Psychological Warfare with Missiles: Why Tel Aviv Matters

The city is not the capital of Israel nor even its most populous metropolis. But it is the symbol of a secular prosperity that rankles with many others in the region--and thus a ripe target for fearmongers.

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Daniel Bar-On / AFP / Getty Images

Israelis take cover in a bomb shelter in central Tel Aviv as sirens wail, Nov. 16, 2012.

Tel Aviv is not Israel’s largest city – Jerusalem is nearly twice the size — but Tel Aviv is much more than the 400,000 people who reside within its municipal boundaries. Both in Israel and the Palestinian territories, the name is shorthand both for what Israelis call “the center” —  the matrix of freeways and palm trees where half of the country’s population resides – and for a lifestyle enjoyed beyond the tensions that define “the conflict.”  It’s a sangfroid that galls more religious and ideological Israelis, and utterly enrages Palestinians who sense the despair of their own situation deepened by the lives being richly enjoyed in the center.

So the sickening wail of air raid sirens across  the tree-lined grid of the Mediterranean city on Thursday night was a significant development in the Gaza conflict, now a couple of days old. So were the reports of residents seeking cover under the tables of the cafes where they had gathered to begin the Israeli weekend, not that Tel Avivans gather anywhere else during the week. The conflict had finally come to Tel Aviv.

“Some of the places were empty last night,” Nadav Shoshan says in a café that, on a Friday morning at 10, usually requires a wait for a table. There was no waiting now.  Not half dozen customers sipped cappuccinos and browsed menus, weighing the merits of muesli versus shakshuka, an Israeli dish of eggs poached in tomato sauce. “It’s not a typical Friday morning,” the waiter says. The streets, while not empty, were far from crowded, and even farther from carefee.  In the Jaffa section, an older man escorting his wife into a mid-block crosswalk screamed at a driver who slowed to a stop a bit too slowly for his frayed nerves.  The driver rolled down the passenger side window to scream back. “Maybe we will die today,” a lawyer told her cleaning lady. The cleaner, a Third World national imported to fill the jobs done by Palestinians before Gaza and the West Bank were sealed off, laughed.  Everything is relative. But nothing is more contagious than fear, or less rational.

(PHOTOS: A New Gaza War: Israel and Palestinian Militants Trade Fire)

At the U.S. Embassy, which overlooks the Mediterranean Sea that has swallowed at least two incoming missiles, including one of two fired Friday afternoon, a woman stood at the window reserved for American Citizen Services and urged the Foreign Service officer to hurry up. “Where are you coming from?” the officer asked.

“Modi’in,” the woman said, naming a planned city midway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. “But I don’t want to be in Tel Aviv now.”

“Here, you are safe,” the officer said.

“No,” the woman insisted. “Not safe in Tel Aviv now.”

On the television mounted on the wall behind her,  the co-hosts were seated glumly around the table of the Channel 2 morning show. As a guest offered tips on keeping the children calm, the male host reached under the table and produced yellow balls with smiles painted on.  The daily Ma’ariv wrote that by reaching Tel Aviv from Gaza, the militants “put another 1.5 million civilians into siren anxiety.” That no one was killed, or even hurt, did not seem to matter.  In military terms, the conflict is so lopsided that the most meaningful competition is for perception and psychology.  Hamas and its more extreme cohabitants in Gaza, including Islamic Jihad, scored by extending siren anxiety to Tel Aviv, especially after the Israeli military made a point of targeting their known inventory of the missiles capable of reaching the city, the Iranian-made Fajr-5s.  Hamas further irked the Israelis on Friday afternoon by aiming for Jerusalem – something few expected.  Jerusalem may be the the Jewish state’s disputed capital, but it is also home to several hundred thousand Arabs, as well as the Al Aqsa mosque, the third-most sacred site in Isalm.  The militants’ medium range rockets ended up falling on the West Bank, though in a region thick with Jewish settlements, and the detonations were audible in southern Jerusalem.

Israeli forces play an intimidation game as well. On Thursday, according to a report in the Hebrew press, an Israeli gunboat  fired a salvo near enough to the refugee camp home of Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh to make a point.  The Israel Defense Forces also continued to publicize its preparation of ground forces, even naming the units that would participate: the Givanti Brigade, paratroopers, and an elite tank unit.

But for both sides, the main focus is on missiles, and their power to affect Israeli public opinion.  Gaza militants have perhaps 10,000 of them, and though Israeli jets and drones target missile launch sites relentlessly – “dozens” on Friday, according to the Israeli military – Gaza militants launched nearly 170 rockets between midnight and sunset.  Fewer than half reached Israel, while 99 were knocked out of the air by projectiles fired from Israel’s four Iron Dome anti-missile batteries.

The Iron Dome batteries calculate when a missile’s trajectory threatens a populated area, and leaves alone those headed for open space.  They work so well that the only three Israeli deaths were people who, instead of huddling in an interior stairwell with their downstairs neighbors, were killed on the balcony where they wanted to see the missile work.  But countless lives have been saved.  While Israeli intelligence redoubled efforts to locate the Fajr 5 missiles that could reach Tel Aviv, cities closer to Gaza continued to face barrages of smaller missiles that remain plentiful, like the Grad. In the last two days more than 70 have been aimed at Be’er Sheva, a city of 200,000 that in the past has produced many of the fatalities that inflame public opinion.  This round, scores of rockets had produced not even a critical injury.

“I’m from Be’er Sheva,” says Shashan, the Tel Aviv café waiter. “People there are really used to it.  People know how to respond.” They seek cover when sirens sound, and take the fear in stride.  Literally, it seems:  “I’m going there today,” Shashan says.

For the Israeli leadership, the additional public resilience provided by Iron Dome means its military has more time to prosecute the assault in Gaza, and punish militants for expanding the battlefield to Israel’s two largest cities.There were continuing concerns about Palestinian casualties, however. The fears Israelis face paled to those gripping the 1.6 million residents of Gaza, where explosions thundered around the clock.  Yet relatively low civilian casualties have helped assure that international opinion has broadly supported Israel’s assault so far. That could turn quickly if a Gaza school or hospital crumbled under an Israeli bomb.

“If we don’t make a mistake,”a senior Israeli officer tells TIME, “we have a lot of time to operate.”

With reporting by Aaron J. Klein/Tel Aviv

samny 1 Like

...and they say the American media is not pro-Israel? to anybody from the middle east looking for unbiased news, visit  I guarantee you will go both sides of the conflict.  So far Aljazeera (english) has done a good job of covering both sides of the conflict.    


The only way to fix this is to go in there with an un biased superior military force and bash a few heads together.. On both sides you have extreme nut cases that think God is on there side and in the meantime the average Joe get its. The Israelis own the largest camp ever called the west bank and provoke the situation. There will never be a end to this while the situation persists as it is there now. It will be stamped on and rise again and again and again.

As far as the US is concerned stay out of it, we cant afford it, dont want to be there let them sort themselves out.

wearewideawake 1 Like

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) issued a statement condemning "the ongoing Israeli attacks on Gaza, an expression of ongoing suppression of a people’s right to self-determination and of pacification, not of self-defense. Although Israeli spokespeople never mention the word 'occupation' (in fact, Israel officially denies there even is an occupation), this is the context within which the events taking place must be understood. Israel presents its attacks as mere self-defense, as if it is an innocent, peace-loving country undergoing attacks from hostile forces; it often uses the example of missiles being fired at the US from Canada. "In fact it is Israel that has held the Palestinians under violent occupation these past 45 years, including the inhabitants of Gaza, who have been systematically impoverished, imprisoned, blockaded, excluded from their agricultural lands, assassinated from the air and killed on the ground – an entire civilian population terrorized by a powerful state with the most advanced military weaponry."  Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire asked, "‘When is the Israel government going to stop this bombing and continual wars and threat of war, against the Palestinians, and its neighbours, admit that there will be no military solution to the Palestinian Occupation, and begin to talk seriously with their enemies, in order to solve the problems for the sake of the Palestinians, Israelis, and indeed the whole of the middle east and world!’?""Many Israeli/Palestinians know there is a non-military solution, which can break, the continuing vicious cycle of violence. What is missing is the serious ‘political will’ of the Israeli government, to be brave, have courage, move away from militarism and war, and for the western powers to insist that Israel does so and upholds international law. The Israeli/Palestinian people can lead the way, by their own nonviolent movements, including the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns, to bring about real political change, and give peace a chance. We can all do something For peace in the Middle East.-MAIREAD MAGUIRE, NOBEL PEACE LAUREATE, 16TH NOVEMBER, 2012

Israel, as the infinitely stronger party which has maintained control of every aspect of life in Gaza, [ever since its 2005 'disengagement' which was nothing more than a redeployment] can end the conflict and achieve peace and security only by ending the occupation of Gaza Palestine and honoring equal human rights for all.

hecduuuu 2 Like

People are so misinformed about this topic.. It's a shame. What Israel is doing in Gaza and the West Bank is atrocious. The world never changes, people think it does, it never changes it just adapts. Read about what is going on and about what HAS been going on. Dont repeat what other people tell you, do your own research and come up with your conclusions.

hassan_wasim336 3 Like

So lets say Mexico takes over Texas does not let Texas even have a police force or import material just to build a toilet seat! and for itself gets nuclear weapons and a huge army...............and people in Texas fight the Mexicans to get Texas back..........are Texans who are fighting to get back Texas jihadist and terrorist? or are they freedom fighters?

Shaleen 1 Like

The one thing we all have to ask ourselves is where is the UN? Why are they not intervening? The very purpose of the body was to prevent escalations like this. Israel is not going anywhere. Accept it. We can argue forever on whether they have a rightful claim to the land or not. But in all of this, the future generations lose out. Look at where Afganistan is! God must be holding his head in dispair. Jerusalem could have been the focal point of unity and agreement for the three most followed religions in the world. Instead it is the centre of conflict. And the three religions are engaged in a holy war against each other just like the middle ages. We can certainly do better than that.

Be fair to the Palestanians. Recognise them. And work this out like civilised people. Prove to the next generation that war is not the answer. It's our responsibility. Otherwise UN is just another League of Nations - and we all know what happend when it failed.


 Because the Israeli government has purchased Americas veto in the UN.

At this point Israel has no reason to work towards peace. They cant be held responsible for anything, they're armed to the teeth with conventional and atomic weapons and they're backed by the worlds sole superpower.

StanleyHutchins 3 Like

This is B.S., it's a DISTRACTION, Netenyahu is up for Re-Election in Jan. 2013. This is a bid to start-a-war TO GET HIM RE-ELECTED. The Israeli people and IDF should wake up and FIRE his Butt. Israel was negotiating a Perm Peace settlement with Hamas, just as it Assassinated one Hamas leaders.


@StanleyHutchins - actually the last prime ministers that went into war lost the next election, so before claiming such things, do a little research.  And as for a peace settlement, man, what peace settlement?  There have been rockets fired constantly over the last 2 months, and in fact over the last 12 years.  Just to put some numbers on it - 12,000 rockets in the last 12 years.  But hey you dont hear about that now do u?  And its ok, we're not looking for anybody's pity, which is exactly what the other side would like u to feel when they put on a full display of propaganda pics, to try and connect with your "humane" side.  If they knew the meaning of humane they wouldn't build their rocket launchers in hospitals and schools.  The only reason all of this is now in the news is because yes, we finally retaliated and killed in a pinpoint mission a dude that's been carrying these attacks for years.  The violence has to stop from both sides, absolutely, but not before Hamas, the Palis, and the rest of the Arab world understand that the situation cannot go back to what it was. 

PlumbLine 1 Like

Jeremiah 30:3......For behold, the days are coming,’ says the LORD, ‘that I will bring back from captivity My people Israel and Judah,’ says the LORD. ‘And I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.’”2 Chronicles 6:6......Yet I have chosen Jerusalem, that My name may be there.............


 You know, I take just about the opposite view from the Bible.The Jews in Israel are not living up to the standards set forth by Jesus. They as a group have either acted hatefully towards their neighbors or have stood mute as their fellows have acted hatefully. 


@PlumbLine We'll ignore the fact that Israel is in violation of over 80 UN resolutions insofar as their treatment of the Palestinians and the confiscation of their land. I SUGGEST YOU READ THE FOLLOWING FROM THE KING JAMES BIBLE 

..... Acting on God's instructions, the Jews "annihilated everyone who lived in" Makkedah. At Libnah, they again "left no survivors." At Lachish, "they put the sword to all who lived there, just as they had done to Libnah." At Eglon, "they annihilated it just as they had done to Lachish." At Hebron, "they annihilated it and all who lived there." Again at Debir, "they annihilated everyone who lived there; they left no survivors." "Joshua defeated the whole land, including the hill country, the Negev, the lowlands, the slopes, and all their kings. He left no survivors. He annihilated everything that breathed, just as the Lord God of Israel had commanded." (Joshua, Chapter 10.)

Someone needs a TIMEOUT!

HebrewHammer 1 Like

Are you people kidding? Have you forgotten the old testament, the Jews are god chosen people. Secondly, Isreal became an independent country in 1948. And Germany was defeated in May of 1945. Where is the coralation? Not only did Hitler try to exterminate jews, he also killed gypsies , homosexuals, mentally and physically disabled people and any and all others who were against his policies, even though he was Jewish by birth. Oh did I mention that Hitler took his own life.They have been fighting over the holy land for thousands of years. You don't hear the Jews screaming to exterminate all the non-jews in the world. They are backed into a corner and fighting for what they belive is rightfully theirs. I can tell you with absolute certainity if someone dropped a bomb in my state or even in my town, it would be war. I would like to beleive that all avenues of a peaceful resolution haven't been blocked or blown up...but I think that is a foolish fantasy.The bottom line is, anyone one of us would proterct our own from whatever enemy threatened our family. How can anyone decide who is right or who is wrong? But I will say this, I am one of God's chosed people and I live in a small redneck town with our fair share of uneducated people. But even the most ignorant people here can't hold a candle to what some of you have posted.


@HebrewHammer God has had a history of punishing "his people" when they dont live up to his rules.  The Jews in Israel have treated their neighbors in a most wicked fashion and like it or not, as Gods people they are bound by ALL of his rules. Namely You shall love the Lord more then even yourself and you shall love your neighbor as you love yourself.

mrxexon 2 Like

@HebrewHammer Would you like to talk about the zionists who collaborated with the nazis to sell out their own kind? These same zionists went on to found modern Israel...

 Or perhaps we should discuss the 100,000 Jews who served in Hitler's military? Look it up for yourself if you don't believe me.

 You don't understand history half as much as you think you do. 


Here is an in-depth look at the manufacturing and firing process of the Palestinian Qassam rocket and how Hamas is increasing its ability to strike deeply into Israeli territory:

mrxexon 1 Like

@ViableOp Why don't you mention REAL weapons like the ones the IDF uses in Gaza. 

Let me refresh your memory. From operation Cast Lead,

There's a pretty big difference between homemade rockets and state of the art missles launched from jet fighters.Equaipment Israel gets from the US.


I imagine the world in which Israelis don't exist. How extraordinarily peaceful it will be. There are many people even in Korea who think Israel is good and Arab is bad because they don't know HISTORY. If you look at the cause of conflict, it is undoubtedly Israel's fault. I really hate Hitler. But one of the best things he did was to kill the Jews. If Jews hadn't existed, Osama Binladen wouldn't have done a terror on the trade center. The reason Binladen attacked the building was America supported Israel. all the world shouldn't support Israel and there won't be no terrorism( I can bet my life on this. It is very logical)

Rachel421 1 Like


 If you honestly believe that there would be peace in the Middle East if Israel ceased to exist, you are showing now only a poor grasp of history but also a poor grasp of current events.

While I truly believe the majority of Muslims want peace, the sad reality is that the biggest threat to Muslims has always been other Muslims - and not just those we lazily call "Muslim extremists." Shia and Sunni slaughter each other on a fairly regular basis, assuming they're not both slaughtering other Muslim ethnic groups such as Sufi, Kurds, Berbers and Bedouin, or fighting other minority groups, such as Baha'i.... or anyone who might be homosexual..... or those who don't necessarily follow a ruling group's narrow interpretation of Islam. Remember, when Hamas took control of Gaza, among their first actions was to threaten male Muslim hairdressers who took women as clients. Then they tried to impose strict dress codes for female attorneys and school girls. When Muslim journalists or writers are threatened, it's generally done by other Muslims. When Muslim feminists are tortured and killed, it's done by other Muslims. Ditto for girls in certain areas who want an education. Much if this pales in comparison to what is done to suspected gays, always by religious Muslims with the blessing of their government. For that matter, weapons that are bought for Muslims to use against Israel are often used against other Muslims, in Libya or other areas of conflict.

Remember, there are Muslims in Israel who fight alongside the IDF, pretty much due to the fact that they know they would be violently oppressed if not systematically slaughtered if Israel fell to its enemies. Druze, Circassian and Bedouin are all groups which often have members in the IDF. These groups, along with ethnic Kurds and Berbers, all support Israel's right to exist. Generally speaking, Muslim groups that have traditionally faced oppression or worse by other Muslims are rather vocal in their support if Israel. (Google "Muslim", "Zionists" for a better understanding of this.)

A 2004 survey found that 84.9% of Israeli Arabs believe Israel has the right to exist as an independent state, whereas 70% feel that it has the right to exist as an independent Jewish state. Why do you think this is, wheaty? (Anyone reading this can easily check these figures and I hope will take the time to do so.)Israel is also home to the Baha'i headquarters, again allowing a group that has traditionally faced oppression or worse in many Muslim countries to thrive within its borders. In addition, Israel has not only the most freedom for gays in the Middle East, Tel Aviv is ranked as one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world. The majority of Israeli's support gay marriage. Israel was allowing gay members to serve well over a decade before we ended DADT.

Do these things matter? I'd like to think so. I believe every group, including Jews and Muslims, has the right to self-determination - though I do not believe that includes the right to oppress, torture and kill ethnic minorities, religious minorities, gays or feminists, even if that is what the majority in an area specifically desires.

On a final note, I've noticed that those who think Israel has no right to exist have never ever demanded that Pakistan be given back to India and reparations made to the Hindus, even though Muslim groups are thriving and growing at a rate several times faster than the Hindus or other Indians in India - and in spite of the fact that Pakistan has oppressed and slaughtered Hindus and other religious minorities within its own country. The only conclusion I can draw is that there is a specific, bigoted desire to keep Jews from having any rights of self-determination, even when these Jews are bending over backwards to help other persecuted minorities, including those Muslims who have been persecuted by other Muslims. I suppose, if we can say that Jews are violent and terrible, it means they somehow deserved centuries of persecution, pogroms, inquisitions and eventually, the Holocaust.

Martian_14 3 Like

In a world in which the majority is made by idiotic leftists, dictatorships  theocracies, and Israel is seen as the villain state. They deny Israel the right of self-defense. It is insane, they always turn a blind eye to the violence created by these terrorists and blame Israel for all the ills in the Middle-East

Hamas, and their Islamist followers are nothing more than human garbage. Israel must prevail. Israel is the only true democracy in that god forsaken corner of the world!

mrxexon 2 Like

@Martian_14 Israel is as democratic as 1962 Alabama was. It worked if you were white. Everybody else had to live in fear.

 I know, because it's where I grew up. I see the same process at work in apartheid Israel.

Martian_14 4 Like

@mrxexon @Martian_14 


Iran, hamas, hezzbollah, iraq, saudi arabia, etc,etc, etc are the best examples of democracy, right?

Why Israelis must accept arabs and others that see Israel as a Zionist state that must be destroyed?   Why Israelis should show tolerance when the rest of the world still think Hitler was right?

Long live Israel!!!  


@Martian_14 @mrxexon "are the best examples of democracy, right?" They do not misrepresent democracy and give a horrible example for the Arab Spring to use such system that allows a state to exist for the sake of only one religious group. Did you ever look into minorities rights in the apartheid state?

It is a shame to democracy. 

Are you saying Zionism does not exist in Israel? Do you understand where that came from?!What is the goal?!

mrxexon 1 Like

@Martian_14 @mrxexon Most Arabs would welcome an Israel that had a government where everybody was an equal and treated as such.

But zionism is racism. More than that, behind it's Jewish exterior lies a movement that has much in common with another famous white supremacist movement from Europe. 

Why don't you ask the Germans what they think of supremacist movements that promise a better day?

wheaty 1 Like

don't you see the crux of the problem? Israel invaded middle east after World War 2. Imagine Arabs invade New York and say 'it is our country from now on'. Then evict, rape and kill all the people living in NY. This is exactly the same things Israelis have done so far. If Israelis didn't exist, there is NO REASON to fight or war. JEWS invaded and attacked FIRST! Ipso facto, Israelis should retreat from where they live or be exterminated.


@wheaty by saying what you said above ... "or be exterminated" ... is exactly the kind of mentality that will forever get us nowhere.  Educate yourself. 


@wheaty How easily you forget that almost half of all Jews living in Israel are ethnically from the Middle East.  I imagine they'd like nothing more than to be able to live in some of these other Middle Eastern countries without threat of torture and violent death.  Whereas Israel takes in persecuted Muslims (including Berber, Bedouin, Druze) and these persecuted Muslims often fight alongside the IDF, its neighbors aren't quite as welcoming and tolerant to religious or ethnic minorities.... or feminists..... or gays.  Perhaps this is why the overwhelming majority of Arabs living in Israel think not only that Israel has the right to exist, it has the right to exist as a democratic Jewish state.  

This is reality.  

anonymitty 1 Like

@wheaty Wow. There it is, out in the open. A naked call for mass murder. 

fjbdc 1 Like

Israel has to respond.  The pathetic world stage will, of course, watch her move much more closely than the madmen that attack her.  Imagine for a moment that missles fell relentlessly on U.S. soil from anywhere, say Canada.  How would we respond?  Can there be any doubt?  And yet, once again, Israel must somehow justify their most basic right; to defend their land and their lives.  As a race, if we don't stand by Israel, in times like this, we are surely hopeless. 


@fjbdc Its more like what if the US invaded Canada, killed everyone in Ontario who didn't leave and then got angry because Toronto refugees in  Quebec started attacking Detriot.


@fjbdc As a race? Do explain that comment.

 Would you have stood by nazi Germany? Israel is very much like nazi Germany was. A whole lot of people beholden to a militaristic government that is leading them all to the edge of a cliff. And through US aid, over 60 years worth now, we're helping to make it happen.

Israel needs a new government. And until people like you understand that, you're only helping to push that country towards the edge. You cannot save what is in place right now. It's terminal, and it's going to end badly.