Lessons of Gaza (This Time)

The unending saga of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict entered a new phase recently. With the start of its third armed offensive against Gaza in the past six years, Israel began another round of back-and-forth: rockets (from Gaza) and air-strikes (from Israel). The ground incursion, to stem the rocket attacks and destroy the tunnel infrastructure, brought with it the expected death and destruction. Over 850 Gazans have died, an overwhelming majority of them civilians, seven hospitals and over 50 mosques have been hit, and a United Nations-run school shelter also shelled. Had a nation other than the Jewish state of Israel launched such a barbaric assault on a poor, densely-populated, and essentially defenseless enclave of 1.8 million, the world would have been up in arms. Not so with Israel, which always hides behind the painful history of its people to defend its inhuman acts.

This time, even the Muslim world was indifferent.

The Arabs were somnolent. Gone were the government-sponsored mass mobilisations of the past. Gone were the angry government spokespersons, the angry editorials, the angry anchors launching into tirades of hatred and criticism of the Jews. The Arab world appeared a spent force, torn between loyalties of religion, sect, and nation. Syria in sectarian strife, Iraq in ethnic self-destruct, Libya at the mercy of militias, Yemen struggling with militants, had sapped its strength, so much so that even the brutality of Israel’s assault failed to kindle Arab solidarity. But the biggest difference from last time was Egypt, having come full circle with its Revolutions. The last assault had seen no less a person than the Egyptian Prime Minister visit the Gaza strip and condole with the administration during the bombing. The Qatari Foreign Minister, the Turkish Foreign Minister, had both visited Gaza through the road-crossing over Egypt, demonstrating solidarity with the Gazans. The Egyptian government, then led by Muslim Brotherhood, fair winners in every election since 2011, had kept the road-crossing open, allowing for essential supplies to get in Gaza, and the sick, the wounded, and the frail, to get out. But this time, Egypt, the largest Arab nation, sided with Israel, openly blamed Hamas for the violence, kept the crossing closed, destroyed the tunnels on its side, and prevented its own citizens from delivering aid to Gaza. Some of the blame for all the deaths must lie on the shoulders of the Egyptian President, himself, unfortunately, a Muslim (a Christian, perhaps, would have had some mercy).

In a sarcastic article, from Israel, the author, a Jew, openly blamed the Hamas for the violence, and said the time was right to ‘finish the maggots’ in the ‘swamp.’ Another writer laughed at the open divisions in the Arab world, and cheekily praised Egypt for its stance in keeping the people of Gaza boxed in. An American satirical comedian openly asked Israel ‘(Gazans were supposed to) evacuate to where?’ A writer noted the absence of Arab demonstrations, and said, humorously: ‘The largest demonstrations have taken place in Europe.’ That summed up quite a lot.

Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, all said what they have always said. India, under a right-wing Hindu government, refused to allow a resolution to be passed, citing ‘friendly relations with both countries.’ The biggest surprise came from the Hezbollah, who, despite the differences with Hamas on the Syrian civil war, openly supported it, saying ‘their blood is our blood.’ A few rockets were fired into Israel in solidarity.

The biggest lessons, though, came from the ground: Gaza will not give up, neither will Gazans. Hamas has demonstrated the willingness to fight to the last man, and go down fighting. Few small enclaves have withstood the barrage of a nuclear power, and lived to fight and resist. Despite the blockade, the dwindling food stocks, mass unemployment, and sheer brutality, the Gazans are living to fight, and fighting to live.