Latest update: November 16th, 2012
Part of the problem is that the West is not psychologically prepared to deal with fanatics, people who don’t measure the balance of forces before entering a war and are indifferent to the suffering of their own civilians. Westerners tend to use a materialistic yardstick: holding elections, having to govern themselves, a higher living standard and more education will make people moderate. The problem is that this has been tried out in the Middle East—as it is being tried now—and doesn’t work.
–Israel should just shut up and let Hamas attack it whenever that group so chooses or at most respond with only minimal force. This concept is often implicit in coverage of the issue as in one prestigious newspaper whose main article explained that Israel’s killing the military chief of Hamas, whose main job was to plan terrorist attacks on Israelis, threatened to create a regional crisis.
An acquaintance of mine bragged that nobody in her European country supported Israel. That means, of course that they all supported Hamas. But what if they say that they actually just supported the people of Gaza? That would be like saying during World War Two bombing raids that one opposed them out of support for the people of Germany. The sympathy for civilians is understandable; the violence and casualties are a tragedy. Yet the root cause is a regime that both oppresses the people and sets of a war.
So given the fact that it does not want to reoccupy and govern Gaza (though one of the accusations thrown against Israel is that it still occupies Gaza!), Israel has limited choices. The best of the lot is to limit any materiel that gets into Gaza that can be used for war and to retaliate as necessary to obtain several years of relative peace. That means, in the Times’ euphemism, that Hamas often observes a ceasefire, that is, in the minutes between rocket, mortar, and cross-border attacks by itself or the small groups it uses as an excuse for aggression.
Another part of the problem is the external situation. Egypt is ruled by a Muslim Brotherhood regime. The Gaza Strip is governed by a Muslim Brotherhood regime. See any pattern here? What saves the situation for the present is that the Egyptian government doesn’t want an all-out confrontation now.
Just hours before the war began it received a pledge of $6 billion in aid from the European Union. This is, of course, a noble endeavor to help Egypt’s people though it also puts billions of dollars in the hands of anti-Western, antisemitic extremists. Maybe it will moderate them but it is certain that the money will strengthen them.
As for the United States, it supports Egypt but it also supports Israel. So it will encourage a ceasefire and probably after a few days there will be a ceasefire. Hamas will “partly” observe it until the next time it chooses to attack Israel. Perhaps by that point the Salafists in Egypt will be ready for a fight and the Brotherhood regime will need to stir up some hysteria to help it fundamentally transform the country and distract attention from its domestic dictatorship and failures.
So the lesson of this new Gaza war is that terrorist regimes must be removed from power because otherwise they will keep provoking war, terrorism, and instability. Having ruled out that option, the only alternative is periodic conflicts like the one going on now in the Gaza Strip.
Can Israel sustain this situation? Of course, that is basically the framework in which it has been living and prospering for 64 years. Is it preferable? Of course not. What is the world going to do to make it better? Nothing.
And what does Hamas’s behavior tell us about that of other Islamists in power? A great deal once one factors in patience and subtly on the part of such regimes as those in Sudan, Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon, Iran, Turkey, and perhaps soon Syria.
I said above that the lesson of the Gaza Strip is that terrorist, radical regimes should be removed from power. It goes without saying that they should not be helped into power by the West in the first place. Unfortunately, that is a lesson that the Obama Administration still doesn’t understand.Barry Rubin
About the Author: Professor Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. See the GLORIA/MERIA site at www.gloria-center.org.
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