The media and blogosphere are replete with horrible images depicting the civilian toll Israel's campaign in Gaza has entailed. The effect of these images is to depict the IDF operations in Gaza as a savage and bloodthirsty punishment aimed at the Palestinian people as a whole.
Yesterday Israel made an effort to counter this widely held belief by opening up a channel on Youtube where they could showcase their efforts to surgically strike Hamas targets and avoid civilian casualties. This was quickly met by outraged viewers who flagged the vids, some of which were subsequently taken down. Via Commentary:
The rank double-standard that YouTube has applied to Israel is disturbing. YouTube hosts all manner of similar footage — much of it far more gory than the grainy infrared images posted by the IDF — of U.S. air strikes. Why is YouTube capitulating to those who do not wish for Israel to be able to tell its side of the story?While I recognize the double-standard and applaud Israel's willful effort at transparency I also believe this effort was doomed from the get go.
Hamas most powerful weapon isn't the mortar nor the katyusha rocket. It is, quite simply, the media. Rockets and mortars serve as instruments of provocation in the same respect that Hezbollah's 2006 snatching of three IDF soldiers served as provocation. The purpose behind lobbing projectiles into Israel is less about killing Israeli's and much more about provoking Israel into a military response. From the aspect of Hamas, the heavier handed the response the better. By incorporating launch sites, training sites and other installations into the civilian populace Hamas assures that any big-boom military response will result in non-combatant casualties.
These in turn are captured by the global media and splashed across television screens and newspapers the world over. The effect is a near immediate global rally behind the Palestinian's as protests are held and heads of state the world over condemn Israel's actions. For the average citizen the contrast between Israel's grainy military footage and the tragic image of a man carrying a bloodied and lifeless child is stark. The former for most will be essentially inexplicable and the latter quite easily understood and empathized with.
Beyond justification or strategic logic Israel's strict reliance on it's air force, regardless of precision, is exactly what Hamas wants. Whatever structural damage Hamas suffers is not only temporary but also balanced by a surge in popularity within the Palestinian community. When the smoke clears their ranks will swell, their political hold on Gaza will tighten and the Palestinian Authority's legitimacy will be pushed further into obscurity with it any hope of a two state solution.