How Hamas Measures Success

Hamas reminds me of that old commercial for Timex watches when the announce would intone, "It takes a licking and keeps on ticking."

Hamas has been taking a licking from the IDF over the past few weeks and it keeps on shooting.  Its leadership declare "a great victory" when American and other foreign airlines halted service to Ben Gurion Airport this week after a Hamas missile fell about a mile away.  Since then the terrorist group stepped up its firing in that direction, openly declaring a target in the hope – and not entirely unsuccessful – attempt to halt tourist and business travel to Israel.

Here are some other ways Hamas measures success in its latest round of its ongoing war with Israel. 

1.     Hamas is a terrorist group, and it has been very effective in that role.  Its rockets have terrorized many Israelis, its rockets fired at random toward population centers send Israelis to shelters and strike fear in many.

2.     The greatest achievement so far may be a missile that fell about a mile from Ben Gurion and caused American and most European airlines to halt all air travel to Israel, at least  briefly.  Hamas has hailed it as "a great victory."

3.     It has killed more than 30 soldiers wounded many more.

4.     It has turned its failure to kill more than 3 civilians – a Jew, a Bedouin and a Thai – into bragging rights by claiming (falsely) it aims only at heavily armed troops, not civilians (not that it hasn't been trying very hard).

5.     The high Palestinian civilian death toll has been exploited for sympathy for the Gazans and to generate extensive criticism of Israel as the media largely overlooks Hamas' practice of drawing those attacks by using human shields and putting missile storage, launch platforms and military sits in civilian neighborhoods.

6.     The large Palestinian body count and the sight of wounded children in hospitals have been skillfully parlayed into photo ops to draw world sympathy.

7.     Claims – still unverified —  that it kidnapped an Israeli soldier brought Gazans to the street to celebrate, bolstering Hamas' public support.

8.     If it succeeds in kidnapping an Israeli solder it will be an image of victory of Hamas and be demoralizing for the Israeli public, setting the stage for extended negotiations over another disproportionate prisoner swap that will enhance Hamas' stature on the street at the expense of the moderate Palestinian Authority.

9.     Brazil recalled its ambassador to protest what it called Israel's "excessive use of force."

10.  The reliably pro-Palestinian U.N. Human Rights Commission announced plans to investigate Israel for possible war crimes.

11.  It got Mahmoud Abbas to go from supporting Egypt's call for unconditional ceasefire to endorsing Hamas' list of unrealistic conditions.

12.  It has kept a tight control on any information out about the estimated 100-plus missiles that never made it to Israel but fell inside Gaza, and the casualty toll and damage done.

13.  Anti-Israel and anti-Semitic demonstrations in Europe and America.

14.  The survival of its leadership, safely ensconced in fortified bunkers or hiding out in Qatar or other countries, while civilians play human shields for them.

15.  Hamas benefits when there are rifts between Israel and its allies, especially Washington, when they press for a ceasefire and Israel is perceived as stalling.

16.   Inflicting damage on the Israeli economy, taking reservists from their job, closing businesses, halting air travel, driving away tourists.

17.  Hamas opposes peace with Israel – its stated goal remains eradication of the Jewish state – and by firing hundreds of missiles at Israeli towns and cities it is reinforcing those who oppose a peaceful solution through Palestinian statehood. 

18.  In a war with high Palestinian casualties, Hamas popularity on the West Bank is growing.  In the process Hamas is poisoning the Israel-PA relationship, accusing Fatah of siding with the Zionist enemy and inciting West Bank residents.

19. Putting up a credible fight against the Israeli army has been a break from the past and an achievement.

20.  Success is being able to continue firing dozens if not hundreds of missiles every day

21.  At the end of the day, Hamas' greatest success will be merely surviving.  If leaders can walk out of their underground hideouts into the sunshine and breathe fresh air it will be a major victory for them. 

Hamas doesn't expect to win this war and destroy Israel.  Or even get its demands – ending the siege, unfettered access by air land and sea, etc – met. It would celebrate a great victory if even one of its missiles hit an Israeli city killing large numbers of civilians.

"This euphoria will pass quickly," Ghaith al-Omari, executive director of the American Task Force on Palestine, told an audience at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy this week, because Hamas is the long-term loser in this conflict.

Once the dust settles and Hamas and the Gazan people look around at the damage, it is likely they will start thinking, as Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah told Lebanese TV after the 2006 Lebanon War, "…if I had known…that the operation would lead to such a war, would I do it?  I say no, absolutely no."

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.