Saturday 4 November 2023

The Dilemmas of War


The Israel-Hamas Conflict - Part 2

In this article, I try to be cleareyed without getting involved in emotional outbursts. Nor would I try to popularise any blame game, but I would try to distance myself from the outpouring of grief we see on our screens that continues to unfold daily. This discourse is more or less a sequel to last week's article; however, in this analysis, I again try to go beyond the causes and roots of the problems and avoid the present-day happening. This undertaking will discuss the dilemmas faced by both of the parties involved. On the one side, the 
pent-up frustration resulted in the loss of control, lashing out and killing unarmed civilians and on the other, a harsh retaliation anchored on a disqualification of the entire Gazeans. 

The Hammas group are Palestinian self-appointed protectors of the Palestinian people but are not recognised so much by them. However, their attack on the Israeli Kibbutz on October 7th has ignited an onslaught by the Israeli Defence Forces on the entire Palestinian population of Gaza. An unarmed 2.5 million people live in an area no more than a quarter of the size of Yorkshire. Despite calls for a ceasefire from around the world, destructive and relentless indiscriminate shelling shows signs of stopping. My guess is that describing the men and women of the Kibbutz as unarmed is an erroneous term. Since declaring Israel as a Jewish state, the right-wing government has allowed the settlers, as well as all its citizens, to carry arms. These heavy weapons are often used to force the eviction of Palestinian people from their homes. So Hammas' argument goes, they are no longer unarmed therefore are legitimate targets. 


                                                     The Gaza Strip is often described as an open Prison.

Since October 7th, we have seen daily death and destruction filling our TV screens. The news comes to us with warnings about "images you are about to see". It is horrendous time we are passing through. Suffering is all around us, and we are living in a world of military power and fear. The war in Sudan is ongoing, and so is the war in Ukraine. Now we have the Israel-Hamas war. Before long, we would no longer need warnings of forthcoming images. We would not be traumatised but immune since human nature can only comprehend so much at a time.   

It is an axiomatic fact that this is a different type of war than has gone before; it is well beyond another round of conflict. This war, Israel says, is existentialist, and to some extent, I agree with them. However, here is the catch: who is Israel fighting? Israel is flirting with a dilemma of its own ma ing. The roots of the conflict lie in its right-wing policies and its hawkish attitude toward the Palestinian people, which continues unabated despite the international outcry of condemnation that had gone on for years. Hamas say they are freedom fighters, and they waged this war against the oppression of its fellow Palestinians, a battle for liberty and against the apartheid regime of their opponent. The terrorist attack of early October killed and kidnapped many civilians, which, three weeks later, they still hold as hostages, invited Israel to unleash a war for its survival and to maintain its oppressive regime, continuing to justify its actions by the "right to defend ourselves.", while the Palestinians without any recourse, from the Arab world, continue as hostages to for une. But the sad part for Hammas is that it is difficult to fathom the other motives that go beyond gaining world attention and further notoriety and what Hammas hope to gain out of this war.  

Israel sees itself in a catch-22 situation, so much so that it has to deal with three entities at once: Hostages, civilians and a terrorist organisation. The ramifications of not crushing terrorism could affect not only Israel but the entire Western world. Painful to Israel, it may be, but its savage response can only have a limited effect on terrorism locally or in the international arena. But its action will be partly responsible for igniting terrorism in other parts of the world. Coupled with the rhetoric of support mainly from Democratic governments with high immigrant populations, it ignites the catalyst of extremism and radicalism. 

In effect, as I see it, Israel is fighting a proxy war on behalf of America and Europe. Hamas is a convenient litmus proof of terrorism, an organisation recognised as such by Europe and America, so they must be dealt with on terrorists' terms, which is how the Western world sees things. American and European wholehearted support is on the same terms. The problem, though, is how Israel weeds out the good from the bad. The consequent barrage of shelling gives evidence it was divorced from its allegiance to its citizens as well as the citizens of its allies. That leaves Israel under an ethical yoke, a burden of how to deal with such a situation.   Israel is a functioning democratic state, holding to moral ground responsible to itself and the international community, and it has a moral responsibility towards its citizens, first and foremost.  

It finds itself unable to filter out the primary target; it realises unravelling the problem could be expensive, being forced to reject the concern over the lives of those hostages, as of all other Western hostages. They must remain the collateral damage caught up in unfortunate circumstances of war. War is Realism focused on an objective, a question of military power remaining central. Hence, it must sacrifice them as soldiers tied up in the conflict. From Israel's perspective, a pursuit of realpolitik, a zero-sum war: a matter of kill or be killed. For Israel, it is not just a war but an eradication of a foe; bloody it is, but there is no other way. The options are limited, as Israel recognises. That is for the present, but the future could be far more ominous. Israel will need to address the regional network of threats and armed groups backed by Iran now menacing the country on multiple fronts. These include threats from Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen, as well as from within the Palestinian population in the West Bank. That is aside from the dangerous power vacuum left behind.

But there is also this worrying irony. The majority of the Palestinians are Muslims, and the fanatics amongst them and those around the world see this conflict as a war against Islam. Their Islamic world has hijacked this conflict and is trying to turn the sting on its head into a Jihad; the extremist among the mainstream has morphed Hamas' objectives into a struggle to defend the Muslim faith. American and European enthusiastic support of Israel and against the Palestinian flag, a political move, is interpreted as an anti-Islam action. This motive would most likely awaken the hibernating terrorist cells in Europe and America.   

But that is not all. Where would we go after the extinction of Hamas? With the revival of discrimination against the Palestinian people in place, there remain scores to settle by both sides. If history is anything to go by, Military machismo has never solved an ideology. The Berlin Wall, the Iron Curtain and Soviet communism came down by persuasion and an ideological change driven by smart power, which compensated for an impossibility. Extravagant principles, nasty politics, and the arrogance of power are demons that rob any leadership of choice. New approaches are in desperate need.  For a mighty military power like Israel to stop portraying the Palestinians as worthless, negating such an extremist outlook must sit at the core of commonsense policies. To formulate a carrot-and-stick strategy, look at recent events as a call for more negotiations, multilateral diplomacy and less reliance on military power and force.


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