Posts Tagged ‘conflict’

This week on a boat in the Mediterranean Sea there was a startling development in a war that has been waged for ages. In the moments after the Israelis boarded the Palestinian flotilla everything suddenly changed. As the world watched, a new paradigm for this age old conflict emerged and it soon became clear that there were some new rules afoot. This conflict, which has its roots in biblical times, finally entered the new millennium, and not with a whimper but with a globally resounding bang.

At present, Hamas is the defacto Palestinian government in the West Bank/Gaza and they are very clear about their official stance, which is the elimination of the State of Israel. Well, it would seem that they’ve finally made it to the 21st century.

For decades now Hamas has thrown stones, blown up cars, used guns and employed a variety of other terrorist tactics in order to advance their cause. As a result of these tactics they have been branded as criminals and have become international pariahs, ceding to Israel the posture of victim. As a result, Israel has reaped what Hamas has sowed and gained the official sympathy of many of the worlds developed nations. And, in the process, they gained the one thing that has kept them afloat for the past 60 years and that is the support of the Americans and, more importantly, American aid.

Well, it would seem that Hamas has finally figured out that all those stones and bombs weren’t really helping them at all to advance their cause. Maybe it was from watching the Americans fight their battles with embedded journalists or maybe they just caught up with the times but this time around they very skillfully employed cameras, live streaming internet video, journalists and PR, and this time, they did in one day what they have been unable to do in 60 years of suicide bombers. They got the worlds attention in a way that actually gained them some sympathy.

They used their boats to provoke the Israelis, got in Israel’s face, and then waited for the kind of response they have conditioned Israel to employ. In the past, when Hamas has wrought violence on Israel, the response has been for Israel to use crushing and uncompromising force on Hamas and when the commandos descended from above, the boat people were ready. They were ready live web cams, a well-crafted message, lots of dramatic video for the media, and well-trained spokes-people with just the right spin. And it was all going out live over the Internet, up on You Tube and in posts on Twitter and Facebook.

They succeeded in getting out their message first and before Israel was able to respond they galvanized public opinion against Israel and got many international leaders to strongly condemn Israel. And that includes our Prime Minister, who unfortunately for Netanyahu, was standing right next to him when he did it. A picture tells a thousand words and as the image of Harper and Netanyahu flashed around the world, countries everywhere joined in, perhaps emboldened by Canada’s lead, and in very short order Israel stood alone.

In The Art of War, Sun Tzu said that if you can’t defeat your enemy then go around them. It would seem that Hamas has learned this lesson. For the first time since their inception they have chalked up a victory on the international stage. This was our first war fought on You Tube, Facebook and Twitter and if Israel doesn’t figure out the implications of that very quickly, and adapt just as fast, they run the risk of becoming international pariahs and that’s something that they just can’t afford.

In the 60’s the anti-war protestors had a chant that they would employ whenever the news cameras would show up. They would chant loudly and in unison and they would speak the truth. “The whole world is watching, the whole world is watching”. Yes, they are watching, and if Israel doesn’t adapt soon they’ll be watching a shift in world policy towards them and the biggest threat to their independence since the war of ’48 and nobody will benefit from that kind of mid-east instability. Not Hamas, not Israel and not the thousands of innocent people who will likely be killed in the process.

Hamas finally, or for now, put down their bombs and attacked with spin and streaming live video and, in the process, they succeeded in alienating Israel in the unblinking eyes of a global audience. Suddenly, the old rules no longer apply and trading bullets for web cams seemed to do what they have sought for so long. They have hit Israel where it hurts. By being first out with their message they have adopted a tried and true media strategy. Be first with your message and you set the agenda. As Israel scrambled to defend their actions they came off as defensive and they were forced to respond to the message that Hamas put out there.

Now, I’m sure that Hamas is not used to being in the lead on an issue like this but Im sure that the taste of success they enjoyed in the hours after wont be lost on them. This conflict is far, far from being resolved and I honestly dont know if it will happen in my lifetime. There will likely be more bombs and bullets and I’m sure that more people will die in the name of this conflict but, by using new media, Hamas was able to advance their message and, hopefully, that precedent will have an effect on future strategies by both sides. Hamas doesnt gain from looking like terrorists and Israel doesnt gain by looking like bullies. People died on those boats this week, despite the presence of all those journalists and cameras and that tells you something about the fervor with which this war is being waged. But maybe, just maybe, some lessons will be learned and fewer people will die over a place to call home.

The revolution will be televised and the whole world is watching. Watching indeed…

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