A future film about Israel’s massive October 7 intelligence failure might be titled All Quiet on the Gaza Front. For months if not years, members of Hamas had covertly plotted their breakout from Gaza, long referred to as Israel’s open-air prison for Palestinians. As if designed by Orwell and Kafka, Gaza subjects its 2.3 million inhabitants to endless surveillance of their voices, faces, and movements; they are trapped in a labyrinthine maze of fences, checkpoints, and humiliation. Pretending to accept their wrenched conditions as model prisoners, they lulled their Israeli overlords to focus their attention elsewhere.
“For more than a decade,” noted The Washington Post in 2021,
when analysts described the strategy utilized by Israel against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, they’ve used a metaphor: With their displays of overwhelming military strength, Israeli forces were “mowing the grass.” The phrase implies the Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip and their supply of crude but effective homemade weapons are like weeds that need to be cut back. Such tactics have faced significant criticism from international human rights groups, often due to the disproportionate number of deaths caused by Israeli forces, compared to those caused by Palestinian militants during conflict.
By 2015, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was content that his military’s deadly rockets, assassination drones, and snipers were keeping the grass neatly mowed in Gaza. He therefore decided to turn his attention toward launching a new front in his war against the Palestinians. This one, however, would be covert. Its target: the growing numbers of noisy and irritating Americans who dared to protest his government’s brutal occupation.
The shift began behind closed doors in The Venetian Resort, a neon nirvana on the Las Vegas strip. In a back conference room not far from the imitation Italian gondolas and the faux St. Mark’s Square, attendees of the June 2015 conclave were instructed to avoid leaks. “All proceedings,” they were told, “shall remain strictly confidential.” The invitation warned that that they must agree “not to discuss the events of the conference with media before, during and after” the meeting. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.
Once the doors were closed, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the gathering in a letter read by the host—and owner of the Venetian—multibillionaire Sheldon Adelson. “Greetings from Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said. “Delegitimization of Israel must be fought, and you are on the front lines,” he informed them, adding that “the Israeli government is committed to launching assertive and innovative programs and to joining you and many others around the world to combat the lies and slander that are leveled against us.” Ironically, despite the insistence on secrecy, details of the meeting quickly leaked to the newspaper The Forward and Netanyahu’s remarks were later released by the Israeli government. [Continue reading…]