New Age Islam
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Islam and the West ( 27 Jul 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

World Media on Gaza and Israel - Part 9







Complied by New Age Islam Edit Bureau

28 July, 2014


Palestine and Israel – arsenals of swords and words

By Hisham Melhem

We must never celebrate death in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict

By Yara al-Wazir

From Gaza to Mosul, the carnage lingers

By Bakir Oweida

Turkey can use its foreign policy charms to help Gaza

By Ceylan Ozbudak

A different Arab-Israeli war: will it have a different ending?

By Jamal Khashoggi

Palestine and the mummification of history

By Dr Haider Shah

What do Gaza and Eastern Ukraine share?

By Maria Dubovikova

The bloody tale of self-defence

By D Asghar

On arrogance and war

By Marwan Bishara

Israel: This is what national resistance looks like

By Rachel Shabi

Gaza: A turning point?

By Adam Sabra


Palestine and Israel – Arsenals Of Swords And Words

By Hisham Melhem

26 July 2014

“Israel is under siege by a terrorist organization”

John Kerry

Hamas uses “telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause”

Benjamin Netanyahu

In wars and armed conflicts, words and metaphors form the other side of the physical arsenal warring parties employ in their battles. Language is one of the most malleable, elastic products ever produced by civilization. And while both the mighty and the weak manipulate words and metaphors, the use and abuse of language in the hands of powerful entities that control various institutions and communication networks can be at times the decisive factor in who wins and who loses

We owe a great debt of gratitude to George Orwell and his intellectual descendants for showing us how the powerful, yet despotic, regimes and totalitarian ideologies and even democratic governments, have used debased language as a formidable weapon in their arsenal.

Arsenals of Words And Metaphors

Arabs and Israelis have had their own distinctive arsenals of words and metaphors; from the moment Israel was established as a state in historic Palestine, which was Yawm al-Nakba (day of catastrophe) for the Palestinians and the (war of independence) for the Israelis. Every time Arabs and Israelis engaged in fighting they would dust these arsenals off and upgrade them, usually with further debasement of language, in what seems to be an equally tough and endless clash of narratives. In the current conflict, Israelis find themselves struggling to frame a convincing narrative in the face of a sceptic American and international media, unable to stem a tsunami of critical social media that is complimenting, competing and enhancing the old, so-called establishment media. This is the first time, reporters, journalists and photographers working for mainstream American media have used their tweets, hashtags and Facebook posts not only to elaborate, and explain their dispatches and photographs, but also to express their personal views, feelings and impressions about an uneven fight and the horrendous human toll among civilian Palestinians, particularly children.

It is true that normal life in Israel has been disrupted, and Hamas’ indiscriminate rockets have terrorized Israeli civilians, and the media covered that side as it should, but the coverage also noted that there is no symmetry in shattered lives and dreams, in destroyed homes, and civilians killed. That reality was the core message of the social media, as was reflected in the tweets and instagram posts of American and other international reporters covering the fighting.

The Past Is Not A Prologue

In past conflicts, Israelis were more adept at using their linguistic arsenal, particularly when addressing the West. With the conflict shifting from one among states, to a war pitting Israel against the Palestinians (first against the Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO], when it was based in Jordan and Lebanon, and later Hamas in Gaza, Israel began to lose its ability to manufacture attractive and convincing metaphors, concepts and myths in its anti-Palestinian propaganda. The Israeli sheen began to fade away in 1982 during the invasion of Lebanon, when “imperial” Israel as then NBC anchor John Chancellor called it, laid siege to Beirut, pulverized parts of the city, and facilitated the massacre of Palestinians in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. Israel provided the intelligence and the logistics, and its soldiers besieging the camps fired flares at night to help the slaughter.

Stung by international revulsion, Israel began to build an ambitious Public Relations infrastructure, the Hasbara Project, to influence and cultivate international media to ensure good coverage, particularly in the United States. The project included programs to train Israeli diplomats and propagandists on how to use and manipulate language to frame issues in simple and attractive concepts and sound bites. In this clash of narratives, some metaphors, terms and concepts don’t lose their usefulness. One hears echoes of Israeli officials circa 1982 when one listens to senior members in the current Israeli government talking about the imperative of destroying “Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure” in Gaza or accusations of the use of “human shields.” In the past, journalists with thin knowledge of cultural-religious nuances were influenced by the way Israelis framed and conceptualized the issues, where they borrowed uncritically Israeli terms and paradigms. In this Orwellian world, assassinations become “targeted killings” and ethnic cleansing becomes “transfers.” And while Israeli framing of issues is still working with some journalists, columnists and U.S. government officials, this time more than before the agony of Gaza is seen through Palestinian prism.

‘Mowing the grass’

Israel’s repeated military attacks on Gaza is explained by the offensive term “mowing the grass”, that is to insure deterrence; Israel is compelled to pay periodic military visits to Gaza to keep the “grass” under control. Israel, of course does not have a monopoly on offensive language, and Hamas while being subjected to overwhelming force was still able to reach thousands of Israelis through their cell phones to taunt them; “We forced you to hide in shelters like mice”; to which an Israeli video answered back saying “we are killing Gaza” according to a dispatch by the New York Times.

But as reports of Palestinian civilian deaths (at this time of writing are close to 900 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 37 Israelis, most of them soldiers) and the enormous physical destruction was seen around the world, many people took to the social media - some to express themselves, others to attack and spread unreliable information or engage in propaganda.

But the heavy use of social media was worrisome to Israel, since much of it was sympathetic to the Palestinians. As of this writing the hashtag #GazaUnderAttack has generated four million Twitter posts, while the hashtag #IsraelUnderAttack has garnered about 200,000 posts only.

Gaza As An Internment Camp

In general, the coverage of the international media, including American organizations such as the New York Times, CNN International and the other U.S. television networks, particularly NBC gave the world a sense and a feel of life. One of the absurdities of this conflict is equating a powerful state with a sliver of land controlled by a non-state actor that is unable to provide good and effective governance and that is shunned by most states in the region and beyond. Yet, it is Israel that controls the skies and the coastline, and (with Egypt) its land borders.

According to Nathan Thrall, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, the war was not triggered by Hamas, but by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s determination to bring down the Palestinian unity government, that was formed in June “because of Hamas’ desperation and isolation.”

The terms of the unity government were set mostly by the Palestinian Authority, and the cabinet did not include a single Hamas member. According to Thrall the failure of the U.S. and its European and Arab allies to address the two demands of Hamas; payment of the salaries of 43,000 civil servants and opening of the suffocating border crossings led to the current tragic situation. Thrall believes that “Hamas is now seeking through violence what it could not obtain through a peaceful hand over of responsibilities.” Israel’s objective is “a return to the status quo ante, when Gaza had electricity for barely 8 hours a day, water was undrinkable, sewage was dumped in the sea, fuel shortages caused sanitation plants to shut down and waste sometimes floated in the streets.”

‘Telegenically Dead Palestinians…’

Some especially tragic moments and searing scenes were captured by some intrepid American and European journalists that helped shape and frame the agony of Gaza in ways that undermined the Israeli narrative. Some tweets are as powerful as graphic photos. One tweet by the correspondent of the Guardian in Gaza Peter Beaumont stood out: “I’ve seen some truly shocking scenes this morning. A man putting the remains of his two year old son into a garbage bag.” There were thousands of retweets.

The killing of four Palestinian preteens by Israeli gunboats moments after they were playing soccer with Journalists, including NBC’s ace reporter Ayman Mohyeldin on the beach, then the bloodiest day, so far when 67 Palestinians were killed in the East Gaza city neighborhood of Shujaiya, followed by the killing of 16 Palestinians at a United Nations shelter. The account by the New York Times photographer Tyler Hicks of the death of the four preteens, plus the reports and tweets of Ayman Mohyeldin, the excellent reports and tweets of the New York Times bureau chief in Lebanon Anne Barnard (who wrote a heart wrenching dispatch about the slow death of a nameless nine-year-old girl) led to the offensive outburst of Netanyahu in an interview with CNN that Hamas uses “telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause.” For Netanyahu, the mangled bodies of hundreds of children have turned suddenly telegenic and capable of generating international sympathy with Hamas.

The case of Ayman Mohyeldin and the power of the social media are instructive in explaining Israel’s predicament and the difficulties of controlling the message in a rapidly changing media landscape. After his report about the killing of the four boys and his tweet that he was playing soccer with them, Mohyeldin was pulled out from Gaza by NBC executives ostensibly for “security” reasons. The move created consternation inside NBC and was interpreted by many as an attempt to assure Israel that its reporting is not too sympathetic to the Palestinians. Immediately, thousands took to the social media with the hashtag #LetAymanReport trending widely on twitter. Shortly after the social media protests, NBC returned Mohyeldin to Gaza. The smart and newly empowered young reporter tweeted “thanks for all the support. I’m returning to #Gaza to report. Proud of NBC’s continued commitment to cover the #Palestinian side of the story.”

‘Israel Is Under Siege By A Terrorist Organization’

From the beginning of the Israeli attack, U.S. officials from President Obama on down repeated in a ritualistic fashion Israeli claims and terms at time almost verbatim: Israel has the right to defend itself from missiles and rockets fired from outside of its borders, without any hint that the concept of self-defence becomes a bit murky when the party supposedly defending itself is doing so against a besieged and/or occupied party and across a non-recognized border. Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry, a loquacious man created an Orwellian moment followed by an embarrassing moment of candour.

Before an interview on Fox television, Kerry was overheard talking to an aide on the phone expressing his frustration at Israel’s use of disproportionate force and mocking their claim to precision bombing: “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation..” he said. Moments later on the air, there was a different chastened and loudly pro-Israel Kerry. The Orwellian moment came during an earlier CNN interview when Kerry volunteered that “Israel is under siege by a terrorist organization…” That was the day the irony died in Washington.

A Palestinian-Israeli Civil War?

With each conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis, the alienation between the two sides gets deeper and wider, with a growing number of people from both communities willing to engage in demonizing the other. Hamas certainly is not innocent politically and operationally. Even, if one allows (with difficulty) for constraints imposed by the nature of urban warfare, that whatever precautions Hamas takes to insulate the Palestinians will not be enough given the small size of the strip and its dense population, still firing rockets indiscriminately against urban Israeli centers and not building shelters for civilians, and not doing enough to protect Palestinians from inevitable Israeli attacks, is reckless in the extreme. It is worth repeating in this context that the deliberate killing of civilians, any civilians, is morally repugnant and politically indefensible. No cause justifies such actions.

The prospects for a political solution to the Palestine-Israel conflict are bleak for the foreseeable future. The passage of time will harden attitudes, with both peoples moving to the right, or becoming more religiously entrenched. It is very likely, that the struggle will take a different shape and become more communal involving all the Palestinians and Israelis in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, in an open civil war similar to those raging in the neighborhood. Israelis, then will bear most of the moral and historic responsibility for such a disaster for the two peoples.

Hisham Melhem is the bureau chief of Al Arabiya News Channel in Washington, DC. Melhem has interviewed many American and international public figures, including Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, among others. Melhem speaks regularly at college campuses, think tanks and interest groups on U.S.-Arab relations, political Islam, intra-Arab relations, Arab-Israeli issues, media in the Arab World, Arab images in American media , U.S. public policies and other related topics. He is also the correspondent for Annahar, the leading Lebanese daily. For four years he hosted "Across the Ocean," a weekly current affairs program on U.S.-Arab relations for Al Arabiya.


We Must Never Celebrate Death In The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

By Yara Al-Wazir

26 July 2014

The images of death coming out of Gaza are haunting. They convey a picture of soil that is drenched in innocent civilian blood, and young children who have lost their futures.

With a death toll nearing 900, one cannot begin to imagine the anger that the people of Gaza must feel towards the occupation. Still, this time is no excuse to celebrate death, kidnappings, or despair of the Israelis, else we run into an ongoing cycle of hatred, and we are doing nothing but fuelling the fire for more massacres.

Children of Gaza born with a death sentence

Anger is a natural emotion to feel when human life is lost due to no particular reason. In one corner of the world people fight to end the death penalty, whereas in Gaza, the death penalty is something children are born with.

If we want to be angry, our anger must be cast on those who are silent in this critical time, such as the organizations that preach equality and human rights yet don’t recognize the people of Gaza as humans.

The public was so quick to drop the ball when Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony’s army was kidnapping children – at least they were reportedly kept alive. But Palestinian children die every day, and the world is silent on acting.

The International Criminal Court is silent on war crimes and toxic weapons, the United Nations is mostly quiet on the breaking of resolutions, and the only form of intervention that governments are offering is in the form of empty words and promises.

I do not call for military intervention, or weapons for retaliation, rather an arms and trade embargo on all those involved in the conflict. In times of desperation, words mean nothing; it is action and response that we need.

Wouldn’t wish this on my enemy

The celebration goes both ways. Israelis have been quoted saying that the bombings on Gaza give them “orgasms;” an Israeli MP has called for the massacre of Palestinian children, and likewise, there have been celebrations of Israeli kidnappings and deaths from the oppressed side of the occupation in the form of reduced prices on sweets and social media updates.

A little part of me dies whenever I see this – I don’t know how much hate one must have to wish death upon innocent civilians.

I have personally lost people in the conflict, yet I do not wish my feelings and what I had to go through or the trauma that my family suffers on a daily basis on anyone, not even my worst enemy. Human life is precious, and it must be celebrated. We do that by staying alive and by calling for the coexistence of both sides of the conflict.

I can’t help but wonder what the point of the ground invasion on Gaza is, nor can I comprehend why Hamas continues to fire rockets that are being intercepted and diverted.

Lives are being lost, money is lost, and humanity is lost along the way, and all we can do is sit behind our computers and latch on to any tiny bit of hope we find. But there is no hope in death, there is no hope in kidnappings, and there is no hope in terror.

Yara al-Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories.


From Gaza to Mosul, the Carnage Lingers

By Bakir Oweida

27 July 2014

Nothing justifies the tanks of the Israeli “Defense” Force shelling the homes of 30 Palestinian families, none of whom had any chance of taking shelter or escaping.

This happened in the town of Khuzaha, in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, just days after the streets of the Shejaiya district became the scene of an atrocity that shook the conscience of all who witnessed it. But two opposing sides - Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his staff, as well as the leaders of Hamas – have been insisting on continuing the tragedy, as has happened several times before. They have showed their “valor” in their willingness to sacrifice helpless people for their political games, whether under the pretext of lifting an unjust blockade imposed on the Palestinians or protecting Israelis from barrages of rockets.

The distance from the Gaza Strip to Mosul in Iraq may be great, but both now have one thing in common: the killing of innocent, harmless people in the name of religion or patriotism.

Recalling Rwanda

There are many things that must be considered, but for now I recall a specific incident similar to what is happening today, though it occurred 20 years ago. In the first quarter of 1994, the world suddenly woke up to the fact that more than half a million people had been killed in a series of massacres in Rwanda. But the attention came too late; by the time the news began to make headlines the urge for killing and revenge in the leaders of Rwanda’s Tutsis and Hutus had taken hold. Within days, the number of dead jumped to more than a million. It was the worst genocide of the late 20th century.

I recalled this scene when comparing the quick reaction of the world powers, their politicians, peoples and media to their response to crises in the Arab world. I wanted to contrast their degree of concern about what is happening as a result of the many tragic conflicts taking place on various continents, regardless of how shocking the tragedy is or the number of victims and extent of destruction.

But, of course, the reasons powerful countries are interested in the Middle East are well known. The region has been caught in the middle of global struggles for centuries, if not longer, going back at least to attempts to control the old Silk Road trade routes.

Middle Eastern Appeal

However, although the Middle East has long been an arena for competition due to of its location and natural resources, we must remember that the international interest in the region began even before the discovery of its economic importance. This interest was there even before it became the cradle of the three great monotheistic religions.

The interest is directly linked to the fact that the region was the cradle of urban civilization. It played an important role in scientific, economic and social development thanks to the sciences and arts of the Pharaonic civilization. (An article by Erin Griffith about the spread of ‘emoji’ phenomenon in an issue of Fortune magazine this month caught my attention. The article was headlined “A return to hieroglyphics.”)

The region was also home to the Babylonian, Assyrian, Sumerian and Phoenician civilizations. These civilizations gave rise to empires that fought each other from the far north of Africa to the coasts of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, and from the forests of central Asia to the boundaries of the Caspian Sea. Alexander the Great travelled eastwards from the Balkans to India, while Cleopatra of Egypt travelled west to Rome.

The Sasanians prevailed for some years over the Byzantines, but were ultimately defeated by them. The Byzantines’ triumph over the Persian Sassanids pleased the Muslim believers at the time of early Islam, particularly as the victory of the Byzantines, who were People of the Book, coincided with the day of the Battle of Badr.

It should not be a surprise, then, if the Middle East, with all its civilisational and religious heritage and its economic wealth, attracts the attention of influential world leaders.

Downplaying Its Importance

But it would really be strange if some people from the region downplayed its importance. It would be even more bizarre if some of them went further and used its religious heritage to further a political agenda set for them by other parties, either to boost a presence or serve a role, or both.

With the attention now focused on the developments in the region, it is natural for the confrontation between Israel and the Hamas movement to lead to a decline in interest in the advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Before the three settlers were kidnapped, Netanyahu failed to seize an opportunity to make progress on the road to peace with the Palestinians after President Mahmoud Abbas reached a reconciliation deal with Hamas. Israel’s prime minister failed again in the way he responded to the developments that followed the kidnapping. He bombarded the people of the Gaza Strip by air, sea and then land. The images of the killing of hundreds of helpless civilians and the displacement of tens of thousands of Palestinian families from their homes and villages in northern Gaza were seen by people around the world.

The painful impact of these images has overshadowed other pain, such as the displacement of thousands of Christian families in Mosul by the militias of “Caliph” and ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. Those who remained had to choose between forced conversion to Islam, paying a head tax, or being beheaded by the swords of terrorists.

But the temporary decline in the international media’s attention to the crimes of ISIS is an occasion to remind people that confronting the atrocities of these organizations are the responsibility of Muslims, and particularly their religious authorities, first and foremost. These authorities are best suited to protecting their religion and the heritage of the civilizations of their region, and they must do so before the flood of violence destroys what hope remains.

Has the damage done to Islam at the hands of some of those claiming that they follow the religion reached its zenith, or is what lies ahead more gruesome?

Are the leaders of organizations that on the surface are carrying the mantle of Palestine—but under the table are serving the ambitions of others in the region—satisfied yet? Or is it the destiny of the Palestinians, as a people, to endure suffering seemingly beyond human endurance?

Nobody can claim with certainty to know the future, but conceding that whatever happens is predetermined does not mean surrendering to apathy. Conversely, the worst should be expected and its consequences prepared for, because planning ahead often leads to better results.

Bakir Oweida is a journalist who has worked as Managing Editor, and written for several Arab publications based in London. His last executive post was Assistant Editor-in-Chief of Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, responsible for the Opinions section, until December 2003.


Turkey Can Use Its Foreign Policy Charms to Help Gaza

By Ceylan Ozbudak

26 July 2014

As I was typing these lines, Hamas was still rejecting a permanent ceasefire, calling instead for a humanitarian truce that would last only for a few hours. Despite heavy losses in the Gaza Strip, Hamas insists on rejecting a ceasefire proposal put forward by Egypt while Israel claims that the proposal does not meet its demands and conditions. If Turkey is sincere about helping the people of Gaza, it needs to get involved and help broker a cease-fire, rather than adopt a one-sided attitude on the conflict.

In the last Israeli offensive against Gaza, a cease-fire was brokered with the help of then Egyptian President Morsi and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The proposal, which was accepted by Hamas at the time, was almost identical to the one that is being proposed today.

However, although the formula is the same, those on the table today are not.

Egypt under Sisi has been blocking the Rafah Crossing even in terms of humanitarian efforts and the Hamas leadership has showed no interest in accepting any offer from the Egyptian side which oppressed their long-time ally the Muslim Brotherhood. The United States, on the other hand, weakened its hand in the failed Arab-Israeli peace initiative as a result of Secretary of State Kerry. The U.S. also lists Hamas as a terror organization which bars it from negotiating with the group. Qatar, meanwhile, an alienated Gulf state known to be backing Hamas and is on Khaled Mashaal’s list of ‘possible peace brokers’ along with Turkey, is not considered a viable option by Israel since it shelters the Hamas leader and the Qatari-owned TV network is seen as the centre of anti-Israeli incitement.

Supporting the Palestinian Cause

This picture leaves us with Turkey, which already had a fragile relationship with Israel and has been quite vocal in its opposition to the current operation against Gaza. It is indeed crucial to criticize, even condemn openly when there is injustice and loss of innocent lives. Turkey has been doing much of this lately, perhaps a little excessively, at a time when there is a need for a moderate voice. Prime Minister Erdogan’s “one-minute” incident in Davos may have made him favourable on the Arab street for a period. However, in practice it failed to contribute to the Palestinian cause as expected. After the 2009 Davos Summit, Israel did not stop building new settlements, did not lift the blockade, did not refrain from military operations on Gaza or come to accept the terms of the Palestinian authorities. Driving a wedge between Turkey and Israel did not contribute to regional peace or have any productive result.

I have always been a staunch supporter of Turkey’s foreign policy. There are few countries in the world that can enjoy good relations with Russia, NATO, Ukraine and the European Union at the same time. There are very few countries in the world that can bring Iran, the United States and the Gulf countries on the same table and there is only one country which can offer visa-free travel to both Israeli and Iranian tourists and have zero issues with hosting them both – even during periods of diplomatic tension. However, being at odds with Israel is neither serving the Turkish street nor the Turkish aspirations in the region.

If Turkey enjoyed good relations with Israel today, it could contribute to a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel. Turkey, which has been a generous provider of humanitarian relief to both Palestine and the region, could persuade Hamas to negotiate its terms through diplomacy and not rockets. If Turkey was unapologetically supportive and protective of Jewish people in the region, criticizing Israel would create the same perception as criticizing Venezuela and the points made would not get lost in the ringing alarms of anti-Semitism.

As a citizen of Turkey, I am certain that neither the people of Turkey nor the Turkish authorities are anti-Semites. As the minister of culture Omer Celik explained this week, “Turkish Jews are not our guests. We are all landlords together. The reaction shown against those who murder victims in Gaza is a right. But those who are trying to turn this rightful reaction into a reaction against Jewish people in general and Turkish citizens of Jewish descent in particular, have nothing to do with a right.” On the other hand, Turkey needs to embrace both sides, not be drawn into baseless anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and help the parties engage in sound and sober political dialogue rather than promote and feed the legitimate resentment of the Palestinians.

How the U.S. sees Turkey

I’m not daydreaming when I see Turkey playing a key role in an Arab-Israeli reconciliation process if it disengages with the accusatory tone of the Pan-Arab nationalists. U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf made this comment Thursday: “The Turks have a role they can play. We’ve said those comments [against the State of Israel] made it harder for them to play a role, but they do have a role to play and they have a relationship with Hamas. They can have conversations that we can’t. So obviously, the Turkish foreign minister is a key player in the region and has some leverage he can bring to bear on the situation. Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive.”

If Turkey allied with Israel

If Turkey allied with Israel, the result would certainly help in solving the Syrian civil war and the humanitarian crisis stemming it has led to. Both Israel and Turkey could oppose Hezbollah’s offensive rhetoric in the region hand in hand and would be more able to repress its militant branch. A Turkish-Israeli alliance could also help contribute toward government moderation in Egypt, which has been blamed for the deaths and imprisonment of protesters. Turkey could also benefit greatly from an alliance with Israel in terms of lobbying U.S. decision makers and the accession to the European Union.

Investing in dead-end aspirations has proven to be counterproductive. The Arab world, however, has for the last six decades been keen on imagining a Middle East without Israel as a neighbour. Politics is a practical social science and there is a difference between wishful thinking and analysis. Whether some like to admit it or not, Israel is here to stay. As the Arab states engaged themselves in internal conflicts, which in turn weakened them, Israel grew in strength and those who ‘predict’ its annihilation might need to reconsider changing their views.

The map of the world changed following the First and Second World Wars. That change even affected the oldest continent, Europe. It can be seen right up till this day (we are now talking about a new Kurdish state within Iraq). Like all countries, Israel needs to apologize for its transgressions but not for its existence. Turkey needs to quickly disengage from stirring rhetoric that is not constructive and, as a Muslim country, embrace the Jewish people with more compassion, if we want to help the Palestinian people.

Ceylan Ozbudak is a Turkish political analyst, television presenter, and executive director of Building Bridges, an Istanbul-based NGO. As a representative of Harun Yahya organization, she frequently cites quotations from the author in her writings.


A Different Arab-Israeli War: Will It Have A Different Ending?

By Jamal Khashoggi

27 July 2014

Despite all the rhetorical descriptions that the Palestinian cause is “the main Arab issue,” the central, pivotal and crucial case and the reason behind revolutions, coups and massive military spending, we as Arabs have not been fighting Israel for more than 70 years in a serious manner.

Our wars against Israel have been brief. We wage them enthusiastically at the media and rhetorical levels without enough military planning, preparation or readiness for the patience and perseverance they require. Most of the wars against Israel were wars against us and not waged by us. Even the1948 and the 1973 wars, which were waged by Arabs, were brief wars tormented by limited political targets more than being decisive wars of liberation.

In order to have a clearer image, we will compare the Bosnian war (1992-95) with all the Arab-Israeli wars. Bosnians entered the war with the determination of a “war of independence,” i.e., either to win or suffer complete defeat. They sacrificed their men and women, and deployed all their efforts in their war. They disregarded the balance of power and did not take into consideration the international and regional circumstances facing them. They went through the worst and faced both abandonment and conspiracy. They benefited from all that was available, whether small or big, and cooperated with all who were willing to help, regardless of their motives and intentions.

Many parties that rarely gathered around one issue rallied around Bosnians, from Saudis to Turks, Iranians, and even Malaysians who were far off at the other end of the world. What mattered to them was victory; had they showed reluctance or accepted the “wisdom” of those telling them to accept whatever came from their Serb rivals and negotiated with them, they would be a vulnerable minority today negotiating with a racist Serb entity that hates them.

Freedom has its price and costs

This year, God is favouring the people who are seeking their “absolute freedom” like Algeria, Vietnam, Ireland and Europe under the Nazis. Freedom has its price and costs, at the top of which are bloodshed and death. This is not speech-making or overstatement but rather a recurrent historical and political analysis.

Until the current Gaza war, the Palestinian people are alone in not having fought a long war for freedom since their almost decisive and historical revolution in 1936. Palestinians have always relied on Arabs but the latter have their own calculations and rulers who also have their own calculations and priorities. Then they lose a war against Israel, leave Palestine and its people to their fate and return to their homelands to restore what was damaged and protect what was left. They then content themselves with promises, speeches and poems addressed to the Palestinians. What matters to them is the party, the ruler and what remains of the country to govern.

The Ramadan 1435 (2014) war is different. It is an unprecedented, genuine Palestinian war from start to finish. The Arabs have completely distanced themselves from it. In fact, most of them have denied it and criticized those who initiated it.

However, the Palestinian has imposed his decision on everyone. Hamas leaders Khaled Mashaal and Ismail Haniyeh are displaying pride and enthusiasm, talking with confidence, imposing conditions and a new reality on everyone. They have restored life to the Palestinian cause.

Everything about this war is new; how were weapons smuggled into Gaza? Despite the blockade, thousands of rockets have entered a small country that is surrounded from all sides. This fact alone is a miracle. Some thought the tunnels were only used to transfer rice, sugar, fuel oil and a few machineguns and explosives. They were destroyed and flooded with water as a result. But tons of explosives, hundreds of missiles, 7-meter Grad rockets miraculously passed through these tunnels. How did this occur? Were they transferred through tunnels or by sea? Hamas now possesses hundreds of them so how did they get them?

No one can believe that Hamas took advantage of the year during which isolated Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood reigned and during which Egypt turned a blind eye to all these rockets. Everyone knows that Mursi did not have absolute power at the military and intelligence levels. There is no doubt that Israel and its intelligence services are now busy trying to solve this puzzle in order to prevent its continuation. If “Hamas” was able to bring in all these weapons despite the blockade (and this is what late President Arafat failed to do and was held accountable simply because he tried to do so even though he had presided over an international organization that had extensive connections and capabilities), it is then able to do it repeatedly.

 Hamas did not waste its time when governing Gaza

The distinctive combat performance of Hamas’s men, the enormous network of tunnels that stretches over many miles beneath the Gaza Strip and from there to Israel and Egypt that have been employed brilliantly have inflicted unprecedented injuries to their enemy. They will use them again and again whenever the enemy tries to enter any of their neighbourhoods. This reveals that Hamas did not waste its time when governing Gaza. The Israelis acknowledge and are concerned about this performance. It will be the biggest deterrent to Israel's invasion and occupation of Gaza but maybe Hamas wanted that in order to enter in a long-term liberation war with the Israelis. The war must be extended to the other bank that is also burning so that it might change all that was settled there after Oslo.

The national unity, which demonstrated the Gazans’ will to put forward sacrifices, even their lives, so that they can prevent a return to the humiliating life under siege, is another achievement for the determined Palestinian fighters. The only solution for the Israelis is to entirely destroy Gaza but who can eradicate two million Palestinians?

Another important issue that has become apparent is that the Palestinians are now imposing cease-fire conditions, in a departure from all previous Arab wars. They have nothing to lose. Israel’s threats to bomb Cairo, Amman or Damascus do not worry the Palestinian anymore and neither does its occupation. That was once the weakness of the Arab armies when they were defeated alongside the diehard Palestinian combatants. Israel has lost this power. Israel is freely roaming in the West Bank but the direct occupation is not in Israel’s interests and the Palestinians are using this fact against it; this is another new fact.

What is even more important is that the Palestinians are ready to fight a long-term battle and this is a strategic shift. If they sustain this solid combat principle, they will change all the rules of the “Arab-Israeli conflict.” They will be stronger negotiators and will be respected by the whole world, which historically respects the strong and disdains the weak.

If the late Bosnian president Alija Izetbegovic had given up at an early stage, after being severely wounded and seeing thousands of his people killed in massacres under the eyes of the world (even under the official protection of the Europeans), U.S. President Bill Clinton would not have taken a step in August 1995 against Europe’s wishes and led NATO to bomb the Serbs and force them to negotiate and accept the independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

No one will bomb Israel but if the Palestinians withstand this time, the peace negotiations that failed a few months ago, despite the attention and optimism of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, will be more serious. They will include the real reasons behind the war against Gaza, which are the occupation and the siege, and not only in Gaza alone but in the West Bank as well. Arabs will have then to catch up with the diehard Palestinian combatants to support them and forget all that was said and done at the time of the great Arab deterioration.

Jamal Khashogi is a Saudi journalist, columnist, author, and general manager of the upcoming Al Arab News Channel. He previously served as a media aide to Prince Turki al Faisal while he was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States. Khashogi has written for various daily and weekly Arab newspapers, including Asharq al-Awsat, al-Majalla and al-Hayat, and was editor-in-chief of the Saudi-based al-Watan. He was a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan, and other Middle Eastern countries. He is also a political commentator for Saudi-based and international news channels.


Palestine and the Mummification of History

By Dr Haider Shah

July 26, 2014

The ghost of mummified history not only haunts Arabs but is also radicalising non-Arab Muslim communities all over the world along sectarian lines

Whenever a fresh wave of violence hits the shores of Palestine, old questions flare up again. History seems to be mummified in the Middle East. The Egyptian embalmers who specialised in the art of mummification would remove the internal organs of the corpse and wash out the body with a mix of spices and palm wine to slow down the process of decomposition. Only leaving the heart inside the body, the skilful embalmers would use natron salt to cause extreme dryness. The body would then be wrapped up in linen bandages and put inside wooden frames so it could peacefully proceed to the life hereafter.

Like the pharaohs and other Egyptian dignitaries, history can also be mummified. In this case, faith acts as a mummifying salt by not allowing disputes of ancient times among warring factions decompose and go away with the passage of time. This mummification effect is most vividly observed in the Middle East region. Two distinct time periods of the history of the region appear to be preserved, retaining in their fold all the intensity of disputes of those times.

 One is the Palestine issue that happens to be one of the oldest territorial disputes to connect the 21st century to ancient history. Second is the Arabian Peninsula, which connects the present world to the seventh century. However, unlike the mummies of Egypt, the embalmed history of the Middle East is alive, forceful and vengeful. Like a volcano it keeps on exploding now and then, causing misery and devastation to all those who live in the region. And it does not seem to be going extinct any time soon.

The biblical story of David and Goliath captures best the conceptualisation of old history as conceived by the Israelites. According to the story, Goliath, the physical giant of the Philistines, terrified the Israelites when the Israelites, under their first King Saul, were facing their powerful archenemies, the Philistines. David, a young Israelite, emerges as a hero as he accepts the challenge and brings down the giant using his sling and five stones from a brook. With little historical evidence, the story appears in the Christian and Muslim traditions as well with some modifications. The belief that God is on their side, promising them the state of Israel, keeps Israelites firmly connected to the disputes of antiquity. The only difference that has occurred over time is that the other claimants are known as Palestinians who believe that God is rather on their side.

In the seventh century, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) unified the Arab tribal groups and soon the desert dwelling nomads were knocking at the doors of the receding Byzantine and Persian empires. The internal tribal disputes however soon transformed into sectarian schisms in the new faith community, resulting in the mob-led murder of the third caliph, Hazrat Usman, and the ensuing civil war among rival factions. Such episodes are not unusual in human history as we find similar warfare among rival factions in European and Indian history as well. However, what is different in the case of Arab history is that faith has mummified tribal factional disputes of the seventh century where we see a pattern of bloodshed in the Arab world even today along sectarian lines. Worryingly, the ghost of mummified history not only haunts Arabs but is also radicalising non-Arab Muslim communities all over the world along sectarian lines.

The multidimensional Palestinian issue proves a bit paradoxical for many liberal and rationalist writers. If on the one hand the human dimension of the violence-prone problem has attracted the love and respect for Palestinians from revolutionaries like Che Guevara and progressive poets like Faiz Ahmad Faiz, on the other hand many find the growing influence of militant fundamentalism a cause for concern. Those who condemn Israeli actions see the issue from a human rights perspective as they find Israel a usurper of the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people. They contend that the policy of collective punishment and using force in a disproportionate way, causing the deaths of hundreds of civilians, amounts to genocide. The sceptics are worried that we do not see the same level of condemnation when the perpetrator happens to be a Muslim militia or army.

 They also contend that civilians suffer when they are used as a shield by Hamas in their standoff against Israel. To me, condemning Israeli actions from a human rights perspective is a genuine calling but I find it distressing when some overzealous users of social media brandish pro-Hitler messages to vent their frustration. Hitler was a megalomaniac who believed religiously in the supremacy of an Aryan ‘master race’ and found comfort in extreme hate speech against communists, mainstream political parties, communal minorities and disabled persons. We have no right to resurrect the demon that has been laid to rest by the Germans themselves.

In the realm of beliefs, hardcore evidence matters less as it is the communal perception of events of the past that shapes the behaviour of the faithful today. What we learn from Middle East affairs is that faith-led mummification is pervasive and deadly. We need to learn of a way for allowing the past to decompose and die out along with all its discords. Revisiting history with a rational humanist relearning of the past will be very helpful in this regard.


What Do Gaza And Eastern Ukraine Share?

By Maria Dubovikova

27 July 2014

We are living in an epoch of great shocks and human tragedies. And media corporations play a big role in covering those tragic events that form and shape public opinion, by changing the way we perceive ongoing events.

The mass media has the power to draw away the attention of general public from one crisis to another. Politics plays a special role here, as the coverage changes according to the dominant international agenda.

The media game becomes evident if we analyze two big events that are taking place now - the conflict in the Gaza strip and the violent events in Ukraine.

The death toll in the Gaza crisis continues to grow. During Israel’s ground operation, the average death toll has risen to more than 1,000 civilians.

Indeed, this is a truly human and humanitarian catastrophe. Practically all over the world the public opinion has strongly risen in support for Gaza. The war of hashtags and information has begun in social media networks among pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian individuals. Large rallies and demonstrations in support for Gaza have taken place in numerous cities around the world.

Social and traditional media are full of heartbreaking photos and videos showing the ugly and devastating face of tragedies, bodies of dead children, inconsolable parents, and wounded people. The reaction is obvious – it is the justified indignation of public opinion with Israel’s cruel operation that the causes death of many innocent people.

Media Blackout

However at the same time, in Europe, the bombing of a city and its citizens by one government passes by with practically a blackout from international media outlets. The matter concerns the city of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine.

Kiev’s army recently bombed the city, the latest in an offensive that has led to the deaths of 250 civilians and the wounding of 850, the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission reported.

No doubt these cases are different. After more than 60 years of oppression, Israeli operations and wars, in which Israel always had military superiority not only over the Palestinians, but over its regional neighbours to - owing to the intense assistance of Israeli Western allies - the longest conflict of our days made the Palestinian people a symbol of resistance, faith and will.

In the case of eastern Ukraine, of two self-proclaimed states – the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic – the story is different. The conflict continues after several months. After the coup in February that toppled President Viktor Yanukovich, society has split into pieces, erupting from the everlasting schisms in Ukraine. After the crisis, the people of Eastern Ukraine called for federalism and respect for the Russian speaking population and their rights.

What came next was Kiev’s prohibitive laws that have ruined all hopes to settle the discord peacefully. So as the resistance became tougher, the call for separation rose.

As to how many people have already died over the course of the conflict – nobody can say at the moment. The Kiev government’s punitive operation continues. According to the U.N. refugee agency, more than 110,000 people from eastern Ukraine have fled to Russia, while 54,400 people have been internally displaced.

If we were to put aside the differences between conflicts, and leave only the core of the tragedies remaining – human sufferings – remaining, the question arises as to why we talk about Gaza and why we keep silent about the tragedy in eastern Ukraine?

No Condemnation

Why don’t we condemn the Kiev government for the pitiless suppression of dissidents, of those who have another point of view (I mean civilians, not the armed rebels here), we, the democrats and self-proclaimed humanists?

Do we keep silent about the tragedy, being afraid for the newborn “democracy”? We can consider the rebels however we like, but there are ordinary civilians – children, women and the elderly – caught up in the crisis.

There are those who suffer just because they disagree with Kiev, those who do not consider Russia their enemy. These people just have a conviction that differ from what Kiev wants and thinks. Do we keep silence, because those who like Russia and consider it as an ally have no right to be protected and helped? Or do we prefer to badger everything and everyone who is pro-Russian and to condemn to devastation and sufferings? And after this will we still consider ourselves democrats and humanists?

There are practically no bloggers or journalists who could launch a huge campaign in support of those people suffering in eastern Ukraine, in Luhansk and Donetsk, in villages, that are in the path of this devastating war, of another human tragedy.

If they are – they are automatically put on the blacklist, as considered pro-Russian, as Kremlin propaganda.

One can hardly find on the internet devastating photos of ruined buildings, dead people, and touching photos of crying children of east Ukraine. But if you don’t find them, if you don’t see them on your Facebook timeline or Twitter, if there are no words about them on you TV, in newspapers you got used to read, it doesn’t mean that there is no tragedy.

People really are dying under the bombings of the Ukrainian army. The catastrophe in Gaza is awful. But there is also mayhem in east Ukraine. All human life is priceless.

Maria Dubovikova is a co-founder of IMES Club (International Middle Eastern Studies Club), IMES Club Executive Director and member of the Club Council, author of several scientific articles and participant of several high level international conferences. She is a permanent member of the Think-tank under the American University in Moscow. Alumni of MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University) of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia) (honours diploma), she had been working for three months as a trainee at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI) in Paris. Now she is a PhD Candidate at MGIMO (Department of International Relations and Foreign Policy of Russia). Her research field is Russian foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, the policy of France and the US towards the Mediterranean, theory of international relations, humanitarian interventions and etc. Fluently speaks and writes in French and English


The Bloody Tale of Self-Defence

By D Asghar

July 26, 2014

For 66 years or so, the Muslim world as a whole has either been in denial about the cold hard fact that Israel is a country and it does exist or has been defiant and antagonistic

Any sane person will agree that whatever Israel is doing in Gaza does not quite fit into the category of so-called “self-defence”. By no stretch of the imagination can one kill hundreds of people (the count sadly keeps going up with each passing day) in self-defence. Incoming rockets are presented as an excuse for such blatantly naked aggression, which certainly does not add up. It does not matter who you are, what you believe in and what you look like, you just cannot tolerate the horrific images of dead children with hollow skulls and brains oozing out in the arms of their parents. Or, for that matter, no one can tolerate a toddler burnt beyond recognition, completely dead and charred. Something inside you shivers and shudders. The mind numbs and a question starts racing through your mind: how can humans stoop to this level of barbarity? Stone cold hearts can inflict such horrendous harm and you ask yourself: for what? It boils down to who has the power and who can use and execute that power with impunity.

People around the world are voicing their disgust at the naked aggression of a tiny country in the Middle East. The so-called champion of freedom and democracy, my country of residence, echoed with that tiny state at the onset by being quite cold and callous. When the streets of Europe and here in the US, along with other parts of the world, questioned quite unanimously the shameful method of this self-defence, the radar here changed a bit. Most reasonable people will agree that self-defence is any nation’s rightful stand but, for Heaven’s sake, 500 plus people do not die for that reason.

President Obama had to come out with a statement reflecting the sentiments of the people on the streets and was compelled to say that the US wants a ceasefire. Secretary John Kerry was dispatched to the Middle East to at least put some traction into that statement. However, the number of casualties keeps on going up. The Israelis and their offensive are absolutely deaf to all these developments.

Without going into the detail about this subject, which was once discussed here in a column of mine titled ‘The open wound’ (Daily Times, November 22, 2012), the topic of Palestine and Israel keeps creeping up, every now and then. This issue never goes away and tends to raise its ugly head every so often. The reason behind why it never goes away is because we Muslims endlessly use all kinds of excuses to avoid coming up with a reasonable solution. On the other hand, we tend to make all manner of hue and cry any time Israel starts its aggression. The talk shows have their usual loud mouth anchors and guests make meaningless noise, the social media has its own hash tags and yes, of course, rallies incite more violence. The usual justification for our anger is provided as being derived from the unrest in the Middle East. Some go a step further and use all kinds of ill will for the state of Israel and Jews in general.

The hateful speeches at such forums tend to exacerbate the issue and add more fuel to the fire. My main objection has always been that, for so many long years, we have only focused on the aspect of confrontation. One does not need to be a genius to ascertain that this particular point of view has harmed not only the cause but tarnished the image of Muslims as a whole. For 66 years or so, the Muslim world as a whole has either been in denial about the cold hard fact that Israel is a country and it does exist or has been defiant and antagonistic. This explains the reason for the hostilities that never come to an end.

The premise that is presented at most debates or discussions is that the Israelis must vacate all the Palestinian lands at once. On the surface, it sounds all fair and just but in reality is it possible? If it had been possible, then would it have taken 66 long years and so many innocent lives? The fact of the matter is that the Muslim world as a whole is not on the same page about this issue and, come to think of it, it is fair to say that the Muslim ummah (community) is not on the same page for almost anything at all. It is no wonder that Israel has been able to maintain its hawkish stance.

The first step towards any progress is cessation of hostilities, beginning of talks and meaningful negotiations. Without going into the setbacks to these steps, which both sides have suffered in the past in this regard, there is no other way. Talks will require extreme efforts from both sides and, yes, the leader of the free world has to take charge. The Muslim world as a whole needs to come together and present its unanimous position towards meaningful dialogue and discussion. The outcome may not be perfect, absolutely fair and equitable but it would be 100 times better than this ugly bloodshed.

Our religious leaders need a different approach as well. Rather than fanning the sentiments of hostility, they should focus on how to alter the mindset of adversaries. This issue has a peaceful resolution. It might not be ideal but it will give us the ability to gear our strengths towards something positive.


On Arrogance and War

By Marwan Bishara

25 Jul 2014

Only a few weeks ago, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu seemed to get away with it all. He rebuffed the Obama administration's peace overtures, expanded illegal settlements in the West Bank, and reneged on his agreement with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by refusing to release the last batch of prisoners, the 26 longest serving political prisoners in Israeli jails.

Even the dramatic turn of events in the Middle East seemed to work in Israel's favour, as its nemeses grew ever more preoccupied, if not paralysed by their internal problems.

As for Hamas, it was on a downturn and growing increasingly unpopular. It was financially bankrupt and unable to pay salaries to its own rather big bureaucracy running the Gaza Strip. It was under siege, and under pressure to do something, anything to ease life in the sprawling Gaza prison camp.

The election of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as president of Egypt after a military coup, tightened the noose around Hamas and Gaza. The general, having risen to power by ousting the Muslim Brotherhood, loathed the Islamist Hamas no less.

As a result, the weakened Islamist movement moved to form a national unity government with Fatah under the tutelage and according to the conditions of Abbas. Indeed, the new government was committed to new elections and "honouring all of the conditions imposed by the international community", and there was nothing Hamas could do about it.

Worse for Hamas, Abbas maintained his commitment to diplomacy, and vowed to maintain security cooperation and coordination with Israel, referring to it rather bizarrely as "sacred", when even the pretensions of a "peace process" evaporated.

But as if there is no limit to its arrogance, the Netanyahu government still condemned the formation of the new Palestinian government and warned world governments not to recognise it or deal with it, all the while it began to undermine it in every possible way, including by force.

The Logic of Violence

Although Israel was enjoying a rather undeserved break, Netanyahu decided to exploit the killings of three young Israelis at the hands of unknown assailants to launch a war on Gaza in order to "defeat" Hamas, humiliate Abbas and break the national unity government.

Israel boasted of its technological military superiority and lampooned the cowardice of Hamas. But there is no pride in killing people using the latest and most lethal US gadgets. By bringing its wrath to bear on the people of Gaza, Israel has lost much of its deterrence capability, as Hamas's rockets shook it to the core.

Despite belated attempts at blaming Hamas for the escalation, there is little or no doubt Netanyahu has instigated the violence. "Israel provoked this war", wrote Henry Siegman, president of the US/Middle East Project and former director of the American Jewish Congress. "The notion that it was Israel, not Hamas that violated a cease-fire agreement will undoubtedly offend a wide swath of Israel supporters. To point out that it is not the first time Israel has done so will offend them even more deeply." Alas, such is the reality.

To add insult to injury, Netanyahu revealed his true intentions in a July 11 press conference, when he ruled out future Palestinian sovereignty. He went as far as ridiculing Washington's approach to Israeli security even when the Obama administration has gone out of its way and compromised its own credibility to defend him. To no avail.

As the onslaught continues and Israel warns of more of the same over the coming days, the mounting civilian deaths and destruction of public services, schools, and entire communities can be explained in three ways:

By default: Urban wars are messy, and mistakes are bound to happen when Israel tries to destroy Hamas' capabilities in the midst of populated areas. It's all "collateral damage", a despicable term meant to mystify the suffering of war

By design: Israel's military recognises the danger to civilians but persists, illegally, in bombing countless locations it suspects of harbouring weapons, militants, or their supporters. Then, rather disingenuously, it blames Hamas for using people as human shields.

By strategy: The Israeli government exploits the security pretext in order to cripple the Gaza Strip once and for all, by destroying its civic and economic infrastructure. And then, it will insist that any rebuilding or lifting of the siege be conditional on demilitarising and de-Hamasising the strip.

Which of the three explanations is most plausible? It remains to be seen as more is revealed about the thinking from within the inner circle of the Israeli security establishment. To be sure, it doesn't have to be either/or, indeed it could be all three combined: The war is messy, and its motivations are cynical and strategic.

And it could be even worse: "We are in the midst of a colonial story. Not the oppression of a nation but its elimination as a political entity", so wrote Yitzhak Laor, the editor of the Hebrew journal, Mitaam.

Turning Point

If the spread of the confrontations to the West Bank including Jerusalem continues, it could be a game-changer.

The intensification of the clashes throughout Palestine would break the isolation of Gaza and expand the landscape of conflict towards Israeli-populated areas, including Jerusalem and the settlements.

This will give momentum to a new popular uprising, and possibly one that could be far from peaceful depending on the attitude of the Palestinian Authority's security forces.

All of which leaves the door wide open for whole new scenarios that are no less dramatic. On the one hand, it could lead to internal strife among Palestinians on the West Bank, leaving both Abbas and Hamas weakened.

Or inversely, it could galvanise the Palestinians around the resistance, a situation that could either undermine the Israeli government, or provide the pretext for Netanyahu to destroy the PA institutions as Ariel Sharon did in 2002.

Any which way, a return to the status quo ante is no longer possible. Nor can US allies impose another ceasefire arrangement on the Palestinians without taking into full consideration their legitimate demand to live free of military siege and occupation.

It's clear that Israel could break up Palestine into miserable enclaves, but it cannot break its resistance or its passion for freedom from occupation.

Israel's most ardent enemy, Hamas, was getting marginalised; now it's central to any future arrangements in Palestine. And Israel's most reliable ally and security partner in the history of the conflict, Abbas, has been terribly weakened and might not be able to recover without massive western and Egyptian intervention to impose him on the Palestinians.

Netanyahu was flying high just a few weeks ago, now he's flying low, even crawling towards a ceasefire.

Arrogance all too often breeds stupidity.

Marwan Bishara is the senior political analyst at Al Jazeera.


Israel: This Is What National Resistance Looks Like

By Rachel Shabi

25 Jul 2014

If you're going to pursue an outlandish narrative, you might as well go all the way with it. This must be the operational assumption among Israeli leaders who, in trying to justify a grotesque attack on Gaza that has resulted in, at latest count, more than 800 Palestinian deaths - the majority of those innocent civilians - are now asserting that Hamas is like the Islamic State group, formerly known as ISIL, and al-Qaeda.

Speaking at a joint news conference with UN chief Ban Ki-moon on July 22, the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Hamas represented another type of "Islamist extremism, violent extremism that has no resolvable grievance" adding: "Hamas is like ISIL, Hamas is like al-Qaeda, Hamas is like Hezbollah, Hamas is like Boko Haram."

Later the same day, Israel's ambassador, David Yitshak Roet, reiterated the point at the UN Security Council's open meeting, as he talked of a global struggle between nations like Israel and the "radical Islamic terrorism" of groups such as ISIL, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Hezbollah - and Hamas.

Such statements, seemingly intended for international consumption, are not the first instances of Israeli officials hitching a ride on the "war on terror" bandwagon. In the years after 9/11, Israeli leaders tried to tether Palestinians living under occupation to a global terrorism network.

This dovetailed with the Israeli line of being an enlightened nation stranded in an uncivilised neighbourhood, best surmised by former Prime Minister Ehud Barak's appraisal of Israel as a "villa in the jungle".

Still, these new assertions factoring in freshly minted regional groups represent an added twist.

Gaza's Nightmarish Reality

Apart from anything else, comparing Hamas to the group that insists on calling itself the Islamic State seems a bit insulting to the Syrians and Iraqis suffering the spread of this violent cross-border group that claims to have set up a caliphate.

Unlike Hamas, the Islamic State wasn't democratically elected. And, unlike Hamas, it isn't viewed as an indigenous resistance group so much as an imposed source of deadly terrorism. Trying to equate Hamas with Islamic State is like trying to climb into another nation's nightmarish reality. And, unlike land, fear can't really be appropriated.

Meanwhile, as Alon Liel, the former director of Israel's foreign ministry, points out, this binding together of causes isn't a particularly helpful line for Israel to take. "It is a mistake for us to describe the situation as if we are fighting in Gaza the international movement of Islamic radicalism," he said, during a phone conversation. "We turn it into a religious war or a cultural war - and we carry on our shoulders something far beyond Israel's responsibility, or ability."

But, as Liel suggests, there is an obvious reason why Israel's current government would pursue this contortion: "Netanyahu prefers not to describe the Hamas militants as Palestinian nationalists," he says. "He prefers to describe them as not belonging to this region, as not tied to the land in Gaza but tied to a world movement of radical and fundamentalist Islam."

So there's the obvious source of all those awkward semantic twists: the inability to countenance the idea of Palestinian nationalism. You might not like Hamas; you may have criticisms - indeed, Palestinians living in Gaza have plenty, ranging from the group's imposition of religious edicts to corruption and failure to tackle crime in the strip. But in the midst of a horrifyingly destructive Israeli assault on Gaza, Palestinians back Hamas - even if they didn't before the assault - because that's what support for a national resistance movement looks like.

Netanyahu, who surreally accused Hamas of "piling up" the civilian dead, as though Palestinians somehow choose to be killed by brutally disproportionate Israeli force, knows about resistance. He must know that newly conscripted Israeli soldiers are often bused to Masada, the desert mountain fortress where ancient Jews committed mass suicide to avoid subjugation by the Romans, to pledge that the fortress must never fall again.

He knows, just as the Israeli journalist Noam Sheizaf outlined recently, that the impulse to resist is hardly unique to Palestinians. "Nations will make inconceivable sacrifices in these kinds of struggles," wrote Sheizaf, adding that the Jewish population fighting the 1948 war that dispossessed Palestinians and created Israel saw loss of life as an inevitable part of the struggle.

Gabe Mate, a Holocaust survivor now living in Canada, pointed out that, in different circumstances and in the face of its own annihilation, the Jewish resistance of the Warsaw ghetto used tunnels, like Hamas, to coordinate attacks against their assailants.

'Return To a Living Death'

Even a former Israeli security chief, Yuval Diskin, urged the nation to understand "the growing tension and enormous frustration of the Palestinians in the West Bank who feel that their land is being stolen from them, who gather that the state they yearn for is slipping away".

Those words were written before Israel launched its military assault on Gaza, the third in six years; before entire families were killed and thousands injured and more than 100,000 displaced. But they speak to the logical consequences of inflicting suffering: People fight against it, if they can.

How bad must blockade Gaza be, if Palestinians support Hamas' insistence on lifting of the siege as a condition of ceasefire - even if that insistence may prolong Israel's deadly pummelling of the tiny, sealed strip? Days ago, a long list of Palestinian doctors, academics and public figures issued a letter explaining that a ceasefire without conditions, a return to the status quo of the seven-year blockade on the free movement of people and materials would be a "return to a living death".

Palestinians beyond the strip clearly back this, too - Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, stands with Hamas in its demand for an end to the siege, along with other ceasefire conditions. And, since such a blockade amounts to collective punishment, international and human rights groups have been calling for the same thing, for some time.

Words matter more in starkly asymmetric wars. While we're defining terms, let's not get thrown by curious assertions coming from Netanyahu and other Israeli officials; wanting to lift a suffocating siege is definitely not the same thing as wanting to create an Islamic State-inspired regional caliphate.

And when Palestinians demand an end to a 47-year-long occupation - a demand seconded by the international community for just as long - this cannot sensibly be defined as an "unresolvable grievance".

Rachel Shabi is a journalist and author of Not the Enemy: Israel's Jews from Arab Lands.


Gaza: A Turning Point?

By Adam Sabra

25 July, 2014

Adam Sabra is a professor of history in the University of California, Santa Barbara.

When the current round of fighting began in Gaza, it appeared to be another episode of a saga that began when Israel unilaterally withdrew from the territory in 2005, and then imposed a blockade in 2007, after Hamas took control of the strip.

This is the fourth major conflict between Israel and the Palestinian resistance factions in Gaza since then. When it began, the Israeli government's rhetoric suggested that it preferred a small, short-term conflict in which it would cause token damage to Hamas before returning to the status quo.

The Israelis have actually benefitted from Hamas rule in Gaza, in the sense that it has allowed them to play Fatah, which is dominant in the West Bank, against Hamas. The possibility that Hamas and Fatah might reconcile in a unity government seems to have been the main motivation for the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to launch the current round of fighting.

It appears, however, that Israel underestimated Palestinians' ability and willingness to fight. In Operation Pillar of Defence in 2012, Palestinians only caused six Israeli deaths, of which two were soldiers. Palestinians suffered 158 deaths, two-thirds of them civilians. In the 2008-2009 war, Palestinians suffered more than 1,400 deaths, around 200 of whom were fighters, while Israel suffered 10 deaths, seven of whom were soldiers.

Based on these precedents, the Israelis likely expected that they could carry out a limited operation in Gaza without suffering significant casualties. The fact that the Iron Dome is now fully operational, and seems to be effective, would have further justified that expectation.

A New Dynamic

Although Israel continues to enjoy overwhelming firepower and has killed more than 800 Palestinians so far (75 percent of whom are estimated to be civilians), it is clear that the Palestinian resistance factions have improved their ability to fight on the ground, especially in urban combat.

Furthermore, the political calculus has changed. Increasingly isolated internationally by a hostile government in Egypt and a damaged relationship with Iran as a result of its support for the Syrian opposition, Hamas appears to have made the decision to go for broke. It has not wavered in its demand that a ceasefire include a permanent end to the Israeli blockade.

This position has increased support for Hamas on the Palestinian home front and helped to unite Palestinians behind a common agenda. The open intransigence of the Netanyahu government has left Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas without a leg to stand on, and he has increasingly adopted Hamas's language and demands in recent days. He must also be concerned by the increased calls within his Fatah movement to renew military action against Israel.

Although the Israeli government has carefully crafted a narrative of major military accomplishments against a terrorist regime, the evidence suggests otherwise. All of Israel's 35 casualties but three have been military. The use of rockets by the Palestinians puts pressure on the Israeli home front, but has caused few casualties and little material damage.

The most significant accomplishment of the rocket campaign has been to force western airlines to rethink using Ben Gurion International Airport. Since 90 percent of Israel's international air travel passes through this airport, any long-term decision by foreign airlines to avoid it would cause Israel significant economic problems. More immediately, the Israeli public finds itself more isolated.

Learning from Hezbollah

With regards to the ground combat operations, many Israeli and Arab commentators have compared it to the 2006 Lebanon war. In that war, Hezbollah used underground tunnels, advanced anti-tank weapons, and rockets fired against the Israeli home front to neutralise Israel's great advantage in fire power and force a stalemate that has held until now.

It is clear that the Palestinian resistance in Gaza has studied that conflict well and learned from Hezbollah's achievements. Nonetheless, there are certain fundamental differences. Hezbollah could count on Syria to provide strategic depth, which meant that Lebanese civilians had somewhere to flee and Hezbollah could use Syrian territory for logistical and other purposes.

In Gaza, there is no such option, especially since the Egyptian government has all but adopted Israel's position in this conflict. Egypt is preventing medical and other supplies from reaching Gaza, having already destroyed most of the tunnels that supplied Gaza from Egyptian territory. Most tragically, Palestinian civilians in Gaza have nowhere to seek refuge. Hundreds of thousands have already fled their homes, but there is nowhere in the crowded strip that is safe.

So far, Israel has failed to deliver a decisive blow to the Palestinian resistance. Most of the Palestinian leadership is literally underground and Israel's network of collaborators appears to have been seriously disrupted. Compared to past conflicts in which Israel has been able to kill significant numbers of Palestinian leaders with the help of human intelligence, this aspect of the operation has been a clear failure.

Increasingly, Netanyahu appears to be adopting more extreme tactics to produce a victory that would justify the loss of more than 30 Israeli soldiers. A return to the status quo may not be viable for either side, and one cannot expect a ceasefire to be reached soon.

It seems that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict stands at a crossroads. Israel has the military means to destroy the Palestinian resistance factions, but this would probably require re-occupying the entire strip. Doing so would entail a large number of casualties, and is unlikely that Israel could then withdraw anytime soon.

There has been talk in the Israeli press of turning over control of the strip to the Palestinian Authority, but it is unclear whether this is feasible, or even if the PA would survive the re-occupation of Gaza. For its part, Hamas cannot accept anything less than an end to the blockade without admitting defeat. It remains to be seen what course of action the Netanyahu government will adopt, but the intransigence of Israeli policy has pushed all of the parties into new territory from which there can be no easy exit.

Having left the Palestinians with no alternative but to fight, Netanyahu may have left himself with no choice but to go all the way and end the fiction of a peace process based on two states.

Adam Sabra is a professor of history, University of California, Santa Barbara