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On Israel’s use of force: An alternative view - By Nasser bin Nasser, Global Comment, Jordan News

 

 

 Traditionally, Israel has been unabashedly unapologetic about its use of force. Yet to claim that it is not conscious of how the world perceives its use of force might be inaccurate, largely because it goes to great lengths to shape the narrative around it. 

Israel typically attempts to portray its use of force as legitimate or in self-defense and has a general aversion to any other narratives that can lead to international criticism or increased sympathy with the Palestinians.

Even during the peak of the recent onslaught on Gaza, authorities tried using disinformation by staging weapons inside Al-Shifa Hospital to convince global audiences that the hospital was indeed a command-and-control center for Hamas.

If Israel is indeed conscious of how the world perceives its use of force, how could one then explain its apparent indifference to the dehumanizing footage being taken and shared by its soldiers during the ongoing fighting? Here, specific reference is made to viral TikToks of Israeli soldiers kidnapping, taunting, and torturing Palestinian prisoners, “morale-boosting” concerts being put on for soldiers where hateful, genocidal, and anti-Islamic language is being used, and footage of Israeli soldiers mocking the plight of Palestinians.

Many news outlets, including CNN, called them out for it. Israel has used more creative approaches around its use of force in the past, such as when it pioneered the use of rubber and then plastic bullets to disperse protests during the first Intifada when the death toll and international pressure grew. These alternatives were presented as non-lethal options to disperse crowds, a claim later found to be false.

If Israel is indeed conscious of how the world perceives its use of force, how could one then explain its apparent indifference to the dehumanizing footage being taken and shared by its soldiers during the ongoing fighting? Here, specific reference is made to viral TikToks of Israeli soldiers kidnapping, taunting, and torturing Palestinian prisoners, “morale-boosting” concerts being put on for soldiers where hateful, genocidal, and anti-Islamic language is being used, and footage of Israeli soldiers mocking the plight of Palestinians.

The sheer quantity of the footage is important to note as well. It is not one or two videos that might have been leaked unintentionally. It is in the hundreds. This seems new and inconsistent with other Israeli practices.

Some may argue that Israeli soldiers have always acted this way towards Palestinians but advances in media technology and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (widespread availability of phones and social media) have allowed for this content to be captured and reach global audiences as is currently the case.

The alternative explanation is that the spread of the footage is intentional. Israeli authorities typically exercise tight control over the information they choose to share. For example, international media outlets covering Gaza are reportedly warned not to mention Israeli troop casualties or else they would risk arrest and a revocation of press credentials. Likewise, recently released Israeli hostages appear to have been prevented from speaking to the media so that they may not say anything that would suggest they were appropriately treated by Hamas. Unless Israeli authorities have lost control over its soldiers, footage taken and shared by soldiers would not have been possible unless they allowed for it.

The reason? Deterrence. Israel wants to send a message to others elsewhere, a warning if you will, that nothing and no one will be spared, and nothing will be considered sacred if they get involved in the current conflict or if they plan similar future attacks against Israel.

The utility of footage showing unrestrained or degrading violence has long been a strategy of warfare to instill fear in adversaries and achieve psychological advantage. States and their militaries have typically refrained from embracing these tactics because they consider themselves on a higher moral ground and because practices such as filming prisoners counter the norms and conventions of warfare.

The utility of footage showing unrestrained or degrading violence has long been a strategy of warfare to instill fear in adversaries and achieve psychological advantage. States and their militaries have typically refrained from embracing these tactics because they consider themselves on a higher moral ground and because practices such as filming prisoners counter the norms and conventions of warfare.

This is why US authorities took swift action when photos of US forces torturing and degrading Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib were leaked in 2004. They claimed (perhaps unconvincingly) that this went against stated policy and that these were isolated incidents, eventually leading to the court-martial and imprisonment of the perpetrators. Nonstate actors and terrorist groups on the other hand have fully embraced these tactics. ISIS, for example, perfected performative violence in Iraq and Syria by meticulously scripting and choreographing its operations and executions such that its adversaries often surrendered before ISIS forces entered their villages and towns.

Israeli officials may be blinded with anger and vengeance following the Oct 7 attacks to the extent that they do to realize that the tactic of using violence for public messaging makes comparisons with terrorist groups more salient. Separately, it could also be argued that the deterrent value of this tactic does not outweigh its cost to Israel’s own interest as it is shifting public opinion globally and causing irreparable harm to the prospects that peace with Israel could ever be considered.


Nasser Bin Nasser is the Founder & CEO of Ambit Advisory

Disclaimer: 
Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Jordan News' point of view.

 

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