Al Jazeera: Hamas popularity worries Arab governments

Why the massacre in Gaza continues

As Israel’s barbaric war in Gaza enters its third week, there are four main reasons why its wholesale slaughter of Palestinian civilians continues unchecked.

The first is the terrible weakness of the UN Security Council in carrying out its declared task of maintaining international peace and security. Its inability to halt Israel’s aggression is largely due to the overly-intimate — some would say unhealthy — U.S.-Israeli relationship.

The second reason is that, as Hamas is the only Palestinian movement putting up armed resistance to Israel, it is the only remaining obstacle to Israel’s mastery of the whole of historic Palestine. Israel knows that if it fails to secure Hamas’ unconditional surrender, it will in due course have to enter into peace talks, and cede territory to an eventual Palestinian state — something it has long sought to avoid. At this decisive moment in the 100-year old Israeli-Palestinian struggle, there is, therefore, much at stake for both sides.

The third reason is the debilitating divisions in the Arab and Muslim world, which have robbed it of any effective leverage on events. These divisions are myriad — between so-called ‘moderate’ Arab states and their ‘radical’ rivals; between those who have made peace with Israel and those who have not; between those who rely on American aid and protection and those who do not; between those who loathe and fear Iran and those who rely on it for support; between Sunni and Shi‘a Muslims. This is by no means an exhaustive list. [continued…]

Israeli leader warns Hamas of ‘iron fist’

Iraeli troops advanced into Gaza suburbs for the first time early Tuesday, residents said, hours after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned Islamic militants of an “iron fist” unless they agree to Israel’s terms to end the fighting. Hamas showed no signs of wavering, however, with its leader, Ismail Haniyeh, saying the militants were “closer to victory.”

Despite the tough words, Egypt said it was making slow but sure progress in brokering a truce, and special Mideast envoy Tony Blair said elements were in place for a cease-fire.

Sounds of the battle could be heard clearly before dawn Tuesday around the city of 400,0000 as the Israeli forces, backed by artillery and attack helicopters, moved into neighborhoods east and south of Gaza City. Israeli gunboats shelled the coast from the west. [continued…]

Hamas: Israeli missile killed captured soldier

Hamas’ Al-Qassam Brigades said they captured an Israeli solider, who was taken to a safe location which was then bombed by the Israeli military.

Militants took the captured soldier to a home in Gaza, which was tracked by the Israeli army and targeted by Israeli warplanes only hours after the Israeli soldier was taken to the building, Brigades members clamied.

The Israeli military has made no comment on the report.

The soldier was killed instantly, the statement said, and presumed that Israeli military commanders would prefer to have their soldiers killed than have to negotiate their release or admit their failure at the hands of the Palestinian brigades. [continued…]

Editor’s Comment — Is this report a piece of Hamas psy-ops as it fights the information war? Quite possibly. Even so, it points to what is likely the IDF’s — and equally the Israeli government’s — greatest fear: that at the end of this war Gilad Shilat is no longer the only Israeli prisoner of war.

Israel finds a spirit of unity in its righteous fury

At a cabinet meeting on Sunday, the Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert said: “Israel is nearing its goal [of changing] the security situation in the south so that our citizens can experience security and stability in the long term. We must not, at the last minute, squander what has been achieved in this unprecedented national effort that has restored a spirit of unity to our nation.”

Absent from that spirit are Israel’s Arab political parties and as a consequence they have been banned from Israel’s upcoming elections, The Associated Press reported.

After the 27-member Central Elections Committee reached its decision, Member of the Knesset, Ahmad Tibi, from the United Arab List-Ta’al told MK David Tal (Kadima), “You went to war as an elections campaign strategy. Every vote for Kadima is a bullet in the chest of a Palestinian child.” The Balad chairman, Jamal Zahalka, told the Kadima member: “You drink Palestinian blood. You are a racist.”

Mr Tibi later told the press in response to the decision that “this is a racist country. We are accustomed to these types of struggles and we will win,” Ynet said. [continued…]

Gaza crisis is having ‘profoundly unhealthy’ effect on UK Muslims, minister warns

The Israeli onslaught in Gaza is having a “profoundly acute and unhealthy” effect on British Muslim communities and “patience is running out”, a government minister has said.

The justice minister, Shahid Malik, told the Guardian there was “immense anger” in British Muslim communities over developments in the Middle East. He said: “There is a real feeling of helplessness, hopelessness and powerlessness among Britain’s Muslims in the context of Gaza and the sense of grievance and injustice is both profoundly acute and obviously profoundly unhealthy.”

The comments by Malik, the first Muslim to be made a minister in any British government, were echoed by the Conservative shadow security minister, Pauline Neville-Jones, who said she was concerned at the effect the conflict was having on radicalism in the wider Arab world. David Miliband, the foreign secretary, is to make a statement to the Commons on Gaza later today. [continued…]

Editor’s Comment — While Israel currently indulges in the apparent intoxication of its war fever, convinced by its own sense of righteousness that it is immune from any lasting damage from an international backlash, governments such as that in Britain are aware that the dangers of a domestic backlash are very real.

The next time we see a “martyrdom” video created by some hapless Western-born jihadist who decided to inflict his rage on innocent passers-by, it seems almost certain that high if not uppermost among the grievances he will be expressing will be his outrage at having witnessed the massacre of fellow Muslims in Gaza — a massacre that neither Arab nor Western governments had either the will or the power to prevent.

Mindful of this danger, the governments that Israel now takes for granted as its allies will sooner or later be forced to reconsider whether this strategic alliance has become an unacceptable liability.

If Israel’s go-it-alone spirit becomes a lonely reality, the hubris with which it is now buoyed up will evaporate as it wakes up to the fact that it has placed itself in a strategically untenable position.

Demands grow for Gaza war crimes investigation

Israel is facing growing demands from senior UN officials and human rights groups for an international war crimes investigation in Gaza over allegations such as the “reckless and indiscriminate” shelling of residential areas and use of Palestinian families as human shields by soldiers.

With the death toll from the 17-day Israeli assault on Gaza climbing above 900, pressure is increasing for an independent inquiry into specific incidents, such as the shelling of a UN school turned refugee centre where about 40 people died, as well as the question of whether the military tactics used by Israel systematically breached humanitarian law.

The UN’s senior human rights body approved a resolution yesterday condemning the Israeli offensive for “massive violations of human rights”. A senior UN source said the body’s humanitarian agencies were compiling evidence of war crimes and passing it on to the “highest levels” to be used as seen fit. [continued…]

Gaza abuse allegations must be properly investigated, says Miliband

Allegations about Israeli or Hamas abuses during the conflict in Gaza need to be investigated, David Miliband told MPs today.

In a statement on the Gaza crisis, the foreign secretary said more than 800 Palestinians had been killed, “apparently 250 of them children – the most terrible statistic of all”.

He reiterated the government’s demands for an immediate ceasefire and said allegations of war crimes needed to be properly investigated. [continued…]

Mideast dream team? Not quite

The Obama team is tight with information, but I’ve got the scoop on the senior advisers he’s gathered to push a new Middle East policy as the Gaza war rages: Shibley Telhami, Vali Nasr, Fawaz Gerges, Fouad Moughrabi and James Zogby.

This group of distinguished Arab-American and Iranian-American scholars, with wide regional experience, is intended to signal a U.S. willingness to think anew about the Middle East, with greater cultural sensitivity to both sides, and a keen eye on whether uncritical support for Israel has been helpful.

O.K., forget the above, I’ve let my imagination run away with me. Barack Obama has no plans for this line-up on the Israeli-Palestinian problem and Iran.

In fact, the people likely to play significant roles on the Middle East in the Obama Administration read rather differently.

They include Dennis Ross (the veteran Clinton administration Mideast peace envoy who may now extend his brief to Iran); James Steinberg (as deputy secretary of state); Dan Kurtzer (the former U.S. ambassador to Israel); Dan Shapiro (a longtime aide to Obama); and Martin Indyk (another former ambassador to Israel who is close to the incoming secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.)

Now, I have nothing against smart, driven, liberal, Jewish (or half-Jewish) males; I’ve looked in the mirror. I know or have talked to all these guys, except Shapiro. They’re knowledgeable, broad-minded and determined. Still, on the diversity front they fall short. On the change-you-can-believe-in front, they also leave something to be desired. [continued…]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email