Gaza: Dôme de fer serait-il trop efficace ? (The real problem with Iron Dome: Not enough dead Jews !)

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It’s the moral equivalence which is so devastating. When Egypt this week proposed its ceasefire in Gaza, a BBC presenter asked whether both sides would now conclude that there was no point carrying on with the war. From the start, restraint has been urged on both sides — as if more than 1,100 rocket attacks on Israel in three weeks had the same weight as trying to stop this onslaught once and for all. Israel has been bombing Gaza solely to stop Hamas and its associates from trying to kill Israeli citizens. But for many in the West, the driving necessity is not to stop Hamas but to stop Israel. Moral equivalence morphs instantly into moral bankruptcy. People have looked at the casualty count — around 200 Palestinians killed at the time of writing, while only a handful of Israelis have been injured or killed — and decided that this proves Israel is a monstrous aggressor. No concern at all for the Israelis who have only a few seconds to rush to a shelter when the sirens start to wail, car drivers flinging themselves to the ground at the side of the road. No concern for the elderly or disabled Israelis who can’t get to a shelter, the hospital patients left helpless while the rockets slam into the ground nearby. Just imagine if the Scots, for example, had for years been firing at England volleys of rockets that were now putting 40-50 million people within range. Unimaginable? Of course it is. No country would tolerate it. But that’s the equivalent situation in which tiny Israel has found itself. Yet it is simultaneously having to fight another war: against a West determined to demonise it with accusations of deliberate atrocities, lack of restraint or an attempt to conquer more land. To these people, whatever Israel does to defend itself is bad. Killing Gazans is bad, warning them to flee so they won’t be killed is bad, the Iron Dome missile defence system is bad because, while Palestinians are being killed, Israelis are not. Ah yes, that’s the real outrage, isn’t it? Not enough dead Jews. How dare they defend themselves so effectively! Melanie Philips
A 100% effective Iron Dome wouldn’t serve Tel Aviv’s strategical interest slightest bit since the regime relies on the public’s fear of Palestinian attacks. Add to that the huge cost of the defence system’s missles as compared to that of the primitive projectiles fired by the Gazan resistance. From the Palestinian perspective, before Iron Dome the qassams hardly ever caused damage to the Israeli military, but did spread fear and incite the Israeli public opinion against them. Today, thanks to Iron Dome, every airborn sewer pipe is guaranteed to inflict substantial financial loss to the IDF, at least if the system would be programmed to react to every threat. So my take is the Israeli army intentionally limited the effectiveness of the defence system. Pasparal da Beira do Canal (2013)
L’accord de cessez-le-feu signé entre Israël et le Hamas a mis un terme, au moins provisoirement – à l’opération « Pilier de défense ». Au-delà des enjeux politiques, ce conflit aura permis à Tsahal de tester l’efficacité d’un bouclier antimissile qui… intéresse la Corée du Sud. (…) La bande de Gaza, terrain de jeu idéal pour le système antimissile israélien ? « L’opération sur Gaza n’a évidemment pas été lancée pour des raisons industrielles, mais elle est récupérée par le lobby militaro-industriel qui en fait une formidable publicité pour les équipements militaires israéliens, comme Iron Dome, les missiles ou les drones, souligne Pierre Razoux, directeur de recherche à l’Institut de recherche stratégique de l’Ecole militaire, et auteur de Tsahal : Nouvelle histoire de l’armée israélienne (éd. Perrin). Le groupe Dassault avait un peu bénéficié de la même exposition pour ses Mirage avec les guerres israélo-arabes de 1967 et 1973. » L’Etat hébreu tente depuis plusieurs mois de vendre l’Iron Dome à la Corée du Sud, qui pourrait ainsi se protéger d’éventuels tirs de missiles conventionnels du voisin nord-coréen. Israël essaierait aussi d’exporter en Corée du Sud et en Inde le système anti-missiles balistiques (longue portée) Arrow 2, développé par l’israélien IAI et l’américain Boeing. Des champions qui exportent 80% de leur production De fait, malgré sa population de 7,8 millions d’habitants seulement, Israël est le huitième exportateur mondial d’armement, avec 12,9 milliards de dollars de contrats exports signés entre 2004 et 2011 selon le service de recherche du Congrès américain (CRS). Le dernier rapport au parlement français sur les exportations d’armement mettait même le pays au cinquième rang mondial, avec 5,3% de part de marché. Les champions locaux Elbit Systems, IAI, et Rafael figurent respectivement aux 38e, 41e et 48e rangs mondiaux des groupes de défense du magazine Defense News, avec 8,2 milliards de dollars de chiffre d’affaires cumulé, dont 80% en moyenne réalisés à l’export. Comment expliquer de tels résultats ? Israël, en état de guerre quasi-permanente, s’est toujours servi de ces opérations pour développer son industrie de défense. Tel Aviv a ainsi été précurseur sur l’utilisation des drones de surveillance, dès la fin des années 70. Israël reste le deuxième acteur mondial du secteur, derrière les Etats-Unis : le Harfang français, utilisé en Afghanistan et en Libye, est un Heron israélien francisé. « Les groupes israéliens ne conçoivent pas de systèmes d’armes complexes, comme des sous- marins, des chasseurs ou des porte-avions, mais ils se sont concentrés sur des niches, notamment les drones, les capteurs ou les radars », expliquait récemment à Challenges, Bertrand Slaski, consultant à la Compagnie européenne d’intelligence stratégique (CEIS). Parmi les bestsellers israéliens, les drones Heron et Hermes 450, ou encore le missile antichar Spike. « Israël est aussi très fort sur le segment du « retrofit », la modernisation d’équipements militaires », indique Pierre Razoux. (…° Iron Dome n’est d’ailleurs qu’une des trois couches d’un véritable bouclier antimissiles israélien encore en cours de développement. Il traite avant tout les missiles artisanaux Qassam, des missiles Grad ou les Fajr-5, engins de plus longue portée de conception iranienne. La deuxième couche est David’s Sling (la Fronde de David), conçue en partenariat avec l’américain Raytheon pour intercepter les missiles moyenne portée (70 à 250 km). Le dernier étage de la fusée est le fameux système Arrow de défense antimissile balistique (Arrow 2, Arrow 3 étant en développement), conçu par IAI et Boeing. Derrière l’expertise technologique israélienne, le porte-monnaie et la puissance de feu de R&D des Etats-Unis ne sont jamais loin. « Israël a bénéficié en 2012 d’une aide américaine de 3 milliards de dollars, en plus des divers partenariats industriels avec les groupes américains », souligne Pierre Razoux. Une aide parfois à double tranchant : Washington avait bloqué, en 2000, une vente par Israël d’avions de surveillance AWACS à la Chine et interdit toute exportation qui pourrait concurrencer directement ses propres industriels. Challenges (novembre 2012)
During Operation Pillar of Defence in November 2012, when Israel clashed with Hamas, 1,500 rockets were launched from Gaza at Israel. According to figures provided at the time by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), Iron Dome destroyed 426 rockets, with a successful interception rate of 84%. Israeli officials hailed Iron Dome as a « game-changer » that saves lives, describing it as « an extraordinary homemade rocket swatter ». Some have questioned whether it is as effective as claimed, but Time magazine’s defence expert, Mark Thompson, says the « lack of Israeli casualties suggests Iron Dome is the most effective, most tested, missile shield the world has ever seen ». The Guardian
To Israeli security officials, the success of Iron Dome is akin to that of the separation barrier between Israel and the West Bank, which they say helped bring an end to an onslaught of suicide bombings in the early 2000s. The Iron Dome system has rendered rockets so ineffective that Hamas and its allies have, in recent days, been attempting more-creative ways of attacking Israel. Last week, a Hamas commando unit tried to infiltrate Israel by sea before being cut down on the beach by Israeli fire. On Monday, the Islamist militant group launched a drone that hovered over the southern city of Ashdod. (…) Iron Dome may be changing Israel’s tactics and calculus, as well. In Israel’s offensive against Hamas in 2008 and 2009, before Iron Dome was implemented, Israel sent in ground troops, dramatically increasing the death toll on both sides. But in another major operation in late 2012, Iron Dome was deployed for the first time and Israel kept its soldiers out of the strip. It has largely done the same this time. (…) But critics say the system also has taken some of the pressure off Israel’s leaders to negotiate a peace agreement with the Palestinians. Iron Dome, Peretz said, is no more than a stopgap. “In the end, the only thing that will bring true quiet is a diplomatic solution,” he said. Griff Witte and Ruth Eglash
Restraint? I’d like to see how Israelis would react if just once an F-16 squadron swooped down on a residential neighborhood and dropped a ton of smart bombs on it. Uri Misgav (2014)
By now, it is a ritual. Nearly every morning for the past few days, and just about every evening, rockets fired from Gaza have rained down on this city and its suburbs, activating wailing sirens and sending frightened people scattering for cover. As in Kafka’s short story about the leopards that invade the temple so consistently that they eventually become a permanent part of the religious ceremony, these unnerving rocket attacks quickly become part of the quotidian experience for millions of Israelis. The subdued public reaction I see from my apartment window is so characteristically Israeli: rather than panic, most of them move with ironic detachment toward the bomb shelters or duck and cover along the highways. They wear a mixture of fatalistic apathy and a self-assurance that no harm will come to them. Asked by the press, time and again, why they are not scared, most Israelis living in the metropolitan Tel Aviv area have supplied the same response: Iron Dome. While this latest round of violence between Israel and Hamas is far from over, Israelis have already hurried to proclaim a winner. The groundbreaking missile defense system, developed a few years ago by the Israeli defense industry (with generous U.S. funding), has been hailed by commentators in Israel and around the world as the main “victor” in this recent clash. And for good reason. It has performed majestically: nearly all of the rockets fired towards Tel Aviv and other major population centers have been intercepted by the Iron Dome giving it, according to the Israeli Army, a 90 percent success rate. Thank the defense system for the lack of fatalities and the relatively low casualty rate among Israeli civilians. For now, it is both a physical and a psychological solace that enables Israelis to go about their business. But, over time, Iron Dome may do them more harm than good. What looks like a tactical miracle may, accidentally, help engender a grave strategic blunder. Technology can mislead us by providing a false sense of security. But it cannot – and must not – become a substitute for effective diplomacy. And Iron Dome’s ability to protect Israelis from periodic rocket attacks so far will never remove the strife and discontent that has produced the motivation to ruthlessly fire them in the first place. Yoav Fromer (2014)

Mais pourquoi les Israéliens refusent-ils si obstinément de se laisser tuer en plus grand nombre ?

Alors qu’un système de défense anti-missile qui avait tant été critiqué pour son coût et son inefficacité démontre d’une manière chaque jour un peu plus éclatante et insolente l’efficacité de la technologie israélienne …

En ces temps étranges où avec l’augmentation proportionnellement explosive des victimes du côté de sa population-otage-bouclier humain, le Hamas a droit à tous les honneurs aux unes de nos quotidiens …

Comment ne pas voir, au-delà de la démonstration grandeur nature de l’incroyable efficacité du huitième exportateur mondial d’armement, la vraie raison de la véritable fureur de nos belles âmes contre l’Etat hébreu ?

PostEverything
The missiles keeping Israel safe may do more long-term harm than good

Yoav Fromer

July 14

Yoav Fromer teaches politics and history at Tel Aviv University. He is also a contributor to Tablet Magazine.

TEL AVIV — By now, it is a ritual. Nearly every morning for the past few days, and just about every evening, rockets fired from Gaza have rained down on this city and its suburbs, activating wailing sirens and sending frightened people scattering for cover. As in Kafka’s short story about the leopards that invade the temple so consistently that they eventually become a permanent part of the religious ceremony, these unnerving rocket attacks quickly become part of the quotidian experience for millions of Israelis.

The subdued public reaction I see from my apartment window is so characteristically Israeli: rather than panic, most of them move with ironic detachment toward the bomb shelters or duck and cover along the highways. They wear a mixture of fatalistic apathy and a self-assurance that no harm will come to them. Asked by the press, time and again, why they are not scared, most Israelis living in the metropolitan Tel Aviv area have supplied the same response: Iron Dome.

While this latest round of violence between Israel and Hamas is far from over, Israelis have already hurried to proclaim a winner. The groundbreaking missile defense system, developed a few years ago by the Israeli defense industry (with generous U.S. funding), has been hailed by commentators in Israel and around the world as the main “victor” in this recent clash. And for good reason. It has performed majestically: nearly all of the rockets fired towards Tel Aviv and other major population centers have been intercepted by the Iron Dome giving it, according to the Israeli Army, a 90 percent success rate. Thank the defense system for the lack of fatalities and the relatively low casualty rate among Israeli civilians. For now, it is both a physical and a psychological solace that enables Israelis to go about their business.

But, over time, Iron Dome may do them more harm than good. What looks like a tactical miracle may, accidentally, help engender a grave strategic blunder. Technology can mislead us by providing a false sense of security. But it cannot – and must not – become a substitute for effective diplomacy. And Iron Dome’s ability to protect Israelis from periodic rocket attacks so far will never remove the strife and discontent that has produced the motivation to ruthlessly fire them in the first place.

Iron Dome was originally engineered to defend Israelis from rockets launched in Lebanon and Gaza. But what was once a tactical defense mechanism to temporarily protect the civilian population has become a strategy unto itself. In that way, it may actually undermine Israel’s long-term security. By temporarily minimizing the dangers posed by Hamas and Hezbollah, it distracts us from seeking a broader regional political solution that could finally incapacitate these terror networks and make systems such as Iron Dome moot.

The Netanyahu government is not exactly brimming with creative ideas to reignite the peace process with the Palestinians. And with Iron Dome, why would it? As long as the Israeli public believes it is safe, for now, under the soothing embrace of technology, it will not demand that its political leaders wage diplomacy to end violence that mandated Iron Dome in the first place. Since Iron Dome has transformed a grim reality into a rather bearable ordeal, Israelis have lost the sense of urgency and outrage that might have pushed their government to make painful if necessary concessions in exchange for peace.

There is an apt American analogy. When President Reagan pursued the Strategic Defense Initiative (aka “Star Wars”) in the early 1980’s, he wanted to end nuclear deterrence—the fear of Mutually Assured Destruction—by neutralizing the Soviet missiles. But SDI was a means, not an end: It was always supposed to be one more way to pressure the already struggling Soviet leadership toward the negotiating table. Although historians are still conflicted about the extent to which it helped end the cold war, there is little doubt that SDI enhanced America’s bargaining power and contributed to the important arms-reduction treaties that eased tensions between the superpowers and eventually helped unravel the Iron Curtain.

Israelis are in danger of overlooking this important historical lesson. If they confuse the short-term military advantage provided by Iron Dome with the long term need for an original and comprehensive political solution, then that would not be ironic. It would be a tragedy.

Voir aussi:

New Study: Journalists, Experts are Massive Bullshitters

Jamie Stern-Weiner

New Left Project

10 March 2013

Yesterday, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported that journalists and experts are bullshitters, nearly to the last one.

Some background. One unambiguous Israeli victory in its attack on Gaza last November, journalists and experts widely concurred, was the performance of its ‘Iron Dome’ missile defence shield in shooting down projectiles fired from Gaza. The BBC’s Jonathan Marcus reported on the « remarkable » progress in missile defence technology represented by Iron Dome, evidenced by its « recent success » in the field. His colleague, Mark Urban, described Iron Dome’s « impressive » performance, while the Guardian‘s Harriett Sherwood reported Iron Dome’s « considerable success ». « The naysayers now are few », observed the New York Times‘s Isabel Kershner—or non-existent, to judge by the number quoted in her article. The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg was satisfied that Iron Dome « is doing a very good job », though he quoted a « friend… who knows a great deal » fretting that Iron Dome might, if anything, be too effective. The experts, too, seemed to agree. For dovish Israeli academic Ron Pundak Iron Dome was a « game changer »; for Shashank Joshi of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) it « represent[ed]… a major shift for Israel » [update: but see note below]; for the respected International Crisis Group, « the success of… Iron Dome » was not in doubt. The Council on Foreign Relations’ Max Boot spoke for most when he wrote:

« The latest Gaza war is only a few days old, but already one conclusion can be drawn: missile defence works ».

This expansive edifice of journalistic and expert analysis, pontification and reportage was based on a single source: official Israeli government statistics, which claimed a success rate for Iron Dome of approximately 84%. The BBC’s Mark Urban was unusual in noticing that this was a not entirely disinterested authority—Israel’s government being « anxious to dismiss the impression that it has not [sic] been humiliated by Hamas »—but he proceeded to rely on its data regardless. Most reported Israel’s official line uncritically.

With surprising speed, the accumulating media and expert consensus on the success of Iron Dome became self-reinforcing, its existence taken as evidence of its own accuracy. Thus Max Fisher informed readers of the Washington Post that Iron Dome is, « by every appearance, a remarkable success »— »every appearance » being useful journalistic shorthand for « every regurgitation of the exact same set of official Israeli data ».

                  

Iron Dome: Israel’s near invincible* missile defense system. *Vulnerable to rain, teenagers, and missiles.

The sole sceptical note was sounded by the American scholar Norman Finkelstein, who wondered, in a post on his website, whether Iron Dome might be better named ‘Swiss Cheese‘. There, and in an article for New Left Project, Finkelstein observed that whereas during the three weeks of Operation Cast Lead (2008-09) three Israeli civilians were killed by projectiles from Gaza, during Operation Pillar of Defence—Iron Dome notwithstanding—rockets and mortars landing in Israel killed four in one week. Given that Hamas, with perhaps an occasional exception, did not use much more advanced weaponry in the most recent conflict, his conclusion was straightforward: Iron Dome « almost certainly did not save many and perhaps not any lives ». Recalling the hype over U.S. Patriot missiles deployed in 1991 against Iraqi Scuds, subsequently revealed as completely ineffective, Finkelstein expressed scepticism about the veracity of the Iron Dome statistics provided by Israel. This scepticism was rooted in his political analysis of Israel’s attack on Gaza, one that found no expression in the reams of columns, articles and reports published by mainstream journalists and experts. Israel attacked Gaza, he argued, to re-establish ‘deterrence’ vis-a-vis its regional neighbours. This backfired as Palestinians and regional powers managed to impose a ceasefire on Israel and residents of Gaza emerged from the conflict triumphant. The only plausible victory to which desperate Israeli officials could point was Iron Dome, which they plugged for all it was worth. Given this political context, and the Israeli government’s clear commercial interest in marketing Iron Dome abroad,  it was obvious that Israeli figures about Iron Dome’s performance ought to be taken with a pinch of salt—except, it seems, to the journalists and experts quoted above, and many more besides.

Finkelstein’s initial doubts were soon echoed by others. Notably, Ted Postol, the MIT researcher who led the debunking of the Patriot missiles in 1991, recanted his initially positive assessment of Iron Dome’s performance: « I’m skeptical. I suspect it is not working as well as the Israelis are saying … but there is great value in the strategic deception ». (See also here). But the conventional wisdom has stood firm.

Which brings us to yesterday’s article in Ha’aretz. The Israeli military already effectively admitted, earlier this month, that Iron Dome cannot protect Sderot and other Israeli communities bordering the Gaza Strip, whose defence was its initial rationale for existence. Now Ha’aretz reports that separate studies by Ted Postol and two other scientists, formerly of Raytheon (which manufactured the Patriot missiles) and Rafael (which co-developed Iron Dome), have concluded that the official Israeli data on Iron Dome is almost certainly false. Whereas Israel claimed a successful intercept-rate of 84%, Postol, after examining video footage of Iron Dome in action, concludes that the real rate was « perhaps as low as 5%« , and « could well be lower ».

For the Israeli state, relying on Iron Dome’s alleged success to qualify what was otherwise an unmitigated disaster in Gaza, the scientists’ findings are deeply inconvenient. For all the journalists and experts who relayed official Israeli data uncritically, they are devastating.

***

The BBC, the Guardian, the New York Times and the Washington Post have so far decided against reporting Postol et al.’s critical findings. Nor, to my knowledge, have Joshi, Jeffrey Goldberg, the ICG et al. seen fit to alter their expert analysis.

   

How Iron Dome Works – BBC diagram (fixed)

Update: I included Shashank Joshi as an example of a bullshitting expert, above, based on the (bullshit) quote attributed to him in this article. Joshi has objected to this on twitter, claiming that he prefaced every comment to journalists about Iron Dome with the caveat that the official stats may not be true, and that he can hardly be blamed if they then chose not to quote the caveat. He posted this screenshot as evidence that he was indeed sceptical about the accuracy of Israel’s stats. I can’t check this, but obviously, if Joshi was misrepresented or misquoted, then the fault lies with the reporter rather than with him.

21 commentaires pour Gaza: Dôme de fer serait-il trop efficace ? (The real problem with Iron Dome: Not enough dead Jews !)

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  2. […] cette drôle de guerre où le plus fort doit s’excuser de trop bien protéger sa population pendant que le plus faible fait la une des médias pour l’avoir sacrifiée […]

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  3. […] cette drôle de guerre où le plus fort doit s’excuser de trop bien protéger sa population pendant que le plus faible fait la une des médias pour l’avoir sacrifiée […]

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  4. […] cette drôle de guerre où le plus fort doit s’excuser de trop bien protéger sa population pendant que le plus faible fait la une des médias pour l’avoir sacrifiée […]

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  5. […] qu’en ces temps étranges où le plus fort doit s’excuser de trop bien protéger sa population pendant que le plus faible fait la une des médias pour l’avoir sacrifiée […]

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