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Bahbah: The Implications of Hamas’ Attack on Israel Could Reverberate for Years to Come

posted on: Oct 11, 2023

Bahbah: The Implications of Hamas’ Attack on Israel Could Reverberate for Years to Come
Map of Gaza Strip. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

By: Bishara A. Bahbah / Arab America Featured Columnist

Hamas’ massive attack over the weekend on Israel was unprecedented in its scale, scope, nature, and the number of casualties it inflicted. The coordinated attack from land, sea, and air required meticulous intelligence and logistical and military planning.

Israel is taken by utter surprise, and its billions of dollars of sophisticated equipment (compliments of the United States), from the famed Iron Dome to David’s Sling, prove worthless. Hamas fighters quickly enter Israel and begin destroying and killing soldiers and civilians.

The United States and the West quickly condemned Hamas for attacking Israel. It was as though the attack was directed against the United States and Western Europe themselves. Predictably, U.S. President Joe Biden immediately ordered reinforcements and military supplies to be sent to Israel, and members of Congress began declaring that an attack on Israel was an attack on the United States. The European Union suspended all developmental aid to Palestinians worth $730 million allotted for this fiscal year. The decision was quickly reversed when countries like France and Spain refused to suspend any assistance to the Palestinian people.

Even though Gaza’s mass area represents a mere 1% of historic Palestine, since 2007, it has been the largest open-air prison in the world. Most of its 2.2 million Palestinian inhabitants are some of the poorest in the world. Seventy percent of them are refugees themselves.

Before analyzing the unfolding implications of Hamas’ attacks on Israel, I would like to make two points:

First, the loss of human life is always tragic. A lost life could be a father, mother, son, or daughter. However, a life is a life. Unfortunately, the United States and many Western people value human lives differently. If it was that of a Palestinian, it is usually described as that of a terrorist or simply referred to as a number. If it is that of an Israeli, then the family’s name, age, and picture are plastered worldwide.

Second, it is time for peace based on a two-state solution with Jerusalem serving as the capital of Israel and Palestine. The massive clashes have highlighted the need for the existence of a Palestinian state. Without a Palestinian state, there can be no peace 50 or 100 years from now. Over 750,000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem today. The number of Israeli Jews and Palestinians living in historic Palestine is almost identical. While preventing the creation of a Palestinian state, Israel has become the only apartheid state in the 21st century.

I do not doubt Israel will launch a massive aerial, sea, and land attack on Gaza to free hostages captured by Palestinians over the weekend. Israel will then level the Gaza Strip to the ground unless a ceasefire is arranged beforehand.

Israel will continue to live in fear unless a path is established for a sovereign, independent Palestinian state. Peace is what both sides of the conflict need.

The implications of Hamas’ attacks on Israel are manifold.

The invincibility of Israel as a military power evaporated within the first hours of the attack. The United States instituted many laws to protect Israel and provided Israel with material, technological, and military assistance to maintain its “qualitative” edge over its enemies. Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. aid at $3.8 billion in annual military assistance plus additional special aid packages (in the billions) outside of the standard U.S. aid to other countries.

No one expected that Hamas would overwhelmingly shatter Israeli defenses so easily. The military “qualitative edge” that Israel insisted on maintaining and for which the United States mostly paid was destroyed in hours.

In 2022, Israeli arms sales hit a record. Israel’s failure to defend itself could discourage future arms purchasers from buying Israeli arms.

Despite boasting of its military might, Israel was caught unprepared when attacked by Hamas – a monumental military, intelligence, and logistical failure on all fronts.

Israel was humiliated by Hamas’ attacks, more so than it was humiliated by the surprise attacks by Egypt and Syria during the October 1973 War. This humiliation could lead to calls for revenge and further bloodshed.

Who would have expected the United States and Europe to react hysterically the way they have in response to Hamas’ attacks on Israel? Directing the U.S. fleet to sail toward Israel as a sign of support is an overkill. Is the U.S. planning to bombard Gaza from its warships? The EU’s declaration to stop all humanitarian and development aid to Palestine was reversed within five hours! Palestine still has
powerful friends in the European Union.

The British were given the mandate over Palestine in 1922 expressly to help enable the native Palestinians to rule themselves. Instead, the British paved the way for establishing a Jewish state in Palestine. The Palestinians did not commit atrocities against Jews in Europe. It was Germany and its allies that perpetrated the Holocaust. Why on earth should the Palestinians pay the price of what Nazi Germany has done to the Jews? Europe committed the heinous crimes against Jews. Yet, Europe enabled the establishing of a Jewish state in Palestine and ushered in their dispossession.

Like never before, violence was brought to Israeli homes, towns, and kibbutzim in a scope never seen before. None of the previous Israeli-Arab wars posed such a risk to Israeli civilians, and this was the first time Palestinians succeeded in infiltrating Israel from multiple entries from land, air, and sea. It is as though Hamas possessed the arsenal of a significant power.

The attack represents a further diminishing of the Palestinian Authority’s power and an elevation of Hamas’ leadership. The PA does not control anything except segments of the West Bank, and the 50,000 or so “security forces” who primarily help Israel capture wanted Palestinians. Any future peace talks must include Hamas, whether one agrees with their Islamist ideology. You negotiate with whoever has the power.

Arab governments who have opened ties with Israel or are about to do so will undoubtedly freeze any ongoing negotiations. There is nothing magical about establishing relations with Israel. Israel is an occupying power. It has deprived Palestinians of their freedom and denied their inherent right to live in their state. It is astounding to discover that Jordan, whose population is 80% Palestinian, allowed
the transport of US military equipment stored in the Hussein Military Airbase to be sent to Israel as reinforcements. Jordan might have had no choice, but that is a stab in the back.

Hamas used drones and missiles to attack Israel. It has a few armored vehicles and Jeeps equipped with machine guns. Hamas was able to overwhelm Israel’s sophisticated Iron Dome anti-missile system. Using drones, Hamas knocked out a major communications tower and destroyed Israel’s most sophisticated armored tank, the Merkava.

President Biden’s active efforts to facilitate the normalization of ties between Israel and Arab
governments will most likely halt.
Biden hoped to help establish ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia before next year’s presidential elections. Biden wanted to tout his pro-Israel credentials to fend off the Republican presidential candidate(s).

Hamas’ attack represents a titanic change in the balance of power among nations and non-state entities and geopolitical equations. Israel’s sophisticated military and its top-notch military equipment represent the best of the best in Western military technologies. Israel’s defeat will have a lasting impact on the emerging multipolar world that we live in. China, Russia, and non-Western-oriented countries will study and uncover the vulnerabilities of the Western military alliance through what Hamas was able to achieve.

Biden announced that 11 Americans were killed in the attack on Israel, and some could be held hostage by Hamas in Gaza. Americans were not Hamas’ targets. Most Israelis seem to have a second citizenship from somewhere. Those citizenships are like an insurance policy. It is as though one day, Israelis expect to pack up and leave historic Palestine.

Israel’s Defense Minister Gallant ordered “a complete siege on Gaza.” He said, “We are fighting human animals.” Sadly, Gallant accurately describes how many Israelis feel toward Palestinians – human animals.

Many in the world, especially in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and the Far East, wonder why the West acted firmly in support of Ukraine when faced with the Russian invasion while ignoring the plight of the Palestinians and allowing Israel to occupy other people and confiscate their land.

There is no doubt that war is in the offing and that Israel is preparing to invade the Gaza Strip and expel its residents to Egypt. How this war will evolve is anyone’s guess. Israelis want to exact a heavy revenge for their humiliating defeat at the hands of Hamas.

In the meantime, we should emphasize that human life is precious no matter who it is.

Israel-Palestine needs level-headed individuals to convince both sides to exchange hostages and prisoners while working at a workable and immediate ceasefire.

About the Author: Bishara A Bahbah is Arab America’s featured columnist. He is the former vice president of the US Palestine Council. Bahbah was the associate director of Harvard’s Middle East Institute. He taught at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and was a teaching fellow at Harvard’s Departments of Government and Economics.

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