Avi Shamir

The Disproportion of an Asymmetric War

The ongoing war in Gaza has revived tons of false narratives and misinformation. So, just to clear things up:

Contrary to the tall tale that Hamas is a band of “freedom fighters,” they are nothing of the sort. Freedom fighters don’t link a massive terror tunnel complex to schools, kindergartens, mosques and hospitals. Freedom fighters don’t shoot rockets at civilian populations from the courtyards of apartment buildings, with the aim to draw return fire that is sure to inflict casualties on their own civilians. Freedom fighters don’t keep women and children trapped in crossfire and later display their corpses to score points in their propaganda war. Freedom fighters don’t hide like cowards behind human shields. Freedom fighters don’t pop in and out of holes in the ground like rats.

The October 7th massacre, mutilation, burning, rape and kidnapping of Israeli civilians is horrifying proof of Hamas brutality. They are by definition an oppressive terrorist regime, freely elected, as it were, way back in 2006, and ever since in no big hurry to call for new elections. In its eighteen years in power, Hamas has suppressed all opposition to their authoritarian rule and done nothing for the advancement of the Palestinians living in Gaza. The true sentiments of this bullied population are at long last being expressed in the media as Gazans, at great risk, are increasingly blaming Hamas for their suffering and losses. Video footage of Hamas leader Yehya Sinwar and his family taking shelter in a terror tunnel in the first days of the war has drawn outrage from disillusioned Gazans.

The disproportion between Hamas and the IDF is asymmetric warfare in its most lopsided form. The IDF fights with combat aircraft, tanks and gun boats. Hamas fights with its high command, weapons caches and military infrastructure kept underground. This encompasses 350 miles of terror tunnels built beneath its civilian population. While the IDF repeatedly warns Gazan civilians to vacate targeted areas, Hamas prevents non-combatants from fleeing IDF bombardment of urban centers linked to their terror complex. This intimidation is key to Hamas’s reprehensible human shield strategy. Since the start of the war, over a million Gazans who listened to IDF warnings to evacuate targeted areas ran for their lives, while estimates of over 20,000 civilians who Hamas managed to entrap paid with their lives.

In spite of the well-documented proof of Hamas’s war crimes, anti-Israel / anti-Semitic elements have shifted the blame for the Gazan death toll to the IDF, accusing it of a “disproportionate” response to the Black Saturday massacre. It is not hard to guess how such sanctimonious critics would have reacted had the IDF responded with a more “balanced” murder and rape spree and brought 250 Palestinian hostages into Israel.

How’s this for a disproportionate response: The war in Gaza is drawing sweeping condemnation of Israel, but scarcely a peep of protest against Hamas. The Israel-Hamas war has dwarfed other long-running conflicts. No one seems to care about atrocities against civilians and millions of displaced persons in Syria, Yemen, Sudan and the Congo. No one is talking about Ukraine anymore, as if the Putin regime’s war crimes are old news. The only war story that evokes outrage spotlights Israel trying to defend itself.

More disproportion: Everyone is talking about the humanitarian crisis afflicting Gazan Palestinians. But no one outside Israel has much to say about the suffering of the Israeli hostages, who have been held in inhumane conditions and haven’t seen the light of day for 170 days and counting.

Conversely, everyone is expecting Israel to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza, as if other armies in conflicts around the world come to the enemy bearing gifts. But no one is acknowledging that the IDF is making the effort, or even mentions that Hamas interference has turned this already complex operation into a nightmare. Since late October 2023, the IDF has enabled over 12,000 truckloads of much-needed food, water, medical supplies and shelters to enter the Rafah crossing and pass through its security checks with the aim to reach Gazan civilians in urban areas and tent cities. Hamas seizes the lion’s share of these cargos for their own survival, prolonging their reign of terror. That said, the recent killing of around 100 hungry Palestinians swarming around a humanitarian aid convoy draws an automatic accusation that they were hit by IDF gunfire. Apparently, citing Hamas as a more likely suspect doesn’t resonate with the anti-Zionist climate of the times.

The foregone conclusion that Israel should be held accountable for Gaza’s civilian death toll is based on selective circumstantial evidence, with rationale like: “Israeli bombs land in Gaza, Gazans get killed.” Media sources presenting aerial photographs of urban areas bombed by the IDF gloss over the ugly truth that many residential blocks in Gazan cities both house Hamas personnel and are linked to their terrorist infrastructure, i.e. legitimate targets as per the Geneva Convention.

The following piece of misinformation also merits some clarity: “The IDF drops dumb bombs on targets filled with civilians.” This trendy accusation spread by biased journalists and social media warriors really misses the target. Unguided bombs are only as “dumb’” as the military commanders who give the order to use them. To wit: If you want to both save money and kill innocent civilians, the best delivery method is to fire cheap rockets from crude mobile launchers, Hamas-style. The Israeli Air Force deploys advanced F-16s over Gaza. Air-to-ground missiles lacking built-in guidance and navigation rely on command information from the attacking aircraft to stay on target. An AGM dropped from an F-16 has a CEP (circular error probable – measuring radius of accuracy) of a few meters for precision. By contrast, mortars and rockets fired by Hamas have “CEPs” ranging from Ashkelon to Tel-Aviv to anywhere in Israel, as all are targeted at Israeli civilians.

Israel bashers masquerading as humanitarians have nothing to say about the anti-tank missiles which are being fired routinely at Israeli civilians by Hezbollah, Hamas’s Lebanese associates. No one is protesting against the cynical use of armor penetrating projectiles aimed at Israeli flesh and blood. And no one seems to care that over 200,000 displaced Israelis are refugees in their own country, having fled their homes on the borders with Gaza and Lebanon to escape indiscriminate rocket attacks, and out of fear of another massacre.

All said, the only thing “proportionate” about this very uneven war is the disgraceful leadership on both sides, namely: Yehya Sinwar and Benjamin Netanyahu. So, with a sense of proportion:

In his sick mind, Sinwar will go down in history as the architect of the October 7th bloodbath, so for all intents and purposes he already won the war on day one. With his sheer unmitigated gall, Netanyahu is using this war the way he uses any state of emergency, to prolong his political survival and delay his corruption trial indefinitely. Netanyahu refuses to take responsibility for the worst security disaster in Israel’s history. Sinwar would scoff at any suggestion of Hamas’ accountability for Palestinian losses. Hiding in his tunnel, Sinwar’s bargaining chip and the last layer of his human shield consists of the Israeli hostages. Netanyahu is using incomprehensible delaying tactics to finalize an agreement with Hamas that would free all the hostages. Sinwar’s goons use clubs, daggers and pistols to keep Gazans from criticizing the Hamas regime. Netanyahu looks the other way when Israeli police spray water cannon on hostages’ family members crying “bring them home now.” Sinwar’s supporters regard dissenting Palestinians as collaborators with Israel. Netanyahu’s supporters regard Israeli protestors from the left and the right as collaborators with Sinwar. Sinwar is a fanatic surrounded by fanatics. Netanyahu’s credo is his self-preservation, so he has no qualms about surrounding himself with fanatics and other unsavory characters if they can keep him in power. Sinwar is a proven terrorist; Netanyahu is a proven liar, suspected criminal and aspiring dictator trying to stay out of jail.

The bottom line: The last thing Sinwar cares about is a “free Palestine,” which doesn’t fit in with Hamas’ plans to impose both Sharia law and the rule of might, Gaza-style, on Palestinians in the West Bank. The last thing Netanyahu cares about is Israel’s liberal democracy, which will fade into memory if he realizes his plans to take over the Israeli Supreme Court, God forbid. May Israel and Palestine survive the malicious designs of Netanyahu and Sinwar.

About the Author
Avi Shamir is a freelance writer, editor, translator and the author of "Saving the Game," a novel about baseball. A Brooklyn College graduate with a BA in English, Avi has contributed to the Jerusalem Post, The Nation, Israel Scene, In English and The World Zionist Press Service.