The Palestinian resistance understands its enemy. It has learned through experience how to fight it. This is not good news for Israel.
Basel al-Araj, a Palestinian resistance leader, shortly before Israel’s 2014 invasion of Gaza, laid down the fundamental rules for warfare against Israel.
The rules by al-Araj, not a member of Hamas, provide the Palestinian lens for the incursion by Israeli forces in Gaza. While Israel’s superior firepower — its air force, missiles, tanks, armored personnel carriers, drones, naval forces, mechanized units and artillery — make it possible to inflict huge numbers of Palestinian casualties, most of them civilians, while Israel can level whole neighborhoods and turn hospitals, schools, power stations, water treatment plants, bakeries, mosques and churches into piles of concrete, this does not translate into a defeat of the Palestinian resistance groups.
Al-Araj argued that the fight with Israel cannot be measured with body counts. The Israelis will be able to kill far greater numbers of Palestinians.
Resistant movements, he wrote, always suffer disproportionate losses. In the independence war in Algeria, between 1954 and 1962, upwards of 1.5 million Algerians — or around 10 percent of the population — were killed by the French. In the airport in Algiers, the country’s capital, is a huge sign that reads: “Welcome to Algeria. Land of a million Martyrs.”
“We are far more capable of bearing the costs, so there is no need to compare or be alarmed by the magnitude of the numbers,” he wrote.
Al-Araj, who led hunger strikes while in Palestine Authority prisons, was long a target for Israel. Israel’s counter-terrorism unit, Yamam, pursued him for months before raiding his home on March 6, 2017, in el-Bireh. After a two-hour gun battle, Israeli forces, which fired rockets into the building, burst inside and executed him at close range. He was 31.
The fight with Israel, al-Araj reminded Palestinians, must “follow the logic of guerrilla warfare or hybrid warfare, which Arabs and Muslims have become masters of through our experiences in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and Gaza.” Never defend “fixed points and borders.” Draw the enemy into an ambush, accomplished by light resistance and tactical withdrawals. Strike the flanks and the rear.
The calculus of asymmetric warfare is very different from conventional war. And what Israel defines as success, including the seizing of territory, numerous deaths and the destruction of infrastructure and buildings, matters little to the resistance fighter. The goal of Palestinian fighters is to remain elusive, to carry out lightning strikes and recede back into the rubble or the vast tunnel network under Gaza.
The Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, says it partially destroyed more than 160 Israeli military targets in Gaza, including more than 27 tanks and vehicles in the past two days.
On Nov. 11, the Al-Qassam Brigade says it lured Israeli soldiers to a burning car in the West Bank and blew up their vehicles with an IED.
On Nov. 10 the Al-Qassam Brigades, Saraya Al-Quds and Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, say they allowed the Israelis to advance without significant opposition during the day.
In the evening they ambushed the Israeli forces west of Tal al-Hawa, in the areas around Al-Shifa Hospital, west of the Al-Shati refugee camp and west of Beit Lahia in the northern part of the Gaza strip. Israel unleashed a heavy bombardment, the Palestinian fighters said, in an attempt to rescue its soldiers. Israel reportedly suffered high numbers of casualties.
On Nov. 9, Al-Qassam Brigades say they ambushed Israeli soldiers in Juhr al-Dik, targeting them with an anti-personnel rocket. The Israeli soldiers were killed, they said, at “point blank range.”
On Nov. 6, the Al-Qassam Brigades say they destroyed five Israeli tanks with Yassin 105 rockets in northwest Gaza City.
On Nov. 2 Al-Qassam Brigades claimed they destroyed six tanks and two military vehicles in one hour northwest of Gaza City. “The number of casualties is significantly higher than what the enemy’s leadership has announced,” said Abu Obeida, the spokesperson for the Al Qassam Brigades.
Israel has banned the foreign press from reporting from Gaza. It has killed over 40 Palestinian journalists and media workers. It also has instituted prolonged blockages of the internet and cell phone service. No doubt, this heavy handed censorship is done to limit the horrific images of civilian casualties. But I suspect it is also intended to block images of a ground offensive that is tougher, more protracted and more costly than Israel anticipated.
Israel invests tremendous resources in its propaganda campaign, getting networks such as CNN to repeat back its talking points. Jake Tapper should be an honorary Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman.
Al-Araj warned about the attempt by Israel to demoralize fighters by posting photos and videos of Israelis occupying landmarks and public spaces.
A video being shared on social media shows the raising of the Israeli flag on a beach in Gaza. A group of soldiers surround the flag and sing the Israeli national anthem.
In October last year, Jewish settlers occupied the Ibrahimi Mosque in the West Bank town of Hebron, where a Jewish settler, Barach Goldstein, gunned down 29 Palestinians in 1994 as they prayed. The settlers held a music festival and dance party in the mosque. They hung an Israeli flag from the roof. Videos have circulated that denigrate and ridicule Palestinians.
Al-Araj wrote that Israel’s propaganda is designed to instill panic, demonize Palestinians and spread defeatism.
“We are now rolling out the Gaza Nakba,” said Israeli security cabinet member and Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter, referring to the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their land in 1948, facilitated by massacres, the raping of Palestinian women and girls, and the razing of entire villages by Zionist militias.
“From an operational point of view, there is no way to wage a war — as the IDF seeks to do in Gaza — with masses between the tanks and the soldiers.” “Gaza Nakba 2023. That’s how it’ll end,” he concluded.
Yesterday, Israel's Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter proclaimed "We're Rolling Out Nakba 2023" — a repeat of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948.
But the words "genocide" and "ethnic cleansing" were not uttered once on any of the US Sunday talk shows today. pic.twitter.com/qEtpt7t9Rd
— Andre Damon (WSWS.org) (@Andre__Damon) November 13, 2023
Israel equates the Palestinians with the Nazis. Naftali Bennett, Israel’s former prime minister, in an interview on Sky News on Oct. 12 said, “We’re fighting Nazis.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described Hamas in a press conference with the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, as “the new Nazis.”
The IDF posted a tweet that read: “Never again is NOW. IDF forces discovered a copy of Hitler’s infamous book ‘Mein Kampf’ — translated into Arabic — in a child’s bedroom used as a Hamas terrorist base in Gaza. The book was discovered among the personal belongings of one of the terrorists, featuring annotations and highlights. Hamas embraces the ideology of Hitler, the one responsible for the annihilation of the Jewish people.”
The message is clear. Palestinians embody absolute evil.
A video titled “IDF Soldiers Give Gazan Civilians Water After Hamas Refused,” was recently circulated. The video, clearly staged, reminded me of the footage of the Bosnian Serb commander Gen. Ratko Mladic who handed out candy to children in Srebrenica in 1995 before overseeing the execution of 8,000 men and boys.
“The enemy will carry out tactical, qualitative operations to assassinate some symbols [of resistance], and all of this is part of psychological warfare,” al-Araj wrote.
“Those who have died and those who will die will never affect the resistance’s system and cohesion because the structure and formations of the resistance are not centralized but horizontal and widespread. Their goal is to influence the resistance’s support base and the families of the resistance fighters, as they are the only ones who can affect the men of the resistance.”
In every war, information is weaponized. But to rely exclusively on the Israeli narrative is to be deceived, not only about the war crimes Israel carries out but the nature of the war itself. The Palestinians understand their foe. They have had a lot of experience. They knew this was coming. I suspect the fighting in Gaza will continue for a long time. Israel paid a high price on Oct. 7 when Palestinian fighters breached its borders. It will pay an even higher price in Gaza.
Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for 15 years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East bureau chief and Balkan bureau chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor and NPR. He is the host of show “The Chris Hedges Report.”
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