London, Toronto (28/10 – 20)
Ask any police officer which of his or her duties are the most undesirable, dangerous, difficult and unrewarding. The worst call for a cop is “…Domestic Disturbance…” A husband may be beating on his wife; she may be trying to attack him with a butcher knife. But as soon as a couple of calm, assertive police show up, they are liable to become targets, as a family member redirects their violence to the law officer. Police are very often injured in the attempt to break up and calm down family feuds.
The same experience can be witnessed in civil wars. The awful breakup of Yugoslavia, held together by the force of will of one Josef Broz Tito, was exacerbated by NATO forces piling in, bombing here and there and imposing impossible borders. Ditto for Ukraine, where Kyiv had been killing ethnic Russians in the East for 15 years before Russia decided to step in and show muscle. The comedian Zelensky, now President, couldn’t even speak proper Ukrainian when he took office: he’s a native Russian speaker. The ferocity of that conflict is reflected in civil wars everywhere.
Israel vs. Palestine: not a civil war, but close enough. The British controlled Palestine for 30 years, from 1920, following 400 years of Ottoman Empire rule, allegedly readying the country through a transitory trusteeship, to become a “national home for the Jews,” but – and this is where it gets tricky – without impairing the civil and religious rights of the indigenous Arab people.
The Palestinians say “This is our ancient land, for hundreds of years”. The Israeli settlers, backed up by modern firepower, say “God gave us this land. Get out.”
“Let us not ignore the truth among ourselves…politically we are the aggressors and they defend themselves… The country is theirs, because they inhabit it, whereas we want to come here and settle down, and in their view we want to take away from them their country.” Speech by David Ben-Gurion, 1938, quoted in Zionism and the Palestinians by Simha Flapan, 1979.
Is there any rational, logical, intelligent, mutually-acceptable solution to this confrontation, with a prosperous Israel (prospering thanks to the billions showered from abroad) next to what is described as “…the world’s largest open-air prison”?
The Israelis would like to expel all Palestinians, who they now call “animals”. Other Arab states, smelling trouble, don’t want them. In all fairness it should be pointed out that Israel’s Arab neighbors have already taken in a number of refugees over the years.
In addition to the Arab-Jew standoff, the Islamic Republic of Iran is in play, with the ancient enmity of Shia vs. Sunni showing its teeth. The reader might recall the horror of the 1980 ~ 1988 war of Iran vs. Iraq, the Ayatollah Khomeini duking it out with Saddam Hussein. Henry Kissinger, always good for a cynical quote, said “The only thing wrong with Iran fighting Iraq is that only one side can lose.” In fact, both lost a generation of youth, billions of dollars (European arms dealers wink knowingly) with no upside.
Thus the desperation and fanatic cruelty of Hamas, emerging in 1987. Born from an environment of political struggle, led by the Muslim Brotherhood and the PLO, Hamas, proclaiming itself a mortal enemy of the Jews, initially did not target innocent civilians, preferring to execute Israeli soldiers and border guards. Escalation in the 1990s, accompanied by many Israeli retaliatory murders of Palestinians, began to see suicide bombers, whose victims included many Arabs as well as the enemy.
Talk, fight, talk, struggle, court the media: for over 30 years this has been going on. Hamas plays to an audience of a billion Muslims, worldwide; Israel is confident it has the unending support of Europe and the USA. The recent attack was shocking and puzzling, as whole families were murdered in cold blood; nevertheless, it looks suspicious.
One former IDF intelligence officer has openly stated that there is no way Israeli intelligence was not aware of the impending Hamas attack on a hapless “peace concert”. How could Hamas just barge in? Are we to believe there was no Israeli air patrol, no camera or sensors at the border fence, no border patrol, no boat patrols, no police / military at a large outdoor music festival, no military/police to waylay terrorists gliding in, along one of the most heavily-defended borders in the world?
The suspicion is that Hamas was provided the opportunity to show they were ruthless killers, and they took the bait. World opinion, swaying this way and that previously, has now come down hard on Hamas, though not as hard as the Israeli military bombing its way through the West Bank. It is a great humanitarian tragedy, all around, and fingers are being pointed this way and that. Israel wants revenge, and does not care that much about “world opinion” as it knows full well that can shift by tomorrow morning.
Iran is also being blamed for the mass murder of some 1400 partygoers. Were the Mullahs behind the attack? Cui bono? What did the Iranians have to gain from such slaughter? Sometimes emotion triumphs over intellect. No matter what happens to the 200 or so hostages, there is no upside for Hamas in this bitter debacle.
Oh – and complicating the issue, but never reported by the obedient western media, is the fact that under the West Bank “Palestinian open prison”, are sizable deposits of petroleum, which the Israelis have forbidden them to exploit. Once the Palestinians, allegedly complicit with murderous Hamas, are chased into the desert or simply bombed to bits, Israel will benefit from this treasure under disputed land.