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Translation of an article to be published
in Ma'ariv on February 14, 2000

Duvidl und die Guerilla:
Wie ein Fisch im Libanon?

by Uri Avnery

Two fish live in one aquarium. Both are of the same kind, both are aggressive, they are equal in size and strength. One of them (let's call him Alpha) lives on the left side of the container, the other one (call him Beta) on the right side. Between the two territories there is an invisible border. They know exactly where it is. What happens?

In a fit of courage, Alpha invades the territory of Beta. The deeper he penetrates, the less courageous he becomes. He hesitates. Beta, on the other hand, becomes a hero. He attacks Alpha, who escapes to his own territory. Beta crosses the border in hot pursuit, but the further he gets in his rival's realm, the more his courage evaporates. Now Alpha becomes heroic, attacking Beta and chasing him back home. And so on and on.

This is a scientific experiment, well known to students of ethology, the science of animal behavior. The pattern seems to be common to all territorial animals, be they mammals, fish or birds. It certainly is typical for the animal called man.

Our own history is full of examples. The legend of David and Goliath is a typical example: the Philistines invaded the territory of Israel, Goliath had absolute military superiority, little David won. In another era, the Maccabees, a small guerilla band, vanquished the mighty Greek-Syrian empire, elephants and all.

Human history knows innumerable instances. One of the most remarkable happened in 1939: Stalin attacked little Finland, hoping to subdue it within days. But the world witnessed with awe how the Finnish forces trounced the giant Red Army, which needed several months to gain the upper hand. Hitler was impressed, and after a year he invaded the Soviet Union. But - lo and behold - the same Red Army that was beaten in the snow of Finland smashed the invincible Nazi Wehrmacht in the snows of its own homeland.

Lately this happened to the Americans. The primitive Vietnamese chased the modern French colonialists out of their country. Since nobody ever learns from the experience of others, the Americans joined the fray, full of contempt for the "little yellow bastards". But the big white supermen, who had the most advanced weapons on earth, were soundly beaten. The last of them fled by helicopter from the roof of their embassy in Saigon.

The same happened to the Soviets in Afghanistan. Gangs of fanatical Muslims with black beards, clad in rags, made piecemeal of the army that beat Hitler. The Soviets, too, escaped with their tails between their legs.

What have little David and the Vietnam fighters, Judah Maccabaeus and the Finnish Marshal Mannerheim, the Partisans in the Russian birch forests and the gangs in the Afghan mountains have in common? Only one thing: They fought for the liberation of their homeland from foreign invaders. In such a struggle, superiority in numbers and firepower counts for little.

The commanders of the invading army cannot understand this. Rafael Eytan, Ariel Sharon and Shaul Mofaz are but the latest addition to a long and undistinguished row of generals who were ingloriously trashed by ill-equipped guerilla fighters.

The very word "guerrilla" ("little war") was born in Spain, when Napoleon's army did not succeed in destroying local freedom fighters. This, perhaps, led Napoleon to assert that "In war, moral considerations account for three-quarters, the balance of actual forces only for the other quarter."

The Hisballah is a classic guerrilla force. It is supported by foreign countries - Iran and Syria - which exploit it for their own purposes. But basically it is an authentic resistance movement, which came into being in order to fight a foreign occupation (ours) and flourishes the longer the occupation goes on.

Occupation commanders are unable to understand such a reality, and from this point of view there is little difference between the Biblical "Lords of the Philistines" and Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh. From the officers of Antiochus to General Shaul Mofaz, all occupation commanders behave exactly the same: brag of their victory every second week, promise the final liquidation of the bandits every month, threaten every now and then to put fire to the guerrillas' hinterland. But their fate is foreordained: In the end, they will have to leave. See: Fish.

Gush Shalom
[Visit the Settlement Special]

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