Gaza-Israel Catastrophe: ‘Strategy of Tension’

The current war is the latest manifestation of a strategy dating from the aftermath of the 1973 October War and rise of U.S.-Israeli ties, writes Dan Steinbock. First of a five-part series.

Sept. 16, 2006: A family in Susiya in the south hills of al-Khalil, a Palestinian area often attacked by Israeli colonists from the nearby settlement of Hebron. (Michael loadenthal, Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Dan Steinbock
The World Financial Review 

Roughly 50 years after the Yom Kippur War [or October War], several Palestinian militant groups, led by Hamas, launched a coordinated offensive against nearby Israeli cities, Gaza border crossings and adjacent military installations, which led to Israel’s rapid, lethal counter-offensive. 

After the brutal Hamas offensive, odd even in view of the violent history of the region, the Israeli launch of a massive ground assault to destroy Hamas poses an existential threat to 2.3 million Gazans in the region.

That’s the standard narrative. But it’s not what has been taking place behind the façade. That’s far worse.

The Hamas-Israel War is not just the first major direct conflict within Israeli territory since the country’s founding. It is also the latest manifestation of Israel’s “strategy of tension” dating from the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the rise of U.S. economic and military ties. 

[Related: Israel’s War Is Not Just Against Hamas]

This tension had been seen in several countries, including during Italy’s “years of lead,” a period of extraordinary social turmoil, political violence and economic volatility that lasted two decades.

Aftermath of the bombing at the Bologna railway station in August 1980 which killed 85 people, the deadliest event during the “years of lead” in Italy. (Beppe Briguglio, Patrizia Pulga, Medardo Pedrini, Marco Vaccari, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Starting in the late 1980s, it was marked by a wave of false-flag terror, first attributed to the far-left but later linked with far-right, as well as Italian and U.S. intelligence agencies, as covered in Anna Cento Bull’s  2012 book Italian Neofascism: The Strategy of Tension and the Politics of Nonreconciliation and Rosella Dossi’s Italy’s Invisible Government, Overt Democracy Covert Authority  published in 2001.

The strategic objective is to use a general sense of insecurity against targeted groups and to buttress an increasingly repressive government. As geopolitics replaces development, economic welfare suffers, but the perceived common enemy is expected to “unite the nation.” (See Franco Ferraresi’s 1997 book Threats to Democracy: The Radical Right in Italy after the War and Daniele Ganser’s 2005 book NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe.) 

Historically, the strategy of tension has paved the way to neoliberal economics; for example, the 1973 Pinochet regime relying on U.S.-trained Chicago economists in Chile, as Juan Gabriel covers in his his 2008 book Pinochet’s Economists: The Chicago School of Economics in Chile.

In contrast to the standard narrative, the Hamas war is manna from heaven to Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s far-right government, which has escalated the suppression of Palestinians ever since international attention was focused on the proxy war in Ukraine.

It certainly did not come out of the blue. Netanyahu himself has contributed to the creation of Hamas since the 1990s. In effect, the strategic tension has lasted more than five decades in Israel. But since late 2022, it has been accelerated by the most far-right cabinet in Israel’s history.  

Legitimisation of Far-Right Extremism

Bezalel Smotritz celebrating election victory in March 2021. (Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)

In July, the ex-chief of Mossad Tamir Pardo (2011-16) charged Netanyahu with bringing parties “worse than the Ku Klux Klan” into his government. He had a point. 

Since the tumultuous 1970s, far-right politics, violent Messianic settlers and ultra-nationalists such as Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Kach Party have given rise to far-right movements, massacres of Palestinians and political parties like Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power), Kach’s ideological successor. Its leader, Itamar Ben-Gvir, first gained national notoriety in 1995 by brandishing a Cadillac hood ornament that had been stolen from Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s car. “We got to his car, and we’ll get to him too,” Ben-Gvir said proudly. Weeks later, Rabin, the architect of the peace process, was assassinated.

As Netanyahu’s minister of national security, Ben-Gvir has espoused Kahanism. As a settler, he lives in an illegal settlement. He has openly called for expulsions of Arab citizens. In January, his provocative visit to the Temple Mount, the locale of al-Aqsa Mosque, contributed to the onset of the ongoing turmoil. 

Another fatal mistake of the Israeli government has been the decision of Netanyahu’s Energy Minister Israel Katz that no “electrical switch will be turned on, no water hydrant will be opened and no fuel truck will enter” until the “abductees” would be free, as he said in this Tweet:

Reminiscent of Nazi practices, such collective punishments are morally flawed and counter-productive in practice. When revenge massacres are imposed on innocent civilians, they will breed new resentment, new bitterness and generations of resistance.

Through his 20 years of participation in Israeli cabinets, Katz has fought for more resources for settlements. Opposing any two-state solution, he pushes for the annexation of the West Bank and wants to make Gaza Egypt’s problem.

Netanyahu’s minister of finance is Bezazel Smotrich, a vehement opponent of a Palestinian state and a self-proclaimed fascist, racist and homophobe, who also lives in an illegally built West Bank settlement.

In 2021, he declared that Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, should have “finished the job” and kicked all Palestinians out of Israel when it was founded. He believes that members of Israel’s Arab minority communities are citizens, but only “for now.”

When Smotrich was entrusted with much of the administration of the occupied West Bank, the fox took over the hen house. It was a signal to Palestinian Arabs: Leave!

These are the hollow men in Netanyahu’s government. Neither they nor their peers will ever support policies recognising the sovereign and human rights of the Palestinians.

Dr. Dan Steinbock is the founder of Difference Group and has served at the India, China and America Institute (US), Shanghai Institute for International Studies (China) and the EU Center (Singapore). For more, see here.     

The original version of this article was published by The World Financial Review.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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8 comments for “Gaza-Israel Catastrophe: ‘Strategy of Tension’

  1. Jim Cole
    November 2, 2023 at 15:58

    Thank you, concise, excellent and important series. Please correct typo : “years of lead” began in late 60s, not 80s. CIA, NATO, and local far right groups responsible, similar to the Maidan massacre 2014.

  2. Tegh Sahota
    November 2, 2023 at 14:12

    Why do people refer to it as the Hamas-Israel conflict? Why the use of Western Imperial talking points. Call it for what it has been for 75+ years. Zionist War against Palestinians

  3. wildthange
    November 1, 2023 at 21:15

    It is like encouraging immigrants to go west in the US along with gold discovery hysteria that provoke reaction to them by Native Americans so the military can rush to their rescue. Killing off buffalo and destroying other food stores for winter. The profit motives of provoking wars to drive out Ukrainian refugees so that multinational corporations can eventually take over and rebuild for agribusiness and other lucrative joint ventures as a country comes into play just like in hostile corporate buyouts.

  4. MirrorImaging
    October 31, 2023 at 08:49

    “‘Strategy of Tension’”

    “of a strategy dating from the aftermath of the 1973 October War and rise of U.S.-Israeli ties.”

    Strategies of Tension have existed and been implemented in much of coercive cultures through time.

    One example of its implementation were the efforts of Mr. Stangl and his associates to restructure Treblinka death camp from 1942 onwards to increase productivity, in part through emulation of some of Mr. Taylor’s observations in “Scientific Management”.

  5. Eric Arthur Blair
    October 31, 2023 at 01:44

    Once upon a time, the self declared “Master Race” used indiscriminate violence and murder to terrorise the “untermensch”, who were forced to flee the homes of their forefathers and were herded into extermination camps, so the Nazis could have more “lebensraum”.

    For the past 75 years, the self declared “Chosen People” have used indiscriminate violence and murder to terrorise the Palestinian “human animals” who were forced to flee the homes of their ancestors in Nakba1. Gaza became a de facto concentration camp, however it is now a de facto extermination camp. Under Nakba2, the Zionists stated plan is to force those Palestinians out of Israel into Egypt and Jordan, so the Zionists can have more lebensraum.

    Putting the Nazi into Ashkenazi!!

    • SH
      November 2, 2023 at 16:03

      Yip! The victims of a genocide have now become the perpetrators of one …

  6. Valerie
    October 30, 2023 at 19:47

    “Netanyahu’s minister of finance is Bezazel Smotrich, a vehement opponent of a Palestinian state and a self-proclaimed fascist, racist and homophobe, who also lives in an illegally built West Bank settlement.”

    I did not know this person, so i looked him up. I wish i hadn’t:




    There is truth in the expression “ignorance is bliss”.

    • Eric Arthur Blair
      October 31, 2023 at 22:16

      Ignorance is strength
      War is peace
      Freedom is slavery

      The LEMSO (Lying Establishment Media Sewer Outlets) speak the truth
      The Zionists are innocent victims of unprovoked terror


Comments are closed.