Tag Archives: Hamas

Israel and Hezbollah: From the Swamp of Ramallah to the Fires of Beirut……….

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The Lebanese party/militia Hezbollah, the main bogeyman of Israel and American politicians and media, is in the news again this week. There are rumors and reports in some Arab media, mainly pro-Hezbollah media, that Israel has plans to assassinate Hassan Nasrallah, its leader. No doubt there are contingency plans of all kinds, which is normal, but there are claims that Israel has been leaking this report deliberately.
Israel has a long failed history of counterproductive assassinations of its Arab opponents. Don’t get me wrong: the assassinations often succeed, but they ended up having the opposite effect of what the Israeli Mossad expected.


Take the case of Hezbollah and its leader Hassan Nasrallah. He became leader of Hezbollah after the Mossad assassinated his predecessor Abbas al-Musawi with a bomb in 1992 (so, assassination by remote bombs is one thing the Israelis and Lebanese have in common). Israel thought that the beheading of Hezbollah would weaken it. They got the biggest surprise in their history, the biggest surprise since the time when their ragtag under-estimated Jewish forces in Palestine defeated all the combined Arab armies in the 1948 war.

Israel had been occupying Southern Lebanon, a Shi’a bastion, since 1982, and Hezbollah was partly formed (with Iranian help and money) to kick them out. The Israelis had forced the Palestinian forces out of Lebanon around 1982, which also opened the way for Hezbollah (and its older rival/ally Amal). Instead of beheading Hezbollah with the assassination of Musawi in 1992, the Israelis got a tougher more wily more determined opponent in the new Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah. 

Under Nasrallah, the Lebanese militia forced the Israelis to end their occupation and free Southern Lebanon in the year 2000. Hezbollah is now the strongest military and political force in Lebanon. It is also very likely the strongest Arab military force, having defeated IDF once and forced a stalemate in the 2006 war, and having helped Bashar Al Assad defeat the Jihadists in Syria. Moreover, with Iranian-supplied missiles and improvised local technology, Hezbollah now has achieved a what I called a few years ago a balance of terror with the mighty IDF. Both sides holding each other’s population centers hostage to guarantee good behavior. Korean Peninsula style. Hezbollah also won, along with its Christian and Sunni allies, the Lebanese parliamentary elections earlier this year.

Another example? In 2004 Israel assassinated the elderly Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, the founder of the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas (initially an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood). Two years after that Hamas won a majority in the first Palestinian free elections. It won in both Gaza and the Occupied West Bank (a reflection of the bankruptcy and corruption of the PLO/PA under Abu Mazen and his old guard). Friction with the PLO (Fatah) increased and led to a military confrontation over Gaza. Hamas easily defeated the PLO forces lead by Mohammed Dahlan, another corrupt PLO functionary. There has been no Palestinian elections since then, perhaps the continued and incurable corruption and kleptocracy of the PA leaders in Ramallah insures that the fundamentalist Hamas will win again. Hence no elections. Meanwhile Dahlan is biding his time in Abu Dhabi (UAE) waiting to become the next Palestinian puppet of the Persian Gulf potentates if he ever succeeds in replacing Abu Mazen as Mayor of Ramallah.

The moral for the Israelis? Beware the enemy you don’t know, cherish the devil you know. Stay the hell out of Lebanon, just give up this moth-like attraction you have to the fires of Beirut.

(P.S.: FYI, rhetoric aside, in the end Hezbollah is highly unlikely to represent an existential or serious threat to Israel. No doubt its leaders realize that, as do the Israeli leaders. For decades Arabs have been threatening to destroy Israel in its current form, and they have failed. The final seal on that was done in June 1967. That was when the Arab World woke up to the reality of defeat. The 1973 war only confirmed that. But then there are the unpredictable results of the current Likud policies and their demographic impact on the future of Israel-Palestine, apparently a topic and a dilemma for another day).


Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

 

So, Who Won the Gaza War? Bil Mishmish to Jerusalem………

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“After a 50-day conflict in Gaza that ended with inconclusive results, leaders of Israel and Hamas are struggling to convince their war-weary constituents that the costly campaign has brought them real achievements. But analysts say that the ultimate outcome of the fighting is yet to be determined, with talks on substantial points of contention deferred for up to a month as an indefinite cease-fire takes hold. At a news conference on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel had emerged from the campaign with “a great military achievement and a great diplomatic achievement.”………..”

“Poll: Israel didn’t win Gaza war, Netanyahu still best choice for PM” Haaretz Headline (8/27/14)

Palestinians did not hesitate to call the Battle of Gaza a victory. One militia leader was even talking about reconquering Jerusalem yesterday. Israelis, if they could respond in Arabic, would have been excused for saying in Arabic Bil Mishmish (بالمشمش = in the apricot (lol) = ForgetAboutIt). Many Arab potentates from the Nile to the Persian Gulf would love to agree with that Israeli assessment. Not because they are patriotic Zionists or Likudniks, but because they want Hamas of the Muslim Brotherhood dislodged from Gaza at any price. Just as they dreamed wildly a few years ago of Israeli help in dislodging Hezbollah from Lebanon, an even more unrealistic goal.
Arab leaders seem like an overly optimistic lot. They have rarely hesitated to call a battle a victory, no matter what the actual outcome. Saddam Hussein famously claimed victories after his wars with Iran (1980-88) and with the international community (1990-91). At the beginning of the 1967 War, Arab governments were famously proclaiming that their forces were approaching Tel Aviv even as the IDF were smashing their armies on all fronts. And let’s not revisit the 1973 War.

But then again, this was not a conventional battle in Gaza. In such a murky semi-urban warfare, if a regular better-armed force does not achieve its goals, then it can be seen as the loser. If the Israelis are seen as having “not won” and Hamas is seen as having “not lost”, then the balance tips to Hamas. It is probably too early to make that judgment, assuming we know what the initial goals were. But it is telling that some Israeli politicians are already criticizing Netanyahu for conceding too much in Cairo.

The next few weeks will tell.

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

When a PLO Representative Dissembles for Hamas………


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Speaking of Hamas and Israel. Saeb Erekat of the Palestinian Authority was on MSNBC this morning. He was asked about potential Israeli negotiations with Hamas and its refusal to recognize the existence of Israel. He responded by claiming that: Hamas is part of the Palestinian government, “the PLO, as he put it”. Since PLO recognizes Israel, therefore so does Hamas. No problem there, is there? Clearly that was bullshit; even Erekat himself did not look to believe what he was saying. Once the dust of this Gaza battle settles, there is no certainty that Hamas and the PLO will be on speaking terms. Not if the Saudis and Generilisimo Field Marshal Al Sisi have anything to do with it.

Just to make the point that dissembling is part of the war. This does not justify the destruction and massacres being committed against the Palestinian civilians of Gaza by the Israeli IDF (which is not exactly very ‘D’ these days).

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Red Herring: of the Mossad and Hamas and Gaza……….


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Back to my last post. On the Gaza issue Egypt is a follower of the Israeli-Saudi policies which aims to keep the strip blockaded and life for its residents harsh with the goal of getting rid of its Hamas rulers. That also fits in nicely with the ambitions of the PA/PLO sheriffs of Ramallah. Yet there is another school of thought that has seen bandied about publicly: that indicates Saudi and Israeli goals in Gaza may diverge at some point. It goes like this: does the Likud, and Netanyahu, really want to get rid of Hamas? Gaza and its various Islamist groups (not just Hamas) are such a useful red herring for the Israelis, such an extra complication to any negotiations on a peace deal. Any complication, any extra few months could mean many thousands more ‘facts on the ground’ in the West Bank. More time to avoid complicated and unpalatable political decisions. 

Remember what I posted a few weeks ago about the old Arab urban legend of the history of Hamas and the possible role of the Mossad.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Israel and Hamas and Egypt as a Perennial Follower…….


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“After the military ouster of the Islamist government in Cairo last year, Egypt has led a new coalition of Arab states — including Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — that has effectively lined up with Israel in its fight against Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip. That, in turn, may have contributed to the failure of the antagonists to reach a negotiated cease-fire even after more than three weeks of bloodshed………………”

He is wrong of course about Egypt having “led” a coalition. A battered unstable Egypt is not “leading” any coalition on anything these days. In fact Egypt has not led independently on any regional issue since the day Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981. It has gotten worse in the year since the military coup of 2013. Under the military rule of Generalisimo Field Marshal Al Sisi, Egypt is being led, in regional matters, by a couple of Persian Gulf absolute tribal ruling families, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab .There has been a drive by the princes and potentates, and the Israelis, to inflate the appearance of a leading role for Al Sisi. This is self-serving, given the historical importance of Egypt and its size as the largest Arab country which can be put to good diplomatic and public relations use. That and its potential role as the host country of the impotent League of Arab Nations.

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Left-ish in Congress, Rightist in Gaza: Torn Between AIPAC and Principles ………


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“Much of the American left is critical of Israel, particularly since its incursion into Gaza. But in the halls of Congress, even progressive Democrats beloved by grassroots activists are loath to criticize the Jewish State’s ongoing military offensive. A Pew Research Center poll released Monday showed that a plurality of Democrats across the country, 35 percent, and liberals, 44 percent, said that Israel had “gone too far” in its response to its conflict with Hamas. Meanwhile 47 percent of Democrats told Gallup that Israel’s actions during the current conflict were “unjustified,” compared to just 31 percent who thought the opposite. But these opinions are nearly impossible to find in Congress. Democrats, when asked a question about Israeli operations in Gaza, had two standard responses: irritation, or else a statement of their broad support of Israel………….”

The article asks: why can’t Congress (meaning its relatively left-ish members) criticize Israel?

Silly question: criticizing Israel publicly in Washington is taboo. It is, well, like throwing the apple pie that your mom baked right into her face then adding insult to injury by burning old glory at the table.

The answer to that question is mainly spelled A-I-P-A-C (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee). Mainly, because Hamas, like many other Islamic fundamentalist groups, is not known for great public relations, not the positive kind of PR. Any criticism in the West of the Israeli conduct of this onslaught on Gaza has nothing to do with any case that Hamas makes. The criticism, mostly in AIPAC-less Europe, is mainly related to the mass killings of civilian people in Gaza by Israeli forces.

This is the Congress that gave Netanyahu many more standing ovations than it would give a U.S. president. On both sides of the aisle, as they like to say. As for the Right-ish (scratch that, make it extreme rightist) majority of the Red Congress, this blind pro-Israeli (right or wrong) stance might be just another political IOU. They are eagerly awaiting the time when all Jewish people convert to the true faith that persecuted them for two thousand years. That would be when the Rapture comes. At that time, the Red politicians anticipate a restoration of universal virginity rather than universal health care, end of Planned Parenthood and Welfare for the tykes, and the final eradication of HIV and other forms of STD.

Some of the more pious among them may still get to keep their place in those little black books (Psssst: they are safer than a digitized database, the Feds can’t get into any little black book unless they are also clients).

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Human Shield Theory, Axis of Evil Theory, and other Propaganda Tools………


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Yesterday I watched former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on CNN dutifully repeating the usual claim that Hamas is using Gaza civilians as human shield. She was giving the usual bi-partisan spiel, or spin, about the newest Gaza war. But then that is the exact opposite of the spin or spiel we get from Hamas and its supporters.

Usually whatever Mr. Netnayahu claims is initially accepted, before the other side starts its own PR machine. It is taken for granted to be true in most media here, unless otherwise claimed or proven. Apparently Hamas has learned this lesson, a fact that caused a frustrated Netanyahu to grumble recently about “telegenically dead Palestinians“.

I am not sure about the claim that Hamas is deliberately placing rocket launchers amid civilian areas. I doubt it. But it is telling that nobody, not even Arabs, believe that Israel is using its civilians as human shield. That tells me something about certain national perceptions.

So, we are to believe that Palestinians don’t love their own people, their children, and use them as human shield, and that Israelis love their people and don’t use them as human shield.

But hasn’t this same ‘human shield’ story been used against other countries as well? Or the similar idea that some regime, Cuba or Iran, is impoverishing its own people, holding them as human shield, because it invites a Western economic blockade by not succumbing to the will of Western powers? The idea that the countries of an Axis of Evil would use their people as cheap fodder while the Axis of Goodness would not. Some might say that the numbers of war veterans wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq and then neglected by their own countries would refute that.

This “human shield” charge is largely based on Western notions that other peoples do not care for their citizens as much, that human life is cheaper in Palestine than it is, say, on the streets of Chicago on a Saturday night, or in Compton (Calif), or in parts of the Bronx or in Detroit on any night. Which is obviously untrue.

During WWII, the Germans could have claimed that Churchill was using civilians as human shields. And vice versa. And while we are talking old wars and human shields, think of Stalingrad and London under the Blitz.

Stay tuned…………
Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Trapped and Eyeless in Gaza: Hamas and Mossad, Arabs and the Memory of Badr and an Earlier Ramadan……


Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter “The Egyptian cease-fire proposal that was published Monday night took most members of the diplomatic-security cabinet by complete surprise. Economy Minister Naftali Bennett heard about it in a television studio moments before going on air. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman heard about it on the radio. A senior Israeli official said Lieberman knew that talks were being held with the Egyptians, but had no idea a proposal was being finalized. Upon hearing the news, he realized that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who were running the talks, had left him out of the loop………………”

Modern Arab legend has it that the Israelis were instrumental in the rise of Hamas. The somewhat credible story is that way back in the days when the PLO, Fatah, PFLP and all the other secular Palestinian acronyms were bugging Israel, the Israelis thought of encouraging some rivals to distract them. That the Mossad helped the growth of what the Palestinians call ‘Islamic resistance’. It was a classic example of the old ‘divide and rule’. The rest is history, allegedly, but in fact credibly. It is not clear how aware the ‘Islamists’ were of the alleged Israeli role on their behalf.

Now back to the current. No wonder Hamas leaders were unhappy, nay fundamentally pissed. No wonder they rejected a deal they did not know any details of. Of course Hamas may now be somewhat trapped, more trapped than Benyamin Netanyahu, since both are not sure what to do next. In some ways Hamas’s task is easier: it mostly reacts. All it has been doing so far has been to duck the air raids and missiles, occasionally firing a few rockets that apparently do little serious harm. In other words, they only respond to Israeli action, which puts them in a weak position.

Netanyahu is also trapped: his biggest problem now is what to do next if Hamas continues to reject the deal he made privately with Al Sisi (and perhaps with the knowledge of Abu Mazen whose legal tenure in office also expired long ago)?

As for the people of Gaza, they are even more painfully trapped than either Hamas or Israel, screwed by almost all sides, to put it crudely. As usual they pay the terrible price of this new brutal Israeli assault, which was claimed to be a reaction to Hamas actions in which the people of Gaza have no input. The last Palestinian elections were so long ago, that was when Hamas won. But we don’t know how new elections will turn out in both Gaza and the West Bank. Provided they are free and fair elections.

As for the other Arab regimes they are as usual divided and impotent. They all mouth some vague verbal support for ‘Gaza’, but some of the potentates are no doubt praying fervently this Ramadan for an outright Israeli victory. (They would be praying silently, with the history of the Battle of Badr in mind during an earlier Ramadan). They have done it before, they will do it again.

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Birth Pangs of a New Middle East? American Delusions about Gaza as a Turkey Shoot…….


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This new Israeli war against the people of Gaza is reminiscent of an earlier Israeli war and of the delusions of the US political classes regarding its outcome.

In July 2006, two Israeli soldiers were captured near the Lebanese border. The Israeli military waged a fierce war on selective parts of Lebanon. It became a major incursion back into a land that the IDF had been forced by Hezbollah to leave six years earlier. The Litani River was crossed and parts of Beirut were bombed, including with Cluster Bombs. Many Arab regimes, from Egypt through to the Saudi princes, not-so-secretly supported the Israeli case against the Lebanese Arabs. Not only that, there have been indications that some Arab regimes shared intelligence with the Mossad and the Israeli military. In fact some Lebanese factions and militias of the pro-Saudi March 14 bloc also sided with the Israelis: public figures among them even gave some advice on how to defeat Hezbollah.

As the attack on Lebanon continued for days and weeks, there were calls for a ceasefire. George W Bush’s Secretary of State Condi Rice responded to those calls with her famous statement that the sounds of bombs and exploding Lebanese buildings were “the birth pangs of the new Middle East”. Rice did not want to “return Lebanon and Israel to the status quo ante“. Well, it did not: that war created what I called ‘a balance of terror’ with both Israel and Hezbollah militarily stronger. We all know what happened: that war was stopped, the IDF withdrew after another failed mission unaccomplished. Hezbollah became politically and militarily even stronger than before. Most Lebanese, if not all of them, looked on that war as their second victory over invading Israelis.

Now this new Gaza assault has similar roots, although it is questionable who was responsible for the three killings near Hebron, an area controlled by the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority. Otherwise it resembles the attack on Lebanon, but with its own set of goals. A similar attack on Lebanon nowadays would be prohibitively costly for the Israeli population centers and with doubtful military and political results, but apparently the assessment is that Gaza is “do-able” and at a much lower cost. Early reports of the casualty ratio seem to support this for now: too many Palestinian deaths and casualties and destroyed buildings but hardly any on the Israeli side. Regardless of some propaganda statements from Hamas and others.

So far it is shaping as what Americans would call “a turkey shoot”. There are again some reports that the Obama administration hesitates to push forcefully for a cease-fire before certain political and/or military goals are achieved. That can only be done with a ground invasion, a new quagmire. Even if the Al Sisi regime in Cairo and the Saudi princes cooperate more closely, and perhaps more openly, with the invaders of Gaza, the results would still be in doubt.

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Israeli Blitz of Gaza in U.S. Headlines, What Arab Potentates Want………


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A fake targeted headline in the Los Angeles Times this morning reads “Deaths mount as Israeli jets respond to Gaza rockets
This makes it sound as if the Israelis have responded to Hamas rockets when they started and continued their blitz of Gaza. That is the type of headline that dominates in almost all U.S. newspapers. It is false and possibly deliberately designed to give the impression that this war started from Gaza (not that Hamas would not start a war if it could guarantee the results). This war started with Mr. Netanyahu claiming he was responding to the still-unsolved killings of three young Israeli settlers near Hebron. He blamed Hamas but has shown no evidence, since it is Israel and the PLO that control the West Bank. This war was allegedly a response to punish Hamas for those killings, allegedly. 

In reality this new Gaza battle seems to have two goals: (1) To kill the doomed new accord between Hamas and the PA/PLO. That was not necessary, since I have assumed that this accord was DOA (Dead On Arrival) from the beginning, like others before it; (2) To drastically reduce the missile supplies of Hamas, based on the assumption that they are mostly imported.

Interesting but not surprising that like the previous Gaza war and the war on part of Lebanon (2006), the Arab establishment from Cairo to Riyadh is pretending reluctant outrage, but the potentates are “relaxing and enjoying the experience”. Not-so-secretly cheering this blitz as they did the others before it, hoping that Mr. Netanyahu will do “the job” for them in Gaza. His military has been consistent in Lebanon: it has always failed in Lebanon even as it easily crushed all regular Arab armies. In Gaza he probably will achieve at least one of the goals I mentioned, but it is unlikely that he will achieve the goals of the Arab potentates ruling Cairo and Riyadh and a few other places. 

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com