War of Narratives

In his Wall Street Journal column Daniel Henninger remarks that Hamas’s strategic objective in their October 7 attack was not merely to provoke a response but to promote a narrative:

Every war is a humanitarian crisis. But Gaza is the first humanitarian-crisis war, presented to the world almost entirely in terms of the suffering of civilians. That is no accident.

Before the Israel Defense Forces entered the Al Shifa Hospital compound Wednesday, the media had reported extensively how its medical personnel and patients, including infants, were at mortal risk. President Biden on Monday said the hospital “must be protected.” His national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said, “We do not want to see firefights in hospitals.” Some 500 Biden administration employees signed an open letter insisting on a cease-fire.

Where the logic of this leads is obvious: The overwhelming responsibility falls on Israel to make the suffering end.

That is the narrative that Hamas is promoting.

He concludes:

Hamas knew that the humanitarian-crisis narrative after the IDF chased them into Gaza’s teeming neighborhoods would isolate Israel politically. In that crude sense, the day of slaughter was a success. But even more cynical than their naive Western counterparts, Hamas always knew their isolate-Israel narrative had no practical solution. It was zero-sum from day one.

Rubbing the public’s face in unsolvable problems over time causes a coarsening of that same public’s sensibilities. Eventually people just want someone to clean up the mess, like the drug-addicted homeless or wandering migrants. And it’s never pretty.

Hamas wanted a humanitarian crisis. It got that. But it also got something more familiar—an ugly war.

The Israelis showed that they had their own narrative 75 years ago.

Lest there be any ambiguity I condemn Hamas for its actions. Its members could end the war today if they laid down their arms. They will not do that because their objective is to establish an Islamist state in Palestine. They are not merely indifferent to civilian casualties, they rejoice in them. I don’t understand that because I’m not an Islamist but they rather clearly think that civilian casualties move them closer to their desired end.

However, I don’t support the Israelis, either. I do support a peaceful, multi-ethnic, multi-confessional state in the land once called Palestine. There’s no way to accomplish that with both Israelis and Palestinians believing the things they do. Were Israel merely to annex the West Bank and Gaza, Arabs would outnumber Jews in the expanded Israel. Were Israel to completely exit Gaza and the West Bank, they’d continue to receive attacks from the newly-formed Palestine.

1 comment… add one
  • steve Link

    “Hamas knew that the humanitarian-crisis narrative after the IDF chased them into Gaza’s teeming neighborhoods would isolate Israel politically. ”

    If you follow UN votes it looks like Israel has been largely isolated for a while.


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