"Hamas erred in its assessment of Israeli society"

Prof. David Passig credit: Cadya Levy
Prof. David Passig credit: Cadya Levy

Prof. David Passig believes that Hamas misunderstood Israeli society but warns that the pre-October 7 social rift will come back to haunt us.

"I don't think we can understand at this stage the size of the event that Israeli society is undergoing and its long-term impact on the country and society," Prof. David Passig, a futurist and head of Bar-Ilan University School of Education's Virtual Reality Laboratory tells "Globes." "It is reasonable that this will develop in directions that we cannot imagine at the moment, for better or for worse. We are currently in the middle of the event. It seems to many of us that at this point in time we already know how to identify trends and processes, but the truth is that we really don't know where things will go and how they will affect us."

There is a wave of mass demonstrations throughout the west against Israel and for Hamas. Many senior academics justify the slaughter in southern Israel.

"The west has brought Trojan horses into it that oppose with all their hearts everything it represents. The mass immigration to Europe and the US has influenced these things in a significant way. On the other hand, it is good that these people are shown their real face. They have revealed their faces too soon in the process that they have set themselves of conquering the west."

And what about the demonstrators against Israel who are not immigrants from Islamic countries? How does Hamas have such large support among western intellectuals?

"They have used a type of very extreme asymmetric war on us, and this is one of its characteristics. Part of the tactics of such a war is to undermine the security of the country's citizens by increasing tensions between different groups, inciting them to violence against each other. One of the ways to do this is to by fake news. This is a long-term effort by the warmongers from Russia. They are trying to implant misleading and inciting ideas among masses of people. This is how they now manage to convince masses to protest against their own culture. They introduced a kind of virus into the democratic and western system that turns against itself. It's not just going against their government, but against their culture, against their identity. It's a kind of auto-immune disease that spreads among intellectual elites, and the one behind this tactic is Russia."

The claim has recently been heard that people in the west are examining other cultures through western spectacles, and the alternative culture exists in a world with other values. How do you see things?

"You have only mentioned here a very thin layer of the problem. The problem goes much deeper. The problem is not that we don't speak the language of other cultures, it's much deeper. Many people in the West do not understand that the other cultures want to completely eliminate Western culture, because they believe that this culture is disgusting and terrible. It is a spoiled culture and a secular culture that does not sanctify the belief in God or higher powers and it is a degenerate culture. And so they want to eliminate it completely. They don't want agreements. They don't want compromises. This is a problem of Western culture today, and in my humble opinion, it will take a long time until it wakes up and learns to face this existential challenge."

Understanding that losing is possible

The last time we spoke, you said that Israeli society is torn from within and this could spill over into internal violence. The nation has been united here following the Hamas attack and doesn't this put us back in better place in this context?

"Usually in the short term, events like these actually somewhat weaken cohesiveness of the groups that shape a nation state. Contrary to what people think, that we are currently more united and will come out more cohesive, I am afraid that the internal disputes have only been moved aside for a short time. The disputes and emotions are still here and we will see them return more strongly sooner or later. For the simple reason that we have some things inside us to get off our chests. It is not that this war has solved the problems between the different groups in Israel. It has strengthened the alliance of destiny between us for the moment, because suddenly we felt a tangible existential threat, we felt that it was time to unite in order to survive. But the big questions that divide us are still there. The debate about what a Jewish state is, what its characteristics are, what it means to have equality between the citizens, and much more. All this still exists and when the war is over it will surface again."

The attack has damaged the understanding of many that we are "invincible." How will this damage influence the future way of seeing things?

"We have undergone similar periods in the past. The most recent such occasion was the Yom Kippur War. The feeling was of a lack of security and the sudden understanding that losing was possible. This has a number of negative effects on society, but the understanding that we need to assess our power correctly and not excessively and to know the enemy in its true essence - these can have positive effects, and in terms of courage it can turn out well.

"On the other hand, in this situation Hamas has also behaved in a very arrogant manner, and it is becoming clear that this is going to hurt it significantly. Its attack on Israel and its feeling that it could do this will ultimately lead to its downfall and the destruction of the Gaza Strip."

Playing for time

How do you see the issue of the hostages? After all, this is an event, in terms of the scale and background of the hostages that has been unprecedented in our history.

"The current war is neither a normal war nor a terrorist operation. This is not an attack aimed at scaring the citizens of Israel. It is an asymmetric war aimed at breaking up the unwritten contract between civilians and the army and the political and state institutions. In conventional wars, the military aims of the enemy are clear and the doctrine of fighting against them is already supported by international laws. But in an asymmetric war, the aim is to undermine the trust between the authorities and the citizen. This is done in several forms. One is an attack on the settlements of the south, for example, and succeeding in outsmarting the army, and then civilians ask, where was the large army that was supposed to protect me?

Another method is that Hamas plays for time in the war as much as possible, with the help of all kinds of tactics, such as firing about a hundred rockets into large areas every day. In an asymmetric war, even when the large army overwhelms you, they try to drag out the war as much as possible in order to exert pressure. Politicians must accept your demands, because civilians do not have the strength for long wars. A third way of doing this is a relatively new method of kidnapping civilians, so that a very difficult dilemma is created for your enemy. In this kind of warfare, civilians are made to lose all confidence in the decision makers, who are trying to decide the battle, but it is decided by civilians from within."

When such an asymmetric scenario is systematically implemented, it can literally cause citizens to revolt against their military. The western democratic world does not yet have a combat theory against such an asymmetric war. For example, in the US war in Afghanistan, the Taliban worked for years to discourage the Americans, despite their superior strength, and in the end the US fled.

Hamas has succeeded in this attempt to cause society to lose confidence and disintegrate? After all we have seen public solidarity, the spirit of voluntarism and the army reserves call up.

"Hamas erred in its assessment of Israeli society. They do not understand the deep motivations of the return to Zion."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on November 21, 2023.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2023.

Prof. David Passig credit: Cadya Levy
Prof. David Passig credit: Cadya Levy
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