Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Some background to Hamas's riots

Elan Journo, author of the upcoming book What Justice Demands: America & the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, offers some relevant background to understand what you see in the news from the Gaza border.

Israeli citizens, he argues, have a legitimate right to self-defence, which the Israeli Defence force is protecting. Just like us, acknowledges Journo, "Israel has flaws and shortcomings. Yet, also like our society, it protects the freedom of individuals."  So on the one side you have this semi-free society trying to protect itself and its citizens, on the other an Iranian-backed organisation calling for martyrdom of its own people in yet another bid to throw Jews into the sea and, as Hamas leader Yahya Shinwar said recently, to "swarm across the border and tear out their hearts."
Fundamentally, regional hostility toward Israel reflects the ideological currents of the Middle East. Now at the vanguard of that hostility are the jihadists, who Iran has long inspired and funded; Iran also has backed Hamas and Hezbollah, both notorious for suicide attacks, in several wars on Israel. The Tehran regime, which has sought nuclear capability, has long glorified martyrdom in the path of Allah.
This is whom, imperfectly perhaps, the Israeli Defence force is protecting Israeli citizens.

This conflict has been going on for decades, even centuries. But like most things in the Middle East, this ongoing conflict was radically altered in 1979. [Quick quiz question: what happened in 1979?] Prior to this, the opposition was more secular than religious:
For decades, Israel's regional adversaries were neighbouring regimes — mainly Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq — and the Palestinian movement, which those regimes sponsored. Ideologically, these adversaries often justified their desire to liquidate Israel in terms of Arab nationalism or Palestinian nationalism. Leading the charge against Israel initially was Egypt's military dictator, Gamal Abdel Nasser, a self-styled prophet of Arab nationalism; that ideology was a nominally secular blend of socialism, fascism and brute authoritarianism, infused with Islamic tropes and allusions. By the close of the 1960s, however, the spearhead became the Palestine Liberation Organisation (which Nasser instigated and funded) led by Yasser Arafat.
    Then, in 1979, the Islamic revolution toppled the government in Iran. It galvanised the Islamist movement across the world, while the appeal of Arab nationalism waned. The new Iranian regime embodied the ideal of a totalitarian society shaped by Islamic religious law. Iran eagerly proclaimed itself the leader of a global jihadist cause; it made that ideal appear realisable, and the path of jihad as practical.
    The Islamists had a different, more compelling justification for reviling Israel: They sought to liquidate that free society, not in the name of realising an exhausted dream of Arab "unity" or an authoritarian Palestinian homeland, but in the name of the sacred duty to serve Allah. They denounced Israel as an infidel regime on land that must belong to the pious.
    The aftershocks of Iran’s revolution energised Islamist groups, and notably so within the Palestinian movement. The best known of these is Hamas (the Islamic Resistance Movement), whose founding document explains that, "There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad."
     While Arab regimes inched back somewhat from the anti-Israel vanguard, the Islamists marched forward. In Lebanon, Iran helped create an Islamist force called Hezbollah, which has attacked and waged war against Israel. Within the Palestinian community, Hamas eclipsed the nationalist factions that had led the Palestinian movement for decades, winning a 2006 landslide election and then seizing control of Gaza. Hamas and other Islamist Palestinian groups received Iranian funding and military hardware, enabling them to wage war against Israel from within Gaza in 2008-09, 2012 and 2014.
That said, both today's Iranian proxies and the nationalists before them have more zero interest in maintaining Palestinians' problems than than they do in in seeing them remedied. For them, Palestinians' grievances are on an ongoing casus belli justifying every outrage they instigate, while Palestinians and their children, for them, are almost literally public-relations cannon fodder.
The Islamists, like their nationalist predecessors, invoke Palestinians’ grievances related to Israel's founding and ongoing policies in defense of their cause. But that’s a dishonest ploy. Properly defined, there are some actual wrongs to be addressed, but these cannot explain the longstanding hostility toward Israel, nor justify the violence against it.
    The larger truth is that Arab regimes, the Palestinian movement and the Islamists do not care about the lives of Palestinian individuals who they claim to be avenging; they have exploited that community, indoctrinated many of them and exacerbated their suffering. Neither the Islamist "solution" — a theocratic Iran-backed Palestinian regime — nor the dictatorial regime of their rival factions could solve any actual problems.
Thus, for them, seeing Palestinians martyred with Israeli bullets is a victory, a media triumph, and the very public deaths almost an end in themselves.

That said, however, while its defensive options are admittedly very few, the Israeli response seems from this distance to play into their hands:
With Netanyahu & Likud in power, there’s very little Iran needs to do aside from sit back & watch. "


  1. Re your last sentence, that's where Hamas is winning the PR war on this particular 'attack' (I won't call it a protest).

    But, with over 2700 injured how many tens of thousands of these young men armed with (from video) butchers knives, very lethal looking slingshots, improvised explosives, etc, are making a concerted effort to get across that border - a protest wouldn't be trying to break the border with hand weapons - and how many IDF soldiers are there to hold them back: perhaps 3,000 to 5,000 only, given the geography?

    That there has been no Israeli deaths speaks to the training of that army, buy they are defending themselves, all right, from what could become, if they drop the ball, an army of overwhelming numbers that would slaughter them to a last soldier given the chance.

    The NZ Green party via Davidson are dreadful and antisemitic, as normal, with not one criticism of what Hamas is doing here, and how cynically. I think it time the NZ Green party leadership clarify their position on even the legitimacy, to them, of the Israeli state, and on PA's continual statements that Israel is not legitimate and needs to destroyed. PA leader Mahmoud Abbas's comments last month that Jews deserved the holocaust should have warned Green's of the danger for them with their anti-Israeli agenda.

  2. But what about the free flow of people, ideas and goods across countries? Personally, I like the idea of secure borders and deciding who crosses them but then I'm a conservative who doesn't feel guilty about western civilisation being better than other offerings.


  3. This is isn't Hamas and to frame this whole protest as Hamas is innacurate.
    The idea that israel was threatened is bogus. Israel is not a country that respects individual rights. I don't know why the western world continues to portray it as a civilised, rights respecting democracy.

  4. Some major facts are conveniently omitted here, like the fact that the Gaza border is illegal, the IDF is using live ammo against kids either armed with rocks or nothing at all, and it's mostly just regular Palestinians protesting, not Hamas (which was a creation of Israel anyway).

    So what we have here is a brutal state murdering people at their illegal border, and certain so-called libertarians are OK with this, citing American far-right garbage. Incredible.

    1. It's revealing Barry that when we're talking about Muslims who have left their native country to live a peaceful life elsewhere, you regard them as a serious threat; but when they're throwing rocks at Jews they're just harmless kids.

      As for your facts, which completely ignore the context:

      - "the Gaza border is illegal" - Illegal under whose law? Certainly not the law of the only civilized nation in the region, who's duty it is to protect the citizens, and who are surrounded on all sides by people who want to destroy them.

      "against kids either armed with rocks or nothing at all" - Just like an old women who approaches an armed convoy could be armed with nothing at all, or she could be a suicide bomber about to blow you up. Easy to criticize when you're not on the front line have to defend yourself from hordes of savages who want you dead.

      "mostly just regular Palestinians protesting" - Regular Palestinians who are probably somewhat unhinged by ideology, and according to the Israelis are being used by Hamas and others as a front to get weapons close to the border.

      Even if you're skeptical of the Israeli account (and why you'd believe the other sides account above theirs I can't fathom) - what would be the benefit to the Israelis of killing people without reason? As has been pointed out, any deaths on either wide only work against Israel in terms of public perception and international support.

    2. Mark, large groups of Muslims tend not to assimilate well in western countries. This is an entirely separate issue from the illegal occupation of Gaza.

      "Illegal under whose law?"

      Try international law Mark. Being more "civilised" than their neighbours doesn't give Israel the right to occupy and brutalise them. In fact it kind of contradicts the notion they are more civilised.

      "Hordes of savages"

      This kind of narrative explains why Israelis are happy to kill people without reason. A key component is that this is a religious war for both sides. It's much easier to kill if you believe you're killing enemies of your imaginary friend in the sky.

      And where do you think these "savages" come from? A huge proportion would have lost relatives to the IDF and/or suffer from PTSD themselves. What makes you think you would have turned out any different if raised in the same circumstances? The IDF doesn't care about creating future Hamas fighters through its actions; it's all part & parcel of the religious war.

      "and why you'd believe the other sides account above theirs I can't fathom"

      Says a lot about the echo chamber you inhabit that you think there are just two accounts of this - the other being Hamas. There are many perspectives, if you bothered to look. Such as foreign journalists at the front line, and also no shortage of Israelis who are critical of the IDF. Some are highly qualified such as:

      So there you have it Mark. Read widely; think for yourself. Make a conscious effort each day to be less of a tool.

  5. I wonder if the Hamas supporters want to read this about the 'peaceful' protest:

    Quote: '“We are excited to storm and get inside,” a 23-year-old Gazan named Mohammed Mansoura, told the Washington Post yesterday. “When asked what he would do inside Israel,” the newspaper reported, “he said, ‘Whatever is possible, to kill, throw stones.'”

    Jeez, I can't imagine at all why this dreadful IDF wouldn't allow more than 40,000 Mohammed's through the border just a five minute run away from a populated Israeli town.

    All this beggars belief. Yes, it's a damned shame the loss of life. But those fools are sent by Hamas to be killed. Israel well and truly warned of this result, so don't do it. IDF rang Gazan bus services saying don't bus people to the border. IDF in all cases were using in the first instance tear gas, then firing over heads with rubber bullets. What were they supposed to do?

    And even up to our government, universal condemnation of Israel: not even a mention that Hamas may also be culpable, or any condemnation of Gazan violence.


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