Sunday 20 October 2019

Logic leaves the building as the Middle East burns

Existential war: Palestinian protesters gather near the border fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel. Photo: AP
Existential war: Palestinian protesters gather near the border fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel. Photo: AP
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

If there's one thing politicians hate and fear more than anything else, it's the dreaded law of unintended consequences.

Sometimes it can be something relatively trivial - the recent admission by an Irish politician that they didn't expect the smoking ban to inspire people to gather in groups outside pubs for a communal cigarette is a perfect example of that.

But while the fact that some politicians don't look at the big picture and see all the potential ramifications of their decisions is an unfortunate part of the job, there are other times when the unintended consequences of their actions were screamingly obvious and they go ahead with their decision in the full knowledge that the consequences of their decisions will be disastrous.

When it was first announced that America was moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, people sat up and took notice - and warned of the potentially devastating consequences of taking such a course of action.

And lo, that is exactly what has happened.

That the Israelis have the right to place embassies wherever they see fit is not in doubt. That Jerusalem was built by the Jews and has been their capital for millennia is a matter of historical record. But just because you can do something, that doesn't mean you should do something.

So, as the world watches with increasing horror at the images of dozens of Palestinians being shot by Israeli soldiers, we're seeing Israel once more do what they seem to do best - turning the world's opinion against them and losing the PR battle.

There can be no excuse about unintended consequences. The Israeli leadership knew this was going to happen because everyone had been saying that this is exactly what would happen. So, not for the first time, the belligerence of the Israeli leadership has seen them walk into their own punch.

The week started with now familiar scenes of chaos as the news cameras looked on without context, as once again the Israelis continued their apparent extermination of the downtrodden Palestinians - 60 dead in one day alone, with another thousand injured.

The images looked bad. The statistics even worse - as will always happen when you a have a (mostly) unarmed crowd running at a twitchy, well-armed military.

As the week unfolded, some facts began to emerge. But they were uncomfortable facts, so they have been largely ignored.

Here is one fact which has been glossed over or simply ignored - of the 60 people killed on Monday, 52 were Hamas militants.

So, not quite the unarmed children we've been told about.

Ah, I hear you say, that's just the Israeli propaganda machine spreading misinformation. Except it's not.

That comes from the Hamas leadership, which has been busy boasting about how many of its members have been 'martyred'.

The sight of Israeli Defense Force troops firing into crowds is a repugnant one, and plenty of Israelis have been loud in their questioning of the tactics being employed.

But apart from anything else, this is the latest example of Israel choosing to give the rest of the world a two-fingered salute because they feel as if they are on their own. They feel that way because it is true. With the lone exception of the Americans, the Israelis know that the rest of the world doesn't care about them and, in fact, would be quite happy to see them wiped off the map.

I've been genuinely shocked in recent times by how blithely people can dismiss the only democracy in the region and openly talk about the world being a better place if it didn't exist.

What seems to be forgotten is that Israel is the only nation on earth surrounded on all sides by countries and entities which are constitutionally dedicated to its destruction.

Hamas views its own people as little more than human shields and they will continue to send their poor and their young to die.

They knew this was going to happen, because they engineered it.

One member of the Hamas leadership was interviewed on Wednesday and he could barely keep the smirk off his face, such was his surprise that the ruse has worked so well.

Contrary to popular perception, it has never actually been proved that Golda Meir once said that 'peace will come when Arabs love their children as much as they hate us', but that sentiment has become brutally self-evident in the last week.

But in this safe, smug part of the world, no hard questions are ever really directed at the Palestinian authorities because people prefer being righteous to being right. That's why we don't really get arguments about this issue, we get emotions instead.

Indeed, it is barely possible to have a rational discussion about the chaos before someone starts ranting about 'dead children' without realising that they are showing more concern for those kids than Hamas ever do.

What we are seeing is appalling. It is baffling that one of the most well-equipped armies in the world can't use non-lethal tactics.

But the Israelis understand something that we don't - they are not fighting a mere territorial battle, they are engaged in an existential war which will only truly end when they have been driven into the see and there are no Jews left alive in the Middle East.

Yet here in the West, we have somehow come to the conclusion that the woman-hating, gay-killing, religious fanatics are the good guys, while the democratic Jews are the Nazis.

Strange days, indeed.

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