May 7th 2016

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Safe Schools: Sorry, chef, but the entire sex-ed menu's off!

CANBERRA OBSERVED Mild unpopularity of Libs preferable to ALP slogans

EDITORIAL Turnbull's stuttering election gambit

ENERGY Media shows no interest in Shorten's renewables plan

LEGISLATION Viability bill at least a baby step for the babies

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Intifada of the Knife: Israel's unknown war

FAMILY AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE Gender symmetry: women can be as abusive as men

ECONOMICS AND POLITICS Overhauling Australia will require more than a tinker

FAMILY AND SOCIETY Media gush over study only to find same-sex parents more irritable

RESEARCH The scientific objectivity of gender difference (Part One of two parts)

CINEMA Mowgli takes on the lore: The Jungle Book

BOOK REVIEW A sliver of hope

BOOK REVIEW A primer on Western civilisation

BOOK REVIEW Of ships and shots

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Intifada of the Knife: Israel's unknown war

by Jeffry Babb

News Weekly, May 7, 2016

For the last half-year, a war has been waged in Israel that is almost unknown in Australia: the Third Intifada, also known as the Intifada of the Knife.

As at April 1, 2016, these knife attacks had claimed the lives of 29 Israelis, two Americans, an Eritrean asylum seeker and a Palestinian bystander. The attacks caused more than 400 injuries. These stabbings took place at a rate of more than one a day. In the same period, in excess of 200 Palestinians were killed, including 44 minors; eight were women, according to the Middle East Monitor.

It is a sad commentary on the mass media in Australia that it hardly, if ever, mentions this undeclared war. SBS World News, Australia’s “window on the world”, has an occasional segment on the Intifada of the Knife, but I have yet to see a report elsewhere.

Australia is a very peaceful country. Trivial incidents involving a few hotheads are blown out of proportion by a news-starved media, while events with the potential to change the world go unreported. In this unknown war, people – Jews and Palestinians – are dying every day. The Intifada of the Knife began in October 2015. The knife is silent; it is easy to conceal. But if you confront a soldier armed with a gun, you will die.

To understand this Third Intifada, one must take into account certain facts about Israel and the Middle East. David Ben Gurion, father of modern Israel, said Israel needed a population of 5 million to survive. At the time of the Six-Day War in 1967, the population of Israel was 2 million; now it 8 million. Experts say that by 2050, the population will be 25 million. Where will these people be housed? Israel is a very small country.

The Dome of the Rock, top centre,

and the al-Aqsa Mosque, towards

the bottom, centre, against the

“South Wall”, occupy the site of

the Second Temple.


Recently, many French and Ukrainian Jews have “made aliyah” in large numbers. To “make aliya” is literally to “go up”: In other words, to return to the Land of Israel. The numbers of French Jews who “made aliyah” in 2015 amounted to 7,900, a significant number. With an increase in terrorism in Europe, migration to Israel is likely to increase, for the simple reason that Jews are an obvious target for terrorists. The conclusion to be drawn is that Israel will not be defeated through lack of numbers.

Second, Israel is a secular state. The modern Zionist movement, as envisaged by its founder, Austrian journalist Theodor Herzl, was a secular movement. His aim was to return the assimilated secular Jews of Western Europe to their roots in Israel. The Dreyfus Affair persuaded Herzl and others that no matter how assimilated the Jews of Western Europe became, they would never be truly accepted as citizens. Even The French revolutionary slogan – “liberty, equality, fraternity” – under which the Jews, along with other Frenchmen, could expect to live did not guarantee the Jews full participation in national life.

Captain Alfred Dreyfus was a French artillery officer. He was falsely accused of espionage and sent to Devil’s Island. Emile Zola’s famous open letter, headed J’accuse (“I accuse”), inspired an investigation and Dreyfus received redress. The Dreyfus Affair split French society and still does. In mitigation, one must say that after his release, Dreyfus resumed his career as a professional army officer. Also, the extent of the participation of France’s Jews in the country’s national life has few parallels elsewhere.

As it turned out, it was the relatively unsophisticated Jews of Eastern Europe, in what is now Poland and Russia, who provided the manpower for the early Zionist settlements. They had never been assimilated. Life in the early Zionist settlements was very hard; being a good farmer was vastly more important than being an intellectual.

When the “seventh million” began arriving in Palestine after World War II, the camp survivors had to fight to create the State of Israel. They were almost all secular Jews. When the ultra-orthodox Jews began to arrive, there was some debate about how they should be treated. In the end, the conclusion the government reached was “they won’t fight, but they are Jews, and Israel is supposed to be a refuge for all Jews”. At least initially, there were not many of them.

Israel is a robust democracy. The Knesset (Parliament) has just about every shade of political opinion imaginable, including Muslim Arab MKs (Member of the Knesset). Thus, to affect public opinion, a campaign must be broad enough to affect all shades of opinion.

Israel cannot be defeated by conventional military force. Israel has the most powerful military force in the Middle East. Almost all young people do military service – two years for young women, three for men. Most take the view that it is a waste of their youth, but they acknowledge that it is necessary for the continued existence of the State of Israel, so they do it, grudgingly. Some ultra-orthodox youngsters now volunteer for military service.

The Iron Dome anti-missile defence system is very effective against short-range missiles. The David’s Sling system is being deployed as a long-range defence against ballistic missiles. Although it has yet to be used in action, tests have shown David’s Sling effective at long range. The missile systems have been developed in cooperation with U.S. defence contractors, such as Raytheon. Israel controls the electromagnetic environment.

How, then, can Israel be brought to the negotiating table? Israel believes in bold action: strike your enemy before he strikes you. As Mordecai tells Esther: “If you remain silent at this time, you and your father’s house will perish” (Book of Esther). You are with us or against us.

But the nature of intifada is similar to trying to combat mosquitoes with a gun. Intifada is a form of asymmetrical warfare, meaning a war of the weak against the strong. The Third Intifada is a rising of the Palestinians, armed with knives, against the Israelis armed with submachine guns. The action is principally, but not only, in Jerusalem. In Arabic, intifada means, literally, “to shake off”, and thence to “tremor” and “shiver”; the implication being that Israeli occupation should be shaken off. The term “intifada” was first used in 1985.

The most striking triumph of asymmetrical warfare was the Vietnam War. Vietnam illustrated a number of points about asymmetrical warfare that are comparable with the Intifada. The United States had to follow, or be seen to be following, the rules of war. To maintain the image of moral superiority, the U.S. military could not to be seen to be endorsing assassination campaigns such as the Phoenix Program run by the CIA.

Similarly, in the Intifada of the Knife, the senior command of the Israel Defence forces (IDF) are very uncomfortable at the idea of “neutralising” anyone who might have a knife, but who is not a direct threat. As it happens, the Palestinians attack almost exclusively members of the uniformed services.

In one attack, an IDF member shot dead a Palestinian who was lying on the ground wounded. The IDF member involved was initially charged with murder, which was later downgraded to manslaughter, following a public outcry. The necessity of the superior foe to maintain moral superiority and uphold the rules of war puts it at a disadvantage.

The lesser power has another advantage. They can trade lives for influence. The casualty rate in the Intifada of the Knife is 29 for the Israelis, over 200 for the Palestinians – a casualty rate in the region of one Israeli to seven Palestinians. For the lesser power, the ability to absorb losses is one of its great advantages.

Just as in the Vietnam War, the Tet offensive of January 1968, mainly by the Viet Cong but also by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), was a devastating military defeat. But when America’s mothers saw their sons coming home in body bags, the war was lost.

The Intifada of the Knife – the Third Intifada – is significantly different from the First Intifada, which was mainly based on civil disobedience, and the Second Intifada, the Intifada of the Rock, which was based on young men pelting the IDF soldiers with stones. The most pertinent feature is that the Intifada of the Knife is largely centred on Jerusalem and the victims are members of the Israeli uniformed services. The reason is the economic importance of tourism to Jerusalem.

Tourism is one of Jerusalem’s primary economic activities. Tourist numbers have fallen by 30 per cent. Israelis from other cities, for example, Israel’s most populous city, Tel Aviv, refuse to visit Jerusalem out of fear.

This is also called the Intifada of the Individual, as the attacks are said to take place at the individual initiative of the knife-wielder. The attacks take place every day, as if on schedule. It is hard to credit that they are not organised. However, the number of attacks seems to have moderated recently.

The Intifada of the Knife is said to have flared after incidents on the Temple Mount. Jews are forbidden to worship on the Temple Mount. Some talk of demolishing two of Islam’s holiest shrines, the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, to build the Third Temple. This seems to be akin to fundamentalist Protestant pub talk.

What is the aim of the Intifada of the Knife, then? Seemingly, it is part of a multipronged strategy to force the Israelis to negotiate. If the Palestinians can’t defeat the Israelis militarily – which they can’t – then they aim to weaken Israel through trade boycotts and deprive the State of Israel of its moral legitimacy.

All you need to know about
the wider impact of transgenderism on society.
TRANSGENDER: one shade of grey, 353pp, $39.99

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