Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler
Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Monday, November 19.
1) Restraining Hamas (through Egypt)
David Kirkpatrick reports in the New York Times, An Outgunned Hamas Tries to Tap Islamists’ Growing Clout:
Hamas, badly outgunned on the battlefield, appeared to be trying to
exploit its increased political clout with its ideological allies in
Egypt’s new Islamist-led government. The group’s leaders, rejecting
Israel’s call for an immediate end to the rocket attacks, have instead
laid down sweeping demands that would put Hamas in a stronger position
than when the conflict began: an end to Israel’s five-year-old embargo
of the Gaza Strip, a pledge by Israel not to attack again and
multinational guarantees that Israel would abide by its commitments.
Abigail Houslahner reports Hamas finds greater support in a changed Middle East
in the Washington Post:
As the conflict between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip
intensifies, Arab governments are throwing their weight behind the
territory’s long-isolated Islamist leaders in a reflection of the
region’s shifting political dynamics after nearly two years of upheaval.
Both of these reports take the view that the Islamist support for Hamas is important now.
Long kept at a distance by Arab autocrats wary of Hamas’s hard-line
ideology, the group has found a new set of highly influential friends —
including the democratically elected governments of Egypt, Tunisia and
Turkey, all U.S. allies. Those backers give Hamas stronger standing
internationally, and perhaps greater room to maneuver as it faces the
second major Israeli operation in Gaza in four years.
In contrast, Jonathan Spyer argues in Hamas's miscalculation:
The Hamas rulers of Gaza understand this point well. They regard
themselves as part of an historic process of an Islamist advance. The
swift and stunning rise to power of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in
particular led to a sharp change in the movement’s assessment of the
balances of forces and what was possible at this moment in its long
struggle against Israel.
(By the way, Spyer makes a fascinating observation about the Arab spring.)
This change at the level of strategic perspective led in recent months
to changes in tactics. In the first years after Operation Cast Lead,
Hamas made some efforts to prevent Islamic Jihad and the smaller Salafi
organizations from firing at Israel and bringing down retribution. The
movement focused on rearming and improving its capabilities. Hamas’s own
fighters were rarely responsible for the rockets.
In the course of 2012, this changed. Believing it had its fellow Muslim
Brothers in Egypt at its back, Hamas began to allow freer rein to the
smaller groups, and to participate in actions against Israel along the
The support now, according to Spyer, is mostly superficial. Though the
Muslim Brotherhood's rise to power may have emboldened Hamas, Egypt is
too dependent on the West to offer anything more than moral support to
This fits nicely with what Eric Trager wrote last week:
For this reason, Washington must send Morsi a message - now - that by
effectively encouraging Egyptians to cross into a war zone, he is
putting his own citizens at risk. Moreover, Morsi must be told that if
something happens to the Egyptians visiting Gaza, the international
community will not accept him using this as an excuse for revising
3) Important points about Pillar of Defense
Jodi Rudoren reports in the New York Times, Brigades That Fire on Israel Are Showing a New Discipline:
Mr. Manama was one of as many as 15,000 Qassam fighters who are
responsible for most of the rocket blitzes that have blanketed southern
Israel and reached as far as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in the five days
since the brigade’s operations commander, Ahmed al-Jabari, was
assassinated, experts say.
Ethan Bronner reported, With Longer Reach, Rockets Bolster Hamas Arsenal, also in the New York Times:
Highly organized and increasingly professionalized yet still secretive
and cultlike, Qassam is emblematic of Hamas’s struggle to balance its
history as a resistance movement and its governing role in Gaza since
Israel has blamed the growing number of civilian casualties in Gaza on
the fact that Qassam and Hamas are inextricable, and military
storehouses are woven into residential neighborhoods. Most Qassam
fighters have day jobs — as police officers, university professors,
ministry clerks, and Mr. Manama’s relatives said he had been sleeping at
home even during last week’s widening war.
A number of recent Israeli military attacks were aimed at cutting the
supply chain into Gaza. In late October, a munitions factory in Sudan
was hit from the air. Israel did not acknowledge carrying out the
attack, but the winks and nods of officials here make clear that it did.
Israel has carried out several other such attacks on Sudan, including
on convoys, in the past few years.
Israel's war with Hamas was necessary as Hamas has acquired significant
new capabilities and threats. Once Hamas decided to increase the level
of terror directed against Israel, Israel had to degrade the terrorist
group's new power.
In addition, Mossad agents killed a Hamas official in a Dubai hotel in
early 2010 because he was thought to be crucial to the Hamas supply
chain of weapons and rockets into Gaza.
One official here said that until Israel ended its military occupation
of Gaza in 2005, there were only primitive weapons factories there. The
Hamas rockets had a flight capacity of about a mile, they could not be
aimed and they flew in a wild cylindrical pattern. Hamas then built
better rockets that could fly up to 12 miles.
But it's important to keep the real story in mind. Melanie Philips has documented evidence of the care Israel has taken to minimize collateral damage and civilian casualties. (via memeorandum) For example:
Since the beginning of Israel’s operation Pillar of Defence last
Wednesday against Hamas rocket attacks, there have been more than 1000
Israeli air strikes. At time of writing, the Palestinian death toll is
69. That is a staggeringly small number of fatalities for more than 1000
It shows beyond doubt that the Israelis are not only doing everything
they can to avoid civilian casualties, but have achieved a degree of
precision in doing so which no other army can match. For sure, every
civilian casualty is regrettable, and the deaths of children are always
tragic -- today’s apparently heavy toll particularly so, including at
what appears to have been a mistaken target. Such mistakes inevitably
happen in war.
Labels: Egypt, Hamas, Middle East Media Sampler, Mohammed Morsy, Operation Pillar of Defense, Soccer Dad