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Hamas, Gaza, Genocide and Gas – The Beginning of a Global Conflagration?

Looking beyond the contentious religious themes, recent events have also provided Israel with a pretext to annex the land and energy they’ve long coveted.

Dr Can Erimtan

21st Century Wire

As long ago as 2014, the state of Israel led by Bibi Netanyahu unleashed a military operation on the Gaza strip code-named “Protective Edge”, supposedly in response to Hamas killing three Israeli teenagers.

With hindsight, many commentators are pointing to the possibility that the events beginning October 7, 2023 had been a ‘pre-planned’ and organized operation that was either allowed to happen by Israel or at the very least capitalised on – carried out at the drop of a hat once a sufficient pretext or impetus was found, or possibly fabricated.

From a geopolitical perspective, many acute experts will also make the argument real reason behind the onslaught was in fact natural gas, or rather, a whole gas field, as I wrote back then:

With regard to the . . . Operation Protective Edge, there are the Marine-1 and Marine-2 gas wells, inside the Leviathan field and off the Gaza coast. The Geneva-based Anais Antreasyan rightly points out in the University of California’s Journal of Palestine Studies that Israel’s long-term goal is “to integrate the gas fields off Gaza into the adjacent Israeli offshore installations”.

That was then and this is now, and now Hamas has given Bibi more than an ideal pretext to enter and occupy the whole of the Gaza strip, in effect bringing Israel even closer to realising its long-term desire to annex the northern part of the Gaza strip, thus pushing back the native Palestinian population. In addition to that, this is also Israel’s opportunity to realise its material objective to seize possession of the Gaza and Palestine’s gas wealth located off its Mediteranean coastline. 

The news agency Reuters‘ Samia Nakhoul and Jonathan Saul argue that Hamas has used the intervening years to its best advantage: “A careful campaign of deception ensured Israel was caught off guard when the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas launched its devastating attack, enabling a force using bulldozers, hang gliders and motorbikes to take on the Middle East’s most powerful army.” The Hamas surprise attack carried the significant code-name ‘Operation Al-Aqsa,’ referring to the Masjid Al-Aqsa, the spot where the Prophet Muhammad undertook his night-journey to heaven.

The Golem strikes Israel: Israel’s 9/11

The special commentator on current affairs for CGTN, Steven Sahiounie puts is like this: “On October 7, Hamas, the group that controls Gaza, launched a rare surprise attack on Israel that led to massive retaliatory airstrikes on Gaza and other punitive measures.” And what a surprise attack it was: the Palestinian group ‘launched a massive military operation into Israeli territory. The shooting of thousands of rockets into Israel was followed by an attack by land, air and sea, with fighters penetrating deep into territory under Israeli control. They attacked military installations and temporarily took over various settlements. The death toll among Israelis has exceeded 1,200, including more than 120 soldiers; dozens of Israeli hostages were also taken into the Gaza Strip,’ as recounted by the geopolitical analyst and consultant focused on the Middle East, Joe Macaron. Hamas had deployed 1,000 fighters, who had no inkling of the exact purpose of their strenuous exercises over the past months. Israel and the IDF were caught unawares, having been led to believe they were containing a war-weary Hamas by providing economic incentives to Gazan workers, and “the group’s fighters were being trained and drilled, often in plain sight, a source close to the Palestinian terror group said,” relates Reuters. An anonymous source close to the Palestinian terror group divulges that “Hamas gave Israel the impression that it was not ready for a fight [, instead] Hamas used an unprecedented intelligence tactic to mislead Israel over the last months, by giving a public impression that it was not willing to go into a fight or confrontation with Israel while preparing for this massive operation.” In the immediate aftermath of this tremendous terror strike, hyperbole ruled supreme: Eurasia Group’s Ian Bremmer said that the “massive attacks by Hamas leadership into Israel . . . is no less than Israel’s 9/11.” And on cue, the Israeli Prime Minister has already declared that ‘Israel will change the landscape in the Middle East.’ The 2001 terror attacks on the U.S. led to the ‘War-on-Terror,’ effectively becoming a “Crusade Against Islam” — in turn embroiling the whole wide world in terror attacks and military counter measures, with Afghanistan and Iraq emerging as the two proxy-battlefield that proved unable to contain a global “Blowback”. Dr Solon Solomon takes this hyperbolic phrase seriously, saying that, “in the aftermath of 9/11, the UN Security Council immediately convened and issued a binding resolution asserting the United States’s right to self-defense and to ‘combat by all means . . threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts’—without specifying the entities that could be lawfully targeted.” Solomon then admidst that, “[i]n the case of Israel, the UN Security Council has convened, but has failed to even issue a statement—let alone a binding resolution.” And that basically allows Bibi to do as he pleases.

Bibi’s reaction could thus not but be anything but ruthless and bloodthirsty, as if the Jewish nation were trying to kill the “golem” — “a creature in Jewish folklore fashioned from mud and made animate who ultimately escapes his master,” as related by Dr Jean-Pierre Filiu. For, the organization of Hamas has murky origins: Hamas itself likes to portray itself “as heir to a militant lineage, rigorously independent of all Arab regimes, including Egypt, and harking back to ‘Izz al-Din al-Qassam, a Syrian cleric killed in 1935 while fighting the British in Palestine.” And then there is “the widely held belief that Hamas was created by the Israeli security services in Gaza to divide and weaken the Palestinian national movement.” Yet, the group “ended up, as in the Jewish fable, turning against its creator,” like the golem to quote Dr Filiu. The Jewish nation in the form of the state Israel reacted swifly and methodically, attacking the Gaza strip without delay or mercy: “the Palestinian death [has now risen] toll to more than 2,200, with over 8,700 injuries, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry on October 14. The Israeli fatalities since October 7 have reached around 1,300, while nearly 3,400 were injured, Israeli media reported on October 13, citing official sources,” ennumerates Sahiounie.

Western Solidarity with Israel: Islamic Solidarity with Palestine

In the wake of the Hamas attacks, governments all around, starting from Washington, DC, have reiterated their unwavering support for Israel, stressing the latter’s right to defend itself: “Around the globe, representatives of approximately a hundred countries have reacted to the war in varying ways. At least forty-four nations have publicly expressed their unequivocal condemnation of Hamas and explicitly decried its tactics as terrorism,” write Cleary Waldo, Gabriel Epstein, and Sydney Hilbush. Regional players, such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Syria, and Iraq have pinned responsibility on Israel instead:

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Nasser Kanaani reacted to the current developments in occupied Palestine and the attack by the Palestinian resistance groups against the Zionist occupiers, saying Operation Al-Aqsa Flood was a spontaneous move by the resistance groups and the oppressed Palestinian people in defense of their inalienable and undeniable rights. He added that the operation was the Palestinians’ natural reaction to the war-mongering, provocative and incendiary policies of the Zionists, especially the usurping regime’s extremist and adventurous prime minister.

This dichotomy between the so-called West and the Islamic world is poignant, disclosing that the issue of Palestine is more than just a territorial dispute for Muslims worldwide. The Palestinians are the custodians of the city of Jerusalem. As expressed by the Middle East specialists Dr Craig Larkin and Professor Michael Dumper:

The Islamic presence in Jerusalem was established in 638 CE and its early history in the city is well-documented. Almost 1,400 years of Islamic rule in the city was broken only by the Crusader invasions of 1099–1187 and 1229–1244 CE. This long period saw the construction of the two main Islamic monuments in Jerusalem, the al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, locations of the first direction of prayer in Islam [qibla] and the prophet Muhammad’s brief ascent to heaven [al-Isra’ wal Mi‘raj].

The Muslim world thus holds the plight of the Palestinians close to its heart . . . with the New Turkey’s leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (aka the Prez) utilizing the event to play the ultimate champion of the Palestinians (as an emblem of Islam) for a domestic audience. In fact, Israel claims that many senior Hamas members reside in Turkey and this is all but an open secret. Speaking to the members of his ruling AKP in parliament on 11 October 2023, he nevertheless tempered his tone to the extent that he even sounded even-handed: “Preventing people meeting their most fundamental needs and bombing housing where civilians live – in short, conducting a conflict using every sort of shameful method – is not a war, it’s a massacre . . . We openly oppose the killing of civilians on Israeli territories. Likewise, we can never accept the massacre of defenceless innocents in Gaza by indiscriminate, constant bombardments.” A professor of international relations at Istanbul Kadir Has University, Soli Özel, rightly remarks that the Prez’s “initial reaction and his second reaction have been pretty mild given his previous reactions to such things.” And, in good measure, Turkey’s Ministry of Defense announced the following day that it plans to ship humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (aka MBS) even called the Prez on the phone to say that that the Saudi Kingdom is “making unremitting efforts” regionally and internationally to stop the intensification of the Israeli-Hamas war.

Others did not tread so lightly, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, for instance, going as far as meeting with the Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Qatar’s Doha on 14 October. In a statement about the meeting, Hamas said Haniyeh revealed “the motives which led to the launch of Operation Al-Aqsa Flood . . . [which marked] a turning point in the history of the Palestinian cause and resistance.” Amirabdollahian, in turn, called Operation Al-Aqsa a successful “natural and legitimate reaction to the radical and criminal acts of the Zionist Regime and a clear outcome of Netanyahu extremism against the motherland of the Palestinian nation.”

Ethnic Cleansing or Genocide: Gaza as a Tabula Rasa

Matter-of-factly, Reuters reports that “Israeli forces kept up their bombardment of Gaza on Monday [16 October 2023] after diplomatic efforts to arrange a ceasefire to allow foreign passport holders to leave and aid to be brought into the besieged Palestinian enclave failed. Residents of Hamas-ruled Gaza said overnight air strikes were the heaviest yet as the conflict entered its 10th day with an Israeli ground offensive believed to be imminent. Bombing carried on through the day, they said, and many buildings were flattened, trapping yet more people under the rubble. Israeli officials issued multiple warnings of Hamas rocket fire into Israel.” And, Israel’s chief military spokesperson, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, said that there was no Gaza ceasefire, with military operations continuing as planned. Israel has imposed a full blockade on the tiny Gaza strip and is apparently preparing a full-scale ground invasion to destroy Hamas.

Though, officially, the Israeli rhetoric focuses on the terror group responsible for last week’s attacks, the reality on the ground looks rather different, as Israel’s military has delivered sweeping evacuation orders for almost half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people – sweeping orders that fail to indicate where the supposed evacuees are supposed to go given that the only available way out is closed: “Rafah is where most Palestinians attempt to acquire permission to exit Gaza if they are able. Most people born in the territory, however, have never left the 365 square kilometres that make up the territory and getting permission to leave is extremely difficult.” But, Egypt tightly restricts the opening of the Rafah crossing . . . The inhabitants of Gaza are literally caught between a rock and a hard place now.

Israel in Gaza: Gas Exploration and Commercial Exploitation

In fact, what is happening now in Gaza amounts to ethnic cleansing on a massive scale – an exercise in population displacement that could very well end in genocide. Hamas has now really given Bibi and his IDF an ideal pretext to occupy the area by force. Would it be too much of an interpretive stretch to detect a possible link with he Marine-1 and Marine-2 gas wells?!?? In the context, the Israeli journalist Guy Azriel less than two months ago wrote that a “Turkey-Israel gas pipeline is once again on the table . . . One of the options being considered is the construction of a underwater pipeline from Turkey to Israel’s largest offshore natural gas field, Leviathan. Under the plan, gas will be directed to Turkey and subsequently to southern European nations aiming to decrease their reliance on the Russian pipeline.” And an annexation of Gaza would but complete Israeli access to the Leviathan field off the Gaza coast, thereby making Bib and the Prez happy business partners. And, as it is, both met recently for the fist time, in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. And prior to that meeting, Turkish Energy Minister Alparslan Bayraktar discussed “opportunities for bilateral and regional energy cooperation, including natural gas,” by phone with his Israeli counterpart Israel Katz. Bloomberg’s Barış Balcı posited some time ago that the “two countries are seeking to explore gas export opportunities for Europe via Turkey from a Mediterranean field off the Gaza Strip.”

Could these business dealings with lucrative profits in the offing explain the Prez’s “pretty mild” language condemning Israeli actions in Gaza?!?? For, on another occasion, he did not shy away from saying that the upcoming Turco-Israeli deal will be the “healthiest project” that will ensure that “natural gas reaches Europe through Turkey.” In this way, the Prez seems to abandon his Muslim brothers in Palestine while also stabbing his geopolitical buddy, Vladimir Putin (aka the Czar), in the back.

At the same time, though, the conflict appears to be widening, as Lebanese Hezbollah fighters have now also launched attacks on Israeli army posts and a northern border village on 15 October. And, in response. Israel retaliated with strikes in Lebanon. The powder keg that is Gaza now has the potential of igniting a regional war, which due to U.S. involvement could very well spiral out of control and turn the Palestinian issue into the pretext for a global conflict. Arguably, in the end, cooler heads will probably prevail as the logic of business and mutual commercial benefits tend to outweigh any other consideration.

And the Foreign Ministry of China (the up-and-coming new superpower) has now stated, “the fundamental way out of the conflict lies in implementing the two-state solution and establishing an independent State of Palestine.”

21WIRE special contributor Dr. Can Erimtan is an independent historian and geo-political analyst who used to live in Istanbul. At present, he is in self-imposed exile from Turkey. He has a wide interest in the politics, history and culture of the Balkans, the greater Middle East, and the world beyond. He attended the VUB in Brussels and did his graduate work at the universities of Essex and Oxford. In Oxford, Erimtan was a member of Lady Margaret Hall and he obtained his doctorate in Modern History in 2002. His publications include the revisionist monograph “Ottomans Looking West?” as well as numerous scholarly articles. In Istanbul, Erimtan started publishing in the English language Turkish press, culminating in him becoming the Turkey Editor of the İstanbul Gazette. Subsequently, he commenced writing for RT Op-Edge, NEO, and finally, the 21st Century Wire. You can find him on Twitter at @TheErimtanAngle. Read Can’s archive here.




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