Luc Brunet - 09 June 2021
Events in May in Gaza have brought the local conflict between Israel and the Gaza territory back in the head-line of all medias.
This very conflict is by the way another illustration of the radical opposition developed between people, as discuss in my previous article "WW3 has started!". I anyway decided to write this article on a very touchy subject.
I shall not try to explain the situation and what to do to solve it. Nobody can seriously do that in a simple article, and a few books may not suffice anyway.
What I want to do, especially after having read tons of passionate comments on the topic, is simply to remind a few key points that should not be ignored when assessing the situation and before getting carried away in unconditional support for one side or the other. As always, nothing is black or white, but nuances are not very commonly used on today's medias and forums.
First, let's have a look at the political situation in Gaza. Since 2007 the Hamas group has been ruling the Gaza territories, after a period of cooperation with the Fatah, and after a short military conflict that ended by the Fatah being kicked out of the Gaza strip, and since then being contained in the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria, using the old biblical name of the region.
There is a major difference between Fatah and Hamas. Hamas is a group derived from the Muslim Brotherhood movement. This is a clearly Islamic group, preaching the use of Islamic laws in society. Even if too simplistic, the comparison can be done with ISIS and other extreme groups fighting their "Jihad". Here we need to stop and ask a few questions.
- why could Hamas develop without Israel interference?
This question is interesting and the views of many observers is that Israel played a dangerous game, very much copying the US policy in the Middle-East, which for decades has been to support and encourage Islamic movements to fight against regimes that were not cooperative enough in supporting US political and economical interests. Talibans, Al Qaeda, etc and only a few examples, all of them after some time turning against their ex-sponsors.
Israel did support Hamas 2 decades ago to weaken the Fatah. It initially worked and the split in 2007, as discussed above, between Gaza and the West Bank was considered as beneficial by Israel. In between, Hamas has grown in strength and influence and is now keen to kick Fatah out of the West Bank as well, and the recent attacks against Israel were designed to show the voters of the West Bank that Hamas was strong enough to fight Israel and oppose the expansion of Israeli colonies there.
The attacks were never intended to win against Israel, but only to win the heart of the West Bank. It is done, and the rockets do not fly anymore - they were running short of them anyway.
- who finances Hamas?
Many sources claim that Iran is the major source of funding of Hamas, although other sources believe that most of the funding comes from countries ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood, or by people closed of that ideology. I tend to believe that the second version is more likely, and that countries like Turkey, but more significantly Qatar is the dominant party financing Hamas. Qatar is by the way also hosting the leader of Hamas in exile, Ismaïl Haniyeh. Iran is probably supporting in some way, but it is hard to believe that Iran and Hamas can really cooperate on the long term, as most of Palestinian in Gaza at Sunni and not Shia like Iran. Iran have only one real long term partner in the region and this is Hezbollah in Libanon, also a Shia group.
- is Hamas good for Palestinians?
This question is also tricky but looking at the track record of similar organizations in other countries, I would definitely say that Hamas could only bring death and middle-ages style laws and life condition to Palestinians. A crisis like the one last month is typical, where Hamas shot rockets at Israel, definitely knowing that this would bring death and destruction in Gaza, but without any perspective of victory, outside of a political victory for Hamas. The life of fellow Palestinians is of no concern to Hamas. Dying under Israeli bombings is a blessing and paradise is guaranteed. The usual views and phrases used by ISIS so many times.
Finally a complete victory of Hamas in the West Bank would certainly not be good news for the 8 or 10% of Christian Palestinians living there. If you want to get an idea, look at the faith of Syrian Christians who lived in ISIS controlled regions.
As a next step, a few facts have to be considered about Israel itself.
I support the viewpoint of many in Israel that the country's leadership made many bad moves over the past 30 years, becoming completely aligned with the US. Of course there are many reasons behind that move, but many negative results come from that alignment, like:
- a deep dependence on the US for the provisioning for weapons. A lot of gear is provided for free, also a way for the US to generate revenues to their military complex. This was of course convenience for many years, but the Israeli Army (IDF) is now completely dependent on US technology for weapon systems. In the past, Israel designed and built their own fighters for example, but this period of real independence is gone and any significant change in US policy (not excluded today, although not in the short term) could put the security of the country at risk
- the alignment on US policy in the Middle-East also drove Israeli political elite to believe that using Islamic groups as weapons against the regimes they do not like is legitimate and acceptable. The case mentioned above, where Israel initially used Hamas against Fatah is an example. More recently, Israel and the US both directly or indirectly supported ISIS or as they said to be politically correct "moderate Islamists" in order to eliminate Assad. Moderate Islamist sound like "liberal Stalinist" or "tolerant Nazi", but never mind, western journalists bought it. For the sake of eliminating Assad, Israel took the risk to have a large and powerful Caliphate on its eastern border. Looking at it, this looks like a suicidal perspective. May be they believed that religious groups are less dangerous because they spend their time praying?
In that respect, we can consider that Israel got saved by Russia and... Iran, Assad and Hezbollah. Does it sound crazy? yes, but think about it twice. The Middle-East is a crazy place, where your enemies can save you and your friends stab you in the back.
- Israel allowed for the development of extreme Jewish religious parties that develop violent arguments against Arabs and Muslims. Such groups have little to do with the legitimate solid and tough policy of Israel, and contribute to the overall escalation in the region. Like in many countries, such extreme movements used political instability to gain credibility and access to government positions.
- finally, but it is a very key point, Palestinian living in Israel territories since decades are remarkably silent, at least in the western media. There is a simple reason for that. They by far live much better than Arabs in countries with Islamic tendencies. They have access to all levels of jobs, women can live the way they want, drive, work, bath in bikini and no Islamic police chases them. They are quite and their only fear is may be the raise of extremist Jewish parties, and for sure to fall under the rule of a Hamas/ISIS like power.
As I mentioned earlier, the above is mostly talking about facts, not proposing solutions nor accusing any population or ethnic group. Like in all wars in the past, populations are victims and instruments used by politics to achieve their goals. Most Israelis have been born in the country and this is their country, their soil, their history (and by the way, the Jewish Temple was built under the Al-Haqsa mosque and around 1600 years earlier!). On the other side, Palestinian people, even if they never formed a country, lived there for centuries and should be able to live in dignity, protected from both Jewish extremists and Muslim extremism like Hamas.
The extreme solutions proposed by fanatics on both sides are not realistic and mostly political lip service, both in the region and around the region. Claiming that all Jews should be pushed to the sea is as stupid and unproductive than claiming that all Palestinian should leave the region for ever. We can only hope that Iran and Syria come to a more realistic position on Israel. The only Power able to help is today Russia.
Anyway, people in the West shouting their support to Hamas should understand that they do not help Palestinian people, but support a religious fanatical group closer to ISIS than anything else, supported by Qatar, a country also supporting Muslim groups within migrant communities in Europe. History can be surprising, but nothing good can be expected from that. Nothing.