The IDF has destroyed a considerable part of Hamas facilities, its munitions, and the homes of its leaders. It has killed more than 750 people, and injured more than 2,500.
What about the propaganda war?
Israeli officials, as well as countless Jews and other friends explain the IDF's actions. They may convince those already committed to Israel. They cannot convince those committed to the Palestinian narrative. The pictures and statistics make it difficult to reach people in the middle, including those who seldom pay attention to Israel, but are revolted by disproportionate death and destruction.
Israeli sources note the practice of Hamas to use human shields for their evil work, and to delight in publicity given pictures of dead women and children. Media friendly to the Palestinians have shown films from years ago as if they were current.
Israelis have described the nature of Hamas and unfriendly media, as well as Israeli efforts to provide for humanitarian needs. Such activities are not as strong as horrible pictures and casualty figures.
Is it important that Israel has failed to win the propaganda war?
Many of those truly interested in the conflict are already committed to the story of one side or another. And many of the uncommitted will turn to another crisis along with the media. The Congo, Iraq, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Myanmar are no less dramatic in their ugliness, each in its own way. Before long Israel and Gaza should get lost in the surplus of unpleasant images.
More important are governments of the United States and a few other respected countries, headed by Britain, France, and Germany.
People who speak for those governments know about Hamas, and its linkage to the resources and hatreds of Iran. Individual officials may cringe at the extent of Israel's activity, but they are reluctant to criticize Israel in a one-sided fashion, or to issue demands that go beyond what the Israeli government is willing to consider.
Israel's explanations have done their job where they are most important.
The power of the media is like that of the Pope. Both have an intangible impact, but do not control citizens or officials with agendas of their own. Democracy is fine, but there is no binding popular referendum on Israel's behavior. Israel may lose whatever standing it had as an upright international citizen. It will suffer along with many other countries with tainted images. What country is pure? Certainly not the regimes of Hamas and Hizbollah, entered on the lists of terrorism.
Israelis like to be admired, or at least tolerated. It hurts to receive hateful e-mails, u-tubes, and to see media reports about demonstrations, proposals of boycotts, claims about war crimes, genocide, and a Holocaust. Israeli media provides extensive coverage of what is said or written about Jews and Israel. Personnel identified with Israeli media, as well as other Israelis and overseas Jews would do well in any competition of who provides the most damning condemnation of Israel's actions. Among the outspoken are university colleagues and friends.
Jews, Muslims, Christians, and others have every right to speak, demonstrate, and vote as they wish.
However, they would be wise to recognize the costs associated with their words.
Strident opposition and accusations of vile crimes not only annoy Israelis on account of being one-sided and exaggerated, but add to a bunker mentality. Some call it the Massada syndrome, after the site in the Judean desert where rebels against Rome chose to commit suicide rather than surrender.
Israelis suffer from the reality of isolation, and a fear that may exaggerate the condition. They feel unable to rely on anyone other than themselves. Israelis have learned to scoff at international resolutions and efforts to prevent the smuggling of arms. If there is nothing that others are willing to do in order to restrain Hizbollah or Hamas, Israel can demonstrate its capacity to impose great destruction, and thereby discourage use of the weapons received from Iran and others.
Unrestrained criticism may add to the carnage, either this time, or the next time that Israel considers a military response more destructive than the damage it has suffered.
I welcome comments sent to my e-mail address below.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Dept of Political Science
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem