The conflict as the Arabs see it

By Ted Belman

I received an email for as associate who has intimate knowledge of the ME:

ALMONITOR is one of several publications that present the Middle East ,generally through Arab eyes. I’m attaching 3 articles to give you the flavor of Hamas thinking. Basically, Hamas does not feel defeated regardless of the reports to the contrary in various Israeli publications which cite military and government officials.
Israel is not only trying to counter Hamas is also trying to reestablish a deterrence posture which will preclude Hezbollah and any other entity from future attacks against Israel. 
1.Why did Hamas ignore the cease-fire?  Shlomi Eldar 7-15-14;
2.Hamas: no cease-fire until siege of Gaza lifted  Adnan Abu Amer 7-14-14;
3. Palestinians struggle to compete with Israeli PR machine  Daoud Kuttab 7-14-14\

Here are some excerpts:

1.Why did Hamas ignore the cease-fire?  Shlomi Eldar 7-15-14;

Still, past experience has shown that Hamas hardly considers attacks on infrastructure and rocket launch sites or the destruction of homes of activists as being especially damaging. The price is tolerable. Hamas can still rise from the ashes and grow even stronger from it. Not a single political or military leader of Hamas was hit. They were all safe and secure in their durable bunkers. The destruction of infrastructure or strikes on rocket stockpiles and launchers are hardly enough to eliminate an organization. All they do is weaken it for a limited time.

If we may borrow an expression coined by Dan Halutz, former chief of the air force and chief of staff during the Second Lebanon War, Hamas barely received a light tap on its Qassam (literally, the acronym for “Islamic combatant force,” and meaning, the blow was not mortal). That is also why Hamas ignored Egypt’s proposal for a cease-fire. At the moment of truth — in this case, 9 a.m. sharp, when the cease-fire was supposed to go into effect — Hamas continued to fire its rockets at Israel, as if to show that it did not suffer any mortal blow. It was not forced to surrender. It did not surrender, full stop.
For anyone who needs further proof, it turns out that the military wing of Hamas has once again seized control of the movement. From now on, it will be the military wing dictating every move to the political echelon of Hamas. Actually, from the first day of the crisis, ever since the kidnapping of the three Israeli boys — Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Frenkel, and Eyal Yifrach — the political wing has been consciously keeping a very low profile.
As the days of the operation went by, with the reservists called up remaining outside Gaza, Hamas interpreted this reluctance as a sign of Israeli weakness. That is why, even if a cease-fire is reached, it will only be a brief pause in the hostilities, a preparation of sorts for the next round of bloodshed, which will be more complicated and more dangerous for Israel. 
This is the time for Israel to collaborate with Egypt and provide the Palestinian Authority with the possibility of returning to Gaza. Such an entry would be possible only if Hamas suffers a real blow; one which will send the movement’s leadership reeling in shock. That won’t happen if Israel continues to attack targets from the air. It can only happen if Israel fulfills its threats and sends in the tens of thousands of reservists called up under emergency provisions. To do so would not be an easy decision. Indeed, it would be complicated. On the other hand, the moment of “no-choice” in the war against Hamas has finally arrived.
This might have been avoided had Israel acted wisely toward Hamas over the years, since it first won the election in 2006. Alternately, it could have been avoided even if Israel had acted wisely over the past few days. Now, however, there is no turning back.
Conventional wisdom in Israel is that all of Gaza is a Hamas stronghold and that all the people of Gaza support the militant movement. But as this column has already noted, Hamas has brought little more than suffering, destruction and ruin on Gaza. Now that the military wing has also taken over the civil-political path, the future looks even bleaker for the residents of the Gaza strip, as well as for Israel. The one and a half million people in the Gaza Strip who suffered through an eight-year-long nightmare of Hamas rule would be happy to finally get rid of the organization once and for all.
Strategic collaboration between Israel and Egypt, with the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas standing behind the curtains, is actually a possibility. The Rafah crossing, Gaza’s vital lifeline, can only be reopened by Egypt if it is controlled by the Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas. Does anybody really think that the people of Gaza would refuse to allow Fatah supporters to control the border crossing there? Yes, it is complex. Initiating it will be complicated. On the other hand, after hundreds of rockets have been fired at Israel, and not just at the cities in the south either, but also at the major metropolises of Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem, such a move is what is really needed.
2. Hamas: no cease-fire until siege of Gaza lifted  Adnan Abu Amer 7-14-14;
The al-Qassam Brigades have prepared themselves for a long battle of many weeks. Abu Abida also said that Israel will not determine the timing of the conflict’s conclusion or its terms, emphasizing that the battle will involve many surprises.
Mahmoud al-Zahar, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, spoke to al-Aqsa satellite network on the evening of July 11 about his organization’s readiness for war. According to Zahar, the battle will be decisive and game changing, even if it continues for months.
Al-Monitor asked a high-ranking Hamas official currently residing outside of Gaza about the organization’s stance on a ground operation. The official believes it is unlikely Israel will send its troops into Gaza as it would result in casualties for the Israeli army. “We do not want Israel to take this step because it will cost the lives of many Palestinians, since Israel will follow a scorched-earth policy before its soldiers cross Gaza’s borders.”
“As the political leadership, we are in communication with fighters inside Gaza who are beginning military preparations for any Israeli attempt at a ground operation. They have field plans that could cause Israel to regret the decision to undertake such operation — they will kill many Israeli soldiers, target Israeli military vehicles and capture soldiers for use in prisoner exchanges,” the official added.
Raafet Marra, a Hamas official in Lebanon, noted at a recent press conference that he considered a ground operation unlikely because of Israel’s fear of the many surprises the al-Qassam Brigades have in store. He said that Israel is also reluctant to order its soldiers into an unknown world, as it lacks knowledge of the capacities, positions and tactics that await them. He said Israel fears a scene of destroyed tanks, burned vehicles, disfigured corpses and dead or captured soldiers.
At the climax of Israeli preparation for a ground operation, information was leaked about efforts to establish a cease-fire. The most important such effort was a July 10 telephone conversation between US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
A Palestinian figure in Gaza who acts as a mediator between Hamas and the West revealed to Al-Monitor, “The US administration is making an effort to calm tensions between Hamas and Israel by means of its indirect communication with Hamas through its allies in Qatar and Turkey. This represents progress for the United States, given that it considers Hamas a terrorist organization. Nonetheless, the United States could overlook that classification to prevent the region from exploding.”
He added, “The Obama administration does not want wars in the region, and it is attempting to act as an intermediary between Israel and Hamas to arrive at a middle ground accepted by both sides. But its efforts are blocked by two considerations: first, the obstinacy of the current Israeli government, which has not yet achieved a military victory, and second, Hamas’ intention to lift the blockade of Gaza, implement reconciliation [with Fatah] and establish international guarantees for any potential cease-fire, which would partially open the door for future dialogue.”
Palestinians struggle to compete with Israeli PR machine  Daoud Kuttab 7-14-14\
The Palestinians concede they are miles behind Israel in public relations as international media largely repeat Israel’s account of the war.
The Palestinian and Israeli narratives are so divergent one would think people are talking about two different conflicts. The Israeli narrative revolves around a self-defense argument, specifically that Israel is defending itself from Hamas rockets that have turned the lives of innocent Israelis into a psychological hell because they have to go bomb shelters every time warning sirens blare.
Palestinians, on the other hand, claim they are the victims because the Israelis started this unprovoked war. They insist that Israel, without substantiation, began by blaming Hamas for the abduction and killing of three Israeli settlers. This unproven accusation was then followed up with massive arrests and other punishments, including house demolitions, travel restrictions on Palestinians in the West Bank and bombings in Gaza. When Palestinians in Gaza responded by launching rockets toward Israel, Palestinians argue, the Israelis launched the current disproportionate war whose victims are largely civilians.
One sacred Israeli narrative is that the Palestinians celebrate rocket attacks against Israel, while Israel regrets every missile that misses its alleged military target. A July 9 image that went viral on social media demolished this argument. The photo shows Israelis in the south sitting on beach chairs while watching the bombing of Gaza with glee.
Maher Awwadeh, director of external media at the Palestinian Ministry of Information, said the ministry works well with local Arabic-speaking media, but is not faring as well with international media. 
“When you watch how the Israeli PR machine works, you can easily see that the international media is biased in their favor. The Palestinian ministry monitors the international and Israeli media, and we correct them when we see major mistakes,” said Awwadeh. He also asserted that Palestinians often fall into a trap because “we feel that we need to publicize bloody pictures, yet we never talk about fear among our people while the other side excels in this area.”
Nedaa Younis, head of social media for the Palestinian Ministry of Information, told Al-Monitor that it has been difficult to produce tweets and hashtags in English because the Palestinians lack English-speaking spokespeople and social media activists. She said the Palestinian Government Media Center has been advertising on social media for volunteers who speak different languages.
Younis stated, “I often feel alone and isolated in the face of the many who are propagating the Israeli narrative.” While the hashtag #GazaUnderAttack has been trending, most social media efforts are in Arabic. Younis, who introduced the hashtag #standupandspeakout, noted that most senior media officials have no social media accounts, stating, “They only use email and don’t even know what a hashtag is.” She also said, “The Israelis have a media strategy that is based on a clearly planned propaganda position. They avoid any debate on social media.”
Bassem Othman, a senior Palestinian media analyst, framed the problem in broader political terms. “We can’t have a media strategy before having a national political strategy,” he told Al-Monitor. “Abu Mazen (President Mahmoud Abbas) has his strategy based on political negotiations while Hamas has a military strategy. We can’t succeed in explaining our narrative until we have a unified national strategy.”
July 16, 2014 | 2 Comments »

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  1. Recently, I wrote the following in my “Blast” e-mail:

    Illustrative of the refinement of pro-Islamist PR is Al-Monitor, which allegedly follows the agenda of the Iranian and Syrian governments and Hezbollah.[6][7] {Wikipedia citations} Note, as an example, why Daoud Kuttab suggests that the true target, and a likely casualty, of the conflict is the unity agreement between Fatah and Hamas:

    “The Israeli military establishment and to a lesser degree the Hamas military wing have their own reasons to ramp up the conflict and test their latest military equipment. The war on Gaza is an unnecessary war. The calm from the previous cease-fire was holding until Netanyahu and company decided to piggyback on a heinous crime against three Israeli settlers. Their aim is to accomplish far-reaching political goals that include crushing a legitimate political movement.”

    Note not-so-subtle swipes @ Israel, both regarding its alleged intent to sow acrimony between the PA/Hamas and regarding the claim that this is all so very “unnecessary”; there is not even an effort made to acknowledge the ongoing missile attacks from Gaza.