Anis Ahmed, Gen Secretary, EIF
After 11 days of dastardly attacking innocents people in Gaza, the ceasefire came as a relief to both sides. As in the previous wars, in Gaza, even this 11-day aggression witnessed loss of lives and unfathomable destruction to properties in the tiny strip of Gaza. The extensive, rampant and indiscriminate use of air strikes (which many called “Arial Terrorism” of Israel) left destroyed many civic infrastructure installations in occupied Gaza. The 41km Gaza strip which is home to around 2 million Palestinians has seen more than 52,000 civilians being displaced due to the Israeli aggression. The air strikes of Israel might have momentarily ceased but it does not promise to become an end to the oppression faced by the Palestinian. Sooner or later, on some or the other pretext, the Zionist occupiers will once again begin their killing sprees and oppressing the Palestinian. But there are many important observations on the current crisis which were distinct compared to earlier wars.
With the declaration of ceasefire both – Israel and the Hamas – claimed it as their success. A big difference in both the claims was that on the Palestinian side it was the people who were jubilant, and on the Israeli side it was only the politicians who claimed it as a victory. The fact is that there was no clear victory if we consider the geographical outcome of the war as the status quo remains intact and Palestinian land is still occupied by Israel. But if we look from the strategic viewpoint it is indeed a clear victory for Hamas, as claimed its leadership, and echoed by the people of Palestine. To understand the theory of the Hamas victory we have to consider some realities and also new developments that will have an impact on the future of the Palestinian cause.
Whenever there is a war, there is a usual comparison between the opponents that are at war. Military might, diplomatic reach, propaganda machinery and economic strength are some important factors that are thought to decide the outcome of the engagement. If we analyse these factors between Israel and Hamas we can see a staggering difference. Israel has the 4th most advanced Air force in the world, a powerful Navy and somewhat over-equipped Army with 875 combat aircrafts, 286 helicopters, 3 nuclear carrying submarines, 3800 tanks and 6390 armoured vehicles whereas Hamas does not have any Air Force or Navy and its weaponry mainly consists of indigenously developed “aboriginal” rockets. The Israeli army consists of 1,33,000 active personnel and 3,80,000 reserve personnel whereas the Hamas has a total of only 30,000 fighters all put together. These numbers clearly establish that there is no comparison of any sort between these two side and its seems more like the battle between David and Goliath. Going by such comparison of numbers anyone will conclude that Hamas does not stand the chance to even face the Israel aggressors for even one day considering its military might, but what happened was quite the opposite. Even after constant aerial bombings, followed by Israeli claims destroying Hamas’s posts and strongholds, the retaliatory rockets form Gaza continuously challenged the invaders. Gaza as stated earlier, is a narrow strip of a mere 41Km with access cordoned off to the outer world, which means Hamas has to indigenously manufacture its retaliatory rockets within Gaza. The ability of Hamas to sustain and retaliate continuously for 11 days, with improved precision and increased range is something that shocked Israel and defence observers from around the world. Another important aspect, that did not receive too much attention, perhaps purposely underplayed, was also the ability of the Hamas ground forces to restraint the Israeli commando attacks. Israel was extra cautious not to use excessive armoured vehicles and artillery tanks, or too much ground forces fearing the casualty they may have to suffer due to the crude anti-tank missiles used by Hamas and also the surprise attacks that could be launched from the network of tunnels created. Comparing the military capacity of both side, and the manner in which Hamas defended its territory, it is clear that Hamas has had a resounding victory.
Outside of the battlefield there are many factors which coerced Israel into a ceasefire and one of the most important aspect was the growing support for Palestinian struggle globally. Traditionally, the west has always been sympathetic towards Israel. A major reason for this sympathy is a control of Zionist elements on the global media networks, including Hollywood. The west has been more or less stereotyped into believing that the Palestinian struggle is nothing but a “Terrorist movement”. This credence has seen a drastic change globally, especially in US and Europe. There is a surge in the support for the Palestinian cause and people are now beginning to believing that Palestinians have a right to return to their own land. The prominent Time Magazine recently published an article titled “How Online Activism and the Racial Reckoning in the U.S. Have Helped Drive a Groundswell of Support for Palestinians”. Few important points quoted in this article are that the social media and PR campaign conducted by pro-Palestinian groups has been successful in exposing the excesses of Israel and also explaining the truth of the Palestinian narrative. Secondly, prominent celebrities like Mark Ruffalo, Susan Sarandon, Bella Hadid and others have openly criticized Israel, which further boosted the support for the Palestinians struggle. In major tech giants like Google and Apple, the employee associations wrote to the executives to recognize the harm done by Israeli occupation and to fund humanitarian relief for Palestinians. This level of support was not witnessed earlier and will definitely help the Palestinian cause in future.
Another, major outcome of the current Gaza crisis was the support the Palestinian cause received from the American statesmen and politicians. United States as a country has always been sympathetic towards Israel, funding it around 4 billion dollars annually. The Democratic party in particular has always been a pro-Israel due to the huge backing from the powerful Israeli lobby in the US. President Joe Biden has always been a staunch supporter of Israel from his initial days as a politician. His famous quote during his younger days that “the 3 billion aid given to Israel is the best investment America can make” confirms his political opinion. But things were difficult for him as well, for the first time there was growing demand from within the Democratic Party to condemn Israeli attacks on Gaza. The politicians who are called “The Squad” consisting of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Presley and Ilhan Omar were vocal criticizing Biden’s unconditional support to Israel. Prominent politician Bernie Sanders openly questioned the $4 billion a year American Aid to Israel and claimed that “It is illegal to support human rights violations”. As per experts the pressure mounting on Biden to compel Netanyahu for a ceasefire was also a major factor resulting in Israel conceding to a ceasefire.
Finally, Israel was also bound to suffer economically if the war prolonged. Israel’s economy is dependant on major sectors such as Technology, Industrial Manufacturing and Tourism. The war has already cost 250 million dollars for Israeli which is almost 50 million per day. During the 11 days of war the Tel Aviv stock market witnessed 28% losses. The rocket attacks reaching as far as Tel Aviv disrupted the industries in Israel. 26% of industries near the Gaza border were completely shutdown where as 17% were partially shutdown due to security issues. As per the Israel’s manufacturers association the loss to the economy between May 11-13 is $166 million and other studies project that loss can reach upto 0.5% of the GDP. Major airports like Ben Gurion and Ramon airports were shutdown due to the unexpected rocket attacks which resulted in many international airlines stopping air services to Israel. Tourism, which is one of the important sectors of Israeli economy also took a severe hit. Israel receives many Jewish and Christian tourist every year to visit the places deemed important to their respective faiths. In 2019, the tourism sector attracted 4.5 million tourists. As per various reports and predictions if the war had prolonged then the Israeli economy which is trying to recover after the pandemic would have taken a severe blow. The strategy of Hamas with its limited resources was to cause disruption to the Israeli economy and this strategy worked well.
To conclude, the ceasefire was something that Israeli side needed more badly than the Palestinian side. Benjamin Netanyahu completely misjudged this Gaza war as a political opportunity for him to win the 5th general elections in 2 years. Israel was hoping for a thumping victory by destroying the Hamas resistance within few days, but even after 11 days Hamas stood firm and its resistance only increased, its retaliation more precise. All the developments pointed towards a prolonged war which Israel did not anticipate, nor can it afford. The global support for Palestinian cause even in traditional Israeli support bases made things more insecure for Israel.
The final and the most important observation from the 11-day war and the movement at Shaikh Jarrah is the determination and endurance of the Palestinian people. The Palestinian are a people without land but are a people with hope, vision, courage and faith. Any noble cause requires steadfastness in the face of oppression and atrocities. Expecting any sort of reduction in intensity from an oppressor is naïve. Hence preparing themselves to fight injustice was the only option before their peoples’ movement. The war that happened at Gaza should not be viewed as an independent event, but as a chapter in the brave struggle of Palestinians. The most inspiring lessons from the Palestinian struggle is the clarity of vision among the people irrespective of whether they are men, women or children. This compelling realisation helps us to understand the importance of educating the masses about the cause and including them in the struggle. People’s movements around the world have a lot to learn from the Palestinian movement which was projected as a rogue cause for decades, and now with their consistent struggle they are able to win not just on battlefield but also turn hearts of people around the world in their favour. The Palestinian struggle is everyone’s struggle and as it happened with all other cause-driven just movements in the past, indeed Palestine will Rise and Israel will fall.