Hamas-Israel: the invisible faultline

by Sarwar Jahan Chowdhury
A donkey cart drives past a destroyed house during Israeli airstrikes in the Jabalia Palestinian refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on August 20. — AFP/Mahmud Hams

A donkey cart drives past a destroyed house during Israeli airstrikes in the Jabalia Palestinian refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on August 20. — AFP/Mahmud Hams

As the dust of the latest Gaza war settles down, it is time to retrospect the whole sad event where so many people with a high number of women and children died.
One would wonder why Israel still having to fight the Arabs after they have decidedly defeated them on four occasions ie in full-scale wars; of course, with naked help from its western patrons. The self-declared Jewish nation’s conventional military supremacy in the region is unquestionable and also has been helped by the American destruction of Arab military power in the Gulf and elsewhere in the Middle East; not to mention the senseless Arab infighting along political and sectarian lines suspectedly intensified by US-Israeli intrigue.
But the clashes between the Israelis and the Arabs go on and that is the nature of the asymmetric warfare of today. With identity politics and discourses boosted by modern information technology and popular feverish resistances easily getting access to small arms and knowhow of other non-sophisticated arsenal such as the Hamas rockets, this asymmetric perpetual conflict was a foregone conclusion for seasoned foretellers. A grave political and humanitarian discontent unaddressed cannot be put down by sheer hard power when the oppressed are well knowingly an emotional community by nature.
So what is up for grab in this Hamas-Israeli clash? Why are the Gazans involving in such a catastrophic feud with the monstrous Israel every year or two where they are the worst losers in terms of human and collateral costs? And why is the self-proclaimed modern and democratic nation of the Middle East inflicting such horrific deaths and wounds through an utterly disproportionate employment of crude force to the citizens of world’s largest human prison called Gaza?
The Israeli version, ironic though, is that although they have withdrawn from Gaza a few years back, its Hamas that starts the fight by launching the locally made rockets to the towns of southern Israel. They, the Israelis, are attacking Gaza in an act of self-defence to eliminate the rocket launching sites and the militiamen who launch them.
Interestingly, Israel and its western allies always start the story from the middle, painting Israel, the oppressor, as victim. They like to talk about rockets and terrorists coming from Gaza, but conveniently averse the larger and core questions ie how and why a huge portion of Palestinian population was systematically hounded out of the most part of their historic land and forced them to get lumped in congested refugee camps in most wretched conditions in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and elsewhere in the Arab countries and what the solution is for them including the issue of universal human right of the refugees to return to their native places.
Most global audience does not really buy the Israel–US propaganda. But the latter do not care much. The powerful Zionist lobby in the United States and orthodox Judeo-Christian alliance supply the power bases for all the aggressive Israeli actions. The American liberals are often cornered. This is a strange situation that American domestic dynamics and its connectivity with Israel are the prime determinants of international relations regarding the Middle East. This has spelt the end of idealism and, perhaps, positivism as well in the international relations when it comes to the Middle East. Universal ideological and policy coherence is long gone in US external affairs especially post-Cold War.
Coming back to the hidden or real fault line of the Hamas-Israeli conflict — it is just not an emotional outbreak of hostilities among two belligerent parties. Hamas seems to have some strategy regarding the righteous Palestinian emotion about their oppressed and wretched state. While Fatah, in the West Bank, has accepted the subjugation and relying almost entirely on Israel’s goodwill, which they were told would work and now hardly forthcoming, Hamas, on the other hand, perhaps seeing Fatah’s fate decided to go on with active resistance.
The Israel-US line often has been that if the Palestinians stop violence, in their words, which is actually resistance and protests, there can be progress. There were many instances of long spell of piece. Nothing happened. Fatah could not gain anything from Israel despite not running any more protests or resistance initiatives. The Israeli strategy is clear to seasoned observers if not to ordinary people in the West and the East: put conditions on Palestinians and even if they are met in some realistic ways, demand more and meanwhile wear down their resolve to resist so as to consolidate on entire Jerusalem, occupied settlement zones and even beyond but not accepting the right to return of about 3 million Palestinians.
Now what are the options for Hamas to keep their rightful issue alive and to prevent it from going into oblivion that Israel wants? They have devised this strategy of periodic active resistance. They know that high causality will be inflicted upon Gazans by Israel as the latter’s tactic is to demoralise the resistance through prolonged use of force and blockade. For the purpose of bargaining, Hamas maintains a hard take on Israel the same way Zionist orthodox does about Palestine. For Hamas, there is hardly any other option in the face of Israeli intrigue and that creates the real faultline in the crisis.
In reality, peace is not impossible in the Palestine-Israel conflict. Dishonest politicians such as Netyaniahu keep delaying it for their own mean political ambitions. He and the likes of him instead of being practical in negotiating with Hamas always cook up a paranoia in the Israeli psyche and invoke chauvinistic fervour just at the helm of state power for a longer time. At some instances, both the parties came close to peace, yet Netyaniahu likes to step backward and project him as the only saviour of Jewish people, instead of building from there.
It is about time that the wider international community including China, Russia, the European Union and other countries of influence took more active role instead of leaving everything to Israel and the United States who deliberately and dishonestly maintain insularity towards the Palestinian misery.
Sarwar Jahan Chowdhury is the head of operations in the BRAC Institute of Governance and Development , BRAC University . He is also a member of the Regional Studies Research Cluster in the same institute.

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