Will Israel use chemical weapons? 

Israel’s president claims to have evidence that Hamas possesses chemical weapons, but who has the greatest motive to use them? 

In an interview with Sky News on 22.10, Israeli President Yitzhak Herzog claims that Israel has found, on a killed or captured Hamas fighter, IS and al-Qaeda manuals about how to produce chemical weapons. The question then is, what could have been the motive for stating this publicly? 

Israels president Yitzhak Herzog

Hamas lacks motive 

Could it be true that Hamas has or is trying to acquire such weapons? Probably not. This is not because Hamas generally complies with the Geneva Conventions (the group obviously does not), but simply because Hamas does not want to benefit from it. Poison gas is most effective precisely for driving an enemy out of closed buildings and underground systems — which is not where the Israeli enemy will initially be. In addition, Hamas does not have the necessary sympathy of the world press to mitigate such use.

“New holocaust” 

An alternative theory is that Israel itself plans to use chemical weapons, but blame it on Hamas. Linking Hamas to poison gas could have a rhetorical effect for Israel by reinforcing the parallels between Hamas and the Nazis. Gassed Jewish hostages will undoubtedly have a tremendous symbolic effect. 

However, using poison gas as a false flag PSYOP to demonise Hamas is hardly a sufficient motive for Israel to actually do this. Hamas is already so demonised in the West, through the actions the organisation has actually carried out, that reinforcing the image of the group as the new Nazis will have limited significance. 

Neutralises death trap 

If Israel chooses to use gas, the main motive will almost certainly be that it is an effective military weapon in the battle arena Israel finds itself. Hamas has an extensive tunnel system in Gaza which all military experts believe to be a death trap for Israeli soldiers with a ground invasion. But that is if Israel limits itself to the use of conventional weapons. By dropping sarin gas or another deadly chemical agent into the tunnels, Israel will quickly neutralise a large number of Hamas fighters, and could even enter safely wearing gas masks. The problem for Israel with this is, firstly, that the use of poison gas will also kill hostages and other civilians in the tunnels, and secondly, that the use of poison gas, regardless of the circumstances, is considered one of the most serious of war crimes. 

“Conspiracy theory” 

Should it be revealed that Israel itself used poison gas, the PR disaster would be total, and far exceed the military gain. Therefore, it would be necessary to construct a story where it appears plausible that Hamas was behind it. Preparing public opinion for the possibility of a scenario where Hamas uses chemical weapons will probably make this job easier. One could also imagine the opposite, that leaking such information would make more people suspect what Israel itself might be planning. However, given the media climate that prevails in the West, the risk of this is low. This and any other articles that cast a critical spotlight on whether Israel itself might want to use chemical weapons will effectively be neutralised in the mainstream media as “conspiracy theory”, which decent journalists cannot be seen to engage with.