Ji­hadi surge means isolation for Ha­mas

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY JOHN R BRADLEY

WHILE THERE is no let-up in the West’s crit­i­cism of Is­rael’s mil­i­tary of­fen­sive in the Gaza Strip, in the Arab world — notwith­stand­ing anti-Is­raeli ou­trage on so­cial me­dia, grum­blings from the di­nosaur Arab League and spo­radic pro-Pales­tinian street demon­stra­tions — an air of in­dif­fer­ence reins.

The dra­matic rise of ji­hadi out­fit the Is­lamic State is one of the keys to un­der­stand­ing this coun­ter­in­tu­itive point.

Aside from Egypt, Saudi Ara­bia and Jordan are the two coun­tries that mat­ter geopo­lit­i­cally, and both have ex­pressed pre­dictable rhetor­i­cal ou­trage over Pales­tinian civil­ian ca­su­al­ties and called for an emer­gency meet­ing of the UN’s Se­cu­rity Coun­cil.

But they are threat­ened by ji­hadi-in­spired un­rest on the back of the suc­cesses of the Is­lamic State — an out­fit that Ha­mas has re­port­edly been forg­ing links with.

The Is­lamist State’s goal is not only the de­struc­tion of Is­rael, but also the over­throw of Saudi and Jor­da­nian monar­chies. Though they loathe to ac­knowl­edge the fact pub­licly, for prag­matic rea­sons, Saudi Ara­bia and Jordan would qui­etly wel­come the erad­i­ca­tion of Salafist-aligned Ha­mas’s mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

Ha­mas’s sup­port for the ji­hadi-led up­ris­ing in Syria has re­sulted in fur­ther isolation. The Alaw­ite-dom­i­nated regime of Pres­i­dent Bashar Al-As­sad and the Shia-led Ira­nian regime, once Ha­mas’s strong­est fi­nan­cial and mil­i­tary back­ers, as a re­sult threw Ha­mas to the wolves.

The death of ev­ery in­no­cent Pales­tinian is a tragedy, of course, but it is dif­fi­cult to do any­thing but snarl with de­ri­sion when such crit­i­cism comes from a Ha­mas elite that openly backs ji­hadis who slaugh­ter more in­no­cents by the day than Is­rael has killed thus far in full-scale ur­ban war­fare.

Is­rael, then, senses that this may be the per­fect mo­ment to take out Ha­mas once and for all, be­fore the terms of a cease­fire can be agreed. The long-term dan­ger is that, by putting the Pales­tinian is­sue cen­tre stage, the Jor­da­nian and Saudi gov­ern­ments will fa­cil­i­tate fur­ther rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion of the masses. Po­ten­tial ex­trem­ists will be­come even more alien­ated from their re­spec­tive regimes — and be more likely to heed the even­tual call from the Is­lamic State for a full-scale ji­had against Is­rael.

Egypt has its own prob­lem with Is­lamic ex­trem­ism, and it too is pri­vately con­tent to let Is­rael grind Ha­mas into the dust. It took more than a week for the Egyp­tian regime, un­der pres­sure from the EU, to call for a cease­fire – but in do­ing so made no ref­er­ence to the long list of Ha­mas’s de­mands for an end to hos­til­i­ties.

Cairo, mind­ful of the anti-Is­raeli sen­ti­ment among its vast pop­u­la­tion, had pre­vi­ously been a re­li­able sup­porter of Ha­mas, quickly us­ing its lever­age to bro­ker cease­fires.

But not this time round. Hav­ing des­ig­nated the Mus­lim Brother­hood — of which Ha­mas is an off­shoot — a ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion, Cairo is hardly in a po­si­tion to crit­i­cise Is­rael for do­ing the same.

Since oust­ing the Brother­hood-led govern­ment last year, the bru­tal Egyp­tian se­cu­rity state has mas­sa­cred at least 1,400 of its cit­i­zens (some es­ti­mates put the fig­ure higher) and ar­rested, on the flim­si­est charges, tens of thou­sands more — while sen­tenc­ing hun­dreds to death in kan­ga­roo courts.

The Egyp­tian regime’s mind­less crack­down on the Brother­hood and its sup­port­ers make by com­par­i­son Is­rael’s be­hav­iour ap­pear to be a model of con­straint. It was noth­ing short of hubris, in other words, for Cairo to try to be­lat­edly take the moral high ground on the ques­tion of Pales­tinian civil­ian ca­su­al­ties. John R Bradley is the au­thor of four books on the Mid­dle East


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