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Asymmetric conflicts and how the west views war

Most of the laws of war practiced by countries today are written in the late 1940s. The world today is different and war has changed its color…

by Adi Kaslasy

Where laws of war try to create balance, we are dealing today with conflicts that by their nature are not balanced. Where these laws preached by western countries are based on the rationale of leaders and the focus of war on soldiers, fighters, and civilians as bystanders, today the conflict’s actors are the civilians, both In the role of victims and the role of fighters.

So in this new world, how can we judge a conflict using a way of thinking that has maybe expired from this world?

Every article, radio show, or TV news program talk about proportion. More specifically, Israel’s dis-proportion in the latest ongoing operation in Gaza, yet again the conversation is based on rules that do not take into consideration an engagement between a country and a terror organization openly declaring the wish to destroy and eliminate one nation and country.

So what are we forgetting when we talk about Israel?

The small country, surrounded by larger countries, is fighting for its existence from day one.

This country was last week yet again attacked, with no warning and no previous provocation, other than the fact it was a Jewish state in an Arab region.

So why did Israel start this operation? Some say because of the upcoming elections, but that only  relates to the timing of the war not why it was started at all.

The basic reason is, Israel needed and still needs to defend itself.

Defend itself? Against a few rockets fired from Gaza, that’s a reason for a country to launch a whole operation? NO! The reason is that the operation is not solely due to the fact that a jeep was run over and a few rockets were fired at Israel. Even though for many other countries it will be more than enough.

Israel knew that not attacking, and soon, will lead to a threat of its existence.  Hamas‘ and Gaza’s rocket collection now is no small matter of concern but a genuine threat to Israel. Rockets, as we saw in the last few days, are getting to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and are putting the majority of Israeli citizens at risk. This is no more a small town in the south that gets „a few“ rockets here and there – now the country’s future is at risk if no action will be made.

In the good old days this would be called self-defense, but our logic and perception prevent us from seeing this, as we view Israel’s enemies as victim themselves, and as such we are unable to see them them as powerful or dangerous – as who knows a powerful victim?

Another important aspect we all tend to forget is that „proportion“ in the 1940’s was related to body count. All the rest was not calculated. If country A had two men down, the proper response would be – to attack and kill two men. Let’s face it, that world was comfortable and logic. Today’s world makes no sense, and it is chaotic.

The attacks of a terror organization are rarely on soldiers of the „enemy“, but the tactic aims at the soft spot of each government, right or left: its citizens!

So by attacking Sderot for many years and causing stress, anxiety, and most important fear, terror aims to make a government think twice.

If you turn on the news and by chance no celebrity was arrested, you might hear this: „A few rockets hit on Israeli town. No one was hurt and some damage was made.“

Here is what REALLY happened:

Sound of the alarm is heard. People all over the region grab their kids and run to shelter. Some have shelters and some don’t. Those who don’t look at the sky and pray with shivering hands: „Please god let the rocket hit somewhere else.“

Then the sky shivers as well, you hear a high toned sound, and then a big boom. Then from the sky balls of fire fall. You see a car or a house burst into flames, and in luck you are still there. But you know one rocket is never enough, and more will come, and soon!

So you start running. But shelter is far, and balls of fire fall until you feel carried in the air. This means you were hit! The volume of the rocket carries you away and you have no control over it.

Then you quickly wake up, hopefully, to find you are bleeding, you shiver, maybe even throw up, or scream, you are afraid, and every single muscle in your body knows it, and feels it. And after a few more booms, silence, and then the screams continue. You raise your head and you can barely hear, again from the explosion, and a news crew that is as fast as the ambulance coming to check on you, report right there on the spot next to you, „Rocket fell, no injuries“. And this is maybe the worst part. You are transparent, your pain and suffering is never heard. You spend nights with no sleep, fearing what happened, fearing what will happen tomorrow as this reality never ends and thus your trauma is never over.

You have dodged a bullet, well actually a rocket! But you do not feel a hero like in the movies, only the fear from this closeness to death fills you inside, and you continue with your life, or at least try, until the next time – when you hope the rocket will miss you again.

Sderot, my hometown, has about 20,000 residents, 7000 of them suffer from trauma. The others probably don’t have the courage to report it.

In a world of heroes, and of victims that are powerless, no real human being can survive. The truth is, the world is not how we portrait it, and is not so black and white.

My world, Sderot’s world, that is now expanded to more than half of Israel, was a world where fear ruled, where lost is common, and death is just around the corner.

In the past year I lived in war free Berlin, and only here I could let myself heal. Unfortunately living in the south of Israel in times of war and in times of „peace“ you never really have a chance to heal. Imagine someone puts a gun to your head and robs you. The fear you carry can be healed with time, as the gun was pointed at you for a few minutes, but you have days, weeks, even months, to recapture the feeling of being safe, simply by BEING safe.

What do you do when the gun never leaves your sight, the guy pointing a gun at you goes to the supermarket with you, watches TV at your house with you, and showers with you? Will you ever feel safe?

Sderot people have a gun to their head every second, and they never know when the trigger will be pulled. This feeling, along with all the other horrible effects of a trauma, accompanies Israelis as we speak, the least the world can do is to recognize the injured man lying on the ground, when reporting the event.

Adi Kaslasy ist eine 25-jährige Israelin, die in Sderot geboren ist und bis Ende 2008, kurz vor dem damaligen Gazakrieg, dort gelebt hat. Sie hat in Jerusalem Politikwissenschaft und International Relations studiert und lebt seit einem Jahr in Berlin. Von hier aus beobachtet sie das Geschehen in Israel und ihrer Heimatstadt sowie die deutschen Reaktionen darauf.