herald

Tuesday 28 January 2020

Ruthless Israelis live by one code -- aggression

The siege mentality mindset of Israel means it wants to defeat its enemies, whomever and wherever they happen to be, writes Declan Power

The recent murder of a leading Hamas member allegedly carried out by people using forged or stolen passports from Ireland, Britain and several other EU countries has thrown the spotlight on Israel again.

If those who planned and carried out the killing have done their job as they were meant to, then we will never know for sure who did kill Mahmoud Al Mabhouh.

However, the smart money is on Israel. The efficient manoeuvring of personnel into place, the command and control exhibited and of course the back-up logistics that allowed passports from four different EU countries be utilised, all point to a modus operandi used by Mossad agents in the past.

Why would Israel risk international anger and disgust at carrying out such an act which implicates other nations and possibly puts their citizens in peril?

Even if they didn't carry out this act, Israel has carried out many other questionable acts in its declared attempts to protect its people.

Many such acts were witnessed by those of us who have served with the Irish Army during its time with the UNIFIL mission in South Lebanon.

Israeli military insisted they never targeted civilians in their quest to close with their enemies. But they were certainly cavalier with the lives of civilians, as well as the UN peacekeepers caught in the middle.

Many times excessive zeal by the Israelis to destroy their enemy once and for all would ultimately show the folly in such absolutist thinking and often bring them back to square one.

For example, in 1996 Israeli shelling of the area around Quana, in south Lebanon, resulted in over 100 civilian deaths and as many more seriously injured including four Fijian UN peacekeepers.

Invasion

The Israelis claimed the deaths were regrettable, but that their real targets were Hezbullah gunmen intent on firing rockets into Israel.

Ten years later, following a new invasion of Lebanese territory in a quest to once again silence those same Hezbullah gunmen, who were still firing rockets into Israel, Israeli jets bombed a tower block in the same region of Quana.

This time 28 civilians were killed, including 16 children. Same region, same problem, just a new set of innocent victims.

So what is it with Israel?

No one would deny them their right to defence, but why do it in such a way as to invite condemnation rather than support?

To answer this question one must go further back to understand the Israeli mindset. It is an abrasive one tempered with large doses of pragmatism.

Put simply, it is one that uses whatever it takes to attack and defeat the enemies of Israel whomever and wherever they happen to be.

This mindset was of course partially born out of the European Jewish experience of World War Two. This was also assisted by the folk memory of countless pogroms carried out against Jews from the Steppes of Russia to the steeples of our own Limerick in the early 20s.

The Jewish experience of World War Two bred in them a savage self-reliance that many would claim has created a disdain for the rest of the world. This desire for self-reliance runs deep.

So deep that during the Six Day War in 1967, Israeli jets attacked a clearly marked US naval vessel in international waters off the Sinai Peninsula, killing 34 of its crew.

Though excuses and apologies were offered, it was widely accepted in the US naval community that their vessel was attacked to prevent the US interference in stopping a war Israel was winning.

Similarly during the more recent 2006 Israeli invasion of south Lebanon, Israelis fired on an unarmed UN observation post at Khiam, killing four UN officers. A friend of mine from army days narrowly missed out on being on duty that day.

Many Israelis see themselves manning the barricades in a war against Islamic fundamentalism while an uncaring Europe gets in their way.

Siege

Unfortunately for the Israelis, such a siege mentality has blunted their strategic thinking and now they cannot conceive of strategies that will limit the conflict.

From my time in the Army and later working as a consultant to the UN, I've met many Israelis, some pleasant and some not, but all are united in their need for vigilant defence of their homeland

As far as the modern Israeli is concerned, no one but a Jew will fight for a Jew. Their attitude could be summed up as ... if you're not with us, then get the hell out of the way or take the consequences.

Declan Power is an independent security and defence analyst and former career soldier

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