Middle East – many doubts and few certainties

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By FLAVIO AGUIAR*

The facts that triggered the current wave of horrors in Palestine still lack convincing answers, and not just versions and contraversions

“Parodying Descartes, today we can say, we can not, we must:
I doubt it, then I think” (Tarciso Roberto, philosopher).

Anyone who has even a drop of humanism in the lens through which they look at the world cannot help but experience perplexed grief at what has happened, is happening and must happen in this new phase of the war between the Israeli government and the military wing of Israel. Hamas, sacrificing lives in droves on both sides.

But along with emotion it is necessary to think. And to begin with, it is necessary to open oneself to the current (torrent?) of doubts that this mutual massacre triggers. Underline: doubts. Nothing more than doubts. But nothing less.

The first question that arises along the way is the question of what, after all, happened to and/or around Israel's intelligence services. There are technical and political aspects to this doubt. Technically, many experts raise the possibility of overconfidence in the technological apparatus available to these services. They underline the idea that Hamas prepared its attack in stealth, refusing to use advanced technologies and favoring direct human contact between its militants, avoiding computers, smartphones and other similar paraphernalia.

Could it be. But the aspect that interests me most is the political one. In the midst of the barrage of versions and contraversions that followed, I was struck by a phrase from a senior Israeli military officer saying that an investigation into what had happened was necessary, but that that would come later: first the war, he said. This is still an attempt to cover the problem with a sieve, because it is perfectly possible to do both things at the same time. Even in the Vietnam War, not to mention other examples, there was war and investigation simultaneously.

Another “detail” that caught my attention was the complaint, attributed to an officer also a senior in the Egyptian intelligence service, who preferred to remain anonymous, that he had warned the related service and the Israeli government that “something big ” was being prepared by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. This warning, according to the same hypothetical source, would have even been made directly to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Michael McCaul, US representative from the Republican Party, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, suggested that there would even be a letter delivered to the Israeli government. None of this has been confirmed, and of course the Israeli government and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself have vehemently denied having received any warning about it.

But the doubt remains, and grows, echoed by various comments in the Western, pro-Israel media. Was there no awareness that something was being prepared? If there was one, and the necessary warning followed, was it not taken seriously? Changing between small and large, what actually happened, negligence in perception or negligence in evaluation?

The fact is that the current Israeli government – ​​the most right-wing and truculent in the country's history – was under enormous internal pressure due to the attempt to neutralize the judiciary, alleviating the threat that hangs over the head of Benjamin Netanyahu, accused in three cases of corruption. In this sense, although in a contradictory way, the current resurgence of the war fit him like a glove, guaranteeing him political survival thanks to the formation of a front of national unity with the opposition.

There is doubt about the extent of this survival. His supporters guarantee that Netanyahu will emerge from this disaster strengthened. More critical voices warn that he will emerge weakened, due to the shadow of negligence that hangs over his government and related intelligence and military services. Another parallel doubt raises the question that there would be irreparable divisions within the government, the security apparatus and the military due to the political contradictions caused by the attempt to control the Judiciary and the enormous negative reaction provoked among the country's population.

A bitter meta-doubt remains in the middle of this tangle of contradictions. If there was some type of warning, why wasn't there preventive action? Just carelessness? Or a miscalculation about Hamas' new capacity for military action? In this second hypothesis – I reiterate, nothing more than a hypothesis, but nothing less – there would not have been just guilt on the part of the Israeli government. There would have been guilt and intent, mixed together.

To react to the evident negligence, whatever type, culpable, willful or both, Benjamin Netanyahu's government redoubled the military and verbal brutality of its traditional action against Gaza and its population. The term “human animals” in reference to Hamas, uttered by one of the most reactionary members of this government, characterized this reaction. The siege without bread, without water, without fuel, without medicine, with the profusion of aerial bombings as usual hitting civilian targets, to which the people of Gaza were and are being subjected, corroborated the horizon of violence outlined by the Tel Aviv government .

The brutality, however, had a boomerang effect: the Israeli government, criticized by the liberal newspaper Haaretz, lost the primacy of the narrative about the war, at least in part. It is true that the profusion of narratives that followed October 7th sowed a lot of confusion in the media space, with subterfuge that became evident. I give two examples:

(i) A video was released with offensive statements, especially towards Israeli women, as part of the gigantic pro-Palestine demonstration that took place in London. Then, according to research by Associated Press, it became clear that this video was from another episode that took place in 2021, and there were still doubts about the soundtrack that now accompanied it.

(ii) To this day, it is not known very well what happened with the case of the “babies cut off” allegedly by Hamas, whose images have not yet been confirmed, and the suspicion that they also belong to past events, and who knows where .

And there was also the curious case of allegations that the weapons used by Hamas in its attack had come… from Ukraine! There was no evidence about it either.

The fact is that, if at first, as often happens, Western governments and related media showed unrestricted solidarity with Israel, little by little this “gesture” politician was being shared with images of the suffering of the civilian population in Gaza. The speech that the Israeli government tried to maintain, that it had given “everything” financially to Hamas and the population of Gaza, remained empty.

And Hamas, in all this? Well, for starters, Hamas is a very complex organization. In addition to the military arm, it has a social action arm and a religious action of Sunni extraction. Dispute for leadership among the Palestinians with the Palestinian Authority, the Palestine Liberation Organization and Fatah, its largest wing. It tightly controls the Gaza Strip, where it won elections in 2006. In addition to Israel, six other countries (USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, United Kingdom and Paraguay) and the European Union consider Hamas a terrorist organization, but the UN does not does it. Brazil, as usual, follows UN guidance.

In any case, the action undertaken by Hamas on October 7th had a terrorist character, an open aggression against the civilian population and earned it international condemnation.

What was the political objective of this Hamas action? To assert or reaffirm itself as the main Palestinian organization? Undermining the rapprochement between Israel and other Arab countries, in particular Saudi Arabia, also Sunni? Demoralize Israel's security apparatus? All this and anything else? That last objective (demoralizing...) was partially achieved, but the cost could be very high, not only due to the weight of the expected Israeli retaliation, but also because the martyrization of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, which will inevitably occur with an Israeli invasion, could have a boomerang effect, costing Hamas the leadership it had since 2006.

Other questions remain. How did the new weapons and other devices used in the October 7 invasion enter Gaza unnoticed? How was the training carried out with them? The existence of a network of tunnels underground in Gaza alone does not answer such questions.

It wasn't just a few weapons, drones and similar objects; It was a huge load, which must have taken time to reach Gaza and be stored. It didn't come by air. In Egypt, it is difficult, although Hamas has alliances there. By sea, sneaking past Israeli and Egyptian naval surveillance? How is it possible that no one noticed anything? In addition to constant monitoring by Israel, General Al-Sisi's Egypt also closely monitors Hamas, due to its links with the Muslim Brotherhood, which the general's military coup ousted from the government.

Another huge doubt is about the rearrangement that this new phase of the war will cause in the geopolitical scenario. It is still too early to make predictions, beyond traditional alliances and recurring loyalties. For the moment, one thing is certain: the war in Ukraine has taken a backseat. What will this entail?

It cannot be forgotten, on the other hand, that Benjamin Netanyahu's leadership in Israel favored the growth of Hamas, thanks to the continuous sabotage of peace agreements and the continuous effort to prevent the construction of the two parallel states, in accordance with the original UN resolution. , reaffirmed to this day.

In this sense, if Hamas and Benjamin Netanyahu are, and are, enemies, especially in his latest coalition with the fundamentalist extreme right in Israel, they are from the same breed, or “Siamese brothers”, as my friend expressed on the issue. Unlike Carl von Clausewitz, for whom war would be “the continuation of politics by other means”, for Hamas and Netanyahu 1.0, 2.0 or whatever .0 it still ends up being, politics is a mere continuation of war. Both depend on each other.

However distant it may seem, the only alternative in today's situation is to continue reaffirming the UN resolutions in this regard, with the proposal to build two States and, however difficult it may be, the search for the re-establishment of the Palestinian Authority, in addition to favoring democratic and peacemaking forces within Israel.

For this reason, I take the liberty of considering that, if Benjamin Netanyahu is a big problem, Hamas is far from being a solution. And vice versa.

* Flavio Aguiar, journalist and writer, is a retired professor of Brazilian literature at USP. Author, among other books, of Chronicles of the World Upside Down (boitempo). [https://amzn.to/48UDikx]


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