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Israel-Palestine war: This humiliation has shaken the Israeli psyche to its core

The military is a source of Israeli national pride, perceived as an unassailable force that guarantees the sustainability of the Zionist settler-colonial project. No longer
An Israeli soldier rests his head on the gun barrel of an armoured vehicle as Israeli soldiers take positions near the border with Gaza in southern Israel on 9 October 2023 (AFP)

The recent military operation against Israel launched by Hamas from Gaza represents a potential turning point in the conflict - one that could fundamentally reconfigure the longstanding power dynamics between Palestinian resistance and Israel.

Described as a “date that will live in infamy in Israel” by one Israeli official, the operation, codenamed Al-Aqsa Flood, has reverberated deeply within Israel and has also stirred apprehension among its allies, both regionally and internationally.

On 7 October, Palestinian resistance groups in Gaza initiated a multifaceted military operation involving rocket attacks on Israel, coupled with a massive ground attack that breached the Israeli-enforced barrier around Gaza.

Palestinian fighters were able to take control of Israeli settlements and military sites adjacent to Gaza.

The operation resulted in hundreds of Israelis killed and thousands injured, with more than 100 hostages taken into Gaza, according to Hamas. The ultimate number of Israeli casualties may be greater than what has been reported so far. 

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While the full implications are still unfolding, the scale and coordination of the assault suggest an emboldened and enhanced operational capability by Palestinian resistance.

The psychological impact on the status quo, and the disruption of it, has been profound. Israel, with its aura of military supremacy shaken, is experiencing its worst strategic defeat in the face of Palestinian resistance since its creation 75 years ago.

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The operation has not just overturned the established rules governing the colonial-driven conflict, but also highlighted the futility of Israel's longstanding approach to the Palestinians within the changing regional context.

The media's framing of this event as an "Israeli shock" is revealing for several reasons.

Firstly, it showcases the growing capabilities of Palestinian resistance to humiliate the heavily US-backed Israeli military. This level of tactical innovation among Palestinian resistance groups suggests a paradigm shift.

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Historically, confrontations between Palestinian factions and Israeli forces followed a cyclical pattern - retaliatory actions and a return to a fragile yet somewhat predictable status quo.

But this operation defied these norms. It displayed an unprecedented level of coordination and strategic planning, with advanced techniques in electronic warfare, psychological operations and guerilla tactics, all of which effectively negated Israel's technological superiority and disproportionate firepower.

The immediate cause of this collapse goes beyond just intelligence and security failures. Rather, these failures stem from the innovative tactics deployed by Palestinian resistance groups.

These tactics enabled penetration of the multi-layered "auto-killing fence", disabling its "See-Shoot" system - a complex network of automated machine guns and robotic snipers designed to enforce an exclusion zone.

Palestinian fighters rapidly disassembled, evaded and incapacitated this much-vaunted and expensive Israeli security infrastructure, rendering it ineffective and allowing Palestinian fighters unrestricted entry into Palestinian territories under Israeli control.

Consequently, the Israeli deterrence doctrine has totally collapsed.

Ripple effects

Secondly, the psychological destabilisation following this operation might, in many ways, be as impactful as physical damage.

The military is a source of Israeli national pride, perceived as an unassailable force that guarantees the sustainability of the Zionist settler-colonial project. This veneer of invincibility has severely cracked, raising questions that could have long-term consequences for Israel's national psyche - and even its sense of identity.

The psychological impact of this event on Israel's confidence in its military superiority could potentially reverberate through many aspects of its society. In a culture where militarism and mandatory military service are deeply intertwined with daily life, a shake-up on this scale may lead to a deep crisis of confidence among Israelis.

There could be effects on recruitment levels, public trust in political and military leadership, and even the Israeli economy, since it relies significantly on exports of military and security technologies.

The ripple effects of this blow to Israeli morale could be far-reaching, affecting the broader fabric of Israeli society.

This audacious operation proves that the steadfastness of Palestinian resistance remains pivotal, influencing not just regional politics but resonating on an international scale

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the operation serves as a powerful testament to the enduring relevance and resilience of the Palestinian cause within both regional and international politics, despite systematic efforts to relegate it to the margins. 

Some Arab autocracies that have normalised relations with Israel and have aligned strategically with it have dismissed the Palestinian struggle as an outdated issue no longer central to regional politics. 

However, this audacious operation proves that the steadfastness of Palestinian resistance remains pivotal, influencing not just regional politics but also resonating on an international scale.

The Palestinian struggle has often been seen as a litmus test for political and moral stances within the region, affecting partnerships, alliances and even domestic policies of countries far beyond its immediate vicinity. 

The Palestinian quest for justice and self-determination will continue to have a huge impact on Middle Eastern affairs. The fallout from this operation may compel regional and global actors to reconsider policies that have downplayed Palestinian aspirations.

While some have been dismissing the Palestinian cause’s centrality amid shifting geopolitics, the ongoing events have proved that the anti-colonial struggle still retains significant clout in shaping regional realities.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Tariq Dana is an assistant professor of conflict and humanitarian studies at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies. He is also a policy advisor for Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network.
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