Mideast Conflict: A Blanket of Hatred

ISIS

Xenophobia has always been regarded as an internal problem for states, and while many governments have taken some kind of measure towards educating people against it, often it seems to end up on the back-burner. However, the long term consequences of persisting xenophobia are beginning to show.

Media attention has recently been given to ISIS as the world is beginning to wake up to the threat they pose. Meanwhile, hundreds of Muslim and activist teens have run away to join the ranks of Jihadist fighters. How did this come to happen, and who must be held responsible?

A brief summary of the past two decades:

– 1990: Iraq annexes Kuwait. The official reason quoted is that Kuwait had been accused of stealing oil from Iraq by slant drilling, opinions on the true reasons are divided.

– 1991: The US, Saudi Arabia, the UK and France and later Kuwait form a coalition to fight off Iraq’s occupation. Iraqi forces are bombarded by air and sea, and a ground assault follows. A ceasefire is declared 100 hours after the ground campaign is launched. Vast numbers of chemical weapons are apparently found and destroyed. President Saddam Hussein is allowed to remain in power.

– 2001: UK and US carry out bombing raids on Iraq in an attempt to disable its air defense network. This is part of an effort to disarm Iraq on the part of the UN by request of the US on the grounds that the Iraqi government refuses to allow the US to inspect for unconventional weaponry.
Military commander of the Afghan Northern Alliance Ahmad Shah Massoud is killed by a suicide bomber.
9/11 terrorist attacks on the US trigger a global uproar, war is waged in Afghanistan by the US with international support.

– 2003: US invasion of Iraq with international support begins. US forces take Baghdad. Former President Saddam Hussein is captured, tried, and executed by the new Iraqi Government. Iraqi militant group Tanzim Qaidat Al-Jihad Fi Bilad Al-Rafidayn (an Al Qaeda offshoot) joins forces with insurgent Sunni groups to form the Mujahideen Shura Council, they declare the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) shortly after.

– 2011: Civil war breaks out in Syria. President Bashar El Assad’s government fights groups of civilian rebel fighters. Casualties are in the tens to hundreds of thousands. US refrains from intervening at first, but decides to support and arm the rebels when Russia lends its support to the Syrian government.

– 2013: ISIL joins the civil war on the side of the rebels, and the name is changed into the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The conflict is still ongoing.

– 2014: Al Qaeda disowns ISIS, the official reason quoted being their brutality. They have been accused of war crimes, religious persecution, mistreatment of civilians, sexual violence, and slavery. [Read more…]

Gaza Casualties Speak Volumes

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s that tragic time of year again when the Gaza Strip erupts into flames once more, and the usual suspects are quick to paint the tragic and complex issue with the black-and-white brush of their own agenda. And of all those metaphorical brushstrokes, the numbering of casualties on each side is the most revealing. In more ways than intended.

This year the popular propagandistic narrative is that of an evil, genocidal juggernaut of an Israel against a poor, downtrodden Palestinian people, like cattle before the slaughter. According to this fable there are only two sides, two groups, in the conflict. Every act of destruction falls on the conscience of every last person in Israel’s territory, and every dead body on the other end of the border is an innocent child.

Back to reality. There are, in fact, four main groups at play here: the people of Israel, the people of Palestine, the Israeli Defense Forces, and Hamas. The first two groups are simply trying to mind their own lives, and scurry for cover whenever the bombs start to fly. The other two are military groups, ostensibly charged with the safety of their corresponding civilian population. In reality, as in all wars, all this amounts to more death and destruction than protection. [Read more…]

World War iZrael

Photo credit: David Holt London

Photo credit: David Holt London

Epic blockbuster World War Z provides a thrilling take on the classic zombie apocalypse scenario on a global scale. And a thinly-veiled jab at Israel’s handling of the Palestinian situation.

The film chronicles the incredible journey of former United Nations operative Gerry Lane in world consumed by a zombie outbreak. A peaceful morning commute with his family in Philadelphia quickly turns nasty when a rapidly-spreading group of frenzied people begins attacking bystanders, their ranks swelling with each new victim. After securing a safe evacuation for himself and his family because of his personal connection with the Deputy Secretary of the United Nations, Lane is tasked by the remnants of the United States Navy to seek out the root cause of the zombie scourge. He must then travel the world looking for answers, before the whole world succumbs to the plague.

Where this rip-roaring fictional tale takes a page out of current events is in its portayal of Israel. After intercepting global transmissions early on in the outbreak, Israeli officials decide to build a massive wall enclosing their country off from the rest of the world. They find their solution to the crisis by literally walling-out the zombies, an obvious (and quite possibly offensive) comparison to Palestinians. The Israeli Defense Forces’ smug hubris proves to be their undoing, however, when the zombies pile against the wall in sufficient numbers to scale each other to reach the top, spilling over into a panicked and doomed Jerusalem.

This brutal depiction of the perceived failure of the Israeli government and military’s plan to keep external aggressions at bay is short-sighted. What any critic must first understand about the tensions between Israel and the Palestinian Territories is the nature of the the relationship between the two. Picture this: Two remarkably similar people sitting on the floor, back to back, hating each other in an openly passive-aggressive manner, elbowing each other in the kidney every so often. These elbowings escalate to shanking with a sharp object, and one of the two, sick of getting shanked, puts up a wall. Now, the other keeps insisting on attempting to shank the former, and the former absent-mindedly beats his neighbor over the head with a club in retaliation. As the skirmishes continue, the proportions are completely lost on either sides, to a point where the true reasons for the fighting are all but forgotten.

And throughout this whole conflict, not once did the two neighbors deign to turn around and truly face each other, save for one close call in the mid-to-late 90’s. The big issue: neither side can really be trusted to keep their hands to themselves. Israel is faced with a neighbor who has no intention of being nice about sharing borders, and who will spare no effort to be rid of the former. The Palestinian Territories are faced with a self-inflicted prejudice where the violent and brainwashed masses in Gaza (being the ones who draw the most media attention to themselves) are taken to be representative of the whole Palestinian population, creating an atmosphere of rejection and resentment in the Israeli population. The existence of a wall is a necessity to keep out physical aggression on the larger Israeli population, be it Christian, Muslim, or Jewish; and it has so far been the only solution to prevent the mass murder or innocent civilians.

It is excessively easy to criticize Israel’s foreign policy towards the Palestinian Territories from the perspective of someone whose life is not in any way threatened by the implications a more laxist policy. It is more difficult, but infinitely more useful, to present a viable and functional alternative policy and defend that argument. Rather than sumgly parodize Israel’s Palestinian conundrum, World War Z would have done well to present a more accurate parallel.

Alon Starkman grew up in Israel and has extensive intelligence experience in the region. Joël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx