) on the other hand, ended by eroding the effectiveness of Tsahal, which found expression in the semi-defeat when confronting Hezbollah in 2006.[17] This was consequently put in the hot seat, whether by the press or by the famous Winograd Commission Winograd, which was tough on the average performance of the Army during the Lebanon War.


            Since then, Tsahal was obliged to re-examine its script. New programmes of equipment procurement were implemented both for combat tanks[18] and infantry. Logistics was improved, the training of men was resumed intensively under the supervision of a new leadership, and equipment of reservists was corrected. The doctrines were reviewed. In a word, Tsahal returned to what always had been the basis of its effectiveness: its pragmatism, its capacity to adapt to challenges presented to it and its creativity. In fact, Israel perhaps really succeeded in making a connection between the ‘two Armies’  as demanded by the strategic brain-teaser which it has confronted for many years : the first, for high  intensity combat on a large scale, the second, for low intensity conflict. Technology and the human element. All of it, without a hitch. Put another way, with the war of Gaza, Tsahal has shown that it was just as capable of fighting against a conventional army as against guerillas, indeed against techno-guerillas.[19]


            This result is all the more remarkable given that the Gaza Strip represents a veritable strategic nightmare for any military HQ, with its high density of population and the total and intentional intermixing of Hamas with civilians. And it is not irrelevant to emphasise that urban warfare has everywhere always constituted the worst difficulties for modern armies, an asymmetric adversary finding in this the means to re-balance the combat. However, it appears that Tsahal was able to fulfill its mission brilliantly, without encountering any real opposition on the part of Hamas and minimising its own losses in a remarkable fashion. In this respect, the fact that half of the ten soldiers lost by Tsahal in the course of ‘Cast Lead’ were killed by friendly fire underlines very well the extreme complexity of the operating terrain which it confronted.[20]


            But this result was possible for Tsahal only thanks to high quality intelligence obtained on the ground. Unlike what happened in Lebanon in 2006, Israel was able to make use of a network of first quality informers among the Palestinian population itself. It should be said that not only is Gaza easily controllable by modern  electronic means such as Israel has, but that the security services of the Jewish State have ever since the years of the Intifada been able to penetrate the Palestinian population, playing especially on the inter-Palestinian rivalries. It is moreover interesting to point out that such a development of a network of informers in place reveals to what extent Hamas is still not as popular as one might believe.


            Another essential element of the Tsahal victory was surprise. Some people have rambled on about the opportunity of unleashing ‘Cast Lead’ on a Sabbath, thus striking at  Hamas at the moment which they least expected. On the other hand, it seems that the Israeli Army used tactics drawing upon creativity and surprise, such as decoys intended to reveal the   positions of Hamas while sparing the civilians, or the detour around roads by the tanks in order to avoid the mines, which were otherwise totally located thanks to intelligence.[21]


            As for communications, the Israeli authorities seem to have taken into account the recommendations of the Winograd Commission and avoided the ultra-communicating posture of the former chief of staff Dan Haloutz in order to prioritise operational effectiveness and freedom of manœuvre. In 2006, the Army was reproached for too many leaks and the journalists were criticised for placing too many spanners in the wheels of Tsahal. In the general view, the Israeli press itself, far and away the most critical during the last war in Lebanon, went too far and ended up by undermining the work of Tsahal on the ground. Things were reconsidered and a consensus emerged within Israeli society for accepting more distance during military operations while nonetheless preserving the very free nature of a press evolving in the framework of a very democratic society.


            Finally, one can remark the care taken by Tsahal to try to dissociate the Gaza population from the Hamas terrorists. One must say that here too a reorientation was effected compared to the war in Lebanon of 2006, with Tsahal putting aside the rigid application of a strategy that was inspired by the theory of circles set out by Warden,[22] in order to try to preserve its image on the international scene and show the Gazans that Hamas is also their enemy. Hence the importance accorded to humanitarian aid in this war, despite criticisms that were often biased and automatic addressed to Israel on this level. We note in this regard that this war generally propelled the humanitarian aspect to the centre of debate and critisim, to the point of making it a veritable arm of war, as we shall see below.


  1. International      reactions


            On the international level, one can note the intense diplomatic activity that was unleashed right from the start of the war, particularly under the leadership of  France, still at that time President of the European Union for several days before ceding the place to the CzechRepublic. This diplomatic activity culminated in a vote within the Security Council on Resolution 1860, 8 January 2009.[23] This Resolution, which was non-binding, was promptly rejected by the warring parties.[24] It should be said that it did not involve practical modalities that might guarantee its application[25]. It would appear to have had no other goal than to satisfy those who voted for it. Let us note that while France was President of the Security Council, Libya was the most powerful lobbyist in favour of this Resolution, followed by the diplomats of numerous Arab countries and the Palestinian Authority.


            This leads us to the attitude of the various Arab states during this conflict. Straightaway, it is appropriate to underline the division which marked the Arab leaders, who were unable to show the slightest initiative crowned with success other than that resolution with no tomorrow. Thus, one can cite the example of the summit organised in Doha on Friday, 16 January which only managed to underscore the divergences within the Arab League.[26] The League literally found itself divided into two blocs: the first supported Hamas and gravitated around Syria, while the second was opposed to the Islamists of Gaza, with Egypt in the front line. Behind these divisions lurked the shadow of Iran: it should be remembered that Hamas constitutes one of its armed wings[27] in the region (the other armed wing being Hezbollah, more to the north).


            Thus, we may note here a veritable paradox and consider the question of tacit support for the Israelis in their struggle against Hamas by the ‘moderate’ Sunni Arab countries, even as the press of these very countries went into a rage against Israel.[28] Even some of the statements of Arab leaders, for example, the Egyptians, seemed at times to be 180 degrees from the hostile attitude that they displayed vis-à-vis Hamas from the start of the Israeli operation[29] by rendering the Islamists of Gaza clearly responsible for the situation.[30] One sees here to what extent the Arab leaders are trapped by their own rhetoric. Indeed, for various reasons sometimes linked to the wish to divert their population from their own negligence, the Arab regimes tolerate the development of, even encourage, notably in the press, talk that is very hostile towards Israel, indeed virulently anti-Semitic and they do so notwithstanding having in some cases signed peace treaties with the Jewish state. That is the case with Egypt and Jordan, which place themselves in an awkward position regarding their ‘official’ diplomatic attitude.[31]


            As a consequence, the Arab leaders are caught between this hostile attitude of their population towards Israel, encouraged by their efforts in order to channel the opposition, whether Islamist or not, and a different interest given their relations with Hamas, the presence of Islamists similar to Hamas on their own soil, like the Muslim Brotherhood, or the expansionism of Iran, which worries them all. Hence the schizophrenic situation in which many Arab leaders found themselves in the context of this crisis, whereby they were tacitly pushing the Israelis towards a hard line and sometimes lending them support by statements very tough on Hamas, but at the same time working in the opposite direction by encouraging international pressure for Tsahal to halt its operations in Gaza.


            The Palestinian Authority itself, chaired by Mahmud Abbas, illustrates this impossible contradiction: tacitly supporting Israel by blaming Hamas equally for its attitude. It should be said that Fatah, also directed by Mahmud Abbas, is in open conflict with Hamas, and this is the fruit of a long rivalry that was aggravated by the victory of the Islamists in the last Palestinian legislative elections, and still more when the Islamists evicted Fatah from the Gaza Strip during a bloody Putsch in 2007. On the other hand, the very same Palestinian Authority is in negotiations with the Israeli government in the framework of the Annapolis process. As we see, the chief of the Palestinian Authority and the leaders of Fatah have good tactical reasons for supporting the Israeli government despite a population that is mostly hostile to Israel.[32] However, yet again, one could see the same schizophrenia as among other Arab leaders in the behaviour vis-à-vis Hamas of Mahmud Abbas’ entourage. Though here the reason is still more complicated due to the nature of the Palestinian national movement, where the attitude is more directed at demonising and delegitimising the State of Israel than directed at positive objectives linked to achievement of statehood.[33] As in the case of the other Arab leaders, the trap of the educational system and propaganda closes on its own initiators.


            The role of Iran in this crisis is, on the contrary, very different. It would be a mistake to ignore the fact that the leadership of Hamas, living in Syria, is closely linked to Iran. Tensions appeared between the chiefs of Hamas in Gaza and those in Syria with regard to accepting the cease-fire. The Syrian-based leaders favoured a policy of going all-out to the end. Still one wonders what interests the Iranians had in this conflict. Was it in their interest to set alight the card of Hamas in Gaza and thus lose influence in the region at the very moment when a new President entered the White House? Should one see here a mistaken calculation made from on high? Perhaps the Iranians counted on more effective armed opposition on the part of Hamas against Tsahal. Maybe it was a way of pushing the nuclear issue to the background and thus to move the Arab-Israeli issue to the head of the list on Obama’s agenda, the old story of gaining time and diverting attention.


            What is certain is that there is a dispute between Hamas and Egypt, on the one hand, and between Iran and certain Arab states of the region, with Egypt and Saudi Arabia in the lead. And one can see a verbal rivalry between the allies of Iran in the Middle East (Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria in the front ranks) and Egypt and the countries afraid of Iranian expansionism in the region on the other side. The start of the crisis even gave a number of signs of an attempt to destabilise Egypt.[34] Confronted with this situation, Egypt tried very soon to resume a posture of mediation in the conflict, hence its intense diplomatic activity all during the war,[35] without ever lowering its guard before Hamas and its regional allies.[36] We must not lose sight of the fact that Hamas, by its own admission,[37] is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was born in Egypt in 1928 and forms the number one opposition force to the regime of Mubarak.


            And one should also not forget that Egypt and Iran have had very bad relations for several months. Hence, the bold hypothesis which asks to what extent an objective alliance of circumstance transcending the ideological cleavages traditionally mentioned between Sunnis and Shiites could have been born between the Muslim Brotherhoods, Palestinian and Egyptian, and Tehran to set the region aflame and weaken Egypt and its allies. We must recall that such an objective alliance already exists between Hezbollah and Hamas but in a much more official and sustained manner. We are touching here upon the complexity of the issues of the war that took place between Hamas and Israel.


            Outside the Middle East, the United States, where the Presidency of George Bush was in its final days, and Russia both behaved relatively discretely. Meanwhile Europe played a mixed role, trying to impose an improbable diplomatic solution, while losing its way in formulas that are empty and have become unfortunately customary and automatic towards Israel, such as the abstruse use of the diplomatic and legal term ‘disproportionate’ to describe the Israeli reaction to thousands of launchings of rockets and mortar shells from Gaza onto the South of Israel for the past eight years. One must say that behind the agitation of humanitarians in defence of the ‘Palestinian civilians,’ Europe hid rather badly its embarrassment vis-à-vis this situation.On the one hand, the need to maintain the tradition of systematic criticism of Israel at the risk of cant and on the other hand local actors who did not necessarily appreciate this posture whose sole beneficiaries could only be the Islamists of Hamas. Thus, one noticed how President Sarkozy changed his rhetoric once he arrived in Egypt and adopted a much harder tone vis-à-vis  Hamas,[38] an illustration of the conflict between a demagogic diplomacy and its difficult  adaptation  to the reality on the ground.


            Finally, one must stress that this conflict produced some collateral victims. We may mention Turkey, which is officially a regional ally of the Israelis, but which displayed a behaviour that was especially aggressive vis-à-vis Israel, even going so far as to demand its exclusion from the UN.[39] One also noted most recently the way Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan snubbed Israeli President Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum in Davos. While Shimon Peres behaved leniently towards the Turkish leader, assuring him after the diplomatic incident, and despite it, that relations between the two countries would not be affected, it is not sure that the attitude of Turkey during the conflict, joining totally with the ‘Muslim Arab Street’ and linking itself with the most virulent criticisms of Israel, will not leave traces. Thus, one should note, for example, the reaction of the American Jewish Committee, whose Executive Director sent an unequivocal open letter to the Turkish Prime Minister.[40] The American Jewish community seems visibly shaken in its hitherto favourable positions regarding Turkey.


            Another consequence of the war: relations between Israel and certain countries of Latin America have been affected. Thus, one saw the severing of diplomatic ties between Bolivia and Venezuela and the Jewish state.[41] We must remember that the influence of Iran extends all the way to Latin America and that Hezbollah also has had important activities there for a number of years.


  1. Attitude of      the media


            As in 2006, during the war between Israel and the Hezbollah in Lebanon, the press was quick to present the situation in black and white: the nice people, namely the Palestian population, as victims of the nasty ones, i.e., the Israelis, ferocious beasts thirsty for blood.[42] On the one side, humans and on the other side non-humans.  What could be simpler for the reader, the television viewer, than to listen to this information while comfortably seated in his armchair after a hard day’s work. No need to promote thought. The people who ‘consume’ the information are not journalists and they cannot understand the subtleties of the Middle East and world affairs.


            In doing so, the international media have unfortunately chosen their camp, falling voluntarily into the trap of asymmetry, victims of the Islamist propaganda of Hamas. Let us recall that in the framework of an asymmetrical conflict, one of the protagonists massively occupies the infosphere, i.e., the media scene, in order to delegitimise his adversary and thus cause a moral defeat, which spells, above all, political defeat. This asymmetrical victory is only possible if the media sphere allows itself to be penetrated. Put in other words, in an asymmetrical conflict, the media are not neutral; they supply both the battlefield and the combatants. Consequently, by adopting a partial posture, the journalists contribute actively to the war on the side of one of the protagonists against the other. Here it is clearly Hamas which was favoured.


            And these are not protests over the refusal of Tsahal to allow journalists to enter the Gaza Strip on the pretext that this would leave the field free to the other camp which could then use deception. It was just about arguments of purely bad faith. In 2006, Israel acted in the exactly opposite manner. However, the attitude of the international press was the same, presenting the same permeation by Islamist propaganda… only that time it was the propaganda of Hezbollah.


            In fact, during these two conflicts, the international press took care to present the events in a Manichean manner, showing on the one hand the Israelis and their tanks and on the other hand dazed, innocent civilians (women and children first) in the middle of fuming ruins left behind by the bombs of Tsahal. Consequently, for the majority of people, Israel was fighting against women and children.  Indeed, one can ask oneself: if, as has been endlessly repeated to us, the journalists could not enter the Gaza Strip, in the absence of Israeli authorization, who provided the images? Al Jazeera ? Hamas militants? Why did we not see any Hamas combatants on the images, either dead or alive? Why did the Palestinian assessments never report on Palestinian fighters?


            As regards these assessments, how can it be that they are still today taken as certified when they were systematically disseminated by the Palestinian Ministry of Health… which depends on Hamas? After the war, numerous sources have indicated that Hamas, who certainly were the ones furnishing the assessments, deliberately inflated the number of deaths, like the Italian journalist who went on site to ask the doctors[43] and visit the hospitals. Even if the numbers cited were just estimations and did not necessarily correspond to the true results of the war, they nonetheless underlined numerous inconsistencies concerning what Hamas disseminated via the international media. Why has that not been covered more by the media?  Why this willingness to swallow whole and then pass along the Hamas press releases and images? Why were Hamas ‘embedded’ in the Palestinian civilian population, as was also done so indulgently with Hezbollah in 2006, which also ‘melted’ in with the Lebanese population? Have our media become pro-Islamist? What schizophrenia! On the one hand, we fight against the Islamists in Afghanistan, and on the other hand our journalists defend them when they wage war on Israel. Strange! Disconcerting! One further question: by participating so indulgently in the asymmetrical war of Hamas against Israel, what role do our media play in the stand-off between the Islamists and our societies?


         Apart from these questions, and no doubt providing an element of an answer, it is clear and evident that we have witnessed during this war a veritable cult of the emotional, one more trend of the media in their search for the sensational, forgetting their duty of sang-froid and analysis. Alas, this dictatorship of emotion could only nourish the expressions of hatred that broke out in various cities across Europe and across the world, where anti-Israeli marches were organised to denounce the Tsahal operation in Gaza. Did the media contribute to the resurgence of anti-Semitism during the war in Gaza? Some reflection is in order and a return to the professional code of ethics is imperative in everything related to processing of information by our media.


  1. Exploitation      of international law


            In keeping with the logic of asymmetrical conflicts, we saw right from the start of the conflict how international law was put forward against Israel. It is clear that the discussions over whether it was being respected or not, over the principle of proportionality or over the sequence of events in the fighting itself were done systematically in one direction only and had as their only effect to reinforce international pressure on one of the two camps and to portray the other as victims, drawing international sympathy to it. In the event, it was Israel that right from the start was designated as the guilty party, bringing in the corollary of relieving Hamas of its responsibility and putting it in the shadow. This phenomenon was nothing new since it has accompanied the Arab-Israeli conflict since the beginning, more particularly for the past several years, with the steady effort to delegitimise Israel that one can see in the Muslim-Arab world.[44]


            This systematic effort aimed at undermining the legitimacy of the Israeli Operation ‘Cast Lead’ has been done on three levels, all closely interwoven in the Palestinian propaganda: the humanitarian situation, the behaviour of Tsahal and its techniques of combat and the  notion of proportionality. Apart from the obvious determination to force a halt to the Israeli military action, it is the image itself of the Jewish state that was targeted as we see from the hate demonstrations that took place in various cities of Europe and elsewhere, as well as the resurgence of anti-Semitic acts around the world.[45]

    1. The humanitarian cause as an arm of war


            Thus, the war in Gaza was marked by the use of the humanitarian cause as an arm of war by Hamas and the detractors of the Israeli military action. The interest, as we have just seen, was simultaneously to attract international sympathy, to apply pressure on Jerusalem and thus eventually to halt its offensive before Tsahal could completely destroy Hamas and, finally, to delegitimise Israel as such.


            From this angle, one could note immediately after the start of Operation ‘Cast Lead’ a wave of alarmist statements concerning the Palestinians’ humanitarian situation. The NGOs represented on site were very quick to march in step with these declarations, stating in particular that nearly a half million Gazans were living without water and without electricity while Israel failed to respect international law on humanitarian matters. These accusations of disregard for humanitarian law by the Israeli authorities and these numbers were taken up by the European Commissioner on Humanitarian Aid Louis Michel, who seemed to forget at once that in principle a normally constituted human being cannot survive more than three or four days without drinking water.  If, then, as the European Commissioner suggested, Israel did not provide the necessary humanitarian aid, and when one knows that the war lasted nearly three weeks, you have to ask whether the Palestinian population of Gaza was not of Martian origin.


            To be sure, the situation of the civilian population of Gaza was very difficult during the Israeli operations, but humanitarian aid was never halted. Moreover, it is interesting to note that Israel authorised the passage of convoys of humanitarian aid even before the military operations, proof that the Israeli authorities were aware of the situation that the population of Gaza could experience from escalation in the region, of the intentions of Hamas and its epigones to brand humanitarian aid as a weapon through the media.[46]


            Let us recall that apart from the Rafah transfer point with Egypt, there are four crossings between the Gaza Strip and Israel: Kerem Shalom, Karni, Nahal Oz and Erez. In total, between 28 December 2008 and 18 January 2009 there were 1,503 lorries and 37,159 tonnes of humanitarian aid which entered the Gaza Strip using these crossings. 706 of the 1,503 lorries of humanitarian aid consisted of donations coming from numerous international organisations and private donors.


            For example, just on the border crossing of Kerem Shalom there were 14,208 tonnes of flour, 1,283 tonnes of rice, 2,356 tonnes of sugar, 1,305 tonnes of oil, 477 tonnes of vegetables, 3,595 tonnes of animal feed and 1,038 tonnes of medical equipment and medicines which entered the Gaza Strip. The crossing at Karni saw the transfer of nearly 1,638 tonnes of animal feed, 162 tonnes of grain, 84 tonnes of barley and 1,975 tonnes of wheat. In all, nearly 30,000 tonnes of food were delivered to the Gazans via the various Israeli border crossings during the war, to which one must add 160 tonnes of blankets.


            In addition, 188,000 litres of fuel for UNRWA were delivered by  the terminal of Nahal Oz, as well as a total of 1,535,750 litres of heating oil for the electric power generating plant fuel of Gaza, delivered by the crossings of Nahal Oz et Kerem Shalom, without forgetting the 234 tonnes of gas for households.


            To this already considerable humanitarian effort, one must add 20 ambulances provided by the governments of Turkey and Jordan as well as 10 others by CICR to meet the needs of the Palestinian Red Crescent. Some 449 inhabitants of Gaza with double nationality were evacuated and 68 chronically ill as well as their entourage were able to leave for Israel, the West Bank or Jordan. Finally, one should note the establishment at Erez of a hospital for the area run by the Magen David Adom (Israeli Red Cross).[47]


            At the level of food and medical supplies, as regards humanitarian aid from the international community, the biggest sources were the World Food Programme (WFP), UNRWA and Jordan. However, the humanitarian aid furnished through the Israeli border crossings was not interrupted when fighting ended, since Israel continued to allow its delivery to the Gaza Strip. Thus, ever since the end of hostilities, 68,984 tonnes of aid and

5, 264,300 tonnes of fuel were transferred to the Gazans.[48]


            As we see, despite the criticism formulated against it during Operation ‘Cast Lead,’ Israel provided a considerable effort intended to bring the population of Gaza humanitarian assistance, thereby avoiding certain catastrophe, and the evidence is the low number of deaths despite the high density of population. We must recall as we mentioned above that many humanitarian organisations claimed during the war that nearly 550,000 persons were without water and without electricity. This is all the more remarkable given that the combat was sometimes very violent and the theatre of operations was very complicated. Consequently, one must agree that Israel respected international humanitarian law by delivering assistance to the civilian population and permitting various organisations present on the ground to act in its favour. We see very well here how the famous theory of the five circles devised by Warden was adapted by Tsahal to the constraints of asymmetrical warfare.


    1. Proportionality


            The other point over which the critics of Israel flew into a rage had to do with the  notion of proportionality. The idea of a disproportion in the Israeli military operation was taken up by a chorus right from the start of Operation ‘Cast Lead’ by various European chancelleries and then by numerous international diplomats, entities of the UN or other humanitarian organisations. If, in general, the Western leaders conceded that Israel had the right to defend itself, they on the other hand deemed disproportionate the response and how it was conducted. Everyone seemed to agree on basing this argument on the number of Palestinian deaths and the burden borne by the Gazan population during the war, with the humanitarian situation presented in all the media as catastrophic. Therefore it would not appear to be irrelevant to look closely into this concept of proportionality, a legal concept going back to the laws of war and to discussions about the just war and the relations between war and ethics.

            Let us observe straightaway that those who believed that the Israeli action was disproportionate due to a imbalance between the number of killed in the two camps have a very strange view of war. Thus, for them, if two persons were killed on one side, two should be killed on the other. Neither more, nor less. If  Hamas uses rockets which it fires willy-nilly on Israeli civilians, then, according to this reasoning, Israel should also fire indiscriminately the same number of rockets, trying as intentionally as Hamas to kill the same number of civilians on the other side. This is absurd.


            In reality, these criticisms seem to ignore that war is not an act of retribution, as  Michael Walzer recalled in an article published during the war in the New Republic.[49] There is something else in war than a simple and macabre accounting that makes it enter into a dimension aimed at an objective, even sometimes an expectation. Certain wars seek to stop a spiral of violence or to reestablish equilibrium, to avert a dramatic geopolitical situation or still more terrible consequences.


             One example can be drawn from the history of the Second World War. One of the reproaches of military historians vis-à-vis England and France concerns their attitude towards Germany when it invaded Poland. Immediately after this invasion, the two countries declared war on Germany but they refrained from attacking. It was what has been called ‘the phony war.’ However, if England and France had understood the chain of events that was just unleashed with this attack on Poland by Hitler, while the main group of Nazi divisions were engaged in the conquest of Poland, they could have probably changed the course of history and saved Europe from catastrophe and a world war. In this case, a Franco-English invasion of Germany would have been perfectly proportionate with respect to the early risk of an invasion of all of Europe by Hitler’s armies. We see here clearly that judgment and anticipation can be incorporated into the concept of proportionality, just as global and geopolitical reasoning.


            It is this essential element of reasoning about proportionality that was advanced by a goodly number of diplomats and Israeli leaders when they explained the need to strike at the Hamas establishment in Gaza: in six months of truce, the Islamists of Gaza had increased their arsenal of rockets both quantitatively and qualitatively. Indeed, before the truce, they only had the Qassam with its short range. Now they have the Grad imported from Iran which can reach certain Israeli urban areas as far away as Beer-Sheva. What would they have in six months or a year later? Aside from the fact that the firings of the rockets has lasted already eight years, could the Israeli authorities wait to see the threat extend to the large metropolitan areas such as Tel-Aviv and the Israeli economic heartland that surrounds it? Is it reasonable for a government to let an enemy who has been striking at its population daily for eight years to improve his capabilities of inflicting destruction on its population, and to do so arguing in terms of proportionality?


            As we see, things are not so simple. We enter a hazy area, partly linked to speculation. War proceeds from a calculation which is not always looking at the past but often looking to the future. Moreover, it often happens that the two dimensions are mixed up, adding to the complexity. Let us therefore look more deeply into this question, taking in recent events in the Near East, and we will return to this notion of just war which has developed in the West over the past several decades.


    1. Jus ad       bellum and jus in       bello


            The law of the just war generally makes two essential distinctions: the jus ad bellum and the jus in bello. To summarise, the jus ad bellum makes reference to the idea of legitimate defence and to the means selected by a government to respond to an attack. The action must be legitimate from the point of view of the decision to use force and of its nature (targeted air strikes or a regular invasion of an aggressor State or one sheltering hostile forces). The jus in bello is in relation to the behaviour of the armed forces on the ground, its combat techniques, the means deployed to differentiate as well as possible the combatants from non-combatant civilians. On the one hand, thus, the principle of recourse to war, and on the other, its conduct properly speaking.


            As regards the jus ad bellum, most Western leaders were generally in agreement that Israel has the right to defend itself, even if this was strictly rhetorical. On the other hand, the decision to unleash a large-scale military operation by Jerusalem was severely condemned by the commentators, particularly by the Western diplomats and political leaders with the notable exception of members of the American political class. One can say the same for the conduct of operations on the ground by Tsahal, which comes right out of jus in bello.


            But let us look at things more attentively. As for the legitimate defence accorded to  Israel, we find the two arguments mentioned above: the need to react to eight years of  bombardments of the South of Israel[50] by putting an end to the attitude of Hamas, and the determination to prevent a qualitative jump in the Hamas arsenal, which would certainly have the possibility of striking at the demographic, political and economic heartland of Israel in the months to come given the dangerous progression of its capabilities to fire on the Jewish state. Let us note that our leaders would have done the same, as we heard from François Léotard, former French Minister of Defence, during an interview.[51] Consequently, the criticisms over the very idea of Operation ‘Cast Lead’ seem to be just hypocritical. One might mention one of the real criteria of proportionality: last resort. But here as well Israel had the law on its side, since it waited several years and deployed many political paths, such as negotiating a truce and a unilateral withdrawal, and it opted for restraint in the face of numerous attacks and other Palestinian provocations before launching this large-scale operation, which, by the way, caused debates within the Israeli political class for some time already. The statements of the former French Minister of Defence or of Barak Obama himself[52] are all the more relevant. In a word, it seems that the principle of  jus ad bellum was respected very well.


            Let’s move on to jus in bello. We can note straightaway that those who criticised the conduct of the Israeli operation have made their pronouncements based only on figures published by the Palestinian Minister of Health… directed by Hamas. As if by chance, these numbers have never distinguished between civilian non-combatants and the combatants themselves, thus blending Hamas in with the population. Furthermore, by publishing its assessment, Hamas had every interest in inflating the numbers of deaths for obvious reasons that were mentioned above. We shall not forget that we are in real asymmetrical warfare and the media are arms while humanitarian aid is a means of delegitimising the adversary in the eyes of the world. But the commentators have clearly not taken that into account in their judgment on the Israeli operations. Thus, neutrality has unfortunately been scorned to the benefit of Hamas.


           Nonetheless, civilians have died and this is evidently regrettable. Many questions arise here. First, in regard to the principle of proportionality, we want to know who is responsible for the presence of civilians on the battlefield. Second, did the army which attacked do everything in its power to limit civilian casualties or at least to reduce the suffering of the civilian population?


            As for the first question, the fact is that it is not only addressed to Israel but to both warring parties, something which most commentators seem to have forgotten. In the case of Israel, one has to mention the massive release of printed warning flyers, even the dispatch of sms messages to Palestinian portable telephones in order to warn the civilian population of the dangers it risked due to the military operations.[53] On the other hand, it is appropriate to underline the systematic use by Hamas of civilians as human shields. This is, however, clearly a war crime which has been denounced very seldom in the media. The rare condemnations which took place were often made after the conflict, when the media coverage had lost its intensity.[54] Thus, one must emphasise that the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid, Louis Michel himself, clearly denounced the attitude of Hamas concerning Palestinian civilians, thereby qualifying his own lack of vigour during the war.[55]


            But the question most frequently mentioned in the course of the conflict with respect to  proportionality from the point of view of jus in bello concerned the Israeli efforts aimed at preventing civilian casualties or at least  reducing them insofar as possible. The intensive use of flyers, systematic recourse to sophisticated means of observation such as drones in order to identify the targets when combat conditions so permitted, the recourse to such tactics as, for example, the use of decoys intended to reveal clearly the Hamas sources of fire,[56] the systematic use of precision guided munitions such as the weapons guided by GPS or by laser, and the deployment of missiles guided by optronics that can be diverted in real time all attest to major efforts by Tsahal to spare the civilian population of Gaza the throes of combat.


            Let us add that even the controversial use of phosphorus weapons or DIME weapons is in reality a show of determination to limit civilian casualties.[57] We recall that this type of equipment was born out of the reflections of Western armies the day after the war of ex-Yugoslavia. It should be remembered that at the time, NATO was severely criticised and even accused of war crimes. The TPI for ex-Yugoslavia otherwise had to decide on this question, and it did so in favour of NATO.[58] However, after the operations, the Western nations looked for  technological means to reduce the civilian losses to a better extent. As Joseph Henrotin, a researcher at CAPRI and specialist in military and strategic questions notes, it is paradoxical that use of these munitions especially designed to reduce civilian casualties and thus to better conform to the international provisions kill all the same.[59] The result is that they end up at the heart of the polemic and are turned against their users.[60]


            In general, we emphasise that use of phosphorus munitions is not prohibited; the ban covers only the offensive anti-personnel versions in a civilian milieu. Israel did not use this type. The phosphorus munitions employed by Tsahal are in reality just smokescreen and illumination munitions intended to assist the troops on the ground and they are used by many armies of NATO. Moreover, Israel never signed the protocol relating to use of phosphorus arms and therefore is not bound by its provisions.[61]


            Definitively and despite the polemic over the level of civilian losses during Operation ‘Cast Lead,’ it is appropriate to highlight the fact that notwithstanding the very high population density (more than 4,000 inhabitants per km²), the high number of persons living in the Gaza Strip (1.4 million inhabitants), the heavy intensity of the fighting and the considerable fire power deployed by the forces present, but also facing the clear and evident will of Hamas to use the population of Gaza as human shields, the number of civilians killed is remarkably low and is even below the level observed in most conflicts in a heavily urbanised area.[62]


            Consequently, even if one must regret the lost of innocent civilians during the recent conflict in Gaza, one must conclude that the Israeli action was proportionate. Manifestly, Tsahal was able to operate in a very complex environment and even if it was impossible to totally avoid the death of civilians during military operations, Israel clearly succeeded in reducing the burden to the maximum.


            It is on the other hand regrettable that the total focus of the media without any nuance has been on the behaviour of Tsahal and the responsibility of Hamas escaped the attention of the commentators. It should be underlined here that this silence was true not only of the media but also of the politicians, even the humanitarian actors who were too involved in bringing accusations against Israel to be able to look into the behaviour of Hamas.[63] However, theirs was a textbook case of war crimes. Thus, Professor Irwin Cotler,[64] a specialist in international law, listed 6 characteristic violations of international law by Hamas : intentionally targeting civilians,; attacking from civilian zones (hospitals, mosques, residential areas, near schools…) ; improper use and misappropriation of humanitarian symbols (UNRWA, Red Cross, taking over ambulances, use of UN flags, disguising themselves as doctors…) ; incitation to genocide in the very charter of Hamas; recruitment of children into armed conflict; finally, the very extent of their deliberate and large scale (going on for eight years) attacks on civilians raise the war crimes to the rank of crime against humanity. [65]


  1. Anti-Israeli      and anti-Semitic demonstrations


            The shift of the conflict to the level of ethics and the virulent criticisms of Tsahal which followed the start of military operations thus rapidly led the discussion to the realm of criminalising Israel. The consequences did not take long to come and rapidly crossed over into the television shows and the newspaper columns, spilling over into a great many demonstrations all over the world. The demonstrators at these big gatherings were unanimous in their condemnation of the Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip and in censuring the Jewish state. These events were often followed by violence and were also marked by openly anti-Semitic slogans reminiscent of the dark hours of the second Intifada or the conference of Durban, South Africa in September 2001. These hate demonstrations coincided with a resurgence of anti-Semitic acts the world over and in particular in Europe.[66] This crisis also was marked by the cancellation of a certain number of events anticipated long before, such as a commemoration of the Shoah in Catalunia[67] or an exhibition on architecture in Tel-Aviv at the institute of La   Cambre in Brussels,[68] without counting the artists, in France, who had to cancel shows, victims of pressure and newfound accusations.[69]


            It is difficult not to see in the breadth of these demonstrations and in the resurgence of anti-Semitic acts a brutal change in the mentalities of certain milieus, just as it is also difficult not to make the connection between this pernicious situation and the treatment that the media reserved for the Israelli Operation ‘Cast Lead.’ We see here the limits of the Israeli adaptation to asymmetry in the face of the dictatorship of emotion mentioned above and the media often more moved by debatable selections of their editors or quite simply by the easy attraction of the sensational so that they consequently forget too quickly the need for complex and subtle analysis.


            The question is to know if a break with the past was established on the occasion of this conflict. How do you explain in fact that a commemoration of the Shoah is purely and simply cancelled, manifestly for political reasons? Isn’t there here a doubtful parallel which was established too often these past few weeks between the genocide of millions of innocents, motivated by the demonic caprice of a barbaric ideologue and the unfortunate death of hundreds of people in a different situation when not all of them were innocent, moreover, and some were guilty of war crimes, as we have shown?[70] 

            Another disturbing element is the information during the war announcing a campaign to boycott Western and Jewish companies and banks[71] and the threats[72] against European,

American and Jewish interests, emanating it would seem from the Middle East. Despite the difficulty of locating precisely the source(s) of this kind of threat, wasn’t there here some link as disturbing as with the affair of the Danish caricatures?[73]  Hence we have the following question: haven’t certain forces, in the Middle East or in Europe, profited from the recent events in Gaza and from the cloudy atmosphere which has reigned in Europe to demonstrate their strength and press their advantage? Because we must not forget that Hamas is also, above all, an emanation of the Muslim Brotherhood. Here we come back to the questions over the blindness, the accommodating attitude of certain media milieus and politicians during the Israeli operation.[74]


  1. The      support of Hamas by the Israeli Arab parties


            But one other break with the past was manifest on the occasion of the crisis in Gaza. The Israeli Arab parties openly supported Hamas against the Jewish state, and their leaders made particularly aggressive statements against Israel and Tsahal.[75] In reality, this attitude is not new and was already observed during the last war of 2006 in Lebanon and during the still earlier Israeli operation in Gaza, ‘Hot Winter’.[76] However, this time it seems that the leaders of the Israeli Arab community crossed over into a new stage, radicalising their speech. The reaction of the whole of the Israeli political class did not take long to come, condemning the statements and the attitude of the Arab deputies. Consequently the electoral commission even recognised banning the parties judged to be disloyal from the legislative elections of 10 February 2009. However, a contrary finding by the Israeli High Court of Justice allowed them to participate in the elections.[77] Nevertheless, it seems that this movement by them all has now pushed a part of the Israeli electorate to support the party of the Russian-speaking leader Avigdor Lieberman, Israel Beitenu, standing for tough policies towards the Israeli Arabs and recommending, in particular, a code  of citizenship lest the Israeli nationality fall apart.


            Manifestly, a very clear break has also appeared within Israeli society over Operation ‘Cast Lead.’ The radicalisation of the Israeli Arab leaders suddenly raised tensions between the Arab community and their Jewish fellow citizens in Israel. In any case, Israeli society finds itself at a crossroads and must face up to a problem that it ignored up to the present: the wager made by the leaders of the Israeli Arab community on the definitive weakening of Israel and of its disappearance in the years to come,[78] mortgaging the already problematic integration of this community within the Jewish state. From the taking of this problem into account by the Israeli elites and from the response that they bring to it will depend the future of relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel and in the region, with, running through it, the success or failure of the wager made till now by the various movements of traditional Zionism on peaceful coexistence between Arabs and Jews.


  1. A      progression in the positions of Arab nationalism?


            Thus confirming the simultaneous progression of the process of criminalising and delegitimising Israel in the West and in particular in Europe, associated with a resurgence of anti-Semitism without any complexes, on the one hand, and the radicalisation displayed by the Israeli Arab leaders on the other hand, one may wonder if the crisis in Gaza has not been marked by a progression of the Palestinian and Arab theses at the expense of Israel. Let us recall that Palestinian nationalism always sought above all to discredit Israel and to weaken it, not having the power to destroy it directly by force of arms. One can thus clearly discern two distinct but complementary paths in the Palestinian strategy since the Oslo Process, indeed since the period between 1967 and 1974, the date when the PLO modified its strategy of  the destruction of Israel to opt instead for a programme ‘by stages.’[79] The essential thing is thus for Palestinian  nationalism to cut  Israel off from Europe, by changing public opinion and the elites.


            Indeed, in the Muslim-Arab world, Israel is generally presented as an emanation of the West and of Europe in particular situated in the very heart of the ‘Arab’ or ‘Muslim nation.’  According to these theses, this ‘emanation’ is in part the result of Western guilt towards the Jews following the Shoah. Hence, a presentation of a ‘mirror image’ conflict, where Israel is presented with the features of the executioner and Nazified, while the Palestinian victims are suffering from a genocide, from war crimes, from massacres and other crimes against humanity. This strategy is not new and already has met with a certain success in the past, such as the infamous association between Zionism and racism in a resolution of the UN in 1975 (since cancelled).[80]


            On this level, the demonstrations observed in Europe, the resurgence of anti-Semitic acts, the Manichean presentation of the conflict as strictly for the account of Israel  by the media, the accommodating posture of the political, media and intellectual milieus towards the Islamist propaganda of Hamas (as yesterday with Hezbollah), tend to demonstrate that we have entered a new stage and that a break with the past appears to be taking place, isolating Israel from Europe and, besides that, from Western public opinion.


            But the Arab nationalism also is acting on another level against Israel by operating in a subtle manner behind the scenes in the direction of an irredentist policy. From the statements of Mahmud Abbas in the past, during the second Intifada, we can, moreover, glimpse the hopes of the Palestinian leaders vis-à-vis the Israeli Arab population. While this population seems for the moment to prefer Israeli citizenship, its leaders have nevertheless manifestly chosen a posture that is clearly less conciliatory and opted to challenge the State of Israel, at the risk of a clash between the Jewish and Arab communities of this country. There, as well, a break seems to be going on, with a progression in the positions of Arab nationalism. The correlation of this progression with the improvement in the capabilities of Islamic forces coming from the Middle East to penetrate into European society, as we have been able to discern from certain indices, can only be all the more worrying.


  1.  Summary:      mixed results


            Before concluding, it is time to draw up a summary of the main points of this analysis. After three weeks of operations in the Gaza Strip, Israel clearly obtained a military victory over Hamas. Operation ‘Cast Lead’ demonstrated notable progress on the part of Tsahal compared to 2006, when it was barely able to force a decision against the Hezbollah. The Israeli Army has thus proven its great capabilities to strike thanks to a return to combined operations and to a better balance between air and ground power. Obvious progress was made in terms of logistics. The chain of command was revised. Equipment which was formerly lacking for reservists was now available to the troops on the ground. Above all, Tsahal could show its great capacity for adapting itself to an asymmetric enemy who tried, without success, to take its inspiration from the techno-guerilla methods of Hezbollah. Its creativity, its innovative tactics linked to very high technology were the determining factors on the ground. One other major fact is that the intelligence was remarkable, relying on a network of human informers and on flawless technological information gathering. This is what enabled Tsahal to turn in this quite unusual performance. Thus, close examination of Operation ‘Cast Lead’ reveals that  Tsahal is truly one of the best armies in the world. Israel has in this way been able to fully restore its powers of dissuasion on the strictly military plane on the occasion of this  operation, and Tsahal showed itself to be a first quality tool on the field of battle, including in an urban setting.


            On the other hand, the political results seem more uncertain. While Tsahal could visibly incorporate the recommendations of the Winograd Commission, what about the political ranks? The determination of the objectives is political and goes back to the decision-making branch of government in the final instance, placing it at that point at the head of the political-military chain of command. It was precisely the latter at which the Winograd Commission pointed its finger, even if in the end it showed itself rather forgiving towards the political leadership, in a manner that was rather unexpected otherwise.[81] Moreover, doesn’t the concept of dissuasion, though military, finally depend on politics and shouldn’t one rather speak of political-military dissuasion? The behaviour of the Israeli government and the political outcome of Operation ‘Cast Lead’ should thus have demonstrated the incorporation by the political ranks of the criticisms coming from the failed war of 2006 against Hezbollah in Lebanon.


            The military operations ended and Hamas was indisputably beaten by Tsahal after three weeks of engagement in the course of which the Islamists were unable to halt the progress of the Israeli Army, failing to cause anything more than very minor losses and even failing to capture any soldiers, a project that was many times expressed before and during the operations. However, the political result seems all the more uncertain given that objectives announced by the Israeli authorities clearly were not attained. To be sure, the war did not end with an unsteady resolution dangerous for the security of Israel and equilibrium in the region such as was the case in 2006 with resolution 1701, negotiated through the efforts of the present Minister of Foreign Affairs Tsipi Livni and her former American counterpart Condoleezza Rice. But the picture is hardly brilliant given the absence of any agreement concerning the rearming of Hamas, and despite declarations of good intentions by many Western countries. Though Egypt seems effectively to take somewhat more seriously the matter of controlling its border with the Gaza Strip, there is no reason to say that the smuggling of arms will stop once and for all. However, this is the key to the entire stabilisation of the southern front for Israel and one of the avowed objectives of its military operation.


            In the same vein, it seems that the Israeli government has not ensured control over the Philadelphia Line by withdrawing its troops, no doubt prematurely, right after the announcement of the unilateral cease-fire. All at once, the smuggling of arms resumed. No accord was yet concluded with Hamas at the moment these lines were being written, despite persistent and contradictory rumours in the press, coming especially from Arab language newspapers.[82] People speak of a truce of one year or of one year and a half. But wasn’t it the  conclusion of a truce and the setback that resulted from it which allowed Hamas to rearm after the previous military operation in the Gaza Strip, the Operation ‘Hot Winter’ in February-March 2008 ?


            Another case stagnating in the twists and turns of improbable negotiations between Israel and Hamas is that of Guilad Shalid, who remains in the hands of his Islamist abductors despite all international conventions. Moreover, his liberation was never truly mentioned as an objective during the three weeks of military operations.


            Finally, and above all, Hamas remains alive, and this allows it to cry ‘victory.’ The war was barely over and the Islamists resumed their control over the Gaza Strip, with the iron fist that we know. Some NGOs issued criticisms. But isn’t it somewhat late to do that when they had the opportunity during the war and even before? It also has to be said that the Israeli authorities never were able to agree on the future of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, torn as they were between fear of anarchy in Gaza and fear of an Islamist enemy at the gates of the localities in the South of Israel. We must not forget the dissensions between the members of the triumvirate at the head of the Israeli government so close to the elections of 10 February in Israel. Meanwhile the rocket fire continues, though sporadically, regularly obliging the Heyl Ha’Avir to act.[83]


            It seems that the Israeli government has neglected the fact that in an asymmetrical war not losing is a victory for the asymmetrical actor. And for the latter not losing sometimes means simply remaining alive. Has the Israeli government once again lacked determination in its conduct of the war? Isn’t that once again a bad message sent out by Israel to its enemies and to the forces destabilising the region? Perhaps it is time for the Israeli leaders to think over the now famous maxim of General Beaufre according to which war is a dialectic of wills.


            And the regional picture is no better. The war in Gaza revealed an Arab world that is divided, torn apart by the question of Iranian expansion on one hand and propaganda intended to calm passions among the peoples of the Middle East, who are often confronting the negligence and corruption of the governors in place, on the other hand. Let us add to this the collective unconscious which deems Israel always to be at the centre of all the problems of the Muslim-Arab world and then we can understand the difficulties of Arab leaders to agree on a common line in the face of the danger that Islamism poses in the region.


            Moreover, one may point out the role, still poorly understood, of the Muslim Brotherhood in the course of this conflict, including on the European stage, where they are well established. We must not forget that Hamas is one of their emanations and that the Jihadist and Salafist milieu draw their inspiration from it. Here is what casts a still darker shadow on the demonstrations that took place in the whole world and especially in Europe, where some openly anti-Semitic  slogans were able to flower, given the opportunity.


            Iran is another heavy-weight regional actor. While it undeniably supports Hamas, it is difficult to make a determination on its gains in the operation. Did it come out strengthened as as a result of ‘Cast Lead’? On the military level, Hamas was badly hit and it will take time for it to reconstitute itself. But given that Israel’s political advantage is not assured and that all the conditions necessary for depletion of the sources of re-supply of arms to Hamas did not come together, one cannot yet judge the cost for Iran of the war in Gaza. In fact, all will depend both on the new Israeli leadership coming out of the recent legislative elections, though its face will not be recognizable for many weeks, and the new American policy of the Obama Administration, about which we know already that it will favour a policy of détente and negotiations with Iran, with a view to concluding an understanding, the old dream of certain American political milieus.


            As for Turkey and Egypt, they are standing at a crossroads. Egypt, above all, is now facing a crucial choice regarding Hamas, under the doubly destabilising pressures of the Muslim Brotherhood and of Iran. In this context, the coordination of its policy with Israel and the United States is one of capital importance for its future. But its political, military ad diplomatic action will not be the only factor permitting Egypt to take the right direction or not. In this shifting context, its domestic policy will be in the hot seat, with, in particular, its propaganda that is virulently anti-Semitic and not very propitious for regional stability, all signs of paradox of a tired regime that is too weak to totally control its own army and is secreting its own poison, which nourishes precisely its most dangerous enemies, located in the inner suburbs of Cairo.


            The Palestinian Authority is not better off. The persistence of Hamas in Gaza does not spell a better local base for it, despite a renewed proposal of dialogue with Hamas, in view of a still impossible understanding on the Palestinian national government. And the statements by Western diplomats who are full of good intentions in favour of strengthening Mahmud Abbas can do nothing about this. Besides, the Palestinian national movement seems to remain trapped in its own myths and in its contradictions, which still mortgage even more the settlement of the Arab-Israeli dispute.


            On the international level, one must bring up the unique situation which prevails in  Europe. A powerful alliance between media, politicians and intellectuals is now in place and has shown its virulence, poisoning the discussions on the occasion of the Israeli Operation ‘Cast Lead.’ The clear exploitation of ethics and international law was not the only fact of Arab and Islamist propaganda. It clearly benefited from the accommodating stance, even the zeal of certain Western milieus and in particular in Europe. While the Arab-Israeli conflict will only find its solution in education and the eradication of anti-Semitism in the Middle East, perhaps Europe might begin to do the same and not turn its back on its memory, painful as it is. Without this, it will necessarily lose credibility both on the moral and on the political levels.  It was the very heart of its civilisation that was affected a bit more during this war. The violent demonstrations that took place on its soil and the resurgence of anti-Semitism that we witnessed unfortunately are just the tangible and disturbing signs of this.


  1.  Conclusion


            As we see, the only visible breaks with the past that were manifest on the occasion of the war in Gaza were not necessarily positive and, on the contrary, prompt prudence, even disquiet. It is consequently difficult to consider the Israeli Operation ‘Cast Lead’ to have been a success. Israel showed that it restored an effective tool of dissuasion with the irrevocable victory of Tsahal on the ground, and Hamas was really hit very hard. Nonetheless, despite this military weakening of Hamas in Gaza, Hamas remains standing and well installed. Its hold on power and its strong socio-political base in the region leave a perpetual danger hanging over Israel, while they put a long term strain on the Palestinian Authority, mortgaging any possibility of peace agreement in the region.


            But Hamas also constitutes the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and the recent conflict in Gaza has shown that the Brotherhood possesses a dangerous power to destabilise the region and Europe. The combination at the same time of the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East and in Europe, the progress of the theses of Palestinian-Arab nationalism which has not departed from its pathological substance, and the retention of a power to cause trouble by Iran, an openly revisionist power whose expansionism has never been denied, can only be disturbing. The conjunction of Islamism and nationalism in the Middle East still has its best days ahead of it, even if it seems that the former has taken the ascendant for the past several years and that it engulfs the second, as we see in Palestinian society.


            The mixed results of Operation ‘Cast Lead’ was due essentially to a lack of will among the Israeli leadership in a context that was, to be sure, determined by the political calendar, to the weakness of Egypt, with its responsibility for smuggling of arms destined for the Gaza Strip, and the accommodative stance of the European and Western elites vis-à-vis the anti-Israeli theses, even when this implies support for the Islamists. None of this augurs well for a Middle East that will be more stable tomorrow and it explains why the map of the region has not changed positively on the occasion of the war in Gaza.


            While the Western powers seem now to have become aware of the need to cut the sources of re-supply of arms to Hamas by supporting Israel and Egypt, it seems that the latter is well at the heart of the struggle against the Islamists of Hamas. Its fragility is unfortunately not a promise of success. This is without doubt the weak link where Iran and the Islamists will seek to act in the future. But what can we think of the American strategy which is being drawn up by the American administration of Barack Obama, which seems to prioritise a form of détente and is actively seeking some kind of arrangement with Iran, appearing to ignore in passing the nature of the danger from Islamism?



Copyright © ESISC 2009



[1] This is in fact a reference to the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, the celebration of which coincided with the abrupt rise of tension in the region. More precisely, this code name goes back to a popular song written by the great poet Chaim Bialik, a highly placed figure in Hebrew poetry: ‘ My master has given me a spinning top cast in lead. Do you know in whose honour? In honour of Hanukkah!’ This is a reference to a popular game for children, the dreidel.  The spinning top in question has a parallelepiped shape and on its four faces there are inscribed the Hebrew letters ‘ nun,’ ‘ gimel,’ ‘he’ and ‘ shin,’ forming the acronym of the sentence ‘a great miracle occurred there.’  It should be recalled that the holiday of Hanukkah commemorates the victory of the  Hasmoneans over Antiochus IV of Syria following a two year war whose historic context is described in the Book of the Maccabees, which is not included in the body of Hebrew Bible. In reality, the significance for the Jews of this holiday is explained in the Talmud: after the victors chased the desecrators from the Temple, they could not find more than one flask of holy oil, which was intended to burn just one day. However, it burned for the eight days needed to produce new oil thanks to a miracle which is thus celebrated in Jewish liturgy right up to the present day. This is the reason why this holiday is called the Festival of Lights and lasts eight days.

[2] During the six months of truce between Israel and Hamas, 362 rockets and mortar shells were fired by Hamas. http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/fr_n/pdf/ipc_f007.pdf.

[3] ‘Abbas is no longer the boss,’ Jerusalem Post (French edition), 09/01/09.

[4] ‘Gen. Dayton admits US is helping Fatah,’ Jerusalem Post, 27/05/07, http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1178708687359&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FPrinter

[5] ‘ To combat Hamas in Judea-Samaria,’ Jerusalem Post (French edition), 16/01/09.

[6] ‘Right up to the destruction of Hamas,’ Jerusalem Post (French edition), 30/12/08. ‘ Israel says it is determined to ‘bring down’ Hamas,’ Le Matin, 29/12/08, http://www.lematin.ch/actu/monde/israel-dit-determine-faire-tomber-Hamas-63047.

[7] ‘ I DF Targets Senior Hamas Leader Said Siam,’ IDF, http://dover.idf.il/IDF/English/News/the_Front/09/01/1502.html.

[8] ‘Heads roll at Hamas,’ Jerusalem Post (French edition), 29/12/09. ‘UAVs Are One Step Ahead in Gaza,’ IDF, http://dover.idf.il/NR/exeres/537834F5-35B8-4928-A743-659AE7FCDEBF.html.

[9] To which one must add the death of four civilians due to the firing of rockets.

[10] ‘The clandestine traffic resumes in Gaza,’ Jerusalem Post (French edition), 21/01/09.

[11] ‘US, Israel sign anti-smuggling deal,’ Yediot Aharonot, 16/01/09.

[12] ‘Don’t count on Egypt,’ Yediot Aharonot, 18/01/09.

[13] ‘Israel has not reached all its objectives in Gaza,’ Le Figaro, 23/01/09.

[14] ‘In Gaza, the NGOs criticise the repressions by Hamas,’ Le Monde, 31/01/09, http://www.lemonde.fr/web/imprimer_element/0,40-0@2-1137859,50-1148835,0.html.

[15] ‘Israel begins pulling troops from Gaza; soldiers say 'could have done more,’’ Yediot Aharonot, 18/01/09. ‘Hamas down but not out,’ Yediot Aharonot, 19/01/09.

[16] ‘We have no interest in destroying Hamas,’ interview with Martin Van Creveld, in Le Figaro, 13/01/09.


[17] See ‘Guerre au Liban: premières leçons,’ by Emmanuel Dubois, Analysis in ESISC, 13/09/06, http://www.esisc.org/documents/pdf/fr/guerre-au-liban.pdf.

[18] We mention for example the purchase of the Trophy protection system from Raphael for the  Merkava tanks.

[19] Without failing to mention its counter-insurgency capabilities demonstrated during the Second Intifada, guiding the victory of Israel during the uprising. ‘Israel's Intifada Victory,’ Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, 18/06/2004, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A50910-2004Jun17.html.

[20] One should add that friendly fire presently constitutes one of the most difficult problems that modern armies encounter (coalition in Iraq, allied forces in Afghanistan…), necessitating constant modifications, including at the technological level.

[21] ‘In Gaza, a mannequin riddled with bullets,’ L’Express, 20/01/09.

[22] John A. Warden is a U.S. Air Force Colonel who wrote the theory of using air power in war. His essential work is ‘The Air Campaign: Planning for Combat. ‘ In his view, the enemy is above all a system organised in five concentric circles: the command (at the centre), the essential organic elements (production, energy…), the infrastructures (communications, highways, ports…), the population, and the armed forces (exterior circle). In order to defeat the enemy, you have to strike at all five circles at the same time. To be sure, this does not necessarily mean destroying them. This theory was central to various campaigns carried out by the armies of NATO - from Desert Storm in 1991 to Iraq in 2003. The Israelis themselves took inspiration from this during the war of 2006 against Hezbollah in Lebanon and it seems that they developed it further during the Operation ‘Cast Lead,’ adapting it to the context of asymmetric warfare.

[24] ‘Livni on UN resolution: We will act only in our interest,’ Ynetnews.com, 09/01/09 http://www.ynet.co.il/english/articles/0,7340,L-3653286,00.html. “Gaza: Hamas "rejects" the Security Council resolution,’ AFP, 09/01/09.

[25] ‘Olmert: UN resolution impractical,’ Ynetnews.com, 09/01/09, http://www.ynet.co.il/english/articles/0,7340,L-3653286,00.html.

[26] ‘Arab League: divisions in an extraordinary meeting,’ Jerusalem Post (French edition), 15/15/01/09. ‘The Arabs paralysed by a "cold war"’ Le Monde, 17/01/09.

[27] See ‘Hamas, the armed wing of Iran,’ by Dimitri Dombret, Analysis, ESISC, 20/01/09, http://www.esisc.org/documents/pdf/en/hamas-the-armed-wing-of-iran-433.pdf.

[28] For the attitude of the Arab press, see: ‘The Media and the Arab public confront the Gaza crisis,’ by Lhoussain Azergui and Claude Moniquet, Analysis, ESISC, 15/01/09, http://www.esisc.org/documents/pdf/en/the-arab-media-and-the-arab-public-confront-the-gaza-crisis-431.pdf.

[29] ‘Egypt: Israel drunk with power, violence,’ Ynetnews.com, 17/01/09, http://www.ynet.co.il/english/articles/0,7340,L-3657564,00.html.

[30] ‘Egypt FM: Hamas gave Israel the excuse to launch Gaza attacks,’ Haaretz, 02/01/09.

[31] ‘Jordanian recalls ambassador to Israel in protest of Gaza op ,’ Ynetnews.com, 09/09/01, http://www.ynet.co.il/english/articles/0,7340,L-3653588,00.html.

[32] The ambiguities of Mahmud Abbas,’ Le Figaro, 31/12/08.

[33] On this point, see ‘De Yasser Arafat au Hamastan: guerre asymétrique et politicide,’ by Emmanuel Dubois, Analysis, ESISC, 17/09/07, http://www.esisc.org/documents/pdf/fr/de-yasser-arafat-au-hamastan-guerre-asymetrique-et-politicide-304.pdf.

[34] Nasrallah: Egypt accomplice in 'Gaza crime'’, Ynetnews.com, 28/12/08, http://www.ynet.co.il/english/articles/0,7340,L-3646081,00.html. ‘ The Arab world demands an accounting from Egypt,’ Le Figaro, 29/12/08, http://www.lefigaro.fr/international/2008/12/29/01003-20081229ARTFIG00187-le-monde-arabe-demande-des-comptes-a-l-egypte-.php.

[35] Facing accusations of "complicity" with Israel, Egypt tries to negotiate a cease-fire,’ Le Monde, 29/12/08.

[36] Egypt to Nasrallah: Our forces can defend nation,’ Ynetnews.com, 29/12/08, http://www.ynet.co.il/english/articles/0,7340,L-3646556,00.html. “Egypt refuses full opening of Gaza crossing », Ynetnews.com, 30/12/08. http://www.ynet.co.il/english/articles/0,7340,L-3647299,00.html.

[37] Cf. Article 2 of the Charter of Hamas.

[38] ‘Sarkozy : ‘Hamas has acted in an unforgivable manner,’ Le Figaro, 05/01/09.

[39] Turkish PM: Israel should be barred from UN,’ Ynetnews.com, 16/01/09, http://www.ynet.co.il/english/articles/0,7340,L-3657237,00.html.

[40] Dear Prime Minister Erdogan,’ David Harris, Jerusalem Post, 01/02/09, http://cgis.jpost.com/Blogs/harris/entry/dear_prime_minister_erdogan_posted

[41] ‘Anti-USA Latin America turns its back on Israel, denounces the conflict in Gaza,’ Le Matin, 17/01/09, http://www.lematin.ch/flash-info/monde/lamerique-latine-anti-usa-tourne-dos-israel-fustige-conflit-Gaza.

[42] ‘Israel is (always) wrong!’ by Claude Moniquet, ESISC, 05/01/09, http://www.esisc.org/documents/pdf/en/israel-is-always-wrong-stupid-426.pdf.

[43] ‘Cosi i ragazzini di Hamas ci hanno utilizzato come bersagli,’ Corriere della Sera, 21/01/09, http://www.corriere.it/esteri/09_gennaio_21/denuncia_Hamas_cremonesi_ac41c6f4-e802-11dd-833f-00144f02aabc.shtml. However, it should be noted that in a special report Tsahal published its own findings after having verified the identity of the persons killed in the course of Operation ‘Cast Lead.’ In this 200-page document, the IDF lists their name, their identity number, the circumstances of their death and, if it was known, to which terrorist group the individual was affiliated. This report, which was opened to the public for the first time on 15/02/09 by the Israeli Army, is based on the numbers published by the Palestinian sources themselves. According to those sources, the Operation caused 1,338 deaths. Nevertheless, Tsahal has till now identified just 1,200 persons; among them, 580 were certified  combatants of Hamas and the other terrorist organisations and 300 were civilians, women and children aged less than 15 years old. The 320 names which remain to classify are all men.  Tsahal, which already has the identification data in the majority of these cases, believes that two-thirds of them were terrorists. It should be noted that among the women, some participated in kamikaze suicide attacks, particularly near the parachute forces and Givati, hence were listed among the combatants. ”'World duped by Hamas death count,'”Jerusalem Post, 16/02/09, http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1233304788684&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull.

[44] In this regard, one must remark that in spite of certain clear criticisms of Hamas by President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmud Abbas, he was obliged to join his rival in denouncing the massacres, the war crimes of Israel against ‘the Palestinian people.’  Another remarkable thing, the numerous appearances of Leila Shahid on television shows and on the radio and the speeches woven from sophistry intended to render Israel systematically guilty of crimes against humanity, just as they were evidently at pains to condemn Hamas for responsibility in this conflict and in the dramatic situation in which the Palestinian Authority finds itself.

[45] ‘Anti-Semitism was down in 2008, except during the period of Operation"Cast Lead" ‘ – The report of the Forum for Coordination of the Fight against Anti-Semitism, http://www.antisemitism.org.il/fra/2008.

[46] ‘Israel reopens its border crossings, the firing continues,’ Reuters, 26/12/08. ‘Israel partly opens Gaza to humanitarian aid,’ Le Figaro, 27/12/08, http://www.lefigaro.fr/international/2008/12/27/01003-20081227ARTFIG00204-israel-entrouvre-Gaza-a-l-aide-humanitaire-.php.

[49] ‘On proportionality,’ Michael Walzer, The New Republic, 08/01/09, http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=d6473c26-2ae3-4bf6-9673-ef043cae914f. Michael Walzer is precisely one of the principal experts in this notion of just war, the author of  Just and Unjust Wars and a professor at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton. Some of the arguments which follow in this analysis have been inspired by this article.

[50] This is one element which is never reported by those who argue from the few Israeli deaths caused by Palestinian bombardments and who forget two things. First, the Israeli authorities do everything in their power to protect their population from the Hamas rockets. Then, a very high number of Israelis living in the South of Israel, and especially in Sderot, are suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic stress. This is the case for nearly 75 to 94% of children aged between 4 and 18 years old. “Study: Most Sderot kids postramatic stress symptom,’ Haaretz, 17/01/08, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/objects/pages/PrintArticleEn.jhtml?itemNo=945489. Certain more recent studies tend to demonstrate that the percentage of post-traumatic symptoms encountered in the population of Sderot is higher than in Gaza : « Study: Over half of Sderot residents are Qassam casualties,’ Ynetnews.com, 24/11/08, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3627943,00.html.

[51] Interview with François Léotard done for Primo-Europe, 13/01/09, http://www.primo-europe.org/impression.php?numdoc=Ed-61807932.

[52] ‘ Obama: Countries must protect citizens,’ Jerusalem Post, 11/01/09.

[53] Independently of this wish to limit as far as possible the losses among the civilian population of Gaza, it is interesting to note as well that certain of these operations of dissemination of flyers and sms mailings could be conducted by Tsahal as PSYOPS, or psychological operations intended, in particular, to drive a wedge between the Gaza population and Hamas.

[54] Let us mention certain criticisms by Amnesty International with regard, for example, to the repression practiced by Hamas in the Gaza Strip which followed the end of military operations. In reality, this Islamist violence is nothing new. We note that it goes on the other way in the West Bank, given that  Fatah and Hamas are in a state of open warfare. 'Hamas rounding up, torturing Fatah activists in Gaza Strip,’ Khaled Abu Toameh, Jerusalem Post, 19/01/09, http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1232292907998&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull. One can mention the accusations of theft of humanitarian goods launched by UNRWA against  Hamas. (‘Hamas has confiscated humanitarian aid from the UN in Gaza,’ AFP, 04/02/09.) There is also nothing new in this, despite the statements of UN agency officials. In fact, these thefts have lasted for a long time and also occurred during the war in Gaza: “Report: Hamas stealing aid supplies to sell to residents,’ Ynetnews, 06/01/09, http://www.ynet.co.il/english/articles/0,7340,L-3651783,00.html. « Jordan says Hamas seizes aid covoy sent to Gaza”, Reuters, 09/02/09, http://www.reuters.com/article/featuredCrisis/idUSL0983878.

[55] ‘The European Commissioner Louis Michel does not spare Hamas,’ L’Express, 26/01/09, http://www.lexpress.fr/outils/imprimer.asp?id=736089.

[56] See note 21.

[57] ‘’Legal’ arms, use criticised,’ Gérald Papy, La Libre Belgique, 14/01/09, http://www.lalibre.be/actu/monde/article/474497/arme-legal-usage-critique.html.

[58] One of the reproaches addressed to NATO concerned the recourse to the air force and high altitude bombardments in particular. NATO responded that it was only concerned to protect its own troops. In this context, the Public Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court for ex-Yugoslavia (TPIY) came down in favour of the Atlantic Alliance. Following the conclusions of a group of experts, he considered that the civilian losses could be reasonably envisaged as being in connection with obtaining a military advantage. Thus, even if it turned out that a different strategy might have reduced the level of civilian losses, the  scale of the risk run by the troops involved could be taken into account, in relation to the obtaining a military advantage, with the choice of the strategy implemented remaining wholly at the discretion of the State intervening.

[59] Interview with RTL+, on 13/01/09, http://video.rtlinfo.be/video/10723.aspx .

[60] Let us recall here that Tsahal is evolving in the same paradigm of using military force as the Western forces deployed in the four corners of the world for the last twenty years. It would be very interesting to compare the codes of engagement of the IDF with those of the various NATO armies.

[61] Protocol on prohibition or limitation of use of incendiary weapons (Protocol III). Geneva, 10 October 1980, http://www.icrc.org/dih.nsf/FULL/515?OpenDocument.

[62] ‘Tsahal progresses prudently,’ interview with Joseph Henrotin by Gérald Papy, la Libre Belgique, 14//01/09, http://www.lalibre.be/article_print.phtml?art_id=474452.

[63] ‘Gaza: some organisations file accusations of ‘war crimes’ before the CPI,’ Le Monde, 13/01/09. It should be remarked that this International Criminal Court has since then declared that it is not competent to hear this subject. However, the Palestinian Authority wrote to the CPI to say that it requested an investigation and accepted its competence. We are thus waiting to see if the Palestinian Authority will be taken to court for the numerous war crimes of which it has been guilty for many years. We otherwise remind the reader that the ‘elected government’ of Hamas is a part of the Palestinian Authority. But it seems that it fears nothing given the impunity that it generally enjoys.

[64] Canadian Deputy and professor of international law at McGillUniversity in Montreal.

[65] ‘Law professor: Hamas is a war crimes 'case study',’ Jerusalem Post, 13/01/09, http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1231866576202&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull.

[66]Jewish communities targeted in Europe ,’ ESISC, 05/01/09, http://www.esisc.org/impression.php?Id=F100211. http://www.esisc.org/impression.php?Id=F10116.

[67] ‘ Catalunia cancels a ceremony commemorating the Shoah because of the Israeli operation,’ CICAD, 23/01/09, http://www.cicad.ch/index.php?id=2086&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=5190&tx_ttnews[backPid]=2085&cHash=8eaa4f3644

[68] It has to do in fact with new developments since after having been cancelled, the exhibition was  rescheduled, no doubt due to numerous protests which followed its cancellation, even among the teachers of La Cambre.  ‘Exhibition suspended: a boycott of Israel?’ Guy Duplat, La Libre Belgique, 04/02/09. ‘Hypocrisy is stranding Tel-Aviv,’ Daniel Couvreur et Danielle Gillemon, Le Soir, 04/02/09. ‘Belgian art and dusters,’ Metula News Agency, 11/02/09, http://www.menapress.com/article.php?sid=2335.

[69] «’Enrico Macias and Arthur victims of anti-Semitism,’ L’Express, 18/01/09, http://www.lexpress.fr/actualite/societe/enrico-macias-et-arthur-victimes-de-l-antisemitisme_732581.html?xtor=RSS-186. In addition, given the clearly anti-Semitic dimension and anti-Zionist hysteria that surrounds these attacks on artists of Jewish origin, one may wonder if we shouldn’t also see there a sad reminder of the boycott that struck Salvatore Adamo in the Arab world after he sang his song Inch’Allah.

[70] We may add that one could compare the results, even those emanating from the services of Hamas and  disseminated by the international media with the results coming from other regions where Western forces operate, such as NATO in Afghanistan presently or in  Kosovo yesterday, in order to understand that the Israeli Army is often less murderous than the others, despite comparable arms,’ ‘A  US investigation confirms the death of 37 civilians in Afghanistan,’ Libération, 09/11/08, http://front.liberation.fr/depeches/0101201508-une-enquete-us-confirme-la-mort-de-37-civils-en-afghanistan. Civilian casualties of the War in Afghanistan (2001–present), Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilian_casualties_of_the_War_in_Afghanistan_(2001%E2%80%93present).

[71]Arab media call for the boycott of Jewish, American and French banks and companies,’ ESISC, 14/01/09, http://www.esisc.org/impression.php?Id=F10142.

[72]Ayman al-Zawahiri calls to attack “Western interests everywhere in the world,’ ESISC, 07/01/09, http://www.esisc.org/impression.php?Id=F100211. AQIM threatens Western and Israeli interests throughout North Africa over Gaza,’ ESISC, 15/01/09, http://www.esisc.org/impression.php?Id=F10170.

[73] Day of Wrathand high risk of anti-Semitic attacks or incidents on Friday,’ ESISC, 15/01/09, http://www.esisc.org/impression.php?Id=F10091.

[74] It should be remarked that the security risk linked to the Israeli Operation ‘Cast Lead’ has already been analysed by ESISC in an overall fashion during a previous Analysis note : “The Terrorist Threat Resulting from the Crisis in Gaza and the Security Risk in the Medium Term,’ by Claude   Moniquet, Analysis, ESISC, 06/01/09, http://www.esisc.org/documents/pdf/en/the-terrorist-threat-resulting-from-the-gaza-crisis-and-the-security-risk-in-the-medium-term-428.pdf.

[75] Salah: If we had an army, it would act,’ Ynetnews.com, 30/12/08, http://www.ynet.co.il/english/articles/0,7340,L-3647463,00.html. Tibi: End war crime in Gaza,’ Ynetnews.com, 09/01/09, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3653532,00.html. MK Zahalka: probe alleged killing of Palestinian POWs in Gaza,’ Ynetnews.com., 08/01/09, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3653166,00.html. ’Israeli minister war criminals,’’ Ynetnews.com, 27/01/09, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3645080,00.html. Sakhnin protest: IDF op a war crime,’ Ynetnews.com, 03/01/09, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3649584,00.html.

[76] Zahalka: Israel wants to kill as many Palestinians as possible,’ Jerusalem Post, 03/03/08.

[77] High Court revokes ban on Arab parties from elections,’ Haaretz, 21/01/09.

[78] ‘Bad winds on the Galilee,’, Ugo Rankl, L’Impact n°37, 23 March 2007, pp. 24-27.

[79] 12th session of the CNP, 1974. Contrary to a tenacious legend, the PLO Charter never has been amended and still calls for the destruction of Israel, despite the now famous declaration of Yasser Arafat  with respect to aspects of the Charter that were under accusation, calling them ‘null and void.”

[80] Resolution 3379 of the General Assembly of the United Nations voted on 10 November 1975 (72 for, 35 against and 32 abstentions). It was cancelled on 16 December 1991 by another resolution (111 for, 25 against and 13 abstentions).

[81] For an analysis of the conclusions submitted by the Winograd Commission, see: ‘Does Winograd Reveal a ‘Disengagement from Democracy’ and the Crumbling of the Nation State?’ Analysis, ESISC, by Emmanuel Dubois, 17/03/08, http://www.esisc.org/documents/pdf/en/winograd-en-370.pdf.

[82] ‘ Hamas says sees Gaza truce deal in next 2-3 days,’ Reuters, 12/02/09, http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSTRE51B72T20090212. ‘The agreement on the freeing of Guilad Shalit is expected to be concluded during the week, according to the newspaper Al Hayyat. The pan-Arab daily states that in parallel with the 18 month truce in Gaza, an exchange of prisoners with Hamas is supposed to be finalised by Wednesday. According to Palestinian sources, Israel is ready to set free 1,000 Palestinian detainees and the exchange ‘is just a matter of time.’ Guysen.International.News, 13/02/2009, 11:00. ‘Hamas: Shalit not part of truce deal,’ Ynetnews.com, 13/02/09, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3671128,00.html. ‘Hamas: Shalit not part of truce deal,’ Ynetnews.com, 13/02/09, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3671128,00.html.

[83] ‘ IAF hits targets in Khan Yunis, Rafah after day of rockets,’ Jerusalem Post, 01/02/09. ‘IAF bombs Gaza weapons manufacturing site after rocket strikes Negev,’ Haaretz, 30/01/09, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/objects/pages/PrintArticleEn.jhtml?itemNo=1059457. ‘IDF strikes Hamas targets after Grad hits Ashkelon,’ Haaretz, 04/02/09, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/objects/pages/PrintArticleEn.jhtml?itemNo=1061353.

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