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Middle East

Aug 28, 2014

Mike Carlton: Gaza is Israel’s Vietnam, with Hamas victorious

Benjamin Netanyahu has ensured that no Israeli will ever again know peace, writes former ABC war correspondent and naval historian Mike Carlton.

So Hamas wins. No matter how Israel and its friends spin it, the raw fact is that this “indefinite ceasefire” leaves Hamas unbeaten in Gaza.

Bloodied and battered, yes, with an echelon of its senior military and political leadership killed by Israeli airstrikes. But it is only down, not out. It lives to fight another day, which means that Benjamin Netanyahu and his hard-Right Likud-coalition government have failed, and disastrously so, in their stated aim of ensuring Israel’s security by a crushing military and economic dominance of the Palestinian people. They rolled the dice. They lost.

This is the nature of asymmetrical warfare. As we saw in Vietnam, one side deploys overwhelming military and technological muscle — and the propaganda to go with it — to crush its weak and primitive opponent. Entire American infantry and air cavalry divisions, hundreds of thousands of men and machines, were hurled against an enemy that lived in tunnels and moved by stealth and guile. It was B52 bombers and napalm against little guys wearing rubber tyre sandals and driving clapped-out Russian tanks. For years the United States navy and air force bombed the bejesus out of Hanoi and the Ho Chi Minh supply trail down along the Cambodian border with Vietnam. Henry Kissinger strutted his diplomatic magic in Geneva and Paris.

And it failed. Utterly. Voltaire got it right: God is not always on the side of the big battalions. Having beaten their French overlords, North Vietnam’s political and military leadership ratcheted the theory up a couple of notches. They recognised that their regular northern army — and their subordinate southern Viet Cong cadres — could never defeat the United States in the field. But they knew they didn’t need to. No matter what their casualties, no matter how many thousands of their young men they committed to certain death, all they had to do was to still be standing when the Americans lost the will to fight and the shooting stopped. And they were.

So is Hamas. As its spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said on Tuesday: “Hamas is grateful to the people of Gaza who sacrificed their homes, children and money. We announce the victory today after achieving our goals. Netanyahu has failed to force Gaza to surrender. Yes, we defeated them by our standing and our resistance.”

The figures are horrifying. Agence France Press estimated that more than 2000 Palestinians were killed in seven weeks of war, including 493 children. Some 10,000 people were injured, 3100 of them children, of whom around 1000 will suffer some permanent disability. And about 475,000 people have been left homeless.

“The entire history of this benighted land tells us there is nothing more certain. No Israeli now alive will know peace.”

By contrast, Israel’s ambulance service counted just five civilian deaths and 37 injuries — only one critical — from Hamas rockets and mortars over the 50 days. Technology again; Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence worked brilliantly.

But to what end? American historian Barbara Tuchman nailed what she called the march of folly: the wooden-headed (her words) pursuit by nations of policies catastrophically against their own interests. Her examples included the Spanish King Philip II’s dispatch of the Armada against Elizabethan England, George III’s attempt to crush the rebellious 13 American colonies and, yes, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon in Vietnam.

To which illustrious roll we can now add the name Netanyahu. His reckless folly has ensured that Hamas and Islamic Jihad now have an abundant source of recruits for their next generation of fighters. They will be those who survived this latest war, those children who saw their parents or their brothers and sisters blown to pieces and their homes, schools, and entire neighbourhoods obliterated. And they will rise again. The entire history of this benighted land tells us there is nothing more certain. No Israeli now alive will know peace. Hamas can resume the strategy and tactics of terror at any time it chooses.

None of this is even vaguely understood by the powerful and sophisticated Likud lobby in Australia. The faintest criticism of Israel is always met with concerted howls of “anti-Semitism!” It is a facile libel flung about by the comfortable kaffeeklatsch of Sydney and Melbourne, well-upholstered burghers who have never actually experienced a flicker of anti-Semitism in their gilded lives, let alone the Gestapo knock at midnight or even a rocket landing down the street. In doing so, they demean the memory of those who truly knew what it meant: the dead of Auschwitz.        

The final word can be left to 327 Jewish survivors and descendants of victims of the Nazi genocide who signed an open letter to The New York Times this week:

“We unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonization of historic Palestine.

“We further condemn the United States for providing Israel with the funding to carry out the attack, and Western states more generally for using their diplomatic muscle to protect Israel from condemnation. Genocide begins with the silence of the world.

“We are alarmed by the extreme, racist dehumanization of Palestinians in Israeli society, which has reached a fever-pitch. In Israel, politicians and pundits in The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post have called openly for genocide of Palestinians and right-wing Israelis are adopting Neo-Nazi insignia …

“Furthermore, we are disgusted and outraged by… Israel’s wholesale effort to destroy Gaza and the murder of more than 2,000 Palestinians, including many hundreds of children. Nothing can justify bombing UN shelters, homes, hospitals and universities. Nothing can justify depriving people of electricity and water.

“We must raise our collective voices and use our collective power to bring about an end to all forms of racism, including the ongoing genocide of Palestinian people. We call for an immediate end to the siege against and blockade of Gaza. We call for the full economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel. ‘Never again’ must mean NEVER AGAIN FOR ANYONE!”

But then, they’re probably anti-Semitic.

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54 comments

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54 thoughts on “Mike Carlton: Gaza is Israel’s Vietnam, with Hamas victorious

  1. Kevin Herbert

    Nice work Mike.

    The Zionist lobby cannot keep a good man down

  2. Peter Walters

    Good to see you back in action Mike

  3. Phil Lynch

    Mike,
    Love your work and great to see you contributing on Crikey but must point out it was the Laos border section of the Ho Chi Minh trail that copped the worst of the cluster bombs

    “For years the United States navy and air force bombed the bejesus out of Hanoi and the Ho Chi Minh supply trail down along the Cambodian border with Vietnam.”

    Been there, reported on it.

    Phil Lynch

  4. Patrick

    You know a situation is hopeless when the status quo is stalemate and the leaders refuse to meet. I get that all parties in this conflict hate each other, but when did any war end with a group friends discussing terms around the table.

  5. Khupert the Runt

    Well said Mike, I entirely agree with you.

    I will be sadly amused by the deluge of outraged responses from predictable sources, all of whom will entirely miss the point you are making, and in the process demonstrate how little they respect the sacrifices and tragically acquired wisdom of those born two to three generations ago.

  6. rhonaj

    Mike welcome to Crkey.

  7. Dogs breakfast

    Nice letter from the Jews who experienced first hand what genocide actually means. I have been waiting, and wondering, when those Jews who experienced this treatment first hand from the other side would speak up against what their current day political leaders were doing.

    I hope you are right Mr Carlton, I dearly hope that future generations will see the futility of their current response.

  8. Tamas Calderwood

    “No Israeli now alive will know peace.”

    Meaning no Palestinian will know peace either. Some victory.

  9. Marilyn Shepherd

    Pity Mike didn’t use the rest of that letter where they quote the myth of Israel as outlined by Shlomo Sand and the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by Ilan Pappe, both of which I have read.

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