Friday, August 1, 2014

Save Gaza is lovely....but not enough

“Sisi is worse than Netanyahu, Egyptians are conspiring against us more than the Jews” .... “They finished the Brotherhood in Egypt, now they are going after Hamas” ...“There is clearly a convergence of interests of these regimes with Israel” ...the Egyptian fight against political Islam and the Israeli struggle against Palestinian militants were nearly identical....“Whose proxy war is it?”.....
Brit-Pak cricketer Moeen Ali who helped England crush India in the third Test match with a six-wicket haul was reprimanded by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for wearing a wrist-band in support of the people of Gaza. Malaysian cyclist Azizulhasni Awang has also been threatened with a ban by Commonwealth Games officials in Glasgow, Scotland.

The Hindu-Brotherhood is supposedly in favor of a "robust response" from Israel - enemies of Islam/Muslims worldwide, unite!!! Israelis are asking (and inviting Indian solidarity) what would happen if thousands of rockets were launched from Pak-administered Kashmir on Indian civilians?

That question has been answered before, not once, but many times and was crystal clear in India's response to 26/11 attack on Mumbai. Not even a finger was lifted in anger. Hafiz Saeed is happily surviving with a 10 mil dollar bounty on his person.

There are two important lessons here which point to a single conclusion. 
First, there are credible reports that a section of the Arab leadership is not too bothered with Israel giving Hamas a kick (see below). Given the dislike (hatred?) of the Muslim Brotherhood AND Iran, it appears that the Saudis, Egyptians and Jordanians are condoning mass murder of Palestinians (and brother Arabs). It appears that not only there is no Ummah, but pan-Arab solidarity is also a myth.

Second, Israel today is in effect, a "Jewish democracy" where Arabs may live as second class citizens. It can also be argued that Pakistan is a "Sunni-Islamic democracy" where non-Sunni folks may live as second class citizens. How are the Shia/Ahmadi targeted killings materially different from the targeted killings in Gaza?? Where are the "Save the Shias" or "Save the Ahmadi" arm-bands??  Why is the quality of mercy so strained?

The true evil is majoritarianism whether in South Asia (or Middle-East or Indo-China). Today muslims are being oppressed in India. But the Hindu majority is not an unified whole. Indeed in Gorkhaland (Bengal) and in Telengana, Hindu-on-Hindu fighting has been going on and can be quite bloody. 

The majority needs to make sure that the minorities live in peace. Otherwise a day will come when they too will live in terror. 
Battling Palestinian militants in Gaza two years ago, Israel found itself pressed from all sides by unfriendly Arab neighbors to end the fighting. Not this time.

After the military ouster of the Islamist government in Cairo last year, Egypt has led a new coalition of Arab states — including Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — that has effectively lined up with Israel in its fight against Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip. 
That, in turn, may have contributed to the failure of the antagonists to reach a negotiated cease-fire even after more than three weeks of bloodshed.

“The Arab states’ loathing and fear of political Islam is so strong that it outweighs their allergy to Benjamin Netanyahu,” the prime minister of Israel, said Aaron David Miller, a scholar at the Wilson Center in Washington and a former Middle East negotiator under several presidents. “I have never seen a situation like it, where you have so many Arab states acquiescing in the death and destruction in Gaza and the pummeling of Hamas,” he said. “The silence is deafening.”

Although Egypt is traditionally the key go-between in any talks with Hamas — deemed a terrorist group by the United States and Israel — the government in Cairo this time surprised Hamas by publicly proposing a cease-fire agreement that met most of Israel’s demands and none from the Palestinian group. Hamas was tarred as intransigent when it immediately rejected it, and Cairo has continued to insist that its proposal remains the starting point for any further discussions.

But as commentators sympathetic to the Palestinians slammed the proposal as a ruse to embarrass Hamas, Egypt’s Arab allies praised it. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia called President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt the next day to commend it, Mr. Sisi’s office said, in a statement that cast no blame on Israel but referred only to “the bloodshed of innocent civilians who are paying the price for a military confrontation for which they are not responsible.”

“There is clearly a convergence of interests of these various regimes with Israel,” said Khaled Elgindy, a former adviser to Palestinian negotiators who is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. In the battle with Hamas, Mr. Elgindy said, the Egyptian fight against the forces of political Islam and the Israeli struggle against Palestinian militants were nearly identical. “Whose proxy war is it?” he asked.

The dynamic has inverted all expectations of the Arab Spring uprisings. As recently as 18 months ago, most analysts in Israel, Washington and the Palestinian territories expected the popular uprisings to make the Arab governments more responsive to their citizens, and therefore more sympathetic to the Palestinians and more hostile to Israel.

But instead of becoming more isolated, Israel’s government has emerged for the moment as an unexpected beneficiary of the ensuing tumult, now tacitly supported by the leaders of the resurgent conservative order as an ally in their common fight against political Islam.
Egyptian officials have directly or implicitly blamed Hamas instead of Israel for Palestinian deaths in the fighting, even when, for example, United Nations schools have been hit by Israeli shells, something that occurred again on Wednesday.

And the pro-government Egyptian news media has continued to rail against Hamas as a tool of a regional Islamist plot to destabilize Egypt and the region, just as it has since the military ouster of President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood one year ago. (Egyptian prosecutors have charged Hamas with instigating violence in Egypt, killing its soldiers and police officers, and even breaking Mr. Morsi and other Brotherhood leaders out of jail during the 2011 uprising.)

The diatribes against Hamas by at least one popular pro-government talk show host in Egypt were so extreme that the government of Israel broadcast some of them into Gaza. “They use it to say, ‘See, your supposed friends are encouraging us to kill you!’ ” Maisam Abumorr, a Palestinian student in Gaza City, said in a telephone interview.

Some pro-government Egyptian talk shows broadcast in Gaza “are saying the Egyptian Army should help the Israeli Army get rid of Hamas,” she said.

At the same time, Egypt has infuriated Gazans by continuing its policy of shutting down tunnels used for cross-border smuggling into the Gaza Strip and keeping border crossings closed, exacerbating a scarcity of food, water and medical supplies after three weeks of fighting.

“Sisi is worse than Netanyahu, and the Egyptians are conspiring against us more than the Jews,” said Salhan al-Hirish, a storekeeper in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya. “They finished the Brotherhood in Egypt, and now they are going after Hamas.”

Egypt and other Arab states, especially the Persian Gulf monarchies of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are finding themselves allied with Israel in a common opposition to Iran, a rival regional power that has a history of funding and arming Hamas.

For Washington, the shift poses new obstacles to its efforts to end the fighting. Although Egyptian intelligence agencies continue to talk with Hamas, as they did under former President Hosni Mubarak and Mr. Morsi, Cairo’s new animosity toward the group has called into question the effectiveness of that channel, especially after the response to Egypt’s first proposal.

As a result, Secretary of State John Kerry turned to the more Islamist-friendly states of Qatar and Turkey as alternative mediators — two states that grew in regional stature with the rising tide of political Islam after the Arab Spring, and that have suffered a degree of isolation as that tide has ebbed.

But that move has put Mr. Kerry in the incongruous position of appearing to some analysts as less hostile to Hamas — and thus less supportive of Israel — than Egypt or its Arab allies.

For Israeli hawks, the change in the Arab states has been relatively liberating.
“The reading here is that, aside from Hamas and Qatar, most of the Arab governments are either indifferent or willing to follow the leadership of Egypt,” said Martin Kramer, president of Shalem College in Jerusalem and an American-Israeli scholar of Islamist and Arab politics. “No one in the Arab world is going to the Americans and telling them, ‘Stop it now,’ ” as Saudi Arabia did, for example, in response to earlier Israeli crackdowns on the Palestinians, he said. “That gives the Israelis leeway.”
With the resurgence of the anti-Islamist, military-backed government in Cairo, Mr. Kramer said, the new Egyptian government and allies like Saudi Arabia appear to believe that “the Palestinian people are to bear the suffering in order to defeat Hamas, because Hamas cannot be allowed to triumph and cannot be allowed to emerge as the most powerful Palestinian player.”

Egyptian officials disputed that characterization, arguing that the new government was maintaining its support for the Palestinian people despite its deteriorating relations with Hamas, and that it had grown no closer to Israel than it was under Mr. Morsi or Mr. Mubarak.

“We have a historical responsibility toward the Palestinians, and that is not related to our stance on any specific faction,” said a senior Egyptian diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks. “Hamas is not Gaza, and Gaza is not Palestine.”

However, there are a large number of people both within and outside Israel who believe that what Netanyahu is doing is perhaps the only, and the correct, path to take. “Israel is dealing with a situation that no other democratic cou­ntry has had to face in recent years,” says Shira Loewenberg, director, American Jewish Centre (AJC), Asia-Pacific Institute. “Try to imagine that a neighbour of the US or India has smuggled or assembled thousands of missiles with a range of hundreds of miles, and that neighbour has declared a goal of inflicting the greatest possible damage on our countries. What would our governments do?”

Historian Shlomo Avineri, who teaches at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, forwards a similar argument. “Imagine how India would have reacted if an Islamist fundamentalist organisation, based in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, would have fired for years hundreds of missiles at India’s civilian population,” he says.
But as parallel and differing narratives come out of Israel and elsewhere to explain the current violence in Gaza, many experts say that to understand the present situation one needs to go back to 2006, when Hamas entered the scene as a legitimate stakeholder on the Palestinian landscape. One could in fact go back even further, to the beginning, circa 1948, when Palestine was partitioned to create Israel. Between then and now, the Palestinian share of the land has shrunk (see graphic), while that of Israel has increased consistently and substantially. Israel, for all practical purposes, remains the occupying force in Palestine.

  • 1949 Armistice declared. Israel gains more than 50% territory promised.
  • 1959 Yasser Arafat establishes his political outfit, Fatah
  • 1948 Israeli state is created. Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon reject the partition, declare war.
  • 1964 Birth of Palestinian Liberation Organisation
  • 1967 Israel wins Six-Day War declared by neighbours, occupies large territories they hold
  • 1972 Palestinian group Black September kidnap, kill 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics
  • 1973 Egypt, Syria lose Yom Kippur War
  • 1979 Egypt signs peace treaty, gets back Sinai, but is boycotted by Arab countries
  • 1982 Lebanon invaded. Israel-backed Christian militia mass­acres Palestinian refugees.
  • 1987 Palestine declares intifada
  • 1988 Palestinian State declared. Is recognised by 130 countries, including India.
  • 1994 Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres share Nobel Peace Prize
  • 2000 At Camp David, Clinton offers Palestinians territories in Gaza and West Bank. Arafat rejects it.
  • 2004 Arafat dies, arsenic poisoning by Israelis suspected
  • 2005 Mahmoud Abbas becomes Palestinian Authority chairman
  • 2006 Hamas wins Gaza in parliamentary election, is legitimate stakeholder. Israel rejects the idea.
  • 2008 Israel launches Op Hot Winter in response to Hamas rockets
  • 2009 1,000 people die in Op Cast Lead, 900 Palestinian civilians
  • 2010 Turkish activists try to break Israel naval blockade of Gaza but face IDS. Nine die.
  • 2011 Bus bombings in Israel even as PA moves UN to have statehood recognised
  • 2012 Israel’s ‘Pillar of Defence’ destroys Hamas’s arms depots, govt facilities
  • 2013 Hamas kidnaps, kills Israeli soldier
  • 2014 Israel launches military action on Gaza to destroy tunnels, killing some 800 people.

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