Friday, June 15, 2007

15-Jun-07: It's far from business as usual

The changes that have descended on this area in the past week are larger and a good deal more dramatic than most people seem to realize.

The dark forces of Hamas now have control of everything of importance in Gaza. They have looted the homes of those Fatah figures who have for so long been the television face of the Palestinian Authority. They have carried out massacres in schools, hospitals and town squares and it's now only a matter of time - not much time - before the towns of Judea and Samaria get similar treatment.

None of this is good for Israel or for peace. Here's a thought-provoking analysis from the UK Telegraph.

Fundamentalists threaten Israel from all sides
By Con Coughlin
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 15/06/2007
Welcome to the new Islamic Republic of Hamas-stan, where every Palestinian woman is obliged to wear the veil and all traces of corrupting Western influences, from pop music to internet cafés, are strictly banned.
The creation of a mini Islamic state in Gaza now appears the most likely outcome as the militant Palestinian group Hamas strikes against the more secular-minded government of President Mahmoud Abbas. And with fighters loyal to Mr Abbas's Fatah movement either surrendering or fleeing, it seems that not even the might of Israel can prevent Hamas from fulfilling its long-held ambition of establishing an Islamic state within the Palestinian territories.
The Gaza Strip, the 20-mile stretch of desert scrub wedged between Israel and the Sinai Desert, has never been a happy place. The majority of the 1.4 million Palestinians who live there are mainly refugees from Israel's 1948 war of independence and have rarely seen their living standards rise above subsistence level. But the addition of religious fanaticism to economic privation has severely worsened their plight.
Even before this week's violence, activists had been busy attacking cafés, video shops and restaurants that serve alcohol or sell what are regarded as subversive Western films. An internet café at the Jabaliyah refugee camp was bombed because zealots believed its customers might be exposed to pornography or pop music. The desire to enforce a strict interpretation of Islamic law even resulted in a gunman attacking a UN primary school because it allowed young boys and girls to mix together in the playground...
Hamas... sees economic deprivation as a form of political oppression. The World Bank reported that donors contributed about £375 million to the Palestinian territories in 2006, twice the amount they received in 2005. But since taking power, Hamas ensures any funds are spent on Islamic causes and its 6,000-strong militia, leaving the majority to fend for themselves. The bonus for Hamas is that, by forcing the majority of Palestinians to exist in dire poverty, it succeeds in attracting widespread sympathy from international do-gooders who do not understand the sadistic economic manipulation that is taking place.
The writer's conclusion is especially bleak:
Hamas is trying to replicate Hizbollah's success in Gaza, not a pleasing prospect for Israel, which now faces the threat of having two Iranian-backed, Islamic fundamentalist organisations dedicated to its destruction camped on its northern and southern borders. It is not a thought that will help Israelis sleep easy.
Read it to the end.

In Lebanon, they're reaching similar conclusions.

Palestine threatens to move from gang wars to de-legitimization
Lebanon - Daily Star - Editorial
Friday, June 15, 2007
The current fighting among Hamas and Fateh gunmen in Gaza has gone beyond the realm of the merely irresponsible and cruel at the Palestinian level, and has entered the realm of an existential loss for all Arabs... How can it be that the Fatah and Hamas leaderships have been so incompetent and brutal as to allow their followers to stoop to this level of political imbecility and human irresponsibility?
Read the rest here.

The smart analysis here in Israel is focused on the cause behind the cause: Iran. An editorial in yesterday's Chicago Tribune points the way:

Tehran's tentacles
It's impossible to talk about Hamas, apparently on the verge of vanquishing a rival Palestinian faction in Gaza on Wednesday, without talking about Iran. Iran has been arming Hamas terrorists via smuggling tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border. A Hamas takeover of Gaza would create immense new security problems for Israel and potentially carve out a terrorist haven in the region.
More here.

It's depressing now to think back to all the optimistic talk of two summers ago: the confidence-building measures; the new momentum to be generated by Israeli abandonment ("withdrawal"; "disengagement") of the towns and communities of the Gaza Strip; the brave new pathway to peace.

As the barbarians of Hamas-stan wipe the blood from their knives, has peace ever been further away?

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