Saturday, October 14, 2023

The Game is Provocation

Let me note what's obvious about the Hamas attack. As with every intifada since the 1970s, when I first began watching, the game is a simple one: Provoke the Israelis into brutal over-response. Record and broadcast that brutal over-response. Draw condemnation and hatred of Israel for its brutality. Rinse and repeat.

The tactic of provocation has existed for millenia, yet it remains devilishly hard to parse. It seems to play to a certain blind spot in human psychology. It requires some grasp of subtlety in a black-and-white, shirts-vs-skins world.

Even between intifadas, in the relatively peaceful interludes, provocation was the game. Send your children to the border and have them throw stones at Israeli soldiers. Maybe you'll get lucky and they'll slaughter the kids and you can wail about it while pointing righteously at the monstrous zionist pigs who did this, playing to the cameras of the world press, with the effect of 2 billion world Muslims feeling personally attacked, and the rest of humanity condemning and isolating the aforementioned monstrous pigs.

The Israelis - who, while incredibly stupidly reactive, are not incapable of some tiny trickle of learning - gradually figured out not to shoot the kids. A small victory for sanity. But they are still easily wound up by sharper provocation. They are strong drunks.

The full-blown intifadas gave away the game, perpetually targeting the young, the secular, the doves, the liberals - the Israelis most inclined to side with the Palestinian cause. Seldom were bombed yeshivas or synagogues, where crusty orthodox hawks simmer in bona fide racist hatred. No, these righteous attacks were carried out in shopping malls, cafes, night clubs, and raves populated by sensitive, liberal, dreadlocked lovers of Arabs and other Oppressed Peoples. It's almost like Palestinians were trying to stoke an apocalpyse so their co-religionists would step in and finally annhilate these fucking people. To bring horrendous suffering and death to their own people in the cause not of justice but of mindless bloodthirsty hatred.

The campaign to goad universal Israeli hatred has been effective. Over the years, there have been many Palestinian-defending, justice-oriented Jewish doves in Israel, some of whom penned some of the most impassioned condemnations of Israeli policy. Much fewer of them now. The nation was methodically and broadly goaded.

And now, with Israel on the verge of normalization with Saudi Arabia (terrible for Palestinians, and even worse for Hamas' Iranian sponsors), the trap has sprung. And the reactive Israelis, being irrational hotheads like the provocateur Palestinians, are, as ever, taking the bait. We'll see and hear terrible things, even, eventually, from our press (Al Jazeera's already way on it).

The retaliation will be particularly camera-ready because Hamas has intertwined its personnel and weaponry amid civilian populations, with a particular fondness for hospitals, nursery schools, etc. Human shielding raised to an art form.

All this is easily apparent. Every pundit on the topic, without exception, would say I've rehashed (rightly or wrongly) tediously obvious observations. But I don't hear this clearly stated. It's hinted at, it's alluded to, it's the stuff that, nudge-nudge, we're all quietly, perhaps subsonsciously, aware of. Yet very few say it, and fewer still build it into their calculus. Lord knows the Israelis rarely seem to.

None of this nullifies Palestinian claims to human rights and justice. Not at all! That's a completely separate issue. I've just harshly condemned the tactics of their leadership, who have, over the years, consistently chosen to offer up its own people for slaughter for PR purposes. A too-clever bank-shot strategy that Israelis fall for every damned time.

Palestinians would claim, of course, that they have no choice but to resort to such tactics, due to the asymmetry of power. And that's nearly true, except for the fact that the Palestinians have rejected or undermined every attempt at conciliation (starting with the UN's proposed Partition Plan in 1947 that would have created a Palestinian state, spurring a war that killed 6,000 Jews), just as the Israelis have perennially taken the provocation bait and barbarously overreacted. Seen properly, this is the very sickest possible human relationship. It makes "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" look like a warmly loving marriage.

I recommend this Twitter thread, where an insider thoughtfully describes the self-constraints placed on retaliation for attacks of this sort. I replied this way:
The even more relevant point is that Hamas is well aware of these imperatives, and structures its human shielding and provocation to engineer the most barbaric-seeming imagery they can use to build solidarity in the Moslem world.


Ivan said...

How do you make peace w/a people that dont want to make peace?

Jim Leff said...

Find a way to reframe. Yourselves first.

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