The eleven-day “proxy war” unleashed by terrorist groups in Gaza against Israel is over, and the parties are assessing the results. Hamas and IJ (Islamic Jihad) celebrate victory, which is no wonder; Egypt and Syria still celebrate victories in the Six Day and Yom Kippur Wars. Israel reservedly regrets that not all goals were achieved, although the latest strikes from Gaza were made by very primitive missiles that barely passed over the fence, and according to estimates, the overall terrorist infrastructure was damaged more than it was in 2014, even though that operation lasted almost 5 times longer and caused much more collateral damage.
Especially noteworthy are the relatively low political costs that Israel suffered because of the “Guardian of the Wall”; there were no serious outbursts of indignation from the UN and other international institutions this time, which is something that happened for the first time ever. Apparently, this terrorist attack was too brazen and obvious.
The current stage of hostilities unleashed by the terrorist groups of Gaza against Israel has a number of characteristics that, for various reasons, do not make it to the pages of the press, but they must be taken into account in order to understand the prospects for the Middle East peace process, which has been successfully and relatively rapidly progressing in the past few years.
Over the decades that Soviet propaganda pounded nonsense about the Middle East into the heads of Soviet people, a lot of clichés that have no legal basis formed in our minds (the most common cliché being the “1967 borders”). However, this was something done not only by the Soviet propaganda, but also by leftist and now also liberal organizations (including even the feminists, which is very ironic, considering the status of women in Arab culture, especially in the Gaza subculture), the European Union parties and a large segment of the US Democratic Party. In the American Congress, there even formed a group, which its colleagues dubbed the “Jihad Group”, in the core of which are members of the House of Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes (Catholic), Rashida Tlaeb and Ilhan Omar, both Salafi Muslim women, and I mention religious affiliation without any attempt to discriminate. Moreover, I am an atheist, but religious affiliation, as it turns out, is of fundamental importance during voting, especially in the UN institutions, when it concerns Israel.
Since the topic is gigantic, the article needs be written in a Q&A format.
Why such a grave escalation right now?
One of the terrorist leaders, Ismail Haniyeh, ecstatically said that Hamas disrupted the process of the peaceful dialogue that had begun (and achieved unprecedented success last year) between Israel and the Arab countries. What is on the mind of a sober is on the tongue of Haniya; to publicly admit that the purpose of the attack on Israel was to destroy the Middle East peace process is a spit in the face of the international community, and this statement shows how the mentality of terrorists is different from the mentality of normal people. But there are deeper reasons why the jihadists struck now.
Last year, the United Arab List, which had 15 seats in the Knesset (the Israeli parliament), split, and one of its leaders, Mansur Abbas (not to be confused with Mahmoud Abbas), the leader of the Ra’am party, led his party to the elections independently. The party aims for peaceful integration of the Arab minority into the Israeli society, this integration has been taking place for a long time, but the moment came when quantity turned into quality. Contrary to the sarcastic predictions, the “splinter” Ra’am not only passed the electoral barrier, but also received 4 deputy mandates, while the United Arab List failed – 6 seats instead of 15; it was a defeat and it is clear Ra’am will be further attracting more and more votes. In addition, another round of conflict broke out between Palestinian organizations: the leader of Fatah and the head of the PA Mahmoud Abbas “cheated” the Hamas with the elections in Judea and Samaria, as Abu Mazen needed to be punished and shown who at present was the most influential among the Palestinian factions. And Hezbollah, which does not risk attacking Israel now, has long wanted to test whether it was possible to penetrate the Iron Dome by a massive attack. And then there is a political crisis in Israel: every six months there are elections to the Knesset, money came to Gaza, how can you miss the chance to start a war?
And insinuations that the reason for the massive rocket attacks was the eviction of several Arab families and similar actions by the Israeli authorities do not hold water, as such lawsuits are filed in Israeli courts almost every day, and I don’t recollect a single instance of a similar reaction from Gaza. That is one lie too many.
It is quite indicative that a socialist by nature (and a dentist by training), Mansur Abbas, after the start of the rocket attacks, stopped coalition negotiations with the opponents of Prime Minister Netanyahu and said that the Arabs would restore all the burned synagogues at their own expense.
What was the reaction of Russia – is it really not quite usual?
Have you noticed that instead of a wording “Arab-Israeli conflict”, the term “Palestinian-Israeli” appeared in our press? The Russian reaction this year is significantly different even from the rhetoric of the last year, everyone understands that Israel became the target of unprovoked aggression, and strikes were deliberately directed at all large cities in order to kill as many civilians as possible (military installations being the target is a blatant lie, out of more than 4 thousand missiles only a few dozen were fired to Israeli military installations) with no distinction as to who the Hamas missiles hit – Jews, Arabs, Druze, Circassians… Russia, which itself suffered from international terrorism, has no intention to defend Hamas this time, although we do not consider this organization to be a terrorist one, and maintain official contacts with it, despite the fact that it is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood organization, which is prohibited from operating in the country. The second major group in Gaza, the Islamic Jihad, is outlawed in Russia. How would we react to rocket attacks on our cities? I believe that the experience of the second Chechen war, when the leadership of Ichkeria attacked Dagestan, is vivid in our memories.
Why “1967 borders” – is it a propaganda slogan, or a political and legal definition?
And now a little about the myths that have accompanied the Middle East processes for so long that they have almost become symbols of the “Arab-Israeli conflict.” The most common myth is a demand for Israel to “return to the 1967 borders” – as if there is some legal document of 1967 that defines these borders, in respect of which delimitation and demarcation procedures were carried out, because an ordinary reader / viewer understands these words in a sense that if there are “borders”, then there are documents. Could you please show me these documents? Of course, no one can show them, simply because they never existed. The so-called “1967 borders” were the front line by the end of the First Arab-Israeli War of 1947-49, when, in the course of many months of negotiations on the island of Rhodes (Greece), with the mediation of the UN, Israel successively signed ceasefire (!) agreements: with Egypt on 02.24.1949, with Lebanon on 03.23.1949, with Jordan on 04.03.1949, and with Syria on 07.20.1949.
Let me remind you that the Arab-Israeli war of 1947-1949 was started by 8 Arab countries and two armed factions in violation of UN Resolution No. 181 of 11/29/47 on the creation of two states, an Arab and a Jewish, on the territory of Palestine, which at the time was under the British mandate. The Arab world then categorically rejected the right of the Jews to their state, and the Arab leaders called for the total physical elimination of all Jews in the Middle East, with Hitler’s friend and ally Sheikh Amin al-Husseini being particularly vocal. All this took place in the zone of special attention of the newly formed UN just a few months after the verdict by the Nuremberg Tribunal! By the way, Arab countries became almost as popular refuge for fugitive Nazi criminals as Latin America. But it is a topic for another conversation, such as history of the Baath parties.
The first Arab-Israeli was unleashed the day after the adoption of the aforementioned UN Security Council resolution and was initially waged by guerilla methods: the Arabs attacked Jewish settlements, the Jews staged retaliatory raids (by the way, the Druze and Circassians fought on the side of the Jews, they knew what awaited them under the Arab rule). After proclamation of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, the war moved into a “heavy” phase with the use of aircraft and tanks. Israel managed to win due to the supply of weapons from Czechoslovakia (with the tacit consent of the USSR, while the United States imposed an embargo, and Britain supplied the Arabs with weapons) and the influx of several thousand repatriates who had extensive experience in fighting within the ranks of the Allied armies, many of them were soldiers from the USSR. The arriving officers and sergeants formed flight, tank and artillery crews, organized reconnaissance and sabotage operations behind the Arab lines. To show the cost of this war to Israel I will bring just one example: the casings for firearms ammunition were made from brass tubes for lipstick, which were mass purchased in Europe, since no one sold even the casings to Israel.
The Arabs admitted defeat, but the situation in Israel was also extremely difficult, therefore everyone agreed to a truce. As a result of the 1947-49 war, Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip (in violation of the UN Security Council resolution), and Transjordan occupied Judea and Samaria (remarkable names, aren’t they, later they were called the West Bank), and in addition Jerusalem, of course, also in violation of the UN Security Council resolution. The “green lines” drawn in Rhodes partly coincided with the borders defined by Resolution 181, partly not, but these were the front lines, the lines on which the exhausted troops of the warring sides stopped.
Thus, no “1967 border” has ever existed on paper, moreover, the Arab states did not recognize Israel’s right to exist back then.
Is it possible somehow to return to the “green lines” of 1949, which for propaganda purposes were called the 1967 borders?
No, it is not possible under any circumstances, and here is why. At present, in order to shoot people walking the streets of Tel Aviv, terrorists need missiles with a range of more than 100 km. If we return to the “green line” of the Transjordanian-Israeli front, the terrorists could use just sniper rifles and machine guns to shoot people on the streets of Tel Aviv. Therefore, when you hear or see the “1967 border” – it is nothing but cheap politicking, the purpose of which is not the peace process, but political brakes or continuation of the policy of transforming entire Israel into today’s Gaza, only on an even larger scale.
And what about the 1967 war, why does everyone mention this year so often?
This war is called the Six-Day War – that is how many days the Arab armies held out under the strikes of the IDF. It is traditionally believed that this is the only war that Israel started. At the same time, concentration of Egyptian and Syrian troops on the borders of Israel, continuous shelling of Tiberias from the Golan Heights, a massacre carried out by the Arab Legion in the Jewish quarters of Jerusalem, and constant attacks on convoys with food and medicines that Israel tried to deliver to the Jews of Jerusalem are completely ignored. If on June 22, 1941, the USSR had been the first to attack the Nazis to prevent the German offensive, perhaps the history of the Second World War would have been quite different and hardly anyone would have dared to condemn such actions of the USSR. By the way, a few years ago I asked my Israeli colleagues why they do not use the 1945 Potsdam Protocol, which decided the fate of Konigsberg, as a precedent for annexation of the Golan Heights, the heights on the right bank of the Sea of Galilee that dominate Tiberias and, like Konigsberg were systematically used as a staging ground for attacks on neighbors. Depriving the aggressor of the staging ground territories is entirely within the framework of the international law. I never got a clear answer, but okay, they know better.
It is often said that Israel uses force disproportionately – but it is so – the use of aviation, precision weapons against relatively simple missiles – isn’t that disproportionate?
This is also a political cliché. It would be interesting to listen to the advice of “proportionalists” on how Israel can achieve “proportionality” in their understanding. The IDF is one of the most high-tech armies in the world, armed with arguably the best weapons in the world for the Middle East theater of operations. This is natural, otherwise Israel could not have won a single war given the overwhelming numerical superiority of the enemy. And just one lost war for Israel means the Holocaust-2.
This is certainly understood by the Israeli leadership and society, and it is important for general understanding of Israel’s reaction to any attack or threat, especially direct threats to destroy the state and exterminate Jews – all such threats are taken seriously, and not as some kind of exaggeration, considering that the jihadists constantly confirm such exact intentions in word and deed.
So, about “proportionality”. Maybe the IDF also needs to switch to Iranian-made Qassam, Badr, Fajr missiles and their replicas made in Gaza itself? And instead of high-precision weapons capable of hitting the ventilation outlet of a particular window, to use the Badra-Fajra-Qassama against the densely populated Gaza with a circular error probability of “to whom will God send?” I can imagine what the “collateral damage” would be and how much noise would be made by the world media and international organizations, because terrorists, as always, are hiding behind the backs of the civilian population – we saw this in Budennovsk and Beslan. Are the Hamas and other jihadists more ethical? No, terrorists are terrorists in Palestine as well, no matter how beneficial it is to someone to use them for their political interests.
As Golda Meir put it with regard to “disproportion”: “I’d rather receive notes of protest than telegrams of condolences.” From our point of view, Israel is doing unacceptable things – it warns residents an hour or more before the bombing of jihadist targets hidden in residential areas, schools, mosques, etc. Name another army in the world that warns the enemy in advance about where and when it will strike. Can you imagine the command of the Allies giving the inhabitants of Dresden in 1945 a few hours warning before the bombing?
By the way, if Israel suddenly agreed with the “proportionalists” and decided to buy Hamas jihad missiles in Gaza for shelling Gaza itself, pretty sure the jihadists would sell the missiles, having ripped off a triple price – don’t you think so?
But Israel shares “mutual responsibility for escalation”?
What is “mutual responsibility”? If there had been no rocket attacks on the territory of Israel not a single Jew (may they forgive me) would have spent a single shekel on bombs and shells fired on Gaza: “Do not fire, and you will not be fired upon”, Jews know how to count money, it is unlikely that someone would question that.
If someone’s brains were frozen in the era of the Siffin battle, then what millions of modern Israelis, including Arabs, on whose houses Hamas rockets are also falling, and who know that they are living in the 21st century, have to do? Those stuck in the early Middle Ages, I will refer to the works of the modern influential Islamic scholar, jurist and politician Rashid Ghannushi, who directly relates being so “stuck”, focused on the past, ignoring the present, to manifestations of jahiliy – paganism.
But what about “Palestinian refugees”?
Indeed, after the defeat in the First Arab-Israeli War, about 600,000 Arabs left part of the territory of Palestine, 3/4 of them left their homes at the urging of the sheikhs, many of them then tried to return, but were refused for obvious reasons – who needs potential guerillas on its territory, and their places were taken – Israel had to settle more than 800,0000 Jewish refugees who lived in the Arab countries before the war, because, unlike the Arabs, they actually were in danger of complete extermination, which already began immediately after losing the war. For some reason, international institutions do not like to remember these 800,000 plus. Why?
The history of the so-called Palestinian refugees is an eternal shame of the Arab world: if more than 800,000 Jews who escaped genocide in Arab countries (Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, etc.) in 1949 were received in Israel with open arms, then almost 600,000 Arab refugees from the territory of Israel in these Arab countries were rejected, they were not needed by anyone, which is why many of them (those who had no blood on their hands) tried to return to Israel. The Arab brothers, who passionately hate the common “Zionist enemy”, became a burden to the other Arab brothers. It is a different issue why this happened, but they tried to impose their own rules in all host countries. I will only note that during the “black September” of 1970, King Hussein I of Jordan had to use tanks to force “Palestinian refugees” out from Jordan to Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”), and to this day ghost of the PLO is the worst nightmare for the Jordanian Hashemite dynasty. In the mid-1980s, the Palestinians took part in instigating a bitter civil war in Yemen, actively participated in the civil war in Lebanon in the 1970s and 1980s, caused some trouble in Syria in the same 1980s, and left their mark in the current war, which goes on since 2011, fighting on both sides (in fact, the number of sides there exceeds one hundred), etc.
In December 1949, the UN took an unheard-of step: it created an Agency for Assistance to Palestinian Refugees, no other nation had received such attention! The countries of the Soviet bloc abstained from voting (wise forward thinking!). Now UNRWA is the largest UN organization with a staff of about 30,000. Interestingly, the world’s largest divided, stateless people, the Kurds, did not receive such an honor. It was UNRWA who came up with the idea of inherited refugee status. It is interesting that the most ardent opponents of Israel in the UN are the countries dominated by political Islam (especially “Muslim brothers”) and Catholic countries (why would that be?); it would be interesting to know the opinion of the Pope about that. Islamic countries that have democratic institutions and strive to develop these institutions and even military autocracies sometimes scold Israel from the international tribunes, sometimes keep silence, sometimes tacitly support – a peculiar situation. As result, last year Israel signed peace treaties with four countries at once, including Sudan – an unthinkable situation just a couple of years ago.
So, dear “proportionalists”, if you are talking about those 600,000, then let’s discuss these other 800,000, grant them and their descendants the refugee status, pay them social benefits, create a UN agency of similar size, everything exactly the same as for the other group. And why not create a similar agency for the Kurds, the people who have suffered the most from the genocide perpetrated by the “Islamic State” (outlawed in the Russian Federation)? An alternative and adequate option is to stop the verbiage, to recognize the actual population exchange that took place between the states in 1949 and put an end to the unique practice, when healthy young men, “refugees” in the 4th generation, live on benefits and support with these benefits up to four wives with numerous offspring.
Related myth – The Palestinian Authority and Gaza are the poorest on the planet, they need to be helped by the whole world
GDP per capita (calculated by PPP) of Gaza and PA in 2019 were the same and amounted to 6.220 dollars. This, of course, is not a lot, in Egypt it is over 11,000, in Tunisia more than 10,000, but in Pakistan just over 4,000, in Nigeria and Kyrgyzstan – 5,000, Syria – 2.900, i.e., compared to their neighbors, the PA and Gaza are not doing so badly. The problem is how the funds are distributed internally, why the standard of living for most of the population is visually clearly below the level that should have been with such a GDP. While the jihadists who seized power in Gaza, or to be precise their elite, live in accordance with the principle “to each according to his needs” and fully control every euro, dollar and shekel (this is not a slip of the tongue) that entered the territory of Gaza, the aforementioned international organizations should investigate what proportion of their “humanitarian” aid goes to the population, and what proportion to the war, how much of the cement and reinforcing steel delivered to Gaza is used for housing construction, and how much to the construction of tunnels for war and smuggling of weapons and drugs well, etc. I am afraid that the result of such an investigation would be very unpleasant for these organizations and, especially, for the European Union; I am sure that the release of such information would cause a deep political crisis in Europe.
What is the Gaza Strip?
According to UN Security Council Resolution 181, the Gaza Strip was to become part of the newly formed Arab state, but in 1948 it was occupied by Egypt, and after 1967 it passed to Israel along with the Sinai Peninsula. It is said that when, after the Camp David Treaty of 1979, Israel offered to return to Egypt not only Sinai along with the Israeli business built Sharm el-Sheikh, but also Gaza, the Egyptians said “thank you, no need, keep that snake pit to yourself.” But others argue that such a proposal never happened.
Until 1948, the Gaza Strip was largely a Christian enclave, more than 30,000 Christians (about half of the population), mostly Orthodox, lived here. By the way, there were many Christians in Syria, they mostly settled there before the Arab population. In 1987 (the year Hamas was founded) only half of the Christian population remained in Gaza – about 18,000.
After 2007, when Hamas overthrew the power of Fatah, the successor to the PLO, there are hardly a thousand Christians left in Gaza, and it is predicted that the Christian community of Gaza will soon disappear.
In 2005, the Sharon government handed over Gaza to the Palestinian organizations, and initially Fatah (which formally ruled Gaza since 1994), supported by the UN, came to power. Before the evacuation of Jewish settlements in 2005, Gaza supplied vegetables and fruits not only to all of Israel, but also exported most of its production. Of course, after the transfer of Gaza to the Arabs, the water supply system collapsed in the very first months, then the energy and other infrastructure rapidly degraded. In June 2007, Hamas (which won the election against Fatah in January 2006) staged a coup and began exterminating Fatah members, and survivors fled to the Israeli checkpoints for their lives. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see the reaction of the Israeli soldiers, whom those same Fatah fighters shot at just a couple of days before at first opportunity. But the Israeli side accepted the refugees and, after a search, transported them by buses and in handcuffs to Ramallah on the West Bank controlled by Fatah led by Mahmoud Abbas. It would be appropriate to remind that in Bethlehem, which is part of the territory of the Palestinian Authority controlled by Fatah, the Christian population is subject to the same processes as in Gaza: in 1947 Christians, who were mostly Orthodox, made up 90% of the population of Bethlehem, by the time when the Palestinian Authority was formed in 1994, Christians were about half of population, and now they make about 15%.
Can Gaza Become Palestinian Monaco?
Well, for some it is already Monaco; it is enough to take a look at Tal al-Sultan, the elite quarters of Khan Yunis, Gaza, Rafah, there are such mansions there that Rublevka pales in comparison. Could this area be made prosperous for all its residents? Yes, it could. But only if we save one million residents of Gaza from the dictatorship of terrorists, who receive money for waging war with Israel, if the financing of terror by the EU institutions is stopped, if the ICC stops messing around and issues arrest warrants for the leaders of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, etc., if liberals of all stripes stop flirting with the terrorists. Historically, terrorism is doomed, it knows it, and therefore it rushed into the “decisive battle.”
Macron’s initiative to increase funding for UNRWA should be rejected, the French president should make up his mind, first he is against political Islam, but then he proposes to pour billions of euros into its support. It is necessary to accord UNRWA the status of a terrorism financing organization, the UN must either dissolve it or completely dissociate itself from this agency, there is no need to repeat Dag Hammerskjold’s mistakes in Congo in 1960 and become a party to the conflict, the UN must be above the conflicts.
With regard to Palestinian terrorist groups, the world community must do the same as it did in relation to the outlawed Islamic State: deprive them of any forms of statehood, cut off funding channels, put an end to smuggling through the Sinai and destroy or isolate leaders from society; there is a significant scope of action for Interpol and ICC. Only then there would be another Monaco in the Middle East, and the current absurd situation would become just a subject of historical and other research.
Alexander Vasiliev, PhD, member of the Caspian expert club