The Uncertain Ceasefire in the Middle East

The scorpion wants to cross the river Jordan but cannot swim, so asks a frog to carry it across. The frog hesitates, afraid the scorpion might sting, but the scorpion says if it did that, they would both drown. The frog accepts this, lets the scorpion climb on its back and begins to swim. Midway across the river the scorpion stings the frog, dooming them both. The dying frog asks the scorpion why it stung, despite knowing the consequences. The scorpion replied, “I could not help it, it’s in my nature.” 

Emulating the scorpion, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, on May 10, 2021, launched attacks on Israel, firing over 4,300 rockets, using an extensive network of tunnels, into the civilian population of Israel from the Gaza Strip and some from Lebanon.  The attacks are in Hamas’s nature.

Against the indiscriminate firing of rockets on its population centers, Israel responded with air strikes and artillery bombardment of Gaza, aiming not at innocent civilians, but at the military infrastructure, the rocket sites, the 60 miles of underground tunnels, and Hamas commanders and militants.

After 11 days of fighting, Hamas and Israel on May 21, 2021 agreed to an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire. Similar agreements have been brokered and broken in the past as Hamas will not end its fanatical irredentism and refusal to accept the legitimacy of the State of Israel.

It was predictable that Osama Hamdan, the senior official of Hamas, declared that Israel had agreed to stop its “aggressive actions.” He is aware that Hamas still has thousands of rockets left, including the advanced short-range rocket Badr-3, based on an Iranian model, and has the expertise to build more rockets, aided by Iran, and Iran’s Quds Force, and can continue “to bomb Israel if it chose to do so.”

Hamas has suffered 232 deaths and thousands injured and witnessed the destruction of its tunnel network for firing rockets and the deaths of some of its leaders. But it also galvanized ethnic violence among Israeli Arabs and Jews and has inspired anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic demonstrations in many countries. 

There are many aspects of the war that deserve comment.

First is the fallacy of the argument of equivalence on both sides. This is inherent in analyses by many in the media and in diplomatic circles such as the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. He stated that “I am deeply shocked by the continued air and artillery bombardment by the IDF in Gaza. But indiscriminate firing of rockets by Hamas and other militant groups towards population in Israel was also unacceptable.” A similar tack involves Israel’s lack of “proportionality” in its actions, best stated that Israel has a right to defend itself against unacceptable attacks but should limit the number of casualties. In this formula, “proportion” is never numerically defined.

A second issue is that of responsibility for the outbreak of hostilities. Some actions by Israel are controversial. Among them are protests and police actions at the Al Aqsa mosque/Temple Mound compound in Jerusalem, the real estate dispute involving the threatened eviction of some Palestinian families by Jewish settlers in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem, the 1970 Israel law that allows Jews to reclaim land in East Jerusalem that was owned by Jews before 1948. However, two factors are more relevant. One is that Hamas for more than twenty years has continually launched thousands of missiles, starting with the Qassam rocket that had a range of about six miles, and mortar fire against Israel from Gaza. This continual attack led Israel to develop the Iron Dome system to intercept the rockets.  

The other factor is the rivalry between Hamas founded in 1987 as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and Fatah led by Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority which have dominated Palestinian politics since 2006. A brief civil war took place between the rivals and an attempt to form a united government failed. Since 2007 the Palestinian leadership has been divided, with Fatah and the PA governing the West Bank and Hamas governing Gaza. Hamas had hoped to win in the election scheduled for May 22, 2021, and postponed indefinitely by Abbas. Hamas linked the movement to protecting Jerusalem, claimed to defend “Muslim Palestine,” and fired rockets to show solidarity with Palestinians protesting against Israeli police controlling access to the Damascus Gate, an entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City.  By launching the attacks on May 10, Hamas is making a bid to increase its popularity and to displace Fatah as leader of the Palestinian movement.

The first surprise of the war is the sophistication and seriousness of the terrorist organization Hamas has built an extraordinary arsenal despite the Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed in 2007. Hamas has been aided militarily by patrons Iran and Syria by a well-organized process by which rockets were shipped to Sudan, then to the Egyptian desert, then smuggled through tunnels beneath the Sinai Peninsula. Iran, which also provides $100 million a year to Hamas armed groups, started missile production after which Hamas developed most of its own. The Hamas arsenal included 7,000 rockets of various ranges, 300 anti-tank and 100 anti-aircraft missiles, attack drones, submarine drones, and enhanced rockets such as the 150-mile range Ayyash, Katyushas, and Iran’s Fajr-5. Hamas has no moral problem putting rocket sites near or in schools, hospitals, nurseries, and residential buildings.

Hamas can be regarded as part of Iran’s proxy war against Israel. It has received aid from Iran as well as being the recipient of help from Turkey and Qatar, which has provided $1 billion to Hamas. Iran is advising Hamas on its tactics and is increasing financial support to $30 million a month. Iran has supplied Hamas with armed unmanned aerial vehicles. Hossein Salami, head of the Revolutionary Guard, speaks of the Zionist regime’s faulty defense system and claims that the balance of power in the Middle East has changed with the ability of Hamas to launch so many missiles against Israel. The central truth is that Hamas and other Palestinians are more interested in fighting than in finding a solution. Neglected is the Oslo Accord of 1993 that the status of Jerusalem will be settled in a permanent peace settlement.

Much of the media and many leftist activists have blamed Israel for starting what is a Hamas-initiated war. Anti-Israeli rhetoric and anti-Semitic protests have become intermingled with leftist politics. The conflict has gone viral around the world with displays of destruction in Gaza and personal tragedies sparking protests in many countries.

Yet ramifications of the supposed issue indicate the presence of anti-Semitism. For example, on May 18, 2021, a convoy of cars drove through areas with a sizable Jewish population in north London calling for Jewish women to be raped.  For three hours the cars with the crusaders shouting “f…the Jews, f...all of them. F…the mothers. F…the daughters.” Similarly, in Los Angeles, restaurant diners were attacked by people from cars flying Palestinian flags, who shouted “Israel kills children.”  In protests in Boston, San Francisco, Austin, and Skokie, demonstrators held signs that Israel was committing a Holocaust against Palestinians.  

Two aspects are particularly troubling, the actions of Democrats in Congress and the BLM movement.

In Congress, the group known as the Squad and associates, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Cori Bush, and Jamaal Bowman, have declared their solidarity with and accuse Israel as an apartheid state.

Members of BLM tweeted solidarity with Palestinians and condemned “Israel’s settler colonialism,” and called for Palestinian liberation. They took part in violent protests outside the Israel consulate in NYC.  BLM has long supported the BDS movement. In return, the BDS officially thanked BLM for its support in common struggle against racism and white supremacy.

Ongoing protests have little relation to the war started by Hamas.  A policewoman in London shouted, “free Palestine,” and hugged protestors at a rally outside the Israeli embassy in London.  Many anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic messages have appeared on social networks.  Although the Gallup poll indicates that 75 % of the U.S. population is favorable to Israel,  the number of those more sympathetic to the Palestinians is increasing. Most of this comes from Democrats.

Photo credit: YouTube screengrab

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