Saturday, 16 August 2014

The Ethics of Resistance

The Ethics of resistance

Since Operation Protective Edge erupted onto the world stage on July 8th and officially ended in late August there has been a deafening chorus of voices on both sides denouncing their opponents. Clearly this has been a war not just of military maneuvers but one of hearts and minds also. Each side claiming moral supremacy over the other. Wherever you stand in the Israel-Gaza conflict one issue that is of the utmost importance is the character of Hamas. The military affairs of Hamas are the cause celebre of the Israeli government, a call to arms that cannot be ignored. Hamas and its military wing the Al-Qassam brigades stand accused of using civilians to shield military equipment and enforcing a violent Jihadist regime that demands the self-sacrifice and martyrdom
.  Indeed on the surface there is much to condemn. On the August 22nd Hamas executed 21 Gazan citizens accused of collaborating with Israel.  The ethics of any armed conflict are difficult to discern. Hamas is certainly no exception. 

'[Hamas are] Digging terror tunnels to send death squads to attack Israeli children'-Benjamin Netanyahu, Hannity

Evidently the decisions that the people of Gaza have to make are not easy ones. The motif of 'victory or martyrdom' certainly has been  prevalent amongst the Al-Qassam. In addition to this worrying culture, Hamas' rhetoric stresses playing the long game, that in time they will inevitably win... Whatever the cost.  However despite calls for Hamas to  tone down its fiery oratory the failure of any diplomatic solution has exacerbated this conflict. The PLO has been sat at the negotiating table since the Oslo Peace agreement in 1993, the West Bank has seen near Half a million Israeli settlers set up homes on Palestinian land. In addition Israel outright refuses to have any official dialogue with Hamas. In contrast the militant Shiite organisation Hezbollah in Lebanon have successfully repelled Israel in 2006 by aggressive military means and received international support from major world powers. Evidently, in this most difficult situation what is ethical and what is successful are separate issues.   

Is any armed activity ethical? If the answer is yes, then are Hamas an 'ethical resistance'? Does the conflict in Gaza even qualify as a war? Or is it an occupation? Whatever our own individual answers to these questions are. These issue of ethics is worth exploring. 

Human Shields

An IDF Picture depicting Hamas rocket launch sites 
Firstly I will asses the most common charge that has been brought against Hamas. 
It is axiomatic that we asses the charge that Hamas uses 'human shields'. 

Since the conflict began in July, the Gaza City neighborhood of Shejaiya has been completely

destroyed. Allegedly this is because of the presence of 'terror tunnels' under it's streets. 
Ultimately the Palestinian tunnel offensives have represented little strategic threat to Israel, and have not targeted civilians. I believe that given the nature of the conflict and the Al-Qassam brigades the ethnics of Hamas are difficult to analyse. Among the people in Gaza there seems to be a definite commitment to the Hamas cause. 

'What kind of government would ask people to leave their homes?'- Khaled Meshaal, BBC HARDtalk

'This man is not related to anything against Israel. He is a member of Hamas, okay but that does not mean that the three families that live in this home should have their home demolished completely'., Abu Middan (Gaza resident) after his house was attacked, Vice: Rockets and Revenge- Dispatch 8

'There wasn't a single resistance fighter here or any military action taking place. We don't like battles, destruction or escalation, but the Israeli occupation is the one hitting civilians in safe areas. Our children don't feel safe now. The resistance is a reaction to the Israeli attacks on our residential areas. The killing of children, women and the elderly. [The resistance] is all a reaction. '  Unnamed Gaza resident, Vice: Rockets and Revenge- Dispatch 12 

Despite a widespread Al-Qasssam operation in Gaza City. The morality of Israels rocket strikes remains dubious at best.

In the face of the widespread devastation of Operation Protective Edge, the will of the Gazan people is unshaken. This isn't unique to Gaza, there was a similar situation in Vietnam with regard to peasants supporting the Viet Cong. Perhaps contrary to what observers might expect, Hamas enjoys wide (and growing) popular support in Gaza and the wider Arab world.  The narrative that the cause of their plight is an external occupier, is widely accepted. Many civilians in Gaza have had to face the dreaded 'knock on the roof' ( a low power rocket fired on a building, signifying that a barrage is about to commence). But are Hamas' tactics ethical?

'Despite all drawbacks we had about Hamas when they took over the Gaza strip and despite criticism, they did well in this battle. And if god wills it, they will get us our rights. I think that the Hamas movement gained popularity during this battle.....we are all with the Hamas resistance movement if they get us the rights we lost.', Unnamed Gaza resident, Vice: Rockets and Revenge- Dispatch 12

IDF 'Buffer Zone'  covers most or Gaza's rural boarder
Therefore the claim Hamas has used 'human Shields' is extremely problematic. Despite evidence that  the IDF uses 'human shields' in the Goldstone report (paragraph 1925) .  The IDF reports that most Al-Qassam activities take place near in densely populated civilian areas. Hamas operatives certainly have their base in Gaza City. Yet despite reports otherwise, from the images that have come out of the conflict, it would appear that most Hamas rocket attacks have taken place near Gaza's rural boarder. It is  necessary to point out here that most of Gaza's rural land has been under a long IDF 'buffer zone' that the Israeli government advises is a no-go area. Any attempts to enter this area are near suicidal. Forcing civilians and resistance fighters into Gaza's already crowded cities.   

In Gaza there has been seemingly wide ranging support for the fight against Israel where morality is not a peripheral concern, it is everything. Are civilians involved in this conflict? Unfortunately yes. However the assumption that they are 'Human Shields' I believe is debatable.

Violent Jihadists or Freedom Fighters? 

Secondly it is important we analyse the character of Hamas. Is Hamas' long game strategy working? Significantly Al-Qassam is highly decentralized in contrast with other resistance movements. Many are claiming that the Israeli shelling of the Gaza strip has been out of frustration. Because the Al-Qassam leaders are often elusive. I believe this is in part, a result of Israels refusal to have diplomatic relations with Hamas. For example the Hannibal Directive issued over the alleged kidnapping of IDF solder Hadar Goldin that turned out to be false. Saw the total obliteration of Khusa'a in Southern Gaza. Arguably this desperate indiscriminate shelling that has become symbolic of the whole conflict is a result of the IDF's inability to target Al-Qassam and Hamas leaders. Despite Israel claiming to  conduct 'precision strikes' against Hamas leaders. Israeli rocket attacks overwhelmingly occur at night and early in the morning when more civilians are likely to be have more difficulty fleeing from an attack. The humanitarian logic of this has always confused me. 

The claim from many in Israel where 96% of people supported the campaign in Gaza is that without their modern 'Iron Dome' defense system Hamas would pulverize Israeli cities into the ground. Despite widespread claims that 'Iron Dome' has (at most) only intercepted 20% of rockets coming from Gaza. The claim that Hamas targets Israeli civilians brings its moral legitimacy into question. 

Hamas has been guilty of providing some extremely vicious rhetoric during this conflict. And as we saw with the execution of 21 Gazan citizens, is capable of some appalling acts of barbarism. Yet I would (cautiously) suggest that there is little to suggest Hamas and the people of Gaza have the desire to do anything more than defend themselves. Ultimately, although the language Hamas uses is often incendiary. The whole idea of Hamas is build around defense. Furthermore, rather than take Hamas' rhetoric literally. It has been suggested that the language of martyrdom in Gaza fulfills a much different role than in other areas. Rather than being a call to arms, many suggest it is a psychological coping mechanism to deal with the widespread destruction. UNICEF has already announced that it is deeply concerned about the psychological effects the conflict is having on Gaza's children.

 Unlike Islamist movements from around the Muslim world. Hamas rallies in Gaza are a sea of Green and Red. A Recent speech by Hamas spokesperson Mushir Al Masri was full of references to a strong Palestinian nation as opposed to a wider Islamic Jihad. Ultimately the imagery depicted in most Hamas occasions bears little resemblance to the black clad Jihadists associated with the various Islamist movements in Iraq, Syria and North Africa. Although there is an Islamic Jihad in Palestine movement ( AL-Quds Brigades)  in Gaza it acts independently of Hamas and the Al-Qassam Brigades.

 'Hamas can arguably be considered the most nationalistic Islamist movement, openly embracing in deed and rhetoric both Islam and the Palestinian people as political objects. The Iranian Khomeinist regime, on the other hand, is skeptical of the nation in theory, but is now enjoying its fourth decade of temporal rule over the Iranian people. This gap between rhetoric and deed in attitudes toward the nation-state runs throughout the Islamist phenomenon, representing an ongoing struggle for legitimacy between different conceptions of what the nation is and what it should be. This in large part stems from the fact that although Islam is a powerful ideology, it presents no clear answers on the question of political agency in the modern era.' Hamas and Iran: Nationalism and Islam, David Donaldson, E-International Relations Students

It is hard to justify violence at any time. Hamas' violent rhetoric against Israel is to be condemned. Yet as a resistance movement, that has its origins in a widespread popular protest. The ethics of Hamas are not easy to discern.  

Ultimately it comes down to our own perception of one of the worlds most controversial issues that will decide whether or not Hamas is ethical. Since the conflict began in July both sides have been brought to a negotiating table in Cairo. Hamas publicly backed the Palestinian delegation led by Azzam al-Ahmad, between them both thay have agreed on a three point plan to create a Palestinian state. With both Hamas and Israel claiming victory it's difficult to see how history will judge Hamas.  But for now the morality of the Islamist organisation matters, because a solution to the long term crisis looks like a distant dream.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Zionism: The Revolution Continues

On 8th July Israel began the bombing of the Gaza strip. Not for the first time, and almost certainly not the last. The Israeli- Palestinian conflict is one of the most controversial and openly debated issues in modern political history. Both sides being well rehearsed in their opponents arguments. However which ever side you choose, underneath the shrill voices clamoring to be heard in the media. I believe it is beyond doubt that the current Israeli bombardment of Gaza amounts to nothing less than a prolonged ethnic cleansing campaign by the Zionist revolutionary elite. Yet the ideology involved in this conflict is rarely talked about. For the Israeli political elite, there is clearly a sense that the Jewish people have a right to dominance in the Levant. Although those in Israel and many of it's apologists around the world pay lip service to the creation of a Palestinian state. The Zionist ideology ensures that the best land, available drinking water and all economically productive areas in historic Palestine are in the clutches of the Israeli state. I would argue that the deep rooted commitment to Jewish economic and ethnic supremacy in the Levant is very much the driving force behind the current assault on Gaza. The rhetoric emanating from the Knesset  indicates that the Zionist ideal still lives on.

It would seem that public opinion is slowly turning against Israel here in the UK. Criticism of the destructive Zionist  agenda has even reached the house of commons. Whether these voices in support of Gaza are genuine or a cynical gesture to garner support coming up to the 2015 general election remain to be seen. Unfortunately for the people of Gaza even if Operation Protective Edge relents in the coming weeks, the damage will be done. The prospect of a viable Arab state in the Levant will have taken another deep laceration. An open wound that the Zionists will not allow to heal, and  the Gazan people will be powerless to stem the bleeding.

The Revolution Continues

So just what is the Zionist ideal? First of all let it be known that I am not someone who uses the term “ethnic cleansing” lightly. But I believe in this case it is justified. Over the course of the past decade, there have been deep fissures opening in Israel over the Palestinian issue. Yet at the behest of those at the top of Israeli society, the IDF massacres Arabs in Gaza with impunity. Despite the miserable conditions imposed on Gaza by Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu has been under increasing pressure from his partners in the Knesset to be tougher on Fatah and Hamas. A member of Netanyahu's coalition  Naftali Bennett ( leader of the Jewish Home party who once proclaimed “Palestinians kill Jews!” and has called John Kerry an anti-Semite) claiming Netanyahu has gone soft on the Palestinian issue. Ze'ev Elkin, the Israeli deputy foreign minister and a member of Netanyahu's Likud party has flatly rejected the idea of the “two-state solution”:

Mr Elkin is not an oddity in flatly opposing his prime minister from within his ruling Likud party, on what is still the most contentious issue in Israeli politics. A sizeable majority of Likud’s central committee and most of its 20 members in the 120-seat Knesset, Israel’s parliament, also oppose the idea of two states, though Mr Netanyahu formally endorsed it, albeit tepidly, five years ago”- The Economist, APR 2014

On the other side of the debate, many Israelis grow tired of the siege mentality and the constant worry of attacks into Israel. Surely this should show that the public mood is war weary and slowly moving away from an assertive Zionism and towards a two-state equilibrium?
Offshore Gas Reserves Near the Coast of the Gaza Strip
Sadly this is not the case. Even if Palestine were to be granted statehood it is looking increasingly likely that it would not survive for very long. The most arable land and available water resources are already part of the Israeli state. Furthermore, whilst Palestine has been sat at the negotiating table  since the camp David talks of 2000. The number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank has swelled to beyond 350,000.  Not only has the Knesset tolerated this, it has actively promoted it. As hope dwindles for a viable Palestine, Any notion of a stable Gaza look even more remote. Therefore, I argue that the current Israeli action in Gaza represent not any form of self-defense, but a continued and ideologically committed act of ethnic cleansing. Not only focused on winning support at home but “salting the earth” for future generations of Arabs as part
of a vicious ideological 60 year land grab.

Hamas: The Fabricated Monster

Most of the mainstream media in the UK reinforce the idea that Israel is somehow under attack by Hamas. In Israel, the voices decrying Hamas are shrill and many in number. Their is little talk in the media of the 3 teenage boys allegedly killed by Hamas a couple of weeks ago. And how the Zionist elite capitalized on the public outrage clearing the way for Operation Protective Edge. Despite Khaled Meshal the leader of Hamas publicly claiming his support for coexistence with Israel and expressing that Hamas is opposed to Israeli occupation and not the presence of the Jewish people in the Levant. A central element of the Zionist ideology is the narrative of victim hood. Here I feel obliged to address some of the claims made by Israel:

“The final moral argument portrays Israel as a country that has sought peace at every turn and showed great restraint even when provoked. The Arabs, by contrast, are said to have acted with great wickedness. This narrative — which is endlessly repeated by Israeli leaders and American apologists such as Alan Dershowitz — is yet another myth”- The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, John J. Miersheimer

The most widely reported defense of Zionist aggression is that “Israel is using rockets to defend its citizens, whilst Hamas is using citizens to defend its rockets”. As far as I am concerned, this claim does not stand up to the light of reality. Gaza is one of the most densely populated places in the Middle East. Just under two million people live in a tiny 360 KM2 box. Although Israel technically withdrew from Gaza in 2005. It's people have been subject to a dizzying array of blockades and diplomatic assaults. Amounting to a pernicious siege on Gaza by the Zionist ideologues. Logic dictates that wherever Hamas decide to place rockets, it will be near civilians. It is also worth pointing out that many of the rockets fired into Israel are low tech, nothing compared to the 400 tonnes of bombs that have targeted targets in Gaza killing a least over one thousand people ( as of the writing of this article). Most of which  are non-combatants. The most advanced military equipment Hamas possess is a couple of M-302 missiles from Syria, nothing compared with Israels “Iron Dome” defense system. There are those that claim Israel is merely defending it's citizens better than Hamas and the Palestinian families trapped in Gaza deserve no sympathy because they elected the regime that now condemns then to areal bombardment. To this I can only reply, look again at how over the course of the past decade, the Zionist regime ( who receive $3bn worth of U.S. Aid each year) has attempted to starve Gaza into submission, and how the western backed imperial land grab continues.
Moreover assessing the narratives surrounding the Gaza conflict through the lens of ideology allows us to discern the true nature of Operation Protective Edge. The first explanation for aggression is the most fallacious; that Hamas poses a real military threat to the people of Israel and it must respond with military action. Even if there were a concentrated effort by Hamas to conquer Israel it would make little difference to Israel's current position. Diplomatically and geographically isolated, economically poor and technologically at a massive disadvantage. Gaza poses at best a minor threat to Israel. It would take Hamas years if not decades with massive amounts of international backing to take and hold territory in Israel. In which time it would be easy enough for the wider international community to put a stop to it. Hamas poses no real threat to Israel's territorial integrity or it's people. The second explanation, more cynical and much more believable is that Israel is attempting to strengthen itself politically under the context of war. In recent years there have been widening divisions in Israeli society at large. Netanyahu's coalition in the Knesset is looking increasingly unlikely to win again in an election and large swathes of Israeli society are growing war weary. Also, there is the USA's supposed foreign policy pivot towards East Asia and away from the Middle East. Again this explanation isn't adequate to explain the fervor with which Israel has invaded Gaza. Although divided, there is little evidence that Israeli public opinion is prepared to radically reverse their country's position as supreme in the Levant. Especially as 90% of Israelis are supposed to support the war on a Gaza. Moreover current events in Syria, Iraq and North Africa make the Middle East look more unstable than at any point In the past decade. Surely Benjamin Netanyahu needs no more reasons to request continued support from Western powers and to consolidate Israel's position as a military superpower. Evidently the current invasion if Gaza must be for ideological reasons. Nothing else but a motivated group of Zionists justify and explain the recent atrocities committed against the people of Gaza. That is to make an Arab state nonviable and further the Zionist cause towards fully occupying the promised land.

Where to Turn?

Finally we should also consider the ideological decisions faced by the people of Gaza. Of course Hamas is not completely innocent in this atrocious conflict. Hamas certainly does fire dangerous weapons into Israeli territory and that is to be condemned. We leave out here the fate of the many Arabs who live within the state of Israel, that usually live completely outside of the remit of Israeli society and face persecution and ghettoisation. However a brief look as the Arab world, and one has to conclude that there is no clear path to victory. Since 2006 when Hamas was voted into power, Israel has tried to strangle it in its cradle:

“To suffocate Hamas and punish the people who voted it into power, Israel began a tight siege over the entire strip, stopping the movement of people, goods and supplies in and out of the region. The siege resulted in an acute humanitarian crisis”, Tarek Osman, Egypt: On the Brink

Despite receiving widespread support from Arab people around the Middle East. Hamas has been treated with contempt by big players like Egypt and ( Sunni) Iraq. At the beginning of the 21st century. The Palestinian cause remained popular with Arabs in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries. However since the second Intifada, that support has waned significantly. Although Hamas has its roots in Islamism ( the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt facilitating its rise) the call of secularism is a strong one.
It is important to note that Hamas has no official support from the Takfiri warriors that are running amok in North Africa and Northern Mesopotamia. For Hamas the decision of what it  should do to oppose Zionist invasion must be a difficult one. Moreover this sense of frustration is reinforced when we look at the recent history of the Levant. The Palestinian Liberation Organisation led by Yasser Arafat, the main proponent of a peaceful solution has become an object of ridicule and frustration among the wider Palestinian people. Whilst the PLO has been in open dialogue with Israel. The Israeli occupation of the West Bank has escalated exponentially.  It is difficult to see Arab efforts to bring Israel to the diplomatic table as anything more than a failure. Yet crucially to the north of Israel Hezbollah, a militant Shia group from southern Lebanon has been widely successful in repelling Israeli incursions into their lands. As well as gaining huge amounts of diplomatic and financial backing from Iran. Something Hamas is keen to do.
To conclude, given the widespread media bias against Hamas, it is easy to believe that Israel is threatened as the voices on both sides grow louder still. Yet ultimately I believe that this episode in Gaza, and others like it are symptomatic of a wider ethnic cleansing campaign by a committed Zionist elite.

(Opening Pictures: 1. Palestinian Refugees, Nakba Day 1948 2. Israeli commanders enter Jerusalem's old city, 6 days war 1968 3. Israeli Tank during the Yom Kippur war, 1973 4.  Israeli settler village in the West bank 2005 5. Current devastation in Gaza, Operation Protective Edge, 2014).