Israel’s “Mad Dog” Diplomacy Doesn’t Make It More Secure

Moshe Dayan, Israel’s most celebrated general, famously outlined the strategy that he believed would keep Israel’s enemies at bay: “Israel must be a like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother.”

Until now, most observers had assumed Dayan was referring to Israel’s military and possibly its nuclear strategy, explaining in his blunt fashion the country’s well-known doctrine of deterrence.

But the Israeli commando attack on Monday on the Gaza-bound flotilla, in which several crew members and international solidarity activists were killed and dozens wounded as they tried to break Israel’s blockade of the enclave, proves that this is now a diplomatic strategy too. Israel is feeling cornered on every front it considers important – and like Dayan’s “mad dog”, it is likely to strike out in unpredictable ways.

Domestically, Israeli human rights activists have regrouped after the Zionist left’s dissolution in the wake of the outbreak of the second intifada. Now they are presenting clear-eyed – and extremely ugly – assessments of the occupation that are grabbing headlines around the world. The leadership of Israel’s large Arab minority has started questioning the legitimacy of the Jewish state in ways that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago.

Regionally, Hizbollah has progressively eroded Israel’s deterrence doctrine. It forced the Israeli army to exit south Lebanon in 2000 after a two-decade occupation; it stood firm in the face of both aerial bombardment and a ground invasion during the 2006 war; and now it is reported to have accumulated an even larger arsenal of rockets than it had four years ago.

And nearly 18 months on from its attack on Gaza, Israel’s standing is at an all-time low. Boycott campaigns are gaining traction, support for Israel from European governments has set them in opposition to the sentiment at home, and traditional allies such as Turkey cannot hide their anger.

In the US, Israel’s most resolute ally, young American Jews are starting to question their unthinking loyalty to the Jewish state. Blogs and new kinds of Jewish groups are bypassing their elders and the American media, widening the scope of debate about Israel.

Israel has responded to these “threats” by characterising them all as falling within its ever-expanding definition of “support for terrorism”.

It was therefore hardly surprising that the first reaction from the Israeli government to the fact that its commandos had opened fire on civilians in the flotilla of aid ships was to accuse the solidarity activists of being armed.

Similarly, Danny Ayalon, the deputy foreign minister, accused the organisers of having “connections to international terrorism”, including al Qaeda. Turkey, which assisted the flotilla, had already been widely accused in Israel of supporting Hamas and trying to topple the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

Palestinians are familiar with such tactics. Gaza’s entire population of 1.5 million is now regularly presented in the Israeli media in collective terms, as supporters of terror – for having voted in Hamas – and therefore legitimate targets for Israeli “retaliation”. Even the largely docile Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has rapidly been tarred with the same brush for its belated campaign to boycott the settlements and their products.

The leaders of Israel’s Palestinian citizens are being cast in the role of abettors of terror. The minority is still reeling from the latest assault: the arrest and torture of two community leaders charged with spying for Hizbollah. In its wake, new laws are being drafted to require that the Israeli Arabs prove their “loyalty” or have their citizenship revoked.

When false rumours briefly circulated on Monday that Sheikh Raed Salah, a leader of Israel’s Islamic Movement who was in the flotilla, had been gravely wounded, Israeli officials offered a depressingly predictable, and unfounded, response: commandos had shot him after they came under fire from his cabin.

Israel’s Jewish human rights community is also under attack to a degree never before seen. Their leaders are now presented as traitors, and new legislation is designed to make their work much harder. The few brave souls in the Israeli media who try to hold the system to account have been given a warning shot as the investigative journalist for Haaretz, Uri Blau, is threatened with trial on espionage charges if he returns to Israel.

Israel’s treatment of those on-board the flotilla has demonstrated that the net against human rights activism is being cast much wider, to encompass the international community. Foreigners, even high-profile figures such as Noam Chomsky, are now refused entry to Israel and the occupied territories. Many foreign human rights workers face severe restrictions on their movement and efforts to deport them or ban their organisations.

The epitome of this process was Israel’s reception of the UN report last year into the attack on Gaza by Richard Goldstone. A respected judge and war crimes expert, he suggested that Israel had committed war crimes during its three-week operation. Justice Goldstone has faced savage personal attacks ever since.

But more significantly, Israel’s supporters have characterised the Goldstone report and the growing legal campaigns against Israel as examples of “lawfare”, implying that those who uphold international law are waging a new kind of war of attrition on behalf of terror groups like Hamas and Hizbollah.

These trends are likely only to deepen in the coming months and years. The mad dog is baring his teeth, and it is high time the international community decided how to deal with him.

Jonathan Cook, based in Nazareth, Israel is a winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). Read other articles by Jonathan, or visit Jonathan's website.

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  1. Rehmat said on June 3rd, 2010 at 9:52am #

    The conflicts, wars, political assassinations, false flag operations and Hasbara (propaganda) lies have been the staple diet of the Zionist regime and its western allies for over sixty years. The recent threats coming from Tel Aviv and its proxy governments in the West indicate that Zionist entity has got a ‘green light’ from Washington to start eliminating the Islamic resistances on its borders before the future US attack on the Islamic Republic.

    In recent months, Tel Aviv has shown an unbroken record of fabricating arms supplies to Lebanese Islamic resistance group Hizb’Allah by Tehran and Damascus. And like Osma Bin Laden tapes (made in Israel for IntelCenter and S.I.T.E.), the news of arms shipments – appear every time Washington shows some soft spot for Tehran or Damascus or Beirut. For example, when Senate was discussing the confirmation of Obama’s Ambassador-designate to Damascus, Robert Stephen Ford (an Arabist), Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak fired the smoking-gun that Syria is providing Hizb’Allah with Scud missiles whose accuracy and range threaten more Israeli cities than before. Robert Ford in his confirmation hearing listed five issues for which Obama administration is trying to engage Damascus-regime – stop resistance fighters entering Occupied Iraq; end its support for Hizb’Allah; open peace talks with the Zionist entity; respect human rights at home and open its suspected nuclear sites to IAEA inspections. Damascus has denied that its Al-Kibar facility housed a nuclear reactor and claimed that the uranium particles found by IAEA inspectors were sprinkled by Israeli bombers which destroyed the facility. Benjamin Netanyahu is upset because Turkey has refused to act as a mediator between Tel Aviv and Damacus. Former Mossad mole, French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, offered his services as mediator which were rejected by Damascus. As result of the Scud hoax – Robert Ford’s confirmation has been suspended.

    Tel Aviv’s threats to Lebanese government have, so far, failed to disarm Hizb’Allah or being kicked out of the Unity Government. Furthermore, Hizb’Allah has maintained its friendly relations with Tehran and Palestinian resistance groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Since inflicting on Israeli armed forces a crushing military defeat in 2006 – Hizb’Allah has rightfully claimed that it would not allow the Zionist entity to attack Lebanon with impunity. However, Israel has not stopped in provoking Hizb’Allah and Lebanon in the hope that in the future war with Hizb’Allah – it would revenge its 2006 military humiliation which has destroyed the myth of Israel Occupation Force (IOF) being invincible.

    In its last year report, Pentagon, had warned both Washington and Tel Aviv that Hizb’Allah has built up its military defense and attack capability to the same level as it had at the time of Israel’s 34-days invasion of Lebanon which resulted in the death 137 IOF soldiers, 49 Hizb’Allah fighters and over 1,200 Lebanese civilians.

  2. John Andrews said on June 3rd, 2010 at 11:29pm #

    I hadn’t heard of Dayan’s comment before, and it seems quite a strange thing for him to have said – because the only thing you can do with mad dogs is put them out of their misery.

    Israel is perfectly used to outraging the international community. It knows full well that it can safely ignore what the world thinks about it providing the Empire remains loyal, which of course it always does as theirs is a perfectly symbiotic relationship.

    The story is already disappearing off British radar screens towards the memory hole, with just a couple of minutes given over to it on the BBC last night, and not a single mention at all on ITV, thanks to the fortuitous timing of yet another mad dog going beserk in the Lake District.

    Fortunately that mad dog self-destructed – a fine role model for his kind.

  3. kalidas said on June 5th, 2010 at 8:45am #

    Symbiotic relationship as in … ” jews kill nonjews, who are not allowed to take notice.

    the object of the game: let’s see who tires first.”
    (thanks lobro)