The Personalisation of War

There was a time that wars were fought between countries. Whether military or economic, a country or a group of countries would battle other countries. In extreme cases, the wars would ensnare much of the world.

But in modern times, battles have moved to a personal level.

Non-State Actors

Non-state actors like Islamic Jihad and the Palestinian Liberation Organization have been waging political terrorism for a long time. However in modern times (since 2011), terrorist groups like ISIS and Boko Haram moved the goalposts considerably, by using social media as an active part of their war efforts. The groups used Facebook and Twitter to share videos of brutal murders to both instill fear in their enemies and to enlist new troops. Such efforts were so successful, that politicians made combating these groups online one of their priorities in defeating the terrorists.

While social media became a new fertile area for the recruitment of civilians, the war efforts were still overseen and directed by the leadership of the terrorist groups. The leaders either deployed the new recruits in active fields of battle such as Iraq and Syria, or instructed them to conduct terrorist attacks in western countries that were supporting the battle against the jihadist groups.

That formula began to evolve in 2014.

Armies of One

For most of mankind’s history, an individual was a local being without a voice. In dictatorships, people’s opinions were irrelevant. A person’s existence was to pay taxes and serve in the army to further the goals of the leader. Even in democracies in which an individual’s opinion mattered in shaping a government’s makeup and therefore its policies, the individual’s impact would be relegated to the voting booth. If people wanted to achieve a more direct impact on government foreign policy, the choices were being part of a massive protest or joining the army or government. However, in each of those cases, the ultimate arbiter of foreign policy remained at the government level.

Social media has started to change that dynamic. Not only could non-state actors reach civilians around the world as described above, civilians could share their opinions and express their anger and actually impact foreign policy in a number of ways.

Defamation: In the third Hamas war from Gaza against Israel in 2014, Palestinian Arabs took to Facebook and Twitter to describe their personal situation. As described in the new book “War in 140 Characters: How Social Media is Reshaping Conflict in the Twenty-First Century,”  a teenage girl from Gaza posted live about her fear and suffering in the war, reaching hundreds of thousands of people around the world, punishing Israel’s image on a global level. According to the author of the book, “Israel lost the global information war because it did not ‘bleed’ enough, and as long as it maintains its military advantage, it never will.

Violence: By the 2014 war’s end, the Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank felt that they had also not ‘bled’ enough, and began a car ramming and stabbing intifada against Israelis, both civilians and soldiers. The attacks were inspired – but not orchestrated – by Arab leadership from the West Bank Fatah party as well as the Gaza-based Hamas party.


Cartoon from Fatah website directing people to use cars to run over Jews
November 6, 2014


Palestinian girl discussing stabbing Jews
November 12, 2015

The deadly “lone wolf” attacks in the United States from 2015 to 2017 were similarly inspired by ISIS, but were not planned by the terrorist group’s leadership.

Economic: The personal war is not just being waged with violence and libel. It is economic as well.

In the past countries-war model, countries would use economic pressure against one another, such as after Egypt lost the Yom Kippur War to Israel in 1973, it engaged in an economic war against all of the countries that supported Israel including the US via an oil embargo. In today’s individual-war model, people engage in a boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. The BDS movement targets the government of Israel, professors at Israeli universities, Israeli companies and even individuals looking to perform in Israel. The latest victim was the pop singer Lorde, who cancelled her Israel concert in December 2017 after being barraged by threats from individuals.

This is a new phenomenon. Individuals are now attackers and individuals are now victims. The ties that bind both attacker and victim are no longer based on nationality and borders, but by identity. Jihadists fight anti-jihadists around the world, and anti-Zionists fight Zionists everywhere. The global economy and pervasiveness of social media have enabled the protagonists to organize.

In such a new format, is Israel worse off or better? The one Jewish State is outnumbered 57-to-1 by the number of Muslim countries, but by 100-to-1 in terms of Muslim-to-Jewish population (twice as small). In general, Israel is just a single country out of 193 countries at the United Nations, but is dwarfed by 900-to-1 in terms of the global population (five times as small).

In a new personalized-war model, the small country looks even smaller.

But the personalization of war also leads invariably to a personalization of defense, and therein lies an amazing opportunity.

There is only one Jewish State and only a limited number of Jews, so Israel will always be outnumbered on the world stage. But there are millions of pro-Zionists in the world. These people must be educated and prepared to counter the scourge of demonization that is being touted on social media. They should be marketed to as consumers of Israeli products to repel the efforts of BDS minions. And they should be called upon to defend Israel when individuals, groups and countries shout “from the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free,” in efforts to destroy the one Jewish State.

Sign up to FirstOneThrough and other pro-Israel sites and share the articles and videos broadly on social media. The personalization of war has made everyone an active participant in the fight.

 


Related First.One.Through articles:

Car Ramming from Islamic Terrorism Explodes as it Approaches its Second Anniversary

The Big, Bad Lone Wolves of Terrorism

Stabbing the Palestinian “Right of Return”

The Current Intifada against Everyone

The New Salman Abedi High School for Boys in England and the Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel Soccer Tournament in France

“Won’t you be my Neighbor?”

Israel’s Peers and Neighbors

Subscribe YouTube channel: FirstOneThrough

Join Facebook group: FirstOne Through  Israel Analysis

Advertisements

Flip-Flopping on the Felling of Terrorist Groups’ Founders

The New York Times reported on July 3, 2015 that “Tunisia’s most wanted jihadist” was killed in an American airstrike. The New York Times coverage stood in sharp contrast to the coverage that the paper used in covering Israel’s killing of a top jihadist in 2004.

DSC_0015
New York Times July 3, 2015 page A6

Headline: The headline from the story in 2015 was “Jihadist From Tunisia Died in Strike in Libya, U.S. Official Says” which clearly labeled the target as a “jihadist”. The way he died was framed in the passive “died” and was attributed to a “U.S. Official” speaking about the incident. This was in sharp contrast to the NYT article “Leader of Hamas killed in Airstrike by Israeli Missile” which did not suggest that the target was a militant but a “leader.” The man was “killed” in an active way, rather than simply stating that he “died”, and the method of the assassination was clearly attributed to Israeli action, rather than news reported by “US Officials.”

Opening paragraphs: A comparison of the opening paragraphs of each article shows the pattern of the Times coaxing its readers to celebrate the assassination of bad jihadists, but questioning the tactics of Israelis.

TUNIS — Tunisia’s most wanted jihadist, who masterminded a campaign of assassinations and terrorist attacks, including one against the United States Embassy in Tunis, was killed in an American airstrike in Libya in mid-June that had targeted another Al Qaeda leader, a senior United States official said on Thursday.

The jihadist, Seifallah Ben Hassine, also known as Abu Ayadh, was one of Osama bin Laden’s top lieutenants and the leader of the outlawed group Ansar al-Shariah in Tunisia. He had been based in Libya since 2013, according to reports, and ran training camps and a network of militant cells across the region.”

The article clearly spelled out that Ben Hassine was a very bad man from the very start of the article. He was the “most wanted jihadists” who led “assassination and terrorist attacks” including against American interests. If the US took out a man who launched many attacks including against Americans, it would make sense that such person got what he deserved. Heck, the article threw in two references to “Al Qaeda” and “Osama bin Laden” to convince the reader that this was a really, really bad guy.

Let’s compare the article about the targeted killing of the founder of Hamas by Israel in 2004:

JERUSALEM, Monday, March 22 Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader and founder of the militant Palestinian group Hamas, was killed early Monday by an Israeli missile that struck him as he left a mosque in Gaza City, his family and Hamas officials said. They said at least two bodyguards had been killed with him.

Sheik Yassin, a symbol to Palestinians of resistance to Israel and to Israelis of Palestinian terrorism, was by far the most significant Palestinian militant killed by Israel in more than three years of conflict.

The article led with the Sheik’s name. He was referred to as the “spiritual leader” who was killed while he “left a mosque.” His demise was reported by “his family.” Overall, he was regarded as much more of a religious human being than the “most wanted terrorist” in the article the attacker against the U.S.

The Times continued that the Sheik was “a symbol to Palestinians of resistance.” This phrase did many things: 1) using the term “symbol” made him appear as an uninvolved player; 2) “resistance” gave credence to a Palestinian narrative. No such equivalence was given to Tunisia’s most wanted terrorist.

While the Times stated that Yassin was the “founder of the militant Palestinian group Hamas”, it did not go on to state that the organization was considered a terrorist group by the US, EU, Israel and many other countries. Yet it did state that the Tunisian terrorist was “the leader of the outlawed group Ansar al-Shariah.”

Don’t worry. The contrasts get worse.

The NY Times then went on to praise the murder of the Tunisian terrorist:

“His death, if confirmed, would be an important victory for Tunisia in its struggle to contain a persistent insurgency in its western border region and a growing threat to its urban centers. Just last Friday, 38 people, most of them British, were massacred at a beach resort in the town of Sousse. In March, 21 people were killed when militants attacked the national museum.

The government has attributed many of the attacks to sleeper cells established by Mr. Ben Hassine when he founded Ansar al-Shariah after Tunisia’s revolution in 2011.”

The Times gave its readers the conclusion of the operation: it was “an important victory”. The people of Tunisia were struggling against a “persistent… and growing threat.” What about Israel?

“Black smoke curled over Gaza City as Palestinians began burning tires in the streets and demonstrators chanted for revenge. Mosque loudspeakers blared a message across Gaza of mourning for Sheik Yassin in the name of Hamas and another militant group, Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades.”

The Times reported that the assassination was not a step forward but a step backward. The killing of the founder of a terrorist movement in Tunisia was a step towards stability while the killing of founder of the Palestinian terrorist group was just a move to escalate a cycle of violence.

The Times emphasized the point by reporting on the recent attacks in Tunisia on tourists at a beach resort and a national museum (anyone in the world could have been one of those tourists, which elicits global sympathy). The Times failed to report on the multi-year Second Intifada which started in September 2000 in which Palestinians killed thousands of Israeli civilians. Just before the Israeli strike, Hamas took credit for two bombings at the Port of Ashdod which killed 10 people. No mention of the incident until much later in the article.

 

I leave the rest of the two articles for you to read. You will note that one article describes a military attack against a man with a long history of terrorist activities. The other article describes a Palestinian community in grief over the death of a “quadriplegic” without any mention of the hundreds of attacks and thousands of civilians murdered by Hamas.

It is not a coincidence that the article about Tunisia on July 3rd was next to another with a headline “Egypt fights back in Northern Sinai after Deadly Assault by Militants.”  The Times has taken to reporting that much of the world responds to militants while Israel attacks civilians and “spiritual leaders”.  The world’s responses will lead to victory and peace, while Israeli actions escalate violence.

Pretty amazing conclusions

  • from a country that has been waging wars for fourteen years, killing hundreds of thousands of people,
  • about a country that sits in the middle of region that is embroiled in civil wars and terrorist attacks that have also killed hundreds of thousands of people,
  • that is fighting against a group that has declared loudly and proudly its intentions of destroying its state

Related FirstOneThrough articles:

Double Standards: Assassinations

CNN’s Embrace of Hamas

The New York Times wants the military to defeat terrorists (but not Hamas)

Strange difference of opinion on Boko Haram and Hamas in New York Times

Differentiating Hamas

Why the Media Ignores Jihadists in Israel