Analysis always involves a deeper investigation into the causes and effects of a particular event. In the murky world of politics, no analysis can be complete in a sense which could satisfy us since in many cases much of what takes place is beyond the scrutiny of academics, intellectuals or even the law. So how are we to make any kind of sense of the events and actors that we see before us? How are we to make sense of Gaza?
Monday, January 19, 2009
The answer lies in painting a picture which is roughly accurate and that provides us an outline that we can work with, later generations can fill out the details as they follow. As Aristotle said, an arrow flies much closer to its mark once we know where the target is.
Israel cannot call this a victory. I will say this again for effect, Israeli cannot call this a victory. To accept this as a victory is an act of delusion on a scale much larger than they can afford. Is this the army which crushed the armed forces of Syria, Jordan and Egypt in six days? That considers itself on a par with Western nations? The answer is no, Israel today is like the Michael Jackson of the Middle East, hated and bankrupt. What I mean by this is that whilst sales for Mr Jackson's last few albums would have been wonderful for any other singer they are in fact catastrophic failures.
The performance of Hamas on the other hand was admirable. Hamas presented a dogged and brave defence of Gaza throughout the onslaught, countering Israeli incursions step by step and maintaining its missile fire into Israel. Considering the two year siege of Gaza and their extremely limited resources, the fact that they can even exist at such close proximity to the Israeli occupied heartland is a sign of how low Israel has sunk. The massive toll of dead and wounded (expected to be around 2000 and with 6000 wounded, mostly civilian) has only galvanized the Palestinian people and has strengthened Arab public opinion from the ocean to the gulf.
I have just finished reading the Syrian President Bashar al Assad's speech, and this is by far his strongest and most forceful speech yet. This is not the type of speech we are accustomed to hear from our Arab rulers. It highlighted Syria's position with regards to the now dead peace process, its position with regards to the resistance, and its position with regards to other Arab rulers. Israel, Assad warned, must now be prepared to reap what it has sowed. We are left guessing what that means on the ground, but it is clearly an angry speech and with dark undertones. We Arabs are a peaceful people, we have gone as far as we could with the peace process, we have beared the brunt of Israeli arrogance and brutality, but this will not stop. Calling Israel a thief, he declared that what is taken by force can only be returned with force, and with an eye for a longer struggle, he mentioned a future, coming Arab world, with a stronger resolve, greater anger, and a stronger' immune system', an allusion to the view of Israel as a foreign, alien and colonial body. A cancer which must be excised. For Syria, the official position is that the gloves are now off.
Another thing which became clear is the outright collaboration that the regimes in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the West Bank are in with Israel and the United States. This is unashamedly their official position, in spite of being massively opposed on the popular level. In the Middle East, none of the governments enjoy legitimacy, but some governments are more illegitimate than others and the Palestinian struggle has always been the red line or litmus test. For far too long, pundits and pseudo intellectuals have argued for the Arab world to stop blaming itself for its shortcomings, that the Arab governments use the Palestinian issue as a safety valve to distract public opinion. The truth is in fact completely the opposite. The Palestinian struggle is deeply identified with by the masses. Foreign aid, support and collusion maintain deeply unpopular dictators and the presence of Israel in the region, as well as the occupation of Iraq by the West, are at the core of this festering sore.
There is no "winner or loser" in Gaza today, there is no "peace process", there is only a long drawn struggle in which the people of the Arab world, and in fact the wider Islamic world, are fighting against the West to regain their place in the world, "in spite of the West's leaders' noses" as the popular Arab saying goes. The fact that Arab and Muslim blood is so cheap to the people of the so-called civilised world means that our struggle will be all the more bitter and dangerous. Israel is like a pebble on a beach at low tide.