The many paradoxes of the Gaza conflict The Statesman 17 Oct 2023 Maj Gen Harsha Kakar


The many paradoxes of the Gaza conflict The Statesman 17 Oct 2023

          The ongoing Israel-Gaza conflict is unique. Israel was attacked by Hamas, a banned terrorist organization, which controls Gaza through military power, terrorizes local population, while refusing to adhere to global norms. The world recognizes the Palestinian Authority (PA) which controls West Bank, while terming Hamas as a terrorist organization. States sponsoring Hamas and providing sanctuary to its leaders have never been taken to task.

Hamas is a creation of Israel. Writing for The Times of Israel, Tal Schneider mentions, ‘For years, various governments took an approach that divided power between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, bringing PA President Mahmoud Abbas to his knees while making moves that propped up the Hamas terror group.’ The intent was to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state.

Tal adds that Tel Aviv even held secret discussions with Hamas on work permits for Gaza residents, which soared this year to over 20,000. These workers spied for Hamas and provided vital inputs enabling them to plan their operations. Israel also permitted inflow of billions of dollars from Qatar into Gaza and turned a blind eye to incendiary balloons and rockets fired from there. Through the years Tal states ‘Israeli policy was to treat the Fatah led PA as a burden and Hamas as an asset.’

Rearing ‘snakes in the backyard’ will always backfire. US creating and arming the al Qaeda and Pakistan the Taliban are examples. The US was attacked by al Qaeda while Taliban backs anti-Pak terrorist groups. Israel supported the Hamas as a counter to the PA and is now compelled to suppress them. Nations reap only what they sow and Israel is experiencing it the hard way.

Military retaliatory action or blockades by Israel impact Gaza residents, many of whom disagree with the Hamas philosophy. Hamas has constructed underground tunnels and bunkers for storage of ammunition and missiles and where its soldiers move during Israeli air raids. The only one’s without protection are Gaza citizens. Hamas is aware that attacking Israel would invite a military retaliation, which would result in civilian casualties as collateral damage. The larger the Israeli casualties the more severe the retaliation.

Hamas, being a terrorist organization is unaccountable for its actions. Israel has limited choice but employ air power to destroy what it claims are military targets. Its warning to civilians to leave Gaza has little impact as Gaza borders are closed as also Hamas does not permit it. For Hamas its civilians are a human shield. Their killing reignites cycles of violence rather than curbing it.

The paradox is that nations task and equip their armed forces to defend its populace from enemies. Hamas exploits Gaza populace to defend its arsenal of weapons and fighters.

Freedom from occupation is the core belief of Hamas. Children from childhood are taught that Jews are the enemy and victory is only possible by war. Israel may temporarily enforce peace from the barrel of the gun, but conflicts will re-arise at regular intervals. Hamas troops may be eliminated, facilities destroyed and military power subdued, however, its philosophy can never be eradicated.

For Hamas, a war and increased Palestinian casualties would break unity within the Arab world. It would compel Arab nations which have established relations with Israel to reassess them. Finally, the two-nation theory would be given fresh impetus.

The UN Human Rights Council had a discussion on the conflict. The Pakistani representative, Zaman Mehdi, stated ‘On behalf of OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) member states, we express our deep concerns over the loss of innocent lives in occupied Palestinian territory and elsewhere. Regrettably, this huge loss of lives and unabated violence is a sad reminder of more than seven decades of illegal foreign occupation, aggression and disrespect for international law.’ On his demand the council observed a minute’s silence for loss of lives in ‘Occupied Palestine.’ There was no concern on Israeli deaths as a result of brutality of Hamas or children taken as hostages as after all Israel is not a member of the council.  

Israel’s ‘total blockade’ of Gaza is considered ‘collective punishment.’ It refuses to relent unless all hostages are freed. While hostages remain under Hamas’s control, the population suffers. The UN Human Rights Chief, Volker Türk, criticized Israel by stating, ‘The imposition of sieges that endanger the lives of civilians by depriving them of goods essential for their survival is prohibited under international humanitarian law.’ Simultaneously, some Muslim states consider Hamas as freedom fighters seeking an end to Israeli occupation.

The famed ‘Five eyes’ intelligence network, employing its vast signal and satellite intelligence resources determined India killed Nijjar in Canada but failed to detect the presence of thousands of rockets and smuggling of US manufactured weapons into Gaza. It also failed to discover Hamas’s plans to invade Israel. It appears that the ‘five eyes’ network only monitors those whom they consider allies. What a paradox.

The ‘quint’ comprising of G7 members US, UK, Germany, France and Italy, issued a statement in Washington condemning the Hamas attack. Canada’s name was missing. James Moore, the former Canadian secretary of state for foreign affairs responded by mentioning that Canada has been ‘sidelined.’

Justin Trudeau tweeted after coming under criticism for permitted pro-Hamas protests in the country, ‘The glorification of violence is never acceptable in Canada, by any group or in any situation. I strongly condemn the demonstrations that have taken place, and are taking place, across the country in support of Hamas’ attacks on Israel. Let’s stand united against acts of terror.’

This is the same Trudeau who permits Khalistanis to display a float celebrating the assassination of Indian PM Indira Gandhi, terming it as a right to protest and freedom of speech. It also fails to act against Indian terrorists on Canadian soil. Hypocrisy at its best.

Israel was considered the leader in snooping technology. It relied on technology to monitor its adversaries and counter their intent. The Hamas attack proved that technology too has loopholes. Netanyahu began his current tenure attempting to curb the powers of Israel’s judiciary. At the end of the day, he would be forced out of office to face pending cases under the same judiciary he sought to suppress. A collection of paradoxes.