A handful of observations.

I have opined regularly about the Hamas-Israel war over on the social media platform owned by that reactionary billionaire, but other than the preceding post have opted to not address the subject directly here at KP. However, the amount of misunderstanding, disinformation and misinformation circulating around that unhappy state of affairs prompts me to write here to offer some clarifications.

First: Asymmetric warfare is not just military conflict between unequally matched armed belligerents. It involves ideological, political, economic and cultural asymmetries as well. Stronger actors emphasise their immediate “hard” advantages, weaker actors emphasise soft long-term tools.Stronger actors focus on the immediate battlefield impact of kinetic mass in order to set the stage for favourable conflict resolution. Weaker actors focus on attrition of the enemy’s will and its broader support base in order to shape public opinion about a prolonged stalemate.

Second: War crimes and crimes against humanity are not defined by method of injury (knife, gun, missile, bomb, rape, torture) or the proximity of perpetrators to victims at the moment those crimes are committed. They are defined by who is targeted, collectively and individually. After that, the scope and scale of the crimes are measured by the amount of victims involved, remembering that war crimes and crimes against humanity can be committed against individuals and small groups.

Third: Seeing fault on both sides of the Hamas-Israel conflict means not excusing criminal behaviour by either. Nor does it ignore historical grievances and injustices involving each side that led to the current conflict. Focus on the comparative scale of atrocities does not alter the underlying reality of crimes against humanity committed by both sides. We must recognise historical and current wrongs before conflict resolution can be achieved, and compromises from each party will be required for a durable peace to be secured.

Fourth: Stating the obvious yet again. One can support Israel without being a Zionist. One can support Palestinians without supporting Hamas. One can see merit in the arguments of both sides with regard to the historical record. But one can never justify or condone the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity by either side for any reason. Doing so is morally bankrupt. Doing so to score political points against partisan rivals in places like NZ, US, UK or OZ is reprehensible.

Fifth: The Hamas-Israel conflict ripped a scab and the pus of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia has oozed out on global scale. Bigots and racists on both sides see it as an opportunity to vent primordial hatreds in order to widen the divide between communities instead of pursuing peace.

Sixth: Proposing that the Palestinian Authority (PA) take control of Gaza once the IDF “cleansing” has ended is unrealistic. The PA (and its dominant Fatah Party) is a corrupt lapdog of the Israelis and their Western patrons that lost a fair election to Hamas in 2006 and then refused to accept the results. Hamas has ruled Gaza since ousting Fatah in an armed conflict after the 2006 elections. Both Hamas and Fatah have political and military wings. Fatah is secular and Hamas is Islamicist. Hamas is authoritarian but provides public goods and services to Gazans in exchange for public acceptance of their rule. The PA is a semi-authoritarian gerontocracy that is not supported by many Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza. Making it the replacement for Hamas will just prolong the conflict, not end it. For that to happen Hamas must be accepted as a legitimate representative of Palestinian interests, upon which a focus on its political wing can help bring them to a bargaining table with the PA and other interested parties. Refusing to acknowledge Hamas is short-sighted and plays to their militant armed wing, not peace. This is called “dealing with reality.” Hamas may be unpleasant, just like the Kim regime in North Korea or the Netanyahu govt in Israel, but it is a participant in Palestinian politics and beyond. It will not go away even if its armed wing is decimated. The PA cannot replace it.

Seventh: Hamas’s tactics have so far worked: Sucker the IDF into over-reacting to the initial Hamas attacks by collectively punishing all Gazans, thereby swaying global opinion against Israel; establish itself as the primary defender of Palestinian interests rather than the toothless Palestinian Authority; broaden the conflict into multiple fronts involving a number of supportive actors (eg. Shiite militias in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Assad regime in Syria) that will test the will of Israeli allies to escalate further; foment unrest on the Arab street. None of this justifies its crimes against humanity, but speaks to how the framing of the conflict has moved from a largely pro-Israel to a pro-Palestinian response even in countries with strong official ties to Israel. Whatever the immediate military outcome, there appears to be a potential for a redrawing of geopolitical fault lines as a result, something that Israel, the US and other Western states may see as being in their favour but which in reality could well be not. In particular, the post-colonial Global South is not following the Western lead. That opens space for other actors–the PRC, Russia, Iran and other anti-Western govts–to exercise influence and leverage on the South as a result. Israel and its patrons need to look at the bigger long term play as they calculate their short-term responses.

Eighth: Given the role of armed guerrilla group Irgun and its then leader Menachem Begin (later Israeli Prime Minister) in the 1946 bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem (91 dead), the killing of 254 Palestinians in the village of Dir Yassin and establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 (where the Irgun was integrated into the Israeli Defense Forces), it is rich of Israel to label Hamas as an illegal “terrorist organization” when it knows that Hamas has political and military wings that copy what Irgun did 75 years ago. No moral superiority here. To be clear: this is about hypocrisy when framing the conflict. It does not absolve Hamas or Israel for war crime/crimes against humanity, but it does point to the commonalities between their origins as political movements that use terrorism as a tactic in sectarian war.

Ninth: In exchange for Hamas’s release of 50 women and children hostages, Israel will release 150 women and children prisoners from detention centres (under the 1:3 exchange ratio). Most of these women and children have been arrested and detained without charge in the West Bank after October 7 while resisting Israeli security forces and settler efforts to displace them from their homes and lands. That shows cynical deliberation on Israel’s part. The exchange, in other words, it is a straight hostage swap.

There are more comments along these lines on that social media platform but these seem to be the ones that, in my mind at least, help frame the objective reality of what is going on. readers are welcome to (politely) disagree or add to the discussion.

20 thoughts on “A handful of observations.

  1. I’m wondering why you assume (your 7th observation) that it was only Hamas that had initiative and agency, with a wider agenda in mind? Let’s also consider what pre-planning had the Israelis done prior to Oct. 7. Otherwise how could the Palestinians have broken through the border defenses to enter Israeli territory, without significant IDF response for a number of hours after that breakthrough? It’s almost laughable to suggest that this was ‘an intelligence failure.’ Noting in particular: 1. the Israelis to a large part sponsored the creation of Hamas, as a spoiler to the PA & Fatah. 2. Mossad’s well-known skills at disguise and infiltration. 3. Netanyahu’s campaigns to stay in power, to get out of the corruption cases chasing him, and to unite the nation around him following the divisions created by the judicial reform project; 4. the gas resources off-shore, technically in Gaza maritime territory. 5. The Israeli Ministry of Intelligence’s policy paper that discussed the option to expel 1 million Gazans to Sinai (www.scribd.com/document/681086738/Israeli-Intelligence-Ministry-Policy-Paper-on-Gaza-s-Civilian-Population-October-2023). 6. incentive to create a pretext to clear Gaza by provoking the world’s sympathy for Israeli being subjected to ‘the biggest pogrom since the holocaust’

  2. William,

    I have addressed all of your rather obvious points elsewhere at length in other forums, save the weirder parts (see the previous media link to the last AVFA podcast for a fuller discussion of issues that you raise. Word to you: read and listen to the things that you comment about rather than just riff off of headlines). I will not indulge your trolling any further. Cease and desist.

  3. Pablo,
    1. ‘weird’ implies phenomena of supernatural origin;
    2. ‘troll’ – a creature from Norse mythology;
    3. Your refusal to engage with the query above perhaps tells us more than the avfa; it also perhaps suggests that at least one of the possible factors that I listed briefly above is not quite as superficial as you imply: rather, it seems to have been sufficiently sharp as to fly directly to a target.
    There’s no problem.

  4. William,

    Do not flatter yourself. You are not that sharp. Your comments are pretty much stock remarks about much covered material. Again, had you listened to the AVFA discussion pretty much all of your pearls of wisdom were addressed there. My focus in selecting these talking points was to correct some misimpressions about the conflict given the overt pro-Israeli bias of much Western corporate media, including here in NZ. I was not interested in going into details on Israel’s logics because they have been amply covered elsewhere.

    Now please refrain from continuing your “always have the last word” pompous carping. If you do you will be blocked.

  5. It’s ok. I’m fully aware of my own limitations.
    I certainly do appreciate your explanations above.
    However, I do fail to understand the reasons for your animus. I was raising a point of discussion, to which you have quite fairly responded as to your objectives for this piece.

  6. No problem. I objected to the tone of your original comment as well as the implication that I was skewing the discussion away from Israel’s rationales.

    Now that we have clarified the matter let us move on.

  7. Hola Pablo

    What is your opinion of the BRICS group of nations at the moment ?

    They recently issued a statement regarding the Israel-Hamas conflict, hence my question.

  8. Hola Eduardo,

    I hope that you and yours are well. I believe that the expanded BRICS have the potential to become the core of the new Global South bloc that can rival and even challenge the Northern liberal institutional order. But in order to do that they must first get their domestic houses in order (not all are politically stable), then agree to a united policy platform when it comes to international relations, foreign affairs and specific global issues. That is easier said than done but the move to create a common currency in the next few years will be an indicator of whether that potential is realized.

  9. Hello Paul,
    Any comment on Kissinger’s passing.
    I never liked him, and reading his obit I can see why.
    Just curious – I see he’s held responsible for Allende’s downfall … and numerous other nefarious/notorious deeds …. over the last century (and beyond no doubt).
    Can one celebrate the passing of a man like this?
    Ambiguity intended ;-)

  10. @Barbara
    “Can one celebrate the passing of a man like this?”
    For what it’s worth, I feel OK celebrating the passing of a lot of people that have brought misery to others – saving my ’emotional capital’ for those with at least a little humility and compassion. Emotional capital has now been commodified and is in short supply. Best not spent on wankers or the undeserving.
    It all began with that handbag Maggie Thatcher, and there have been many since, including some yet to get death. It might be wise to keep the celebrations to yourself though – people are easily offended, or triggered even.
    The real Paul will be along shortly hopefully

  11. Hi Barbara (and Paul),

    I am willing to bet that Kissinger will be celebrated by political elites in a number of countries and reviled by left-leaning people the world over. His record is clearly mixed, but it is clear that he was a servant of Empire, not a humanitarian (Nobel Award notwithstanding). He was a major academic before entering government, with his book “Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy” becoming a must-read for international relations experts and strategic analysts in the 1960s. He was a major figure in the realist school of international relations theory, following in the steps of Hans Morgenthau. I had the unique opportunity to take Kissinger’s first class at Georgetown after he left government service (he only gave the first and last lectures, letting his aide Brent Scowcroft, a force in his own right, do the bulk of the teaching), as well as Morgenthau’s last class at Chicago (he also was a sporadic presence because he was old and retiring that year), and then was the graduate student representative on the recruitment committee that hired Morgenthau’s replacement, John Mearsheimer, to fill the realist position once Morgenthau left. They are in large part how I became a realist of sorts when approaching international relations and foreign policy. I say this because as an academic Kissinger was not controversial and in fact was a major force in the field of international relations, something that eventually got him his jobs in DC (if I remember correctly he started out as the National Security Advisor the Nixon).

    Needless to say, as a foreign policy practitioner his record is far more checkered. I am all too aware of what he did in Latin America as I lived through some of it, and being on the left, did not appreciate either this rationale or the consequences of it.

    On that score I am not a fan, but my (trying to be charitable) impression is that his academic realism was tempered by the realities of US foreign policy and the perceived need to sustain the Empire at all costs.

    I thought this might be of interest to you. The National Security Archive is a treasure trove.

  12. Thank you Pablo. I had a feeling you might have ‘known’ him.

    I shall check out the refs you give – but quickly, what do you mean by ‘Empire’? It is a new term of ref for me, the way you use it. It has the strongest and most recent association for me with Star Wars lol, apart from the obvious actual British etc, Empires.

  13. Barbara:

    The reference to “Empire” is akin to speaking of the “Crown” or “Master” in other contexts. It refers to the US as a powerful domain extending across territory beyond its own borders that achieves global reach. The Empire has interests, allies, clients and capabilities that must be cultivated, defended and served by servants such as HK. As you mentioned, it is best to think of it as being like the Roman, British, Spanish and Portuguese Empires, but without the overt colonial control associated with those earlier forms (even though the US has military forces present in 140 countries at any given time, some permanently and some on a rotational or temporary basis).

    Interestingly, the creators of Star Wars used this generic notion of Empire when writing their script, extending the concept of an Empire’s domain to an intergalactic level. My wife and I have used the Star Wars series as a means to communicate to our son notions about good/evil, governance, imperialism, dictatorship, democracy and yes, Empire, because he is at an age where he understands that SW movies are more than strange looking critters, fantastic machines, post-modern mysticism/spirituality and snappy one-liners.

    Now the real question is: in a Star Wars movie, which role would Kissinger have played?

  14. How interesting that you are using the Star Wars movies to teach your son about ethics, morality, as well as political forces for good and evil. Our son grew up with the Star Wars franchise too, and loved them. He is now approaching 40, so its interesting to see they still have a far-reaching effect and are still meaningful with successive generations.

    With regard to which character, I do not know HK as well as you do; nor do I know the later SW movies that well … I think of the character Lando Cairissian in The Empire Strikes Back as charming, successful, mobile; but ultimately untrustworthy (he betrayed Han Solo to Darth Vader) … interestingly it says on the net that ‘prior to the events of the film, (he) made a career as a gambler, con artist, playboy, mining engineer, and businessman …’ before taking on the much more respectable role of Administrator for the Cloud City on the gas planet Bespin. So maybe that character seems more appropriate lol

    I don’t think he is Darth Vader. That would be far too much of an exulted role for him lol

  15. I meant ‘exalted’. I think there’s a subtle difference, though I guess both could apply …

  16. Barbara,

    I am not well versed in all the SW characters given the amount of sequels/prequels that have been produced. My 10 year old is more up with the play on that score. Now my mind has wandered to other movie roles HK might have been good for. Such as in The Godfather or any number of Scorsese films.

  17. @Barbara if you are interested in a discussion of Empire as a phenomenon, Eric Hobsbawm wrote about it a lot in his “Age of…” series, including but not limited to the “Age of Empire”

  18. Interesting that this person, using variations of his/her on-line names and using an IPN located in Frankfurt, makes two comments in quick succession on two very different posts. One comment is OK, the other is a troll bait. S/he certainly is not the usual KP reader. You can read some interesting details about this person here: https://www.insider.com/chris-chan-saga-timeline-incest-charges-arrest-2021-8#:~:text=A%20recording%20of%20internet%20creator,with%20her%20mother%20for%20years.

  19. Unconditional support for Israel is now a project of the very upper crust of the state elites in its patrons and allies. All that has happened is the collapse of civil society support for the Israeli project has been exposed – and that has left its allies with few resources but travesty, slander, repression under the rubric of ‘security’, and bans.

  20. Sanctuary:

    I believe that this is the year that the Global South rose up and the Western consensus on Israel has broken. The latter has facilitated the former, in significant part because the Western “street” increasingly shares a view of Israel/Palestine with the masses on various other regional “streets” in the Global South. Of course, anti-semites are in the mix but that should not detract from the fact that at least in the West many who used to support Israel no longer do, and it has nothing to do with Jews.

    Hamas may lose this war and yet still come out with a victory on a larger stage. The PA has been exposed as toothless and corrupt. The Houthis are widening the conflict and drawing the old imperialist coalition (and its servitors like NZ) into it. The Arab street is making life uncomfortable for the Sunni oligarchs throughout the ME, which is notable because that is a Sunni “street” supporting a Shiite-backed cause. The Saudi-Israel rapprochement has been put on the back burner. Fractures are developing amongst Western allies about Israel’s behaviour. And so forth. Again, I think we have hit a turning point with Hamas/Israel as the trigger.

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