Two weeks before the historic opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, I was privileged to listen to Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, the foreign media spokesperson of the Israel Defense Forces, at a dinner for the heads of “StandWithUs“ offices around the globe. As the head of the Israeli Army public relations unit, he explained what the Israel Defense Forces face in the world of public opinion. They were then gearing up for the programmed Palestinian “Days of Rage”, and he explained the Hamas goal. It was quite simply to create violence in order for the cameras of the world to show Israel perpetrating death against their “civilian population.”
Under strict instructions, the Israeli Army was specifically trained to limit harm done as much as possible. As the rioters massed by the Israeli border fence with Gaza, and were warned not to come close to the wall to try to breech it, Israel employed its finest sharpshooters, not to kill, but to shoot in the legs to stop them from potentially breaking down the fence- in order to enter Israel and commit mayhem. When that was not sufficient- Israel used tear gas to disperse the crowds. This is what the world wanted – a ”measured response.” As long as the crowds were not armed, that was manageable.
The results were not impressive enough, so Hamas geared up for a massive effort on the day of the Jerusalem Embassy celebrations. Not only did they have their upcoming “Nakba day”… where they annually decry the creation of the State of Israel using violence to attract attention, but they had also Jerusalem Day and the opening of the Embassy occurring back to back. It was the perfect time period to “go for broke.”
Hamas decided to intersperse in the crowds their own trained terrorist gunmen…and when they did that, the rules of engagement changed dramatically. Israel was not caught unaware. Her police and armed forces knew ahead of time and girded their military loins. The inevitable was about to happen. Hamas made sure it would be a bloodbath.
Original accounts in the media proclaimed that Hamas expected 1 million protestors to force their way into Israel. Then further reports said that they actually would be happy with a turn out of 250,000. In fact, the participants were closer to 30,000. It was still sufficient numbers to attract the cameras of the world media. Hamas now offers a $3,000 payment to families which lose a member in their “struggle” against Israel. Perhaps for a young Arab, that is a substantial sum of money which gives them an added incentive to risk their survival.
So essentially, this is the value of a fellow Muslim’s life in the eyes of Hamas…a mere three thousand dollars. How many among us would take a gun loaded with only one bullet in the chamber, and press it against our head or that of a loved one – for that sum? Do they find so little value in their life, that it is worth the risk to join a crowd peppered with terrorists armed with guns and Molotov cocktails, forcing their way towards an Israeli border, with the total force of the Israeli Defense Forces on the other side? The visual result is reminiscent of so many wars where troops were sent into battle against impossible odds- when soldiers of nations throughout history were sent forward with their generals knowing full well that the other side had military power which would plow down their forces and that few would survive. The difference is, that the Gazans who tried to riot and push through the Israeli border, had a choice. They were not forced to do so by an Army unit, but rather they were “brain-washed” to take a chance and play the game of “Russian Roulette” in the hope that they would actually survive. Sixty (according to Palestinian sources) did not, and as many as 2,700 were reportedly injured on the day of the U.S. Embassy triumphant opening. It is what the Hamas leaders wanted and cold-heartedly orchestrated.
Clearly the Hamas leaders knew that the border would not be breached, but they also knew that at the very moment of the grand opening ceremonies celebrating the move of the United States Embassy to Jerusalem, that television screens across the world would be split in half, one side showing the momentous event and the other showing the rioting. The PR minds on the Hamas side of the conflict are quite brilliant indeed. For those of us in Israel who wanted to watch the ceremony in English, it was a challenge to find a station which did not have another language with simultaneous translation blotting out the speakers, and it was even harder to find a station which did not give half of the television or computer screen to the rioters.
Hamas planned their project well. They invited their men to riot, encouraged them to die for the “cause”, and received the publicity they desired.
Consider for a moment, the advertising value of this spectacle. A “Superbowl” ad which is the most expensive advertising in the media world costs approximately $5 million dollars for a 30 second ad. If one does an approximation of the length of the ceremony as 1 hour (it was actually longer) , and uses the Superbowl fee of 10 million dollars per minute, it equates to 600 million dollars worth of free advertising for their cause. For those of you who would like to dissect my mathematics, also consider that in addition to the one hour plus of coverage they received, there was at least a 24 hour world-wide exposure on every media outlet in existence. Hence the advertising value to their cause was explosive… far more than the $600 million which I initially suggested. This was the one day when the entire world would be watching the news.
Rather than sit down at a negotiating table to come to a resolution for the Palestinian people…. their leaders would prefer to put their people into body bags, show wailing mothers and families at funerals, and pay stipends to those prepared to die for a pittance.
The real concern for Israel is long term. While Mahmoud Abbas struggles to remain in leadership in the West Bank, and is a massive disappointment to his own people, his fall from power would create a vacuum and would most certainly bring Hamas and its violence- even closer to the heart of the Jewish State. The “borders” of the West Bank would be much longer and more difficult to defend than those of Gaza. Israel’s real challenge is to find a way to encourage that basically far-less violent Arab population into a constructive effort with a positive vision for their future which will not succumb to the Hamas mentality and evil.
The days of thinking of the Palestinian people as victims of Israel are over. They are indeed the victims of their own ruthless leadership who saw an opportunity to trade human lives for the greatest possible political gain. European leaders pronouncing that Israel’s actions are not” helpful” to the “peace process” cannot actually think that there is still a “peace process” to protect. If Hamas wanted something other than the destruction of Israel, they would not be encouraging their people to offer their lives up to “Allah” -for no peaceful purpose whatsoever.