The Wider impact of the Hamas-Israeli Conflict By Shahid Javed Burki

The Wider impact of the Hamas-Israeli Conflict By Shahid Javed Burki

On October 7, 2023, fighters allied with the group called Hamas that runs Gaza territory attacked several places in Israel. They were able to break through the barrier Israel had erected which was believed to be impregnable. Some penetrated Israel using paragliders. The attacks left some 1,400 Israelis dead. As they withdrew to Gaza, the Hamas soldiers took almost 200 hostages with them, some of them Americans. Israel promised reprisal. It started an intense bombing campaign that killed hundreds of Palestinians. It also called to service hundreds of thousands of reservists and massed them on the border, announcing that an attack on Gaza was imminent. The bombing’s initial toll was estimated at 2,500 dead, a third of them children, and 6,600 wounded.

That the restless citizens of Gaza were desperate to find relief for their deteriorating situation had begun to be recognised by the leaders of the Arab world. Addressing the UN General Assembly, King Abdullah II of Jordan said: “Without clarity on where the Palestinians’ future lies, it will be impossible to converge on a political solution to this conflict. Five million Palestinians live under occupation — no civil rights; no freedom of mobility; no say in their lives.” And recently, Egyptian intelligence had warned that something would give unless there was hope from which the Palestinians could draw some comfort. That happened.

“Pro-Palestinians demonstrations reverberated across the globe and in the United States on Friday (October 13), after a former Hamas leader called for a worldwide ‘day of rage’ in the wake of the Israeli response to Hamas attack and in Israel that sparked the worst conflict in the region in 50 years,” wrote Tim Craig and his colleagues in a report published by The Washington Post on October 14, 2023. “Hundreds of protesters marched in Times Square, Pittsburgh, Portland and Washington on Friday with other rallies planned in Los Angeles and elsewhere through the weekend.” Some of the reaction to the conflict in Israel translated into Islamophobia. An American Christian citizen stabbed to death a six-year-old boy and severely injured his mother. They were renting rooms in his house.

Israeli commanders said they’re readying a ground invasion of the territory in a bid to end Hamas rule there. Israel ordered one million Palestinians from Gaza to leave their homes and hundreds did but were not sure where they should go. Israel delivered the message by dropping leaflets from aircraft.

The Center on Extremism at the Jewish organisation, Anti-Defamation League, said that at least 140 protests were counted around the United States. The United Nations described a ground evacuation as a potentially “calamitous” human rights crisis amid the deteriorating security situation in the area. The United States and world economies were likely to feel the consequences of the Hamas-Israeli conflict. According to JPMorgan chief executive Jamie Dimon, “this may be the most dangerous time the world has seen in decades.” He issued a statement accompanying the bank’s report on quarterly earnings. He warned of “far reaching impacts on energy and food markets, global trade and geopolitical relationships” if the war intensified.

“There is no mystery about what must happen next,” wrote Daoud Kuttab, a Palestinian journalist and former Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University. He expressed his views in an op-ed piece published by The Washington Post on October 10, 2023. “Even though it is lower than before, support for the two-state solution among both Israelis and Palestinians is higher than for any other alternative. But having a Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel requires recognition by the United Nations. The United States has repeatedly wielded its veto against the very same issue to which it pays lip service.”

There was a distinct bias in the Western media’s coverage of the Hamas-Israeli crisis. For instance, the newsmagazine, The Economist, wrote several stories on the tension with the cover saying, “Israel’s agony and its retribution”. There was little indication of the suffering of the millions of Palestinians who were trapped in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Hamas is being compared to the Islamic State, or ISIS, an Islamist group that America vowed to eradicate and went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq to achieve that aim. Washington was humiliated in both cases. Following the American example, the Israelis are also promising to wipe out Hamas as Washington almost did in the case of ISIS. They too may suffer the same consequences.

Globalisation or world connectivity has meant that what happens in one part of the world affects in one way or the other several other parts. This may be the case for the current conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It is very likely that some countries in the Muslim world might be drawn into the conflict. This was the fear that made the Biden administration to undertake high level missions to several Middle Eastern countries. Secretary of State Antony Blinken went to Egypt and Saudi Arabia and then spent seven hours with the members of the Israeli cabinet. In Jerusalem, he remaindered his hosts of his Jewish ancestry. President Joe Biden followed his secretary of state for a day-long visit to Israel. He was expecting to meet some of the leaders of the Arab world but the leaders, conscious of the anger of their people at the immense damage and killing Israel had inflicted on the people of Gaza, called off the meeting.

According to Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize winning economist: “Given this political reality, how much can any nation trust U.S. assurances? How can we expect foreign enemies of democracy to fear America when they know that there are powerful forces here that share their disdain. Yes, the Pax Americana is in decline. But the problem isn’t lack of toughness at the top. It’s the enemy within.” The enemy within that Krugman had in mind was the sharp political divisions in the United States. These divisions are reflected in the way the Americans are looking at the Israeli-Hamas conflict.

The American-Muslim reaction to the events in Israel and Gaza was much more muted than that of the country’s Jewish community. Although the Muslims have about the same number as the Jews in America, their political and economic influence is not significant. This difference has not attracted the attention of analysts who study how various ethnic and religious groups impact the American society.

The Wider impact of the Hamas-Israeli Conflict By Shahid Javed Burki

Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2023.

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