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How World Media Views Israel and Gaza - Part 2

New Age Islam Edit Desk

18 July, 2014

The Articles:

 What is Hamas trying to achieve?

By Dr. Azeem Ibrahim

 To Crush Hamas, Israel Must Give Gaza Hope

By Venetia Rainey

 What next for Gaza?

By Robert Turner

 See how Palestinians depict themselves

By Rami G. Khouri

 Death in Gaza, ambivalence and anger in Cairo

By Abdallah Schleifer

 How will Lebanon treat the man who fired on Israel?

By Abdulrahman al-Rashed


What Is Hamas Trying To Achieve?

By Dr. Azeem Ibrahim

17 July 2014

To an ignorant observer, the recent escalation between Israel and Gaza might seem like just the latest episode in a human drama that we have become accustomed to in the Holy Land. And, though perhaps not for quite the expected reasons, that observer would probably be right. Israelis would claim that this recent episode ostensibly arose out of the heinous murder of three Jewish teenage boys. On the other hand, Palestinian sources would trace it back even further to similar murders of Palestinian teenage boys, earlier in the year. But ultimately, and without meaning to diminish the human tragedy in any of these singular events, they are not the root causes of what is happening now. Instead, they seem to be just a convenient pretext to deeper local politics. And that is the real tragedy of this latest Gaza story.

Allow me to explain. On my recent trip to Israel, I met both senior Israeli and Palestinian officials including current and former members of their respective cabinets. I learnt from my Palestinian sources that Hamas is essentially bankrupt. They have been unable to pay the salaries of tens of thousands of their staff for a while now, according to my sources. They were heavily reliant on support from Syria, Iran along with the Rafah crossing and hundreds of smuggling tunnels from Egypt to sustain them all of which have diminished recently.

When the Hamas leadership reached their financial limit, the Palestinian Authority agreed to step in and pay all salaries of the civil administrators and social workers in Gaza, my sources said. In exchange, the Palestinian Authority (PA) asked Hamas to make many concessions, including modifying its charter towards a more moderate and functional position. For example, the PA asked Hamas to recognize the State of Israel, according to what I have been told, and also form a unity government with the PA .

The problem with this is that it presents an existential threat to Hamas. Hamas arose as a radical, direct action alternative to the perceived weakness and failures of the Palestinian Authority. It is supposed to be, by definition, the active revolutionary cure to the sclerotic, corrupt and “self-defeatingly” compliant PA. If it is tamed, if it is brought into the fold of conciliatory, moderate politics, it loses its raison d’etre. In other words, Hamas’s real and somewhat justified fear is that if this course of events continues in this manner, it will simply be absorbed into Fatah and will have no further, independent purpose.

Why the Rockets?

So where do the rockets fit in? Hamas is therefore playing a cynical game by firing completely useless and militarily insignificant rockets into Israel. The purpose of these wanton attacks, that cannot hope to penetrate Israel’s Iron Dome, cannot reasonably be other than to provoke Israeli retaliation. As we know from history, this will be overwhelming and disproportionate. And this could be just how Hamas wants it.

Their hope is likely to be that this will lead to significant sympathy around the Muslim world, particularly in the month of Ramadan. This will see money pouring into the various global charities of Hamas, from a wide variety of sources. The idea seems to be that this might rescue Hamas financially, and save them from their ideological extinction too. Many observers have now looked at this situation and the question must be asked: what is the purpose of Hamas firing so many rockets into Israel? The perverse reality seems to be that Hamas expects the typical Israeli over reaction, and is baiting for it, with no further strategic aims. And at this very moment, when the very existence of Hamas hangs by a thread, the reality is that the more severe a reaction we see from Israel, the better the future looks for Hamas. Netanyahu, who is regarded as a “very weak” and “a do-nothing” prime minister by many officials I met is more than happy to comply with the unnecessary violence Hamas expects.

And now we come back to our ignorant observer. This seems to be, once again, just another typical episode in the human drama in the Holy Lands. One in which the power interests of some Palestinian leaders, and some Israeli leaders too, play off each other in a casual, monstrous way while a few more hundred Palestinians die. Will we hold these leaders to account this time, or will we divert our attention away, once again, from the morally intractable problems of our Middle East?

Dr. Azeem Ibrahim is a Research Professor at the Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College and Lecturer in International Security at the University of Chicago. He completed his PhD from the University of Cambridge and served as an International Security Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and a World Fellow at Yale. Over the years he has met and advised numerous world leaders on policy development and was ranked as a Top 100 Global Thinker by the European Social Think Tank in 2010 and a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.



To Crush Hamas, Israel Must Give Gaza Hope

By Venetia Rainey

17 July 2014

The time for blame in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is surely coming to an end. After countless cycles of violence, death and fear on both sides, there is some slight hope at least that the tragic deaths of four Palestinian boys, killed in front of witnesses by shells fired from an Israeli gunboat while they played on the beach, might mark a turning-point.

Yes, Israel has a right to defend itself, everyone does. But Israel already has bomb shelters and Iron Dome and air-raid sirens.

And due to these commendable precautions, only one Israeli has died so far during this round of fighting. Indeed, in total, only 24 Israelis have died since 2001 as a result of rockets fired from Gaza.

Not that this absolves Hamas. If it could kill Israeli civilians with its crappy rockets, it would.

And yet, in contrast, more than 220 Gazans have died these past few weeks alone - a fifth of whom are children. This is not an even conflict.

Of course, there are reasons for the gulf in the death count. Yes, Hamas is embedded among a civilian population. Yes, Israel has invested millions in building its defence systems (with a sizeable amount of US help).

But none of this makes a continued assault on the fifth most densely populated area in the world justifiable.

Human Rights Watch has called Israel's knowing targeting of civilian structures a war crime. Israel may be issue warnings ahead of time, but where can the people of Gaza go? And once they are homeless, what then? Some 22,000 people have already been displaced and are living in UN shelters.

Further, if the aim is to target Hamas members, the warnings seem counterintuitive and nonsensical, almost as much as the operation itself.

If Israel’s aim is to crush Hamas and other hostile militant Islamist groups (there are far more extreme groups in Gaza than Hamas - Islamic Jihad, for one) then it must recognise that it will never succeed by periodically bombing the Strip to pieces.

The attacks have minimal long-term military gains in terms of destroying Hamas's leadership, all of whom are either abroad or underground by this point. And despite nearly 2,000 air strikes by Israel during Operation Protective Edge, the number of rockets being fired from Gaza has not abated for one day, suggesting their capabilities are not being significantly damaged either.

In fact, bombing Gaza is like handing a can of spinach to Popeye - it won't weaken Hamas, it will only make it stronger. Such attacks ruin any chance of development in the blockaded country and foster hatred and a desire for revenge. Indeed, they only serve to breed extremism.

For Gazans, the future is bleak. They are poor, cut off from the rest of the world and without hope. The overall unemployment rate was 38.5 per cent in the last quarter of 2013, while about 80 per cent are dependent on international assistance such as food aid.

Israel's blockade of Gaza is crippling. Everything that goes in and out of that tiny strip of land must be approved by Israel and, to a lesser extent, Egypt, with medicine, food, construction material and so on regularly held back. Not for nothing is Gaza regularly described as an open-air prison for its 1.8 million inhabitants.

The waves of violence have been unending this past decade. Half the Gazan population is under 18, and even a nine-year-old Palestinian child will by this point have lived through five rounds of conflict and will almost certainly have had a friend or relative killed or injured by Israeli attacks.

What sort of people will this young generation grow up to be? And who could possibly fail to understand why many might in the future become radicalised?

To crush Hamas, and any extremist group seeking to replace it, the only solution is to provide hope and opportunities for Gazans. Using bombs to break an enemy that thrives on the amount of misery and destruction you sow is futile - a lesson Israel should have learned from its 2006 campaign against Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Hamas's (very optimistic) demands in return for a 10-year ceasefire are mostly fair and with proper monitoring would allow Gazans a chance at a proper life. The alternative is a costly and bloody ground invasion by the Israelis, followed by full demilitarisation and reoccupation of the Strip.

The five-hour "humanitarian pause" which started early this morning might, by the time this is posted, already have been broken. Or might it – could it - give both sides the opportunity to consider trying something else?



What Next For Gaza?

By Robert Turner

Jul. 17, 2014

As I sit here in my office cum bedroom in Gaza City, listening to the airstrikes and rocket fire, there is talk of how to bring the violence to an end.

This is to be eminently desired, particularly for the civilian population in Gaza who have suffered the brunt of this escalation. But when I think of the 17,000 displaced people sheltered in our schools, some of whom I spoke with Tuesday, I wonder what they would think of this. Because they have seen it all before, for most this was their third displacement since 2009; many having returned to the exact same classroom. If this prospective cease-fire ends the same way as those before it, would they think this is anything other than a brief respite from violence? For Gaza, a return to “calm” is a return to the eighth year of blockade. It is a return to over 50 percent of the population either unemployed or unpaid. It is a return to confinement to Gaza and no external access to markets, employment, or education – in short, no access to the outside world.

For example, if one of the grandmothers I spoke to should wish to go to Birzeit University in the West Bank to study, she cannot. The Israeli government need not demonstrate this grandmother poses any specific threat to security as they have approved a blanket ban on Gazans studying in the West Bank based on an undefined security threat. The vast majority of the population are prevented from leaving this sliver of land.

If one of the tomato farmers I met Tuesday can find a buyer for his product in Paris, Peoria or Prague under certain conditions he can box up his tomatoes, ship them through the one open commercial crossing and on to Ashdod port or Ben Gurion airport – two of the most sensitive security sites in Israel. Unfortunately there is no market for Gazan tomatoes in Paris, Peoria or Prague. There is a market for Gazan tomatoes in Israel and the West Bank, but this farmer is not allowed to sell his tomatoes there because of that same undefined security threat.

The elderly wonder how they will access health care after this cease-fire. Other than the services provided by us at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and some private and NGO facilities, the government health care system is collapsing. Infrastructure has been damaged and people wonder who will take responsibility to fix it. If the Palestinian Authority is not permitted or is unable to do that is the international community expected to? Or will Israel, the occupying power, assume that responsibility?

The mothers I met wonder where their children will go to school in six short weeks if not in one of UNRWA’s 245 schools. Who will repair the government schools, deliver the textbooks, pay the teachers? If government schools do not open will UNRWA be expected to fill that void? We lack the physical capacity, human and financial resources to accept tens, or even hundreds, of thousands of additional students in our schools.

UNRWA and the U.N. family, including WFP, UNICEF, OCHA and UNDP, remain engaged in meeting the humanitarian needs of the Gaza people. Among the areas in which UNRWA has scaled up its work in recent years is construction, where we have a very large portfolio. This is predominantly schools for our education program, in which we taught over 230,000 children last year, and houses for those whose homes were destroyed in previous conflicts or demolished by Israel. If we want to build something we have to submit a detailed project proposal to Israel with the design, location and a complete bill of quantities. The Israelis then review the proposal, a process that is supposed to take not more than two months but on average takes nearly 20 months. We received no project approvals between March 2013 and May 2014, during the last “calm,” despite having nearly $100 million worth of projects awaiting approval. Will this “calm” be any better?

More importantly, the people here wonder who will govern Gaza. No one has an answer. I think the people of Gaza would say that if this is the form of “calm” people have in mind, while preferable to the current violence, it cannot last. It will not last.

Robert Turner is the Gaza director of operations for UNRWA.



See How Palestinians Depict Themselves

By Rami G. Khouri

Jul. 16, 2014

Words matter. They help us better understand our world and ourselves, especially at complex times such as this latest round of military attacks by Israelis and Palestinians.

The prevalent global analysis of the fighting is inadequate for anyone who seeks seriously to grasp the three critical dimensions of the fighting – its causes, nature and consequences.

None of those three dimensions is addressed by the facile nature of politicians’ statements or mainstream media analysis, which tends to emphasize rockets fired by Palestinians from Gaza, Israel’s right to defend itself against such attacks, and speculation about a possible cease-fire or an imminent Israeli ground attack into Gaza.

Words can help, and in this case it is worthwhile to examine the words that Palestinians use to describe themselves, if we are seriously interested in understanding the core issues that define this conflict. These have manifested themselves since the 1930s in so many different ways, all leading back to a basic issue: The battle between Zionism and Arabism in Palestine, more particularly the battle between the rights of a Jewish-majority state of Israel and a dismembered and exiled Palestinian community that continues to struggle for its national rights.

The two leading Palestinian political and military groups that have mobilized their supporters over the past decades are Fatah and Hamas. Fatah was founded and for a long time headed by Yasser Arafat, and controls the Palestine National Authority that manages the West Bank under Israeli tutelage. Hamas came into being in the early 1980s and has dominated the Gaza Strip for several years now.

Fatah is a peculiar acronym that comprises, in reverse order, the first three letters of the movement’s name in Arabic, which is Harkat Tahrir Filistin, or the Palestine Liberation Movement. Hamas is an acronym in Arabic for its full name, which is Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya, or the Islamic Resistance Movement. The two most important words in their names are “Tahrir” and “Muqawama,” or “liberation” and “resistance.” In the etymology of Palestinian nationalism, “liberation” and “resistance” are enduring emotional sentiments and political dynamics, because they largely define the nature of Palestinian identity and goals. They are the most important things to understand about how Palestinians feel and behave.

The once-dominant and vital Fatah movement has become a sad shell of its former self, with some very bright and patriotic leaders who have totally lost touch with their people in Palestine and abroad. Hamas has risen to the fore in recent decades mainly because it has more faithfully reflected the will of Palestinians to resist their occupation and subjugation, and to seek liberation and a normal life in their own sovereign state. Hamas’ core mission is “resistance,” whether through military actions that have little impact on Israel or by trying to organize Palestinians politically to improve their living conditions while they await eventual liberation.

Hamas is a heroic tragedy, simultaneously admirable and sorrowful. It is heroic for many Palestinians because it persists in resisting Zionism’s desire to eliminate Palestinian nationalism and identity as real forces that demand respect and can be manifested in some kind of national sovereignty in Palestine. “Resistance” to Hamas supporters and others means many things at once. It means consistently asserting the Palestinians’ national rights and the need to end their refugee status. It means constantly challenging the oppressive status quo that Palestinians suffer, especially in Gaza. It means consistently increasing Hamas’ technical capabilities in rockets, drones and communications, allowing it to inconvenience Israel more effectively with every new round of fighting.

Yet Hamas is also tragic because its strategy and tactics both result in repeated mass suffering by Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip and sometimes elsewhere as well. The state of Israel, being the sovereign manifestation of Zionism, has repeatedly shown that it will viciously attack, assassinate, imprison and imperil all Palestinians – in Palestine, Lebanon or elsewhere – to maintain its hold on the land of Palestine. It is possible that Hamas’ long-term strategy of patient steadfastness and continuous resistance will succeed one day in forcing Israel to accept its terms, but that remains only a slim possibility, while the reality is that millions of Palestinians suffer the burden of repeated Israeli attacks on their homes and communities.

Exiled and subjugated communities such as the Palestinians today usually behave in ways that seem strange to middle class consumers in faraway lands – including fighting apparently futile battles and subjecting their populations to prolonged suffering and death. This can only be understood by appreciating the nature of “resistance” and the allure of “liberation.” That means analyzing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a battle between Zionist power and Palestinian liberation that has gone on for almost a century.

Rami G. Khouri is published twice weekly by THE DAILY STAR.



Death In Gaza, Ambivalence And Anger In Cairo

By Abdallah Schleifer

17 July 2014

Whenever Hamas and Israel are at each other in that inevitably one-sided deadly protracted way we are again witnessing, I think of the late Moshe Dayan. Yes, Dayan - that leading hawk in the Israeli Labor party leadership who drove the Israeli Army’s stunning victory in the June 1967 war which I bore personal witness to, on the losing side.

I do not remember him as I saw him from the window of my extraordinary home in Arab Jerusalem - the victorious general in military dress striding across the platform of the Haram al-Sharif, that Noble Sanctuary the Israelis, with reason and the Western press without, prefer to call The Temple Mount. But rather, I remember him from sometime before the June 1967 war when Gaza was governed by Egypt, and Dayan addressed the angry Israelis of Sidrot – then the occasional target of Palestinian Fidayeen raiding from nearby Gaza, just as in recent years Sidrot has been the conventional target for short-range rockets from Gaza.

According to my memory, Dayan told the Israelis not to complain that the people of Gaza hate them. He, again according to my memory, said that Gazans hated them because the town was once a Palestinian village that was taken and levelled by Israeli forces. Dayan’s capacity for realism might have made him an Israeli peacemaker, if political circumstance and then death had not willed otherwise.

Violent Displacement

Somehow, and not intentionally, that overriding fact of violent displacement, of what was thought of as a temporary flight that turned into permanent exile does not color, as it should, every news report from or about Gaza – that most of the families that populate Gaza were refugees or quite self-consciously descendants of refugees who fled to Gaza during the fighting in 1948, who lived for nearly 20 years under Egyptian military rule and since 1967 under Israeli occupation for decades and then under an Israeli siege.

They are rammed into Gaza -a crowded, sprawling concrete space so unlike the West Bank with its hill-side cities and villages of stone and terraced olive fields. Not to mention the lush valley that runs east of the Jordan River; where even in the refugee camps perched at the edge of the major West Bank cities one could breathe. There, until 1967, Palestinians could easily travel with Jordanian passports for work to the Gulf which those Palestinian refugees settled on the East Bank of what remains of Jordan continue to do.

This is what is wrong with Israel; the de-facto ethnic cleansing of the Arabs in much of Palestine that began in late 1947 and carried on through 1948 accompanied by the seizure of “abandoned” Palestinian land, and again on a more limited scale in 1967. Such activities have been ongoing since then, with the spread of settlements.

Videos and Still Photos Coming Out Of Gaza

And now, the videos and still photos coming out of Gaza and the rising number Palestinian civilians who have been killed and wounded in this latest conflict - these are the cruel fortunes of modern war.

Israel accuses Hamas of storing and firing rockets from civilian concentrations. That is in effect true, but every guerrilla army does that, and in the case of Gaza there are no jungles or mountain tops for alternative positions. Hamas again looks bad when it responds to the Israelis urging Palestinian civilians to evacuate northern Gaza where most of the rockets are fired from by asking or ordering Gaza’s civilians to stay on, despite being forewarned of imminent attacks, to “defy Israel.” Are politically useful statistics about dead Palestinian civilians more important to Hamas than Palestinian lives?

That the more than one thousand rockets fired into Israel (which nearly match the more than one thousand Israeli targeted attacks) have only managed to kill one Israeli does not indicate mercy hidden away in the heart of the Hamas command.

Hamas rockets are intended to kill civilians and the inadequacies of those rockets, as well as an extensive air raid shelter and civil defence system that is non-existent in Gaza, is the reason for only one dead Israeli and a handful of wounded.

The best one could say for Hamas is that they were stupid – they allowed Netanyahu to provoke them into starting a hopeless war when he ordered a massive search for the then supposedly still-alive kidnapped Israeli teenagers, rounding up Hamas cadre throughout the West Bank and in the process killing at least six West Bank Palestinians.

Writing this in the earliest hours of the day, I have no idea if even the U.N. mediated temporary humanitarian ceasefire agreed upon by both sides will endure long enough for food and medicine to be distributed in Gaza. And reports from Israel more than imply that if, after this brief U.N. ceasefire, Hamas resumes rocketing, than a full-scale invasion of Gaza and re-occupation is highly likely, as it is the only way for the Israeli Army ( with terrible implications for the people of Gaza) to really wipe out the rockets and mortars which they profess is their goal. Also stated, but not as boldly, is the aim to destroy Hamas: its political cadre and its fighting force, the well-trained and well-armed Izzidin al-Qassam Brigades.

Flocking to Cairo

Meanwhile, everybody seems to be flocking to Cairo, including Tony Blair, John Kerry and Mahmoud Abbas to meet with President Sisi. The first ceasefire proposed by Sisi, accepted by Israel, approved by Abbas and by the Arab League was rejected as insufficient by Hamas, which of course makes Hamas look like the spoiler. Yet, the Hamas conditions in a way make sense and at least one condition – opening the crossings from Gaza to Egypt and to Israel for goods and people - is even alluded to in the Egyptian proposal, not as a condition for a ceasefire but to follow the establishment of security that would in turn follow the very ceasefire agreement that Hamas rejected. One also has the sense that within Hamas, there is a power struggle between the political leadership in Gaza and the military arm of Hamas. It was the military wing that first clearly and strongly rejected the Egyptian ceasefire proposal while the political leadership initially expressed suspicion and dissatisfaction. Formal rejection from the political leadership came only after the al-Qasaam Brigade’s rejection.

Sisi, and of course the prime minister and cabinet, are in a bind. If Egypt is to again play a strong regional role then it must, as it already has, take the initiative as the mediating force to bring about a ceasefire to stop the slaughter of Palestinians. But at the same time Sisi cannot but despise Hamas given its status as the Gaza branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in arms and in power and is complicit, according to the Egyptian government, in facilitating jihadist terrorist attacks against the Egyptian army and police in the Sinai.

But a Palestinian source here who is close to Abbas told me there is a Hamas representative in Cairo to further explore possibilities in talks with the Egyptian government of a more lasting ceasefire agreement, which the Egyptian government could then offer up to the Israelis in a renewed effort to be the architect of a ceasefire.

The Egyptian public’s reaction is more difficult to chart. Aside from left-wing and Arab Nationalist intellectuals and students, most Egyptians are aware that the wave of truly destructive Israeli Air Force attacks followed the truly large scale rocketing by Hamas. It did not precede it. That is why public reaction, at least for the first week of this war, has been muted compared to the 2012 and earlier outbreaks of conflict between Hamas and Israel.

This time around, there is a strong presence of the foreign press in Gaza. Footage via satellite television of Arab civilians, dead and wounded amid the wreckage of their homes, cannot but erode that initial detachment particularly during Ramadan. Opinion has already started slowly to shift and if the Palestinian civilian death toll, and number of blown away homes and hospitals accelerates, rises, so too will public anger.

Abdallah Schleifer is a veteran American journalist covering the Middle East and professor emeritus at the American University in Cairo where he founded as served as first director of the Kamal Adham Center for TV and Digital Journalism. He is chief editor of the annual publication The Muslim 500; a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute (USA) and at the Royal Aal al Bayt Academy for Islamic Thought (Jordan.) Schleifer has served as Al Arabiya Washington D.C. bureau chief; NBC News Cairo bureau chief; Middle East correspondent for Jeune Afrique; as special correspondent (stringer) , New York Times and managing editor of the Jerusalem Star/Palestine News in then Jordanian Arab Jerusalem.



How Will Lebanon Treat The Man Who Fired On Israel?

By Abdulrahman al-Rashed

17 July 2014

A man named Hussein Atwi stands accused of launching a rocket from Lebanon towards northern Israel. In Lebanon, the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated al-Jamaa al-Islamiya said Atwi, who is currently under arrest and is being interrogated, is one of its members.

According to the Lebanese government, if he is proven guilty, he will have violated state’s laws and subjected the country to danger and thus deserves to be punished.

Geagea’s Objection

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea objected to this. His objection, however, does not aim to defend Atwi. It aims to protest the contradiction in the Lebanese government’s policy.

Geagea told Future News television: “I support detaining Hussein Atwi who launched a missile from the South [Lebanon towards Israel.] However, what if during the interrogation, he says: ‘I fired one rocket against Israel and got arrested, but why didn’t you arrest he who fired thousands of rockets against Israel. Are they Lebanese and I am not?’ And what if he asks: ‘I fired one rocket against Israel and got arrested. Why don’t you arrest Lebanese groups fighting in Syria and firing thousands of rockets against the Syrian people upon Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah’s acknowledgment?’ What would they say to him?”

This is the new situation in brief; the borders with Syria are open while those with Israel are closed. Hezbollah did not launch rockets towards Israel and send drones in order to protect Lebanon, or the “Syrian” Shebaa territories. Also, it certainly did not do so out of its desire to liberate Palestine. Hezbollah acted as such in order to implement Iran’s policy and it thus worked within the scope of Iran’s agenda in the Arab region.

Committed to Iran

Since Hezbollah is committed to the orders of its Iranian sponsor, it has sent thousands of Lebanese youths to fight in Syria. Hezbollah’s militias support Assad’s forces by attacking border areas on the Lebanese side. As a result, most Lebanese borders fall under the control of Syrian armed groups that oppose Assad - groups that threaten Lebanon with guerrilla wars. It will not be possible to halt or limit the fighting because, unlike what used to happen when clashes erupted with Israel, there is no phone number you can call to reach an agreement with these groups, some of which are affiliated with al-Qaeda.

Hezbollah opened up Lebanon to danger over the course of 30 years. It caused Lebanon’s destruction by triggering wars with Israel - wars that served the Syrian and Iranian regimes. For ten years, Hezbollah took Lebanon hostage for a Syrian border land occupied since the 1960s - the Shebaa Farms. But nowadays, Hezbollah no longer brings up this Israel-controlled countryside area in its statements and rhetoric.

The urgent Lebanese ordeal is more dangerous than all the crises the country has faced since the civil war ended, because it drags the Syrian war into Lebanon. This is in addition to Assad’s act of pushing one million Syrians to flee to Lebanon in order to export the crisis to neighboring countries. Armed Syrian extremist groups besiege Lebanese borders while the militias of the extremist Hezbollah party fight in Syria. One cannot come up with a convincing answer to respond to Atwi if he objects to the double standards where one man is arrested because he fired one rocket while no one obstructs the path of the thousands of men involved in the fighting in Syria.

The crisis of the war on Gaza renews questions about empty slogans. Hezbollah has been, and still is, Iran’s most prominent agent. Its main task was to confront Israel and keep the Palestinian cause alive, regardless of the consequences and under any justifications. But then, developments occurred and friends turned into enemies. Those who used to cheer for Hezbollah and pray for it, turned against it and now consider it an enemy that is no less evil than Israel. How can a man make a U-turn on his stances and justify his contradictions? Those who design slogans and formulate speeches usually know that people’s memories are very short. Syria’s events are the worst in terms of crimes, violations, the number of victims, its continuity and the sheer scale of the tragedy. Despite that, there are still people who forget all about it and, instead of sympathizing with this reality, sympathize with another, completely contradictory reality.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.