THE Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council’s (AIJAC’s) latest webinar guest was Dr Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice-president for research at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, who has just written a new book – Gaza Conflict 2021: Hamas, Israel and Eleven Days of War.
He explained the book was motivated by his experience of watching the war on television in English, Hebrew and Arabic, and feeling as though the Western media was showing a completely different conflict, and was more hostile to Israel than even Arabic media.
For example, while the Western media was touting the real estate dispute in Sheikh Jarrah as the cause of the war, it was really largely sparked by tension between Hamas and Fatah. Hamas, he said, decided that to win Palestinian hearts and minds, “they needed to begin to fire rockets and purport to defend Jerusalem, to defend the Al Aqsa Mosque, to defend the Palestinian people against what was seen as Israeli usurpation. So the Sheikh Jarrah thing was a ruse at the end of the day.”
A massive explosion at a gas storage facility in Ashkelon demonstrated to him that while the international media concentrates on casualty figures, and alleges Israel is the aggressor, “Hamas aspires to mass casualty attacks, they aspire to war crimes. Israel prevents them repeatedly,” yet Hamas can still do huge damage.
Foreign media, he said, had been furious that they were fooled by an Israeli ruse where Israel posted on social media that its troops were entering Gaza, luring Hamas commandos into tunnels under Gaza where Israel then bombed them. However, Schanzer said, that shows the foreign press should watch Israel’s media – which accurately noted there was no evidence of an Israeli troop buildup – not ignore it just because what it reports doesn’t fit their own narrative.
To prevent Hamas causing another war, he said, it’s important not to re-enter the Iran nuclear deal, thereby giving money to Hamas. Also, other Hamas patrons should be held to account – Turkey, Qatar, and Malaysia. He said Malaysia has become a “really significant jurisdiction for Hamas activity… They’re working on drone warfare. They’re working on stabilising rockets. They’re doing military related research with the full knowledge of the Malaysian government.”
Schanzer warned that the 4,000 rockets Hamas fired at Israel in May was only about a quarter of its arsenal, and it is also attempting to overthrow Fatah in the West Bank, aided by Turkey. Meanwhile, while Israel has hit thousands of targets since 2014 to try to stop Iran providing Hezbollah with precision-guided missiles in Lebanon, it now has hundreds, and these can hit very specific targets, and evade Iron Dome.
On the Iran nuclear deal, he warned, “Don’t believe for a second that Iran will curb its nuclear ambitions. It’s made it very clear over the years that it has not. But also don’t forget that the international community is looking to remove its sanctions on Iran in exchange for a return to this flawed nuclear deal. That means the cash will flow to the regime. And that cash will be used to buy more weapons for Hamas, because that is what happens when Iran has more money. It funds its proxies…And so that means more aerial drones, more underwater drones, more tunnels, more missiles, more rockets, more guns, more commandos.”
He said that the US should have a Plan B on the deal, which would be to tackle “all of Iran’s malign behaviour, not just the nukes, but the terrorism, the destabilisation of the rest of the region.” The alternative, he said, would be military action by Israel, which would involve Israel increasing its cyber-attacks and secret operations, and initiating kinetic activity. He hopes the rest of the world would stand by Israeli if this became necessary.
“I think there is no doubt that Iran would intend to use its nuclear weapons against Israel, either directly or as an umbrella for all the other malign activity that we’ve discussed today. And that’s something we cannot allow,” he concluded.