“Gazans were caught between a rock and a hard place: between the Israeli bombardments and the ‘even more terrible’ abuse and siege by Hamas. Hamas has been using them as human shields,…” Imam Rachid Birbach
“The Partition of Palestine is illegal. It will never be recognized… Jerusalem was and will forever be our capital. Eretz Israel will be restored to the people of Israel. All of it. And for Ever.” Menachem Begin
“We repeat today that we are with the establishment of a Palestinian state on any liberated part of Palestinian land that is agreed upon by the Palestinian people, without recognizing Israel or conceding any inch of historical Palestine.” Ismail Haniyeh
This week in “More than Meets the Eye,” I want to discuss a very real and imminent topic. I’d like to unpack some of the confusion surrounding the most recent round of violence in Israel and the Gaza Strip. I have tried to steer clear of this subject in the past, primarily due to its heated political nature.
Though not always possible, in this intelligence briefing, we avoid politics, as that is not what MTMTE is really about. We are about global security and its implications for our personal and economic lives. So, why now? Why write about this latest spate of violence?
This is not just another normal round of confrontation between the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip and Israel — at least this is what Hamas believes. The group’s representative in Tehran, Khaled al-Qaddumi told Al-Monitor in an exclusive interview, that this time, his group along with other Palestinian factions “applied a strategic shift in the concept of resistance, from defending Gaza against Israeli attacks to defending all Palestinians living in historical Palestine. The Hamas resistance will not allow Israeli occupation forces to attack civilian targets in al-Quds [Jerusalem].”
This week we will explore the nexus between Israel and Iran, how their continued antimony for one another is, not only feeding the hatred and violence but in many ways lies at the root of the cause for the violence. There is a symphony of voices calling for peace in Israel and Palestine, yet to each, there is an understanding of peace which inevitably creates a war for someone else.
It has been over 40 years since the Iranian revolution under the leadership of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini rose to power within the Islamic Republic of Iran. All these years later, Iran continues to brandish the Palestinian cause to shore up its anti-imperial credentials and to project power in the region, posing as the only true defender of the Palestinians. In Tehran’s view, that offers a contrast to Arab countries that either signed peace deals with Israel, such as Egypt and the United Arab Emirates or cozied up to it, such as Saudi Arabia. This is why the Biden administration must view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a piece of the wider puzzle as it seeks to revive the nuclear deal with Iran: because that’s how Tehran sees it.
- Who is Hezbollah?… Hezbollah is a Shiite Muslim political party and militant group based in Lebanon, where its extensive security apparatus, political organization, and social services network fostered its reputation as “a state within a state.” Founded in the chaos of the fifteen-year Lebanese Civil War, the Iran-backed group is driven by its opposition to Israel and its resistance to Western influence in the Middle East.
- Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood that emerged in the Gaza Strip in the late 1980s, during the first Palestinian intifada (uprising) against Israel. The group’s ideology blends Islamism and Palestinian nationalism and seeks the destruction of Israel and the creation of an Islamic state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. Since 2017, Hamas claims to have severed its ties to the Brotherhood. The group also receives financial and military support from Iran. Qatar has also provided significant funding for the group.
It is really important to remember, as one reads the mainstream media about both Hezbollah and Hamas, that they consider themselves as mortal enemies of Israel. They mince no words about their desired and anticipated destruction of Israel as a state, as a religion, and as a race. It is in this environment that Israel has sought to carve out its economic and political well-being.
Both Hezbollah and Hamas are labeled as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) by the US and the EU. Iran is a solid partner with both organizations. It is their relationship with these two organizations that have gained them the title of the largest global state sponsor of terrorism. It is also because of this partnership that the Trump Administration was compelled to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). It is inconceivable to most governments in the world that Iran might obtain an operational nuclear weapon since there is an existential possibility that Iran could allow one of their unregulated partners to wind up with a nuclear weapon, and use it against us or our allies.
The long and bloody track record of the IRGC, Hezbollah, Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and Hamas, suggest that Iranian involvement in fomenting anti-Israeli terrorism in Israel, in the West Bank, and Gaza Strip and abroad, is likely to continue in a variety of forms. So where are Hamas and Hezbollah obtaining the weapons they are using to provoke the Israelis?
Interestingly, the PIJ is extremely open about Iran being its main supporter: “All of the weapons in Gaza are provided by Iran… the largest share of this financial and military support is coming from Iran.” Hamas’s former leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar thanked Iran for providing the group with increasingly sophisticated and long-range rocketry. Following a weekend in which Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad fired 700 rockets into Israeli territory, Sinwar stated, “Iran provided us with rockets, and we surprised the world when our resistance targeted Beersheba. Had it not been for Iran, the resistance in Palestine would not have possessed its current capabilities.” In the most recent violence, Hamas has fired over 4,000 rockets into Israel. To date, twelve Israelis have died due to rocket fire.
In the end, it is imperative to understand what we are seeing and hearing from day to day, concerning the Middle East. I know I write a lot about Iran. One might think that I have a burr up under my saddle against Iran. Actually, the opposite is true. I have traveled extensively throughout Iran. There are many Iranians who I consider close friends. Iranians, across the board, have suffered egregiously at the hands of the current cleric-led regime and their muscle, the IRGC.
The clerical leaders of Iran are determined to position themselves as leaders within the Muslim world, and eventually throughout the whole world. They feel disrespected by the Sunni Muslims, and the West. They feel like they are held in contempt by the Russians and the Chinese, even though both appear to be their friends. Just as Kim Jong-il and his son, Kim Jong-un in North Korea, long for a seat at the nuclear power table. I remember seeing a photo years ago of several world leaders taking a “photo op” with Kim Jong-il. It was unimaginable that Jong-il would be in that photo for any other reason than for the potential of North Korea obtaining a nuclear weapon. Iranian leadership lives under that same megalomaniacal illusion.
It reminds me of the words of Aretha Franklin, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to me. Keep on tryin’ (just a little bit) You’re runnin’ out of fools’ (just a little bit) And I ain’t lyin’ (just a little bit).” The craving for respect is a powerful lure. Iran is determined to earn that respect by standing unconditionally with the Palestinians, as they try to cast a pale on the honor of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and other Middle East countries.
I want to be sure that as you read this you are not persuaded to believe that I am dismissive of the suffering the Palestinians are currently experiencing. In any war, civilians are the biggest losers. Every time.
What I want you to understand is that there are excesses on both sides and that because of human error, frustration, anger, sometimes just criminal behavior; civilians, mostly women and children suffer. The only way this will ever stop is to end war, a hope that we all share.
The reason that this particular edition is important is because we need to look deeper into the atrocities. We must realize that it is not just the Israelis that are to blame for the suffering.
So much of the senseless suffering is caused by sloppiness and plain old deception on the part of Hamas and the PIJ. They are using women and children as human shields, as they try to protect their precious weapons and ammunition by storing them in mosques, hospitals, and schools. I know, that so violates our sensibilities that we refuse to believe it, but I have researched it extensively and have seen it up close. It defies everything that I was raised to believe was possible. Sticking our head in the sand and ignoring it as truth will not solve the problem. Listen again to my friend, the former Mufti Rashid Birbach. “Gazans were caught between a rock and a hard place: between the Israeli bombardments and the “even more terrible” abuse and siege by Hamas. Hamas has been using them as human shields.” This was spoken by a man who lived very close to the reality of the action.
It always takes two to fight. I get it. Israel, though not without blame, is being victimized by a huge Islamic disinformation propaganda machine designed to turn the world against the Israelis and the United States. It is a critical part of warfare. Disinformation is a vital piece of the operations of war. If the main-stream media can convince the world that the Palestinians are the only victims in this conflict, they can effectively marginalize Israel from the global community and weaken Israel’s ability to defend itself from an enemy that has sworn to end Israel’s existence, a reality that everybody continues to forget.
Stand for peace. This situation has become so polarized that it is almost impossible to hold a rational discussion about it anymore. It has become like so many other topics of discussion. People are entrenching themselves on one side or the other, and there is little room for discussion or rational thinking about the problem.
Become a rational thinker and resist the temptation to place people who do not think like you into marginalized categories of irrationality. I hear from people all the time who have not been in the Middle East who speak as if they are experts on the situation. They read a New York Times or a Washington Post article, or watch a FoxNews news report and they think they have a clear understanding of the situation. The world is much more complex than that.
Do not allow yourself to fall into the trap of becoming a tool for propagandists. Study, discuss with an open mind, verify what people like me are calling the facts. I put all my resources at the bottom of each “More than Meets the Eye” edition. Look at them, decide yourself if what I have written is true or not. Scrutinize this digest, scrutinize all that you read. Seek to understand the truth. Travel around the world, ask questions. The truth is always worth it. If I am misrepresenting the truth, write to me. I will listen. Seek to understand, and then determine to know what your role is as a human being, in helping to be part of the solution. If we are not a part of the solution, then could we actually be a part of the problem?
EU Sanctions Belarus Over Plane Diversion, Arrest of Journalist… https://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/news/belarus/2021/belarus-210524-voa01.htm?_m=3n%2e002a%2e3075%2ejv0ao0az9m%2e2uhm
For your comments or questions about any of our digests please feel free to write to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Zeynab Malakoutikhah (2020) Iran: Sponsoring or Combating Terrorism?, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 43:10, 913-939, DOI: 10.1080/1057610X.2018.1506560