Of Hammers and Nails

Call it a third Intifada, a wave of terror, a civil uprising – it doesn’t matter. What does matter is understanding that regardless of the force we apply, nothing will ever be able to stop that lone, frustrated and blinded with hate, person from mounting an attack. That’s the painful yet simple truth we Israelis need to internalize as quickly as possible before it’s too late.

Some Israelis like to claim that in the Middle East, force in the only thing that matters. After all, “Arabs only understand force”. Funny thing is, after so many years of conflict, including two bloody Palestinian uprisings that involved an impressive show of force by the IDF, these Arabs just don’t seem to get it. Perhaps this twisted logic runs in the opposite direction, and it is we Israelis who only understand force.

The concept of “Knife Terrorism”, i.e. terrorist attacks involving the stabbing of Israeli soldiers and civilians, is not new. Ever since Israel was established, and decades before even, picking up a knife or driving a vehicle into a crowd were the weapons of choice for Palestinians devoid of more sophisticated means to perpetrate their violent deed. Hamas and Hezbollah, with the help of outside forces, may have founded an industry producing and smuggling in advanced and far-reaching projectiles, but these tools (thankfully) remain the “privilege” of a few.

Israel on the other hand has advanced to become a regional superpower. We developed the Iron Dome system to counter one of the most dire threats to our security in the past few years. We are rumored to have nuclear weapons. We have some of the most advanced submarines available to man. Our intelligence services are second to none. And yet still, the reality remains the same. We cannot stop individuals from perpetrating acts of violence.


We’re hearing some truly inspiring words from the politicians on the right, including a call to shoot dead any perpetrator regardless of the actual threat he poses. The government is calling in more troops and policemen, and reinforcing bus stops with concrete blocks to prevent more casualties from car/tractor attacks. More force. More defensive moves. More denial. We continue to act as if we’re kings of the world.

“We need to build up our deterrence again” I heard one politician stating. Really? We basically rewrote the definition of this word in the dictionary. We’ve been developing the concept for ever. We worship it. But has it gotten us anywhere? After the Six-Day war, we believed the Arabs truly feared us. And then disaster struck, and 3000 Israeli soldiers died after this false idol crashed into pieces in the Yom-Kippur war.

No. There is no such thing as deterrence anymore. This concept died with the Cold War. Terrorist organizations and failed states no longer fear conventional power and those pompous leaders wielding it. Force alone cannot subdue an ideology.

When the war in Gaza ended I remember thinking that the worst thing that could happen to Israel now was the invention of a technology that countered the threat of the tunnels being dug from Gaza into Israel. I know, it sounds terrible. Please don’t get me wrong. I in no way wish any harm to anyone. Israel has to do all it can to protect its citizens. That is its duty and sole responsibility. But the downside of this is that these defense systems also help us bury our heads in the sand. The Palestinians become transparent and the conflict becomes “manageable”, a mere “thorn in our backside”.

When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail, and Israel seems to have an endless supply of sledgehammers. No diplomacy. No effort to calm the situation down by showing initiative. Only inflammatory declarations from a bunch of hypocritical politicians more worried about keeping their jobs than thinking of a way out.

A lesson from history. Different place. Different time. Same lesson. The bomb tonnage dropped by the U.S. on Vietnam during the Vietnam War amounted to about five times the estimates of the bomb tonnage dropped by Anglo-American forces in World War II. “Gooks only understand force” was the common perception then. We all know how that ended.


This is my 100th post on Mind-Crawl! A milestone I never thought that I’d reach when I first started out. Happy to say I haven’t lost my passion to write about Israel in the Middle East,  despite the fact that the issues I focus on are not easy to write about, to say the least.  I hope those following, are enjoying the ride!. If you have two minutes, please give me some feedback in the survey below (just click the link).



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2 responses to “Of Hammers and Nails”

  1. Russell Chapman says :

    Well done on your 100th Post Daniel. Always enjoy your writing. Keep up the good work 🙂 Can’t see the link to your survey!

  2. Daniel Berman says :

    Thanks Russell!
    It’s that “Let me know what you think” link 🙂


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