[News] The Limits of Israeli Intelligence: Does Israel Have a Yahya Sinwar Problem?

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Thu May 12 11:57:54 EDT 2022

The Limits of Israeli Intelligence: Does Israel Have a Yahya Sinwar Problem?
by Ramzy Baroud <https://www.counterpunch.org/author/ramzy-baroud/>- May
12, 2022

Like typical analyses offered by western intelligence when trying to assess
risks or understand major political phenomena in the Middle East, Israeli
intelligence is equally short-sighted. It insists on analyzing the
attitudes and body language of individuals instead of focusing on the
behavior of collectives. This is the case today as Israel is desperately
trying to understand the changing political dynamics in Palestine.

Following the Israeli war
on Gaza in May 2021, the Israeli military prepared
a ‘personality profile’ of Gaza-based Hamas leader, Yahya Sinwar. Though
Hamas, and Sinwar, were important political actors in the events that took
place throughout Palestine at the time, the real stars of the show were the
Palestinian people. The popular Palestinian rebellion did not only
challenge the Israeli occupation, but the stagnant Palestinian political
discourse, saturated with factional references and power struggles.

Typically, the Israeli government, military and their various intelligence
branches refuse to accept that the Palestinian people are capable of
behaving and responding to Israeli violence on their own accord.

For example, following the popular Palestinian uprising of 1987 – the First
Intifada – Israel resolved that the entire event was orchestrated by top
Fatah and PLO leader, Khalil al-Wazir, Abu Jihad. In April 1988, a group of
Israeli commandos assassinated
him in his Tunis residence. However, the Intifada did not stop, but
continued more furiously than before.

Now, Israel says it has a Yahya Sinwar problem.

The Hamas leader made
his latest public appearance in Gaza City on April 30. Addressing a group
of leaders and representatives of various Palestinian political groups,
Sinwar declared that “Our people must prepare for a great battle if the
occupation does not cease its aggression against the Al-Aqsa Mosque”.

Though Sinwar did not declare war on Israel, he emphasized that Israeli
violations in Al-Aqsa would lead to “regional, religious war”.

Much can be surmised from these words and the rest of Sinwar’s speech.
Clearly, Palestinians are trying to change the rules of engagement with
Israel altogether. As Israel’s religious and far-right groups are now the
forces that are shaping
<https://www.hoover.org/research/religion-and-politics-israel> mainstream
Israeli politics, many Palestinians, too, find their religious symbols,
whether Muslim or Christian, strong points of unity.

In some sense, the choice by all Palestinian groups, including Hamas, is
strategic. Failure to achieve unity around other issues – the ‘peace
process’, the two-state solution, political representation, the type of
resistance against Israel and other contentious points – made the search
for common ground more difficult by the day. However, East Jerusalem,
Al-Quds and, particularly, Al-Aqsa Mosque, are always a guaranteed platform
for national and spiritual unity among all Palestinians.

Prior to May, Palestinians were divided, not only politically, but also in
terms of language and priorities. Hamas wanted to end the siege, thus its
own isolation in Gaza. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas wanted a
semblance of any political process that would keep him relevant in the eyes
of the world. East Jerusalimites fought alone against mounting Israeli
to ethnically cleanse them, one house at a time, from their historic city.
Palestinians who are citizens of Israel were almost entirely removed from
the national conversation altogether, despite the fact that their struggle
against racism and marginalization is a defining one, and matters to all

May changed all of this. When Gaza responded
<https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-57053074> to relieve the
pressure on Jerusalem – though at a heavy price of war and massive
destruction – Palestinian communities throughout historic Palestine rose
in tandem. Using social media and other platforms, they managed to
communicate amongst themselves and coordinate their actions. Their unified
message resonated throughout the world.

Hamas, like other Palestinian groups, was part of this collective action.
But as Abu Jihad did not instigate the First Intifada, Sinwar did not
instigate the May rebellion. Israel, however, refuses to accept this
because, by doing so, it would be forced to swallow a bitter pill – that
Palestinian resistance is not linked to individuals or groups, but is
inherent in the behavior of the Palesitnian people themselves. This obvious
realization is difficult for Tel Aviv because it simply means that no
amount of fire power, military preparedness or intelligence data will ever
succeed in maintaining the Israeli occupation of Palestine forever.

Oblivious to the changing reality, last July, Israel declared its
assessment of the situation, practically stating that the problem is not
human rights violations, apartheid, military occupation, Jewish settlers’
provocations, racism and home demolition, but Yahya Sinwar himself.

In an article
reporting on the Israeli military assessment, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz
conveyed the obsession of Israel with Sinwar’s messages. “Sinwar is turning
himself into a spiritual figure,” the military analysts claimed, alleging
that the Hamas leader, who “has become unpredictable”, is taking on the
“characteristics of someone who believes that he was chosen to lead the
Arabs in the world,” and is “chosen by God to fight for Jerusalem on behalf
of the Muslims.”

If Israeli analysts paid closer attention, however, they would have
concluded that Sinwar’s growing popularity, confidence and evolving
language are all intrinsically linked to the events on the ground. Namely,
Sinwar’s political discourse, as of that of other Palestinian leaders –
including heads of the Fatah military groups and even some PA officials –
are a reflection of popular events on the ground, not vice versa.

While Israelis continue to chase mirages and desperately try to decode
messages, Palestinians feel, for the first time in many years, that they
are able to influence political outcomes. A case in point was Israel’s
decision to postpone the Flag March, scheduled
to be held by Israeli extremists in Jerusalem on April 20.

Palestinian messages are not only confined to Israel, however. The fact
that the Gaza resistance has threatened
to fire 1,111 rockets on Israel, should the latter carry on with its
provocations in Al-Aqsa, was intended for a Palestinian audience. The
operation, according to Gaza groups will be called Abu Ammar – the *nom de
guerre* of late Palestinian Fatah leader, Yasser Arafat. Abu Ammar died on
November, 11, 2004.

After years of political discord and disunity, there is evidence that
Palestinians are finally uniting, the kind of unity that does not require
high-level meetings in luxury hotels followed by press conferences and
official statements. It is the unity of the Palestinian people themselves,
around a set of values, new language and a collective frame of reference.
Deep down, this is what truly terrifies Israel most, not the speeches of
Sinwar or any other.

*Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He
is the author of five books. His latest is “**These Chains Will Be Broken*
Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity
Press, Atlanta). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the
Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University (IZU).
His website is **www.ramzybaroud.net* <http://www.ramzybaroud.net/>
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