The International Significance of Gaza

Co-written by Qasim Khan

Since the recent boardings of the Turkish flotilla last week and the MV Rachel Corrie on Saturday have grabbed headlines, much has been made of the economic significance of these events. However, many notable pundits continue to claim that this situation presents much less of a concern than other tensions in the region and throughout the world. Normally we would be inclined to agree with their reasoning, but a recent Economist piece on the conditions in Gaza has forced us to question this position. It appears that contrary to its intended purpose, the shunning of Gaza has resulted in increased control and legitimacy of the Hamas government. The article is a must read, but here are a couple especially important highlights:

Initially Hamas and other militant groups, drunk on their self-claimed success in forcing Israel’s departure, sought to fight their way out with projectiles. The number of mostly home-made rockets hitting Israel rose from 281 in 2004 to 1,750 in 2008; and their range rose from a few kilometres to reach Tel Aviv’s outskirts. But stung by the ferocity of Israel’s reprisals, most lethally in the January 2009 war, Hamas reined in its fire and forced others to do likewise. So far this year 34 rockets have landed in Israel, none launched by Hamas. “Hamas is defending Israel,” chuckles an Israeli foreign ministry official.

Instead Hamas has turned its energies inward. With Gazans locked inside the 40km by 10km (154 square-mile) strip, the siege has given Hamas a free hand to mould the place… At first the resistance economy failed to meet people’s needs. But today, thanks to the tunnels, Gaza’s shop shelves are brimming with goods that often arrive cheaper and faster than when Israel opened the gates.

Humanitarian agencies, with an eye on external financing, bewail the lack of development. But their indices miss the point. Gaza is redeveloping, and Hamas is making society in its own image. Huge amounts now pass through the tunnel shafts each year, creating a new economy from which Hamas creams a handsome share of the profits to finance its rule. “The siege is a gift,” says a Hamas minister.

This has created stability but at the price of a reign of fear. When rival Islamists decried Hamas’s rule in Rafah, the militants stormed the mosque and killed its worshippers. When leftists protested that the tax rises hit a people already burdened by siege, they were hauled to jail. The death penalty has been reinstituted. And insensitive to comparisons with Israel, Hamas’s forces have bulldozed the homes of Gazans who had moved onto former settlement land without authorisation. A thriving political culture has been culled to a one-faction state.

Israel was put in a no-win situation regarding the recent humanitarian missions. Let the boats make it to Gaza and lose all credibility; stop the boats and become the villain. With increased Israeli backlash, (not to mention more tempered, albeit still undeniable support from the US) and increased resistance and protest efforts, this story will only continue to dominate headlines. We would suspect that we haven’t seen the last of boats, protests and resistance on an international scale either. The problem is because of its aggressive policies, Israel will continue to find itself in no-win situations, like denying entry to Noam Chomsky this week for a lecture to be given at the West Bank’s Birzeit University; it is clear that the current path is unsustainable.

Are we saying that there will be trouble in the near future? No. Very clearly this is just part of a conflict that stretches upon a much longer time horizon. But there is a very real possibility that this conflict reaches a breaking point within the next two or three years and Gaza could very well be the impetus for the ultimate breakout of the Israeli-Palestinian-Iranian-US-Oil-Restoftheworld clusterfuck of political tension, with severe global economic ramifications.

And the catalysts keep on coming. Just before the flotilla raid, Israel deployed the first of three nuclear missile submarines off the coast of Iran for a permanent nuclear presence in the area:

The submarines could be used if Iran continues its programme to produce a nuclear bomb. “The 1,500km range of the submarines’ cruise missiles can reach any target in Iran,” said a navy officer.

Apparently responding to the Israeli activity, an Iranian admiral said: “Anyone who wishes to do an evil act in the Persian Gulf will receive a forceful response from us.

Israel’s urgent need to deter the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah alliance was demonstrated last month. Ehud Barak, the defence minister, was said to have shown President Barack Obama classified satellite images of a convoy of ballistic missiles leaving Syria on the way to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Binyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, will emphasise the danger to Obama in Washington this week.

Of course, Netanyahu never met with Obama as the flotilla raid happened a day later. The increasingly vocal alliance between Iran and Hamas, in enmity against Israel, has extensive implications on US foreign policy. Its positioning with Israel is finding increasing fragility, due to international pressure against Israel’s recent actions; meanwhile, its anti-Iran policy is at odds with further neutralization of its relations with Israel. With its own enormous problems domestically, the United States is at a critical turning point in its foreign relations regarding Israel, and the recent global anti-Israeli sentiment (which may increase as Israel rejects demands for an international probe on the Gaza flotilla raid) is putting pressure on Obama to not end up going the route of Bush 2.0 regarding Middle Eastern politics.

Political momentum is vital to furthering causes, as the anti-offshore drilling backlash to the recent BP turmoil attests to. And with anti-Israeli sentiment seeing a resurgence on the eve of recent events, further aggression from Israel will lead to a positive-feedback cycle of political death. Meanwhile, Israeli patrol killed four Palestinian militants diving off the Gaza coast today. The political ramifications of this, particularly in the global community (and thus affecting US policy), are enormous. Yet a more tempered stance from Israel would provide even more momentum for a homegrown revolution in Gaza.

And with Hamas gaining political and economic control in Gaza, time is of the essence for the United States to position itself properly. If it decides to use the Iranian support of Hamas as justification for a resurgence of American-Israeli relations, a political dichotomy will unfold in foreign relations, and Obama may be forced to go way of GWB. As Bush once said, “Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.” And the international community will not let itself be fooled again by an aggressively militant United States presence in the Middle East. If the declining, yet still very existent, American support of Israel continues, Israel could find itself struggling for alliances and forced to increase its already aggressive policies. Either way, time is becoming a factor, and as the Economist puts it, “the Obama administration’s failure to cast a blanket veto on any deprecation of Israel is depicted in Israel almost as a betrayal,” rendering neutrality/indifference not an option for the USA.

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8 Responses to The International Significance of Gaza

  1. Pingback: The International Significance of Gaza | W DE WEB

  2. Leonard says:

    Mr. Kahn, the root of the problem is poor, unintelligent, aggressive, and lazy genetics in the “arab world.” It is no surprise that people create environments with which they are comfortable. This is why you have rampant drinking in Ireland, productivity with cruelty in Germany, strict population control in China, and violence, aggression and the lack of anything that elevates humanity from arabs in general. There is lots of money in Saudi and Dubai but nothing to show for it except golden toilets in the princes’ jets. Without money the arabs are happiest cannibalizing themselves and all around them, as does Hamas. They are just inherently corrupt and unproductive, its genetic. If you can come to grips with this difficult fact, you would logically embrace any culture that is the opposite, a culture of books, research, art, music, industry and Einstein.

  3. Ted K says:

    Although Leonard states his point in maybe too blunt a way, with some subtle signs of racism there, I think Leonard does have some extremely valid points. The question many westerners might ask: Why does Egypt do almost nothing to help Gaza??? Why do the rich oil men in Saudi Arabia do nothing to help Gaza??? And of course Dubai etc… Is it not ironic that probably the most friendly Arab country to Israel is the one offering the flotilla goods to Gaza????

    The obvious question is, if Arabs sit idle and/or abuse each other, and show very little respect for their own group, do they think “outsiders” will give them respect??? How can they always point the finger at the U.S. and Israel for their problems???? Israel and America cannot stop Arabs from bribing Arabs while other Arabs fight for water and beef kabobs.

  4. Leonard says:

    Naufal, you are way too intelligent not to ask the obvious questions posed above. I have followed this blog carefully for a long time and have been impressed wth your knowledge. But I am afraid you are displaying ego-protective behavior. You must think clearly outside the box of indoctrination that you may have suffered. Genetic differences between individuals and groups of individuals exist. In fact the nature/nurture dilemma is squarely won by nature. This is most clear with traits such as thalassemia, sickle cell, diabetes, breast/colon cancer, etc. Temperament and intelligence are also genetic traits, although more complex. The thrust of the question that you need to ponder remains: what does the arab world produce of general value to the world besides sucking the black gold out of the sand with thousands of straws? Be honest.

    FYI: if this is a 100% financial blog, why did you post this political hit-piece and not expect a retort?

    • Ted K says:

      Also an important question this site could answer: Arabs always call America “the Great Satan”. Always chanting U.S.A. “the Great Satan” and burning our flags. Then why do the wealthy Arabs always send their children to America to get an American education??? Are they not afraid “the Great Satan” America will ruin their children??? And yet they will spend huge amounts of money to educate their children in America. Who will spend large amounts of money to have their children educated by “Satan”??? Answer: Muslim Arabs.

  5. Bearster says:

    The piece by Mr. Khan was a fine example of taqqiya. It isn’t the Israeli Constitution that demands to liquidate the palestinians. It isn’t Israel that forbids muslims from being elected to its parliament, owning property, living life with all of the rights of citizens, etc.

    It should be obvious by now: if the muslims put down their weapons, there would be peace. If the Israelis put down their weapons, there would be no more Israel.

  6. JS says:

    Bearster, Ted, Leonard, and friends,
    I’m afraid ‘Muslim’ and ‘Arab’ are not synonymous, though one would think that the case having read over this thread.

    If you had ever before played a game of Settlers of Catan, you would have realized that natural resources did, and still do, define our global economy, amongst some (but not many) other factors. Need I mention the most recent wars initiated by the U.S.? Apparently, the “black gold” to which you refer IS of enough “general interest” to the rest of the world to warrant a complete disregard your question altogether. And, even if that were not the case, which you may well argue, the “Arab world” is not relegated solely to oil producing countries. See above.

    You’re correct in saying Israel doesn’t call for the liquidation of Palestinians in its constitution; Israel doesn’t have one. But then again, we weren’t talking politics here – we’re talking economics.
    Sorry, could you please sight your information on “the Great Satan”? I missed the footnote.

    In fact, “the Arabs,” and by that I’m assuming you mean the Palestinians (because, as Ted K already pointed out, Egypt isn’t fighting Israel any longer; they’re trade partners. The same can be said of Jordan. And, when was the last time Syria fired a shot? And Lebanon… well, you probably don’t know the difference between ‘Hezbollah’ and ‘Hamas’ anyway) have put down their weapons, and there is still no peace. Maybe you could explain your logic to George Mitchell. He’d love to hear it.

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