Earlier this week I sat in a large audience attentive to Lt. General Benny Gantz, Chief of the IDF General Staff. It was not what he said but what he didn’t say that irks me. He spoke of military force, politics and of Israel’s security quagmires. He didn’t speak of understanding the context of the action before understanding the action itself; that is solving the causes and not the symptoms.

General Gantz needs to enhance Intelligence by means of critical theory and historical materialism. These perceive conflict as a source of structural change rather than as a recurrent consequence of a continuing structure. For you and me, that means finding connections between people’s ideas and the material world.

Defense, deterrence and dissuasion grapple dismally in resolving the Israel’s security because they don’t contract with people ideas; they contract with the organizations, states and armed forces that threaten Israel. These deal with the symptoms and not the causes of the threats that Israel faces.

Gantz fails to elucidate the causes of Israel’s security milieu that arise as outcomes of longer historical movements that influence people’s lives. Cultural production, political economy and the politics of cultural texts, model the nature of human interaction in communities, societies and civilizations. Asymmetrical networks flank hierarchical state structures in the world order generating different notions of intangible power struggles. Rationality is no longer a reliable constant.

Gantz must engage the causes of the Islamic threats against Israel. The cause is not the oft-quoted jihad or holy war notable since the historical Islamic suicide wars of AfIt. The cause stems from Islam being contextually more than a religion; it is an entire way of life seeing events or actions, fatalistically, as the will of Allah; unwilling to embrace democratic, industrial, modernity starting with material factors.

Consequent stagnation sees Islamic societies not having internal impetus or class pressures to modernize. The population at large in the Islamic world is not empowered nor enlightened; but portrays sustained dependency and sub-ordinance  Social rationality is closely tied to the foundations of specific religious categories, beliefs, and exercises in relation to everyday life, commerce, and governance.

The choice of Israel as the target is indicative of its role expressing military asymmetry; small players can harm the powerful easily and attain dignity. In the social-historical context for Islam’s embrace of violence, radicalism and fundamentalism; the perpetrators offer the ultimate sacrifice for a cause. To be sure the shaheed is the default mode; that is the warrior legacy of “heroic masculinity” to make the ultimate sacrifice to kill or be killed; to give his life for a collective cause that would also perpetuate for eternity his individual martyrdom.

Gantz needs to boost Intelligence on the social-historical factors that mediate the processes whereby social-psychological factors shape individual behavior and consciousness; thoughts, feelings, desires, opportunities and constraints. The individual is the most important unit of analysis; people seek dignity, respect and recognition for themselves or their actions; and they seek agency, impact upon the world. Indeed far more men have died for the sake of honor in combat than for the love of a woman.

Such Intelligence must spotlight the struggles for recognition and pursuit of dignity that are central to both the person and his/her groups. Conversely, shame and humiliation, assaults on honor and denigration of self-hood foster rage to assuage the insult. The Palestinians perceive themselves as the “wretched of the earth” and seek self-dignity to overcome the denigration of Islamic hegemonic self-hood through cathartic violence.

Gantz speaks of the events in the neighboring states resting on a psyche of vulnerability rather than a threat based consciousness. In these states the fear of acts of violence no longer exists; and anarchy is becoming the alternative to civilization. To preempt and prevent these states and numerous non-state forces in them from posing a threat to Israel, Intelligence analysis must exhume the context that generates the event before considering the event; namely “reactive ethno-nationalism.” 

To prepare Israel to tackle the instability in the region and enhance Israel’s security matrix Gantz needs to augment Intelligence. It is not only the legacy of a distant past, ideology, religion, and interstate relations that weigh upon the present. There must be an additional focus on the “sociological imagination” to locate individual biographies in larger social-historical contexts.

The future of Israel’s security is dependent upon resolving the causes as well as the symptoms of the security matrix; that is the connections between people’s ideas and the material world.

 

Glen Segell, FRGS, is Researcher at The Institute for National Security Studies Tel Aviv, Lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and Senior Researcher for the Ariel Research Center for Defense and Communication