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Gaza balance sheet: resistance confirmed

Focus remaining on the embargo

11. September 2014
by Wilhelm Langthaler

The most recent Israeli attack on Gaza resulted in yet another appalling massacre – one of too many through the history of Zionist colonialism. But beyond moral condemnation, what is the political result?

1. Israel’s war targets

Israel never clearly stated the aims of its war. Maybe they even did not define them for themselves. In general it was about weakening the resistance and Hamas, riding on a wave of Zionist chauvinism which has taken hold of a sweeping majority in Israeli society. Right from the start the maximum goal, the annihilation of the armed resistance, was unrealistic and therefore not proclaimed. The destruction of several tunnel systems served both as a justification for the assault as well as for its termination.

In any case an accurate evaluation of the war’s result needs to take into account its extraordinary asymmetric character.

2. Resistance confirmed

Destruction in Gaza is massive. There are thousands of dead and wounded. Human misery is inexpressive. So there is no reason for triumphalism.

However, at the end of the day the military resistance did not give in. The continuing stalemate is playing for the weaker part. So Hamas finds itself politically strengthened.

Furthermore today Hamas may be the only ramification of Sunni political Islam which did not sever all ties with Shiite political Islam, despite the fact that they took side in the Syrian civil war. The Palestinian issue continues to unify while sectarians splits the resistance.

3. Embargo

The ceasefire that is in place now is not based on a real agreement. At least there were talks of relaxing the blockade. The US foreign minister has been arguing in that sense and there has been symbolic action like the extension of the fishing zone. According to reports humanitarian relieve was allowed to reach the Strip.

But the border regime is prone to changes including quick turns. Much depends on the mood of the Egyptian top brass, who have sided with Israel in an unprecedented way.

So also in the future the focus of the conflict will revolve around the easing and lifting of the global blockade against Gaza and linked to it the political recognition of the Palestinian resistance led by an Islamic force.

4. Costs for Israel and the regional order

Israel believes to be able to afford the uncompromising isolation of the Palestinian resistance. But a scorched-earth policy does incur costs. In the long run resistance potential is accumulating and counter-reaction will become inevitable: the total enmity of the Palestinian, Arab and Islamic popular masses; wearing out credit in Western public opinion given the open contradiction to the predominant democratic discourse; eventually turning dysfunctional with regard to US regional interest prompting pressure from the ruling elite itself.

But it is obvious that such gradual shifts are not sufficient to cause a break away from the line of radical Zionism. Over the last decades the US-Israeli relationship has become too organic resembling already a kind of merger. Only a qualitative alteration of the global relationship of forces to the detriment of US leadership can bring about change. The subcutaneous tendencies are there and even detectable. However, a triggering event, a rupture, a kind of revolution is necessary to actually change the global power structure. For example a new global economic crash could serve as such a trigger event.

5. Demise of the Arab spring by means of the sectarian conflict

The time of reckoning with the US order in the region seemed to have come close by 2011. The popular masses eventually moved against the old order. A powerful wave, an outright storm was in the making which seemed unstoppable. The tyrants began to tremble and fall.

Israel, which likes to style itself “the only democracy in the Middle East”, did whatever possible to defend the dictatorships. Meanwhile Washington was conscious about the necessity of a renovation of the old regimes by integrating forces with mass following even at the price of a further loss of influence.

But the democratic social popular movements, the all-Arab Tahrir, failed to settle its relationship with political Islam, the historic opposition trend both to Arab nationalism and at the same time to the pro-imperialist regimes – which often are products of decay and transformation of the former.

The Tahrir, including the historic Arab left, did not succeed in developing the key to draw on the potential of political Islam against the elites. (Whether this is possible or not, cannot be established a priori but needs to be tested in practice. But no systematic attempt has been undertaken.) There is a type of elitist secularism within the historic left which doubtlessly had its share in the defeat. In a certain sense secularism has been transformed into a confession on its own acting like a politicized sect.

Islamism preferred the (difficult) co-operation with the old elites to the head-on attack which would have required a broad front reaching beyond its cultural milieu and including the Tahrir. When they turned to become the centre of the political system, they even defined the Tahrir as their main enemy. The Muslim Brotherhood proved unable to deal with the heterogeneous mass opposition they helped to raise. Totally unwilling to find a compromise, they paved the way for the bloody military coup which eventually destroyed the entire Arab spring. In this way the Muslim Brotherhood, the moderate variant of Salafism in terms of the methods employed, dug its own grave.

By a similar pattern the democratic social revolt in Syria degenerated into a sectarian conflict. By repressing any democratic demand the regime set in motion an armed sectarian escalation. Jihadism, the radical version of Salafism, could rise to the highest point of power and expansion ever. The entire region is caught in this sectarian civil war. Sunni Jihadism is doomed to fail eventually because of lacking consensus but their defeat carries the danger of restoration of the old order.

To sum it up: we are facing the demise of the old order including the colonial Sykes-Picot borders which also means a loss of Western control. But on the other hand the internecine sectarian war paralyses the anti-imperialist resistance and allows Israel to continue as if nothing has happened.

Ten years back the Neocons proclaimed “creative chaos”. Obama applied the emergency brake but it was already too late. Chaos is there but for the global hegemonic power it is far from creative. However as long as Arabs keep themselves in check, Israel remains the only imperial fixture and thus continues to have free rein.

Woe betide Israel if some day it will become possible to give a unifying, anti-imperialist response to the chaos.