Notes on Israeli threats of launching a ‘Dahiyeh’ attack on Gaza

1. Some prominent Israelis are calling for a ‘Dahiyeh’ operation against Gaza.
I just watched this clip from a news/discussion program on Israel’s Channel 2. In it, “military analyst” Roni Daniel openly calls for the implementation of a “Dahiyeh” operation (“like in Beirut”), against Gaza. Dahiyeh is the simply the Arabic word for “suburb or neighborhood”. In this context it refers to the extensive and very highly populated southern suburbs of Beirut where, during the Israeli war against Lebanon of summer 2006, the Israeli military flattened an entire, more than kilometer-square area of 7- and 8-story buildings, the vast majority of them civilian apartments.
The topography and population density of the Beirut Dahiyeh (which has since been extensively rebuilt) is very similar to that of most parts of Gaza City and the six other cities that run down the long-besieged Gaza Strip.
When the Israeli military struck against the Dahiyeh in July 2006, the 450,000 or so residents of the area were able to flee. They fled en masse, ending up gaining a degree of refuge in mosques, schools, churches, and monasteries all over Lebanon. That mass relocation under fire was accomplished in a somewhat organized way by Hizbullah and its supporters because they had gained so much experience undertaking similar mass relocations-under-fire during Israel’s many previous assaults against both South Lebanon and other areas of the country. Relief supplies poured in to help the large groups of displaced families– who meanwhile lost all their worldly possessions as their homes were pulverized by the Israeli air force.
Israel’s authorities could threaten or even implement a “Dahiyeh Doctrine” assault against Gaza if they wanted. But where would the civilian residents of the targeted areas flee to?( And how could the supplies so necessary to their immediate relief after their dislocation be gotten into them?) The Gaza Strip is closed off from the outside world by the lengthy Israeli siege; and no part of the area inside it is immune from Israeli attack.
Already, many thousands of Gazans have received leaflets, phone calls, and text messages from the Israeli military telling them to flee their home areas. They regard those messages as a sick joke or an insidious form of psychological warfare. Where should they flee to?
2. Even the ‘Dahiyeh Doctrine’ DID NOT SUCCEED, strategically, during its seminal implementation, against the Beirut Dahiyeh in 2006.
The strategic goals of that war that PM Olmert and his generals launched against Lebanon in July 2006 were two-fold. Primarily, they were trying (as they openly stated) to inflict such pain on the population of Lebanon that the population would turn against Hizbullah and force it to give up the arsenal that it still retained under its control despite the fact that it had also, since 1992, been an active participant in Lebanon’s parliamentary system. In a secondary and broader way, the war was launched to “re-establish the credibility of Israel’s deterrent power” which, the generals thought, had been badly damaged by the unilateral withdrawal that Israel had made from South Lebanon in May 2000, bringing to an end a military occupation of the southern portion of Lebanon that had continued since 1982.
During 33 days of extremely damaging fighting, during which the Israeli military destroyed large portions of Lebanon’s national infrastructure, killed many hundreds of civilians, and dislocated more than a million people from their homes, the people of Lebanon rallied ever closer and closer around Hizbullah. Most certainly they did not “turn against it” or repudiate and seek to punish it, as Olmert and the generals had hoped.
Pres. George W. Bush gave Olmert a complete green light to continue his assault as long as he wanted, and provided some much-needed resupply for Israeli munitions as they started to run low. But still, Israel was unable to force Hizbullah and the Lebanese people to bow to their demands. After 33 days, the conflict was also becoming disruptive, to a small degree damaging, and definitely embarrassing to Israel. (A ground attack against South Lebanon that was a last-minute way the military sought to impose its will on the Lebanese turned out to be an extremely poorly planned fiasco.) So Olmert himself became increasingly eager for a ceasefire; and with the help of the Americans one was organized on August 13, 2006. The ceasefire terms notably did not include any mechanism for the disarming of Hizbullah.
This was also not great in terms of re-establishing the credibility of the Israeli deterrent. So in 2008, Olmert felt he had to try again to achieve this… which he did in late December 2008, against Gaza. Once again, there, he and his generals were unable to force their terms of capitulation on their target (Hamas), which was able to prevent the Israeli ground forces from taking control of any of the Strip except a small portion; and which survived with its leadership structures and its political positions unbroken… And so it goes.
It is, however, important to note that though it might feel “good” to some portion of Israelis if their government implements a “Dahiyeh Doctrine”, actually, even that is extremely unlikely to bring to the Israeli government the politico-strategic goals that its seeks. It is more likely, indeed, to be extremely counter-productive at the politico-strategic level.
3. Some good resources on the “original” Dahiyeh assaults:
To understand what it was like for one Lebanese civilian social activist to live in Beirut under the onslaught of the Dahiyeh Doctrine, read Rami Zurayk’s amazing and poignant, 60-page-long War Diary: Lebanon 2006, which my company published last year. You can get it as a paperback, or an e-book.
You can read the fairly detailed analysis of the 2006 war that I published in Boston Review in Nov/Dec 2006, here.

Jewish-Israeli public lurches yet further right

I just read Yossi Gurvitz’s chilling account of the attack that a right-wing mob in South Tel Aviv unleashed against his girlfriend Galina, and him, during the anti-African-refugees demonstration held there Tuesday. The main speaker at the demo was Michael Ben-Ari, an elected MK.
Gurvitz writes:

    Ben-Ari, a Kahanist, was inciting the crowd against the African refugees in a distinctly anti-Semitic manner, peppering his talk with incessant references to excrement and urine. At some point, Galina couldn’t take it any longer, and shouted something back.
    Within minutes we were surrounded by an angry mob of about 20 people, composed mostly of women, who hurled curses at her. Someone pulled out a tear gas canister and waved it at her face.
    …Racist and sexual slurs filled the air repeatedly. Time and time again, people expressed the wish she would be raped by Sudanese, and asked her if she was bedding them. A boy, between 10 and 11 years old, screamed at her point blank that what she needs is a “nigger’s cock.”

I urge you to read the whole account– and to see some of the video that David Sheen made of the encounter.
Gurvitz has worked for many years as an economics/financial reporter. He makes this point in his article:

    Neither the government not the Tel Aviv Municipality invested in their slums the resources necessary to improve them. Once, more than 30 years ago, Menachem Begin led the Neighborhood Reconstruction project, which held great promise before Begin abandoned it in favor of another, the occupation of the West Bank.
    The government announced this week it will raise the VAT, the most regressive tax, most harmful to the poor, to 17 percent, and that it would also place VAT on fruit and vegetables. Which means the expenses of the Hatikva residents is about to skyrocket. On the same day, the Knesset approved a bill providing tax cuts to people contributing to settlements. Yesterday, the Knesset approved NIS 161 million to ultra-Orthodox institutions, NIS 1.7 million for the bureau of convicted rapist Moseh Katzav – WTF? – but declined to give NIS 4.2 million to centers aiding victims of sexual assault, which may lead to their closure.
    With the exception of the years of the second Rabin government, this has been the government’s policy for 35 years: create a welfare state – in the West Bank. The government of Greater Israel does not have the money for welfare in old Israel, it is busy making facts on the ground beyond the Green Line. And if you want to make facts on the ground, you need settlers. The ideological base is limited. You need to entice people to go there. You want a welfare state? Better move to Beit El.

The behavior of the people in Ben-Ari’s demonstration, as seen on Sheen’s video and in the great still photos in Gurvitz’s piece, is clearly that of a proto-fascist mob. Many people on Twitter have been calling this a Kristallnacht– and indeed, the shopfronts of many S. Tel Aviv businesses associated with the African refugees were broken during the mob’s rampage.
Some western media have taken to calling the African residents there “migrants”– as though they were birds, not humans? Or, as though they were on their way someplace else?
What most of the international community calls them is refugees. Most of them have fled great violence and repression in their home countries and have made their way across daunting (and often lethal) obstacles, to try to find a refuge where they can. Refugees who can register a credible claim of fearing serious harm if they return to their homelands are afforded special protections under international law. I need hardly add that in the past, many Jewish people have been refugees, and have benefitted from these protections.
But for many of the Jewish citizens in today’s Israel, the term “refugees” reminds them less of the vulnerabilities that members of their own community have suffered in the past– which might excite some compassion from them?– than of the very numerous Palestinian refugees still awaiting the full respect of their rights, from Israel. Thus, treating the African refugees as, essentially subhuman beings not endowed with full, normal human rights, is all of a piece with the fact that Israel has treated the Palestinian refugees like that for 64 long years now.
Then, there are the calls that arise from the mob and its leaders for “expulsion”. In what other even half-way civilized country in the world do we ever hear elected politicians and the mobs that support them openly voicing such a call?
The ethnic (indigenous) Palestinians who make up 20% of the citizenry of Israel have long feared that rightwing Israeli politicians may some day start yet another campaign of ethnic cleansing, designed to “finish off” the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their land that was started in late 1947. The 4.2 million Palestinians of the areas that have lived under Israeli military rule since 1967 also fear the same fate.
From this point of view, the pro-expulsion campaign being whipped up by so many ultra-nationalist politicians against the African refugees in Tel Aviv can be seen as a way of “grooming” the Jewish-Israeli public, to be ready to set aside any remaining inclination some of its members (like Gurvitz and the truly heroic Galina) may have to treat non-Jews as fellow-humans and to resist any campaign to demonize, attack, and eventually expel or kill them.
It’s like pedophiles, who will spend long months “grooming” their young victims to commit acts that, without the grooming, they would almost certainly find distasteful and demeaning. The dedicated pedophile will spend that time pushing the child’s moral limits ever further and further, until the child finds the acts s/he is then forced or “encouraged” to commit no longer so distasteful or abnormal…
The government of Israel must take the full responsibility for bringing these vile acts of hatred and incitement to an end. The African refugees in Israel are deserving of, and must receive, full protection of their physical security and their basic wellbeing.
If the government does not do this, it should be vilified around the world. Certainly, other governments everywhere should withhold their support from a government that does not clamp down hard on the racist inciters, and that refuses to offer basic protections to the refugees.
There has long been a broad discussion over whether Zionism itself constitutes racism. (It turns out that a lot of the answer that people give to that question hangs on whether they think racism deals only with differences in skin color– which most US citizens seem to think– or whether, as the other 95% of the world’s people believe, it also deals with other forms of ethnic difference.) But the actions of the mob– and its leaders– in Tel Aviv this week were clear, unabashed, and definitely proto-fascist racism.
… What was Peter Beinart’s argument, again, about Zionism being “democratic and liberal” inside 1948 Israel, and only undemocratic and illiberal in the occupied territories?
Beinart’s latest book, The Crisis of Zionism, is very good in its analysis of the dysfunctionalities within the American Jewish community and the complete unrepresentativity of the community’s self-proclaimed “leadership”. That is a story that he knows well, and understands. The real story of Israel is one that, evidently, he does not yet really understand.