chapter  4
25 Pages

Israel and the Scud missile attacks during the 1991 Gulf War

Israel’s experience of Iraqi Scud attacks in January to February 1991, and the associated threats of chemical or biological (CB) warfare, provide an insight into the effect limited, conventionally armed missile strikes and threats of non-conventional warfare, can have on a population’s sense of security. In turn, this further informs our understanding of a population’s resilience to strategic terror in the context of terrorism. This chapter explores to what extent the fear of the unknown persisted in shaping Israeli perception throughout the conflict. Since Israel’s forces were not directly participating in the conflict in Iraq, this case study provides the closest thing possible to a set of ‘control’ data on which to study the social-psychological effect of missile attacks and missile defences, without the influence of how a war on the front line could be effecting perceptions and morale in the home country. While it is important to take into account the social and cultural aspects of Israel when transposing lessons learnt to other countries, the unique situation Israel experienced offers a valuable case study to assess the effect of limited missile strikes and threats of non-conventional weapons on population centres. Conventional warheads contain high explosives while non-conventional warheads are those that contain a chemical, biological or nuclear device. Uzi Rubin, a former member of Israel’s National Security Council, summarised the Gulf War experience as, ‘a searing, traumatic experience for Israel’s people and leadership, prompting considerable soul searching’.1 The plethora of medical papers on the Gulf War measuring the psychological and physiological conditions captures the degree of terror caused by the attacks. Zahava Solomon, one of the key Israeli psychologists to conduct research during this period, gave the following assessment of the Gulf War:

In retrospect, the Gulf War, so termed by Israel was a misnomer. Israel was not engaged in the fighting and as wars go suffered comparatively little damage. Yet this war or storm, however one wishes to describe it, was a highly, stressful, fearful and embarrassing experience for Israelis.2