November 5, 2006
By Tony Sayegh
I realize that this is not the best of times to be constructively
critical of the Palestinian resistance. However, since Israeli attacks
are virtually non-stop now, one cannot wait for the right time.
The spirit of resistance and the expectations of the Palestinians in
particular and the Arabs in general were elevated after Hizbullah’s
defeat of the Israeli invasion this last summer. This has led to
perhaps unrealistic expectations of similar resistance by the
Palestinians. Hamas has intimated that any Israeli advance in Gaza
would see tougher resistance, new weapons and new tactics.
Let us be clear that Hizbullah’s circumstances and the situation of
the Palestinian resistance are very different. None the less, there
are principles that apply to all guerrilla resistance and when those
principles are not studied and applied, success would be hard to
Observers trace Hizbullah’s success to many factors, such as:
1) Meticulous planning.
2) Thorough training.
3) Strict discipline combined with local decision making.
4) Intelligence and counter-intelligence.
5) Management of the information war.
And many more.
In the case of the Palestinians, even though Israel has been openly
threatening of re-invading Gaza for sometime, the planning from the
Palestinian side was not very apparent. It appeared that the
resistance was, as usual, in an ad hoc fashion.
In the case of Hizbullah, they knew their limitations; their strengths
and weaknesses. They knew that they had no effective defenses against
Israeli aircraft. Therefore, their fighters were not exposed to
surveillance drones and attack helicopters. In the case of the
Palestinians, it still happens daily and with such regularity that it
makes you wonder. Fighters (often in uniform!) riding cars or standing
on street corners in the middle of the day get killed by Israeli
missiles fired from a spotting aircraft. When will the Palestinians
In the case of Hizbullah, their fighters would only emerge (from
fortified, dug-in positions) when Israeli tanks were within range of
Hizbullah’s anti-tank missiles. Hizbullah lost very few fighters
before the ground invasion. In the case of the Palestinians, who do
not appear to possess effective anti-tank weapons, guerrilla war
fundamentals state that when the enemy advances with massive power,
the guerrilla should disappear and melt with the population. The enemy
should not be able to tell who are the fighters. This is not
cowardice; this is how a guerrilla survives to attack the enemy when
it is retreating or at a time of the guerrilla’s choosing. The element
of surprise should belong to the guerrilla, not the enemy.
Let us compare two speeches: one made by Nasrallah during the invasion
(no one knew his whereabouts) and one by Haniyyah (everyone knows
where he lives). Nasrallah said in one of his speeches that while
Hizbullah was resisting ferociously (and this was not a boast) it was
not holding fixed positions, since it is not a regular army. Contrast
this with Haniyyah’s empty boast “Beit Hanoun will not fall!”
In the case of Hizbullah, their forces were organized in very small
cells (3, 4 or 5) and were distributed such that a large number can
never be surrounded or besieged. Contrast this with up to 73
Palestinian fighters being surrounded in a mosque in Beit Hanoun. It
is clear that the Palestinians were fighting with no plan and very
In the area of intelligence and security, Hizbullah had a tight
structure which was very difficult to penetrate. In South Lebanese
villages, the entire population was Hizbullah’s eyes and ears. Any
stranger entering would be stopped, questioned and reported. This made
it hard for Israel to infiltrate spies and agents on special missions.
This is definitely not the case with the Palestinians. Even in Gaza,
where the Israelis withdrew a year ago, Israel can still send in a
special unit, in Arab dress, in a Palestinian car, deep inside Gaza to
assassinate resistance members. How could this be allowed? How is it
that literally thousands of Israeli agents and spies still roam the
streets of Gaza? And why is it that everyone knows who the fighters
are and where they live? In many cases their phone numbers are known,
for crying out loud! This is no way to fight and win. I think in many
cases the Palestinians are more interested in showing off and firing
their guns in the air to show how tough they are.
One aspect of Hizbullah’s resistance that won it the support of
millions is its credibility in the information war. It disclosed facts
that were proven to be facts. It did not use empty boasts and
traditional, exaggerated Arabic rhetoric. The roles were reversed: it
was Israel that exaggerated and lied. It reached the point that
Israelis would rely on Hizbullah’s declarations to find out what was
really happening. Now that is information triumph! Unfortunately, this
is not the case with the Palestinians. I have noticed the empty
rhetoric and exaggerated claims made by Hamas, and that is
discouraging. Imaginary successes are announced; statements are made
such as,” two rockets were fired in the direction of a concentration
of Israeli tanks!” What is this supposed to mean? And is this worthy
of an announcement?
The sad part is that the Palestinian resistance predates the Lebanese
(and Iraqi) resistance. When the Palestinian resistance was a major
force in South Lebanon, Hizbullah did not even exist! One would have
expected that Hizbullah would have learned from the Palestinians, not
the other way around. It is self evident that the Palestinians have to
do a lot of soul-searching and to be hard in their self-criticism. It
is obvious that the required learning is not taking place and the
resistance is not evolving in a scientific way.