Israeli and American officials, like many of their supporters, have called the Hamas incursion on Saturday “Israel’s 9/11”, drawing parallels between Hamas and al-Qaeda and between Israel and the United States.
“If the United States experienced what Israel is experiencing,” President Joe Biden said, “our response would be swift, decisive and overwhelming.” The “brutality” and “the bloodthirstiness” of Hamas, he added, “brings to mind the worst rampages of ISIS”. He even repeated the sensationalist and unsubstantiated claims that Hamas fighters had “raped women” and “beheaded babies”.
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Major European capitals reinforced the false analogy of 9/11 and the dangerous notion of “us vs them” by draping their most iconic buildings in Israeli flags as if to declare “they are all Israelis” just like they declared – with disastrous consequences – that “they are all Americans” after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, DC.
Like a well-rehearsed orchestra, Western powers condemned the “unprovoked” attacks on civilians and voiced their unconditional support for the fanatical Israeli government to do whatever it takes as long as it takes to “defend” its people against “evil”.
The degree of hysteria and the hypocrisy are as mind-boggling, as they are reckless.
Some of the images from Israel are no doubt gruesome – but the images from Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Libya, etc have been no less horrific. Two decades of Western and Israeli wars in the Middle East have led to not thousands, but millions of Arab and Palestinian casualties
In the eyes of the West, it seems, Israel has a “duty” to defend its people, but the Palestinians don’t have the right to protect themselves as if they are people of a lesser god! Israel seemingly also has a right to defend and even expand its occupation and apartheid regime, but the Palestinians have no right to express their frustration or struggle for freedom and justice after seven decades of dispossession, oppression and siege.
For European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, “Russia’s attacks against civilian infrastructure, especially electricity, are war crimes. Cutting off men, women, children of water, electricity … are acts of pure terror.” But Israel doing the same against Palestinians in Gaza is legitimate self-defense! That’s the very embodiment of hypocrisy and double standard.
To be clear, Hamas is an Islamist group that has routinely used and is still using controversial and unsavoury methods to further its agenda. But like other anti-colonial movements that employed questionable methods, it is first and foremost, a nationalist movement that long condemned al-Qaeda and ISIL, and never staged an attack outside historical Palestine. Unlike al-Qaeda, Hamas has won a majority in parliament in Gaza’s last legislative elections in 2006, and – after surviving an American orchestrated coup – it has acted as the de facto government of the besieged strip.
Above all else, the hysterical comparisons between Hamas’s operation on Saturday and 9/11 are reckless and utterly dangerous, for they serve to manufacture the case for a wider war, as we witnessed prior to the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq on false pretences. Such comparisons help demonise Palestinian leaders and dehumanise Palestinian people, paving the way for a genocidal war, starting in Gaza. To be sure, demonising other leaders is ugly politics, but dehumanising a whole people, is racism, pure and simple.
In that way, this false and hysterical analogy amounts to a green light for Israel to follow up its unlawful siege and indiscriminate bombardment of the Gaza Strip with an even more horrifying land invasion that would devastate the more than two million Palestinians living there.
Indeed, after failing to diminish Hamas with four wars and a 17-year-long siege, the Israeli government now seems determined to annihilate Hamas, both politically and militarily, through an invasion and reoccupation of Gaza.
For that purpose, it has already recalled some 350,000 military reservists and amassed 100,000 soldiers as well as a number of tanks on its southern border. Meanwhile, the attempts to create a humanitarian corridor to ship people from Gaza into the Sinai to keep them “safe” and to make it easier for Israel to invade are bound to be rejected by Palestinian and Arab leaders alike as no more than a pretext to expel Palestinians from their homeland, again.
The anticipated ground invasion of densely populated Gaza with no escape routes provided for the people who live there, is bound to cause tens or hundreds of thousands of casualties among Palestinians over weeks or months of fighting, especially if, as expected, Israel uses heavy weapons and severe bombardment to try to reduce casualties among its own forces. Indeed, Israel’s looming invasion of Gaza is bound to turn into the most bloody urban conflict since the Second World War – an armageddon with disastrous regional implications.
Even if Israel successfully reoccupies the Gaza Strip, albeit at a high cost, and dismantles the military and administrative infrastructure of Hamas, what then? Will it simply hand it over to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah after Israelis paid a high price for taking it over, as it did in the past? Will it hold the Gaza Strip permanently, providing food and services to its inhabitants? Will it be able to end the idea of Hamas as a resistance movement against occupation?
Israel does not seem to have any answers to these thorny questions about “the day after”. Indeed, there is no telling what will happen after such a genocidal invasion and occupation in Gaza, Palestine or the region in general.
There are already signs of the war spilling over to the north and east, forcing, or rather allowing, Israel to widen its circle of destruction. This could easily lead to the United States and its newly deployed naval armadas being drawn into yet another destructive regional war, as if two decades of forever wars were not enough.
Israel and the United States must not repeat the same blunders again and again as if they learned nothing from decades of war, occupation and human suffering caused by their bungles. It is high time for Western powers to start acting like grown-ups and stop parroting Israel’s debunked lies and cliches. Make no mistake, there is no military answer for the Palestine tragedy, only a political and diplomatic solution.