Victory For None,Loss For All – Aasim Zafar Khan

The latest chapter of the never ending war in Gaza is at a close. And while the world debates the precise reasons for which the war was launched, those who have survived the Israeli onslaught are busy counting the dead. And searching for lost ones. And wondering how to rebuild their lives from scratch – yet again.

So was it the kidnapping and eventual murder of the three Israeli teenagers in the west bank that started the invasion? Or was it the rockets? or the tunnels ? Was the Israeli soldier really kidnapped? Nobody knows for sure, and nobody will bother to find out either. What’s done is done.

But this is Israel’s second straight defeat in a conflict – the first being at the hands of Hezbollah back in 2006. Then, the Iranian backed group not only successfully defended its home turf in Lebanon, but matched the marauding Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) pound for pound. While Hamas has clearly not won militarily, it has used Israel like a kitchen mop in the battle for public opinion. 

Without going into details, it should suffice to say that there has been near universal condemnation of the immeasurable atrocities committed by the IDF. From Brussels to New York, thousands upon thousands have come out to protest against the killing of innocent men, women and children by the Israelis, calling on their respective governments to use their good offices to end the bloodshed.

It may seem that Tel Aviv is immune to such protests, and on the grassroots level it perhaps is, but there’s only that much that a government can ignore. And it’s been piling up hasn’t it? For each time that Hamas or Fatah or Hezbollah finger the Israelis, the response is so severe, so inhumane, that invariably the question mark returns full circle on to the Jews – yet they never learn. In the same vein, one must ask Khaled Meshaal if the victory was worth the blood it spilt, the childhoods it destroyed, the future it tainted.

And we’re still not an inch closer to solving the problem. The two-state solution is all but dead, with both sides at fault. Israel wants the entire pie, Fatah is happy with the West Bank and Gaza, but Hamas isn’t, and sadly, Fatah isn’t in power any more. Netanyahu won’t talk to Meshaal, only to Abbas, but Meshaal doesn’t recognise Abbas. When Meshaal agrees to Abbas, Netanyahu won’t talk because Abbas recognises Meshaal, and when Abbas doesn’t talk to Meshaal, Netanyahu won’t talk because well, he doesn’t want to. So what we’re looking at is nothing: the song remains the same. 

One thing is for certain though: both sides need to give way. From the Israeli side, the blockade of Gaza needs to end, along with a withdrawal from the West Bank. Hamas must agree to be defanged, forgoing violence and terrorism as a means of achieving its goals. They must also agree to under President Mahmud Abbas in a unified government with Fatah.

Can Washington play a role? Of course, but perhaps the right question to ask is: will Washington agree to play the role it ought to play? For all the protests that have taken place in some of the country’s largest cities, the US continues to be Tel Aviv’s servant. Long after President Obama has died, he will be remembered, at least in the Muslim world, as the American who helped murder Gaza’s children. And the answer to the rhetorical question is no. Washington, under the current circumstances, will not play the role it ought to play in resolving the crisis in Gaza. It will invariably side with Israel.

Who then will it be? Will anyone stand in the Palestinians’ corner, or are they in this one alone? What about the Arabs? Sometimes, a tragedy is necessary to differentiate friend from foe and to tear the multiple veils of deceit which invariably cover all matters of statecraft.

To fully appreciate the current isolation of the Palestinians within their own backyard, one must look back a few years – to the start of the Arab spring. It was all so exciting when it started. From Tunis to Cairo, the Arab spring caught the world’s attention like nothing else. The pan-Arab world had finally awoken after decades of slumber. A new era of democracy and human rights was on the horizon. But as spring gave way to summer, the mood changed. Governments and allies spoke in hushed tones of decades-old alliances at risk, and a delicately maintained balance of power under threat.

The first major card to fall was Egypt. Washington and Tel Aviv’s greatest ally in the region, Hosni Mubarak ended up in prison, and in the ensuing elections, Mohammad Morsi from the Muslim Brotherhood came into power. Spring was officially over and the nightmare had just begun.

From a western perspective, losing Egypt meant a major change in the balance of power between Israel and the rest of the pan-Arab world. Some countries were quick to understand that a new wave of political Islam, spearheaded by the Muslim Brotherhood was underway, and if not nipped in the bud would soon be knocking on their doorsteps as well. At this time Syria descended into chaos, sparking a bitter fight to the death between Sunni jihadists and Bashar al-Assad. Although Assad has held his own so far, the utter might of the jihadists looking to overthrow a family run government, has given all the other kings and princes in the region nightmares.

Hamas, by association with the Muslim Brotherhood will never find a suitable partner or patron under the current circumstances. If it has the best interests of the Palestinians at heart, it must agree to disarm and became part of a unity government under President Mahmud Abbas.