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Sir, It's the Wrong War!
Uri Avnery, Israel
March 10, 2002
After the invasion of the Balata refugee camp by a regular brigade of the IDF, the brigade commander appeared on television and said that he had expected the Palestinians to fight like tigers, but that they behaved like pussycats.
This is a frightening sentence, because it discloses a startling fact: the Brigade commander does not understand in what kind of campaign he is engaged. He has to be told, with all due respect: "Sir, you are fighting the wrong war!"
Clearly, he believes that he is engaged in a conventional war between armies. The enemy is supposed to stand up and fight like men, assault rifles against tanks and fighter planes. The commander and all his colleagues, including the Chief-of-Staff and his deputy, would be well advised to read a good book about guerilla warfare, such as Mao Tse-Tung's treatise, which tells the guerilla fighter: Never confront the regular army. When the army attacks, you disappear. When the army is not ready, you attack.
For example: The army surrounds Arafat in Ramallah; destroy a Merkava tank in Gush Katif. A whole brigade invades Balata; get out and send a single fighter to kill the team of a check-point near Ofrah. A brigade attacks Jenin; get out of their sight and infiltrate Atzmona settlement. The statement by the brigade commander indicates that the IDF is fighting on a front that does not exist, and is not prepared for fighting on the front that is there. It's like a general setting out to conquer Syria and holding a map of the Sudan in his hands.
Since Chief-of-Staff Mofaz and his senior officers don't even understand the nature of this struggle, they are failing. Out of frustration and anger they shoot in all directions and commit a small massacre every day, without any purpose or chance of success. Since they were not trained for this kind of struggle and do not understand it, they are condemned to commit every possible mistake. One after another, they use all the methods that have already failed in Algeria, Kenya, South Africa, Vietnam and a dozen other countries.
They try to starve the inhabitants into submission ("closure"), and inadvertently turn them into potential suicide-bombers with nothing to lose. They assassinate the chiefs of the fighting groups ("targeted prevention"), and clear the way for younger, more efficient and more energetic commanders. They kill massively ("you have to strike them") and turn the relatives of the victims into avengers.
If this is the way of the generals, the "political echelon", composed of pensioned generals, is worse. They imprison Arafat in Ramallah in order to prove that he is "irrelevant", and turn him into the most relevant person in the entire Middle East. As a result, all internal criticism of Arafat has ceased. Practically all Palestinians admire their President, who is taking part in their lot, suffers like them and is risking his life like them.
And beyond that: tens of millions of Arabs, who see rousing reports from beleaguered Palestine every hour on al-Jazira TV, compare the courageous Palestinian leader to their own rulers, who are now very worried indeed. In response they sounded the alarm in Washington and have compelled President Bush to do something.
Sharon and Ben-Eliezer declare that if the Palestinians are made to suffer more and more, they will eventually surrender and agree to live in several Ghettos, as proposed by Sharon. In practice, the opposite is happening: the more the pressure on them mounts, the more their unity grows, their methods of resistance improve and their readiness to suffer and not to surrender increases.
Thousands of Palestinians are ready to undertake actions leading to certain death, and their number is growing. How many Israelis are ready to go into action if there is no chance at all of coming out alive? Palestinians know full well that they are fighting for their very existence; Israelis know that they are fighting for the settlements and bankrupt politicians.
The Israeli government cannot win this struggle. After paying a terrible price—slaughter and destruction—this will become clear to the public, the government will fall and we shall make peace according to the Saudi Crown Prince's excellent proposal.
Uri Avnery is a journalist, writer, and peace activist.
Published in Ma'ariv, March 10, 2002.