Israel is using a colossal intel failure as fuel for genocide in Gaza
On 25th May 2000, Israel’s occupation of South Lebanon came to an ignominious end.
What was planned as an orderly withdrawal over several weeks turned into a chaotic rout, sneaking back over the border in the middle of the night as gun battles flared barely yards away, leaving their collaborators the South Lebanon Army to collapse in a matter of hours.
The very next day, the leader of Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah made a victory speech in the town of Bint Jbeil, which had just the day before been controlled by Israeli forces. Most famously, he declared that, “Israel, which possesses nuclear weapons and the strongest air force in the region, is weaker than a spider's web.”
These events so rattled the Israeli military that when they invaded Lebanon again in 2006, conquering Bint Jbeil was made a top priority so an Israeli military leader could give a victory speech at the very same spot that Hassan Nasrallah made his in 2000.
"This is not the performance you'd expect from the mighty Israeli army of yore. Even a Hamas official reportedly expressed 'shock' at how far Hamas fighters were able to advance into Israeli-held territory"
It's worth remembering these events to understand the importance Israel places on its “deterrence capacity”, that is, people’s fear of Israel’s perceived military dominance.
For this reason, the most important aspect of the Hamas attack of 7 October, known as Operation Al-Aqsa flood, was not the killing of Israeli civilians, as awful as those acts were, but rather the shocking rout of the Israeli army.
Very few people would have predicted that several hundred Palestinian resistance fighters could overrun multiple Israeli army outposts, capture a military base, destroy tanks and kill countless soldiers right at one of the most heavily patrolled areas that Israel controls.
Yet this not only happened, but it took Israel another four days before they were able to fully drive the Palestinian fighters back into Gaza.
This is not the performance you’d expect from the mighty Israeli army of yore. Even a Hamas official reportedly expressed ‘shock’ at how far Hamas fighters were able to advance into Israeli-held territory.
Ahmad Jamil Azem describes a string of serious failings made by Israel over the last two years, calling them "stations" along the road that paved the way for the unprecedented attack launched by Hamas on Saturday 👇https://t.co/pAMBXRy7YT— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) October 12, 2023
“We were surprised by this great collapse… We were planning to make some gains and take prisoners to exchange them. This army was a paper tiger,” Ali Barakeh is quoted as saying by Associated Press.
Some of the most popularly shared videos on social media were of Hamas fighters taking control of the Nahal Oz military base. These contain clips too graphic to link to, but scenes of Palestinian resistance fighters atop captured Israeli tanks and breaking down the border fence are likely to inspire millions across the region.
For Israel, the attacks were a colossal intelligence failure. Israel has done a tremendous PR effort to bolster the reputation of its intelligence agencies. Most of us have heard stories of Mossad’s legendary exploits, even if much of it is from fictional TV shows.
Some conspiracy theorists are still so convinced of Israel’s all-knowing Mossad that they cannot believe this Palestinian attack could have been carried out without Israel’s knowledge, so Israel must have allowed it to happen as an excuse to invade Gaza, the theory usually goes.
But the idea that Israel would voluntarily allow its army to appear astonishingly inept does not chime well with its obsession with appearing invincible.
Moreover, Israel’s history is full of famous intelligence failures. Indeed, this one came 50 years to the day after the Egyptian Army successfully crossed the Suez Canal and recaptured Sinai in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.
Despite Egypt massing troops on the Western side of the canal for several days and multiple public statements by Egypt’s President that it would go to war if Israel refused to give back the Sinai, Israeli intelligence remained convinced that Egypt was simply bluffing and were caught completely unaware.
In 1997, Mossad attempted to poison Hamas leader Khaled Mashal in Amman, only to be forced into handing over an antidote after the bumbling agents were all captured.
In the 2006 Lebanon War, the Israeli warship INS Hanit was almost sunk by an anti-ship missile after its anti-missile defence radar was switched off. Israeli intelligence wrongly believed that Hezbollah had no such weapons.
Not long after, Israeli commandos launched a nighttime raid into northern Lebanon and kidnapped a man named Hassan Nasrallah, only to find he was a local green grocer and not the Hezbollah leader.
In 2010, Mossad assassinated a mid-ranking Hamas official named Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai. Within days, the whole world found out after Dubai police identified and released names and photos of the entire 11-member Mossad hit team, as well as comical CCTV footage of one of the assassins exiting a hotel bathroom wearing a wig and oversized glasses in a cartoonish attempt to disguise himself.
No wonder Stansfield Turner, director of the Central Intelligence Agency during the Carter administration, is quoted as saying, “Israeli intelligence is good, but not in all areas… Above all, it is good at overselling its own capabilities.”
While we shouldn’t fall into the trap of exaggerating Israel’s power, it is still the case that it has a very powerful army and air force. No one should doubt its ability and, more importantly, willingness to massacre civilians, especially in a time like this, where inflicting mass death and destruction on civilian populations is part of its doctrine.
After Israel’s first major assault on Gaza in 2008-09, a UN inquiry reported that Israel had inflicted, “a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorise a civilian population.”
The inquiry also reported that Israel appeared to have implemented the ‘Dahiya doctrine’ in Gaza, which it describes as, “the application of disproportionate force and the causing of great damage and destruction to civilian property and infrastructure, and suffering to civilian populations.”
"While this is hardly the first time Israeli leaders have overtly threatened and committed war crimes, there seems to be an unwillingness from Western politicians to even give the standard statements imploring restraint or avoiding civilian deaths"
It also quotes Israeli Major General Gadi Eisenkot explaining the doctrine, “What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on… From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases.”
This time, Israeli leaders' rhetoric has gone even further. PM Netanyahu has declared that what Israel is about to do to Gaza, “will reverberate with them for generations” and will “change the Middle East.”
These vague threats have been accompanied by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant declaring that, “no electricity, no food, no water, no fuel” will be allowed into Gaza as they “are fighting human animals” and that Israeli troops will be operating under no “restraints” when the ground offensive begins.
Just yesterday, an Israeli strike on a crowded hospital in Gaza where civilians were sheltering from the bombs killed at least 500 Palestinians.
While this is hardly the first time Israeli leaders have overtly threatened and committed war crimes, there seems to be an unwillingness from Western politicians to even give the standard statements imploring restraint or avoiding civilian deaths.
Even when UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly was asked about Israel’s refusal to allow food and water into Gaza, he simply said, “we express our solidarity with the people of Israel.”
In the United States, Presidential candidate Marco Rubio used genocidal rhetoric, answering a question about Israel causing massive casualties among civilians by saying, “I don’t think there’s any way Israel can be expected to coexist or find some diplomatic off-ramp with these savages… You can’t coexist. They have to be eradicated.”
The New Republic commented: “his unwillingness to differentiate between the militants and innocent Palestinian civilians is terrifying.”
Previous Israeli assaults on Gaza have mostly followed a similar playbook: Israel inflicts massive harm upon the civilian population and infrastructure while mostly avoiding direct combat with Hamas, and continues doing so until diplomatic pressure grows for a ceasefire.
What is most concerning about the present climate is that Israel will likely be able to get away with far greater killing and destruction in Gaza this time before the political currents in Western countries turn against them.
More than ever the Palestinians will be dependent on their resistance fighters to hold back the vicious Israeli assault that is surely coming.
It is correct that the Middle East will be forever changed by these events.
The apartheid regime knows that walls, fences and guard towers will not keep it safe from revolt of those within.
Daniel Lindley is a socialist and trade union activist in the UK.
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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.