Days of Change

Middle Eastern Conflict for Nerds

August 1, 2014

There is still a lot of international disdain for Israel, along with the criticisms from various loonies in the American left. However, this is the first time I can remember Israel’s side in their conflicts with the Palestinians has been articulated so often. Essentially, Hamas provokes a conflict with Israel by attack or killing Israelis. When they retaliate, Hamas claims it is some kind of human rights violation and starts launching rockets. Israelis are killed and their buildings are damages. Israel responds by blowing up weapons caches, but Hamas makes sure to put them in places with civilians as human shields, so they can claim Israel is trying to kill civilians. After a number of failed cease-fires, the conflict ends when Israel makes concessions or the Palestinians run out of rockets. Then it’s rearm and repeat.

One reason the Palestinians are not called out more for their actions is because what they do makes no sense. Why would Hamas put their own potential supporters in mortal danger? Why would they use offensive weapons when Israel’s arsenal is vastly superior? Many who are against Israel make the assumption that Palestinians would not do this unless they were desperately (and futilely) fighting for their lives. I propose they are simply employing a more effective strategy given their position.

Let’s say you have limited resources and a driving hatred of a vastly superior neighbor. The historical attack method would be to use terrorism. It employs two weapons the other side doesn’t necessarily use. The lesser force is willing to die to achieve a victory and they are willing to kill their enemy to demoralize them. Hamas has added the element of social media, creating stories (often using the same old stock images) to diminish the moral authority of Israel. The ultimate goal is to wear them down. In some cases it has worked, gaining them territory, which they promptly use to launch closer attacks.

The other day, I decided that the best example I could think of is (naturally) from Star Trek. In “Peak Performance,” Commander Data (the android) plays a game of strategy against a superior opponent. Data is quickly beaten and has an existential crisis where he has to face the fact that he is not superior to a biological life form in the way he processes information. Later in the episode, he adopts a new strategy. Play for a draw and use his superior stamina to win.

Hamas wants to bust Israel up. Knowing that and turning against the Palestinian government that supports Hamas will demoralize them. You can’t win the game until you know what game they are playing.


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