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The Gaza War: Is It Really So Hard to Understand?

It's no different than Pearl Harbor or September 11. When you are attacked, you fight back. (Also, Phyllis Chesler on Israel's Morality vs. Hamas's Morality)

by
Barry Rubin

Bio

December 31, 2008 - 12:00 am
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The solvency of solutions

The other big question asked is: what is the solution? How can, as some say, peace be attained? How can Israel, others say, eliminate Hamas? The presumption is that the first or the second is easy, or at least possible.

Answer: Wrong. This is the Middle East; we don’t do solutions. Hamas is not going to disappear, nor will it be moderate. Israel, for good reasons, has no interest in occupying the Gaza Strip. Fatah is incapable of retaking control there.

This situation will go on and probably end in some new ceasefire. Hamas will break the ceasefire a bit every week and smash it altogether every six to eighteen months, repeating the current situation. That isn’t the ideal outcome but it is by far the most likely one.

The unbearable lightness of gratitude

No matter how much diplomatic aid, sympathy, or money the West gives Hamas — and it has saved Hamas and the PLO over and over from their own mistakes — they will not become grateful or pro-Western. Anti-Western and anti-American sentiment is too valuable and too widespread to disappear. The Palestinians — and Iran’s regime, and Syria’s government, and Hezbollah, and other Islamists — need scapegoats. Who else are they going to blame for their problems? Themselves?

If you save the terrorists today, they will commit more terrorism tomorrow. If you let them escape the consequences of their own extremism, you can guarantee they will stay extremist and take a lot of the masses with them.

The reality of reality

In some ways, the most important — or at least second most important — thing to happen in the Middle East this week is that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah went too far, calling for the overthrow of Egypt’s government.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit responded, “They have actually declared war on Egypt.” And when he says “they” he means Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas. The Saudis and Gulf Arabs are also drawing lines deeper than ever before. Publicly and loudly, they look at Gaza and see Arabs and Muslims, and criticize Israel. More softly in public and loudly in private they look at Gaza and see the Iranian axis.

This is the Middle East of 2008 and not of 1958, 1968, 1978, 1988, or 1998. The Palestinian issue has little effect on any other issue. The real conflict is Iran-Syria against Egypt-Saudi Arabia. Islamists are seeking to conquer the region from Arab nationalists. Radical groups are not interested in happy homelands but jihad and genocide.

And so the issue is not why Israel is attacking Hamas in Gaza now, but why Hamas in Gaza is attacking Israel now.

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Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition, Viking-Penguin), the paperback edition of The Truth about Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan), and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). The website of the GLORIA Center is at http://www.gloria-center.org and of his blog, Rubin Reports, at http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.
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