Is another Arab Israeli war about to break out?

November 19, 2012

Is another Arab Israeli war about to break out in Gaza? News reports of the last week suggest that is at least a possibility

 Sometimes global events seem to confirm the fatalistic view that as everything changes everything remains the same.  This week, [Nov 10-16  2012] the escalating bloodshed in Gaza and Israel seems too familiar to offer prospects of a meaningful peace process between Israel and its Neighbours.  

Too many war initiatives

There have been too many war initiatives followed by peace initiatives over too many years.

What the news reports are saying

The gulf between ‘maps’ of opposing views is well-illustrated in the following quotes taken from the BBC News Service and Reuters.

 Independent Jerusalem-based Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds

When Israel decided to assassinate Ahmed al-Jabari and continue its raids into Gaza, it chose to set the region ablaze militarily and politically… At a time when Hamas and the other forces expressed readiness to abide by the truce, the Israeli government made its party and electoral considerations top priority and thus decided to escalate the situation

Mordechai Kedar in the mainstream Israeli newspaper Maariv:

No doubt the liquidation of Ahmed al-Jabari is an earthquake in Gaza and around it… Israel should send clear messages to Hamas leaders: they cannot tour the world as diplomats by day and behave like terrorists by night.

Military correspondent Aluf Benn, in the Israeli broadsheet Haaretz:


The assassination of Jabari will go down in history as another showy military action initiated by an outgoing government on the eve of an election… Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is interested in neutralising every possible rival, and Defence Minister Ehud Barak is fighting for enough votes to return to the Knesset. A war against Hamas will wipe out the electoral aspirations of the ditherer Ehud Olmert… and it will kick the ‘social and economic issue’ that serves the Labour Party off the agenda.


Nidal al-Mughrabi, Reuters

 Israel is losing popular support in the ‘new’ Middle East, analysts say. In an earlier clash, the three-week winter war of 2008-2009, many Palestinian rivals blamed Hamas’s rocket-firing bravado for bringing Israel’s military might down on Gaza.

That war ended with over 1,400 Palestinians in early graves and a territory scarred by bombing, shelling and invasion. Israel lost 13 lives in the lopsided battle, and Hamas licked its wounds.

This time is different. The Arab Spring has changed the Middle East, and Hamas has more powerful weapons.

“Hundreds of civilians may be killed if the Israelis invade,” says Ali Al-Ahmed [a Gaza resident]. “But once they leave, rockets will follow them home, so they would fail.”

Leaders we deserve?

The maxim that we get the Leaders we deserve is tested daily.  Rarely is the test carried out under such tragic circumstances.

Eyeless in Gaza: Sampson lurches on

December 30, 2008


The tragedy unfolding in Gaza defeats rational resolution. Parallels can be found in the insights of the great classical poets

There is a sense of inevitability about the tragedy being re-enacted in Gaza, as 2008 draws to a bloody close. I have no words that can approach the horrors that continue to rage in the Middle East.

How to express emotions beyond pity for millions directly affected? Beyond pity for each individual? It is not so much anger at the acts of political and military leaders, but anger at the blindness of the protagonists toward alternative actions to those they are setting in train.

Eyeless in Gaza

It is an easy cliché to make a connection between the conflict waging in Gaza and Israel and those evocative words, originally from John Milton’s Sampson Agonistes and subsequently popularised in the title of Huxley’s otherwise forgettable novel, Eyeless in Gaza . But even a clichéd labelling may shift our attention to the moral blindness which has descended among many of those with influence in the conflict.

‘Now look what you’ve made me do’

The cry echoes far beyond Gaza. ‘Now look what you’ve made me do’. I have heard that cry too often. It is a universal cry of despair. The whine of the rapist raped in his own childhood. The bluster of the bully as much as the defence of the bullied. The frustration of the mourning parent or the vigilante at a perceived lack of justice and retribution. The anger of the teacher after one further intolerable incident, and of the student returning with a loaded shotgun.

‘Noise call you it, or universal groan’

Milton takes us away from the whine of despair without sparing us the comfort of denial of its sources. In the poem, chorus notes in Sampson’s blindness the dungeon of the self:

Thou art become (O worst imprisonment!)
The Dungeon of thy self; thy soul …
In real darkness of the body dwells,
Shut up from outward light ..
For inward light alas
Puts forth no visual beam

Then, later, as Sampson, offstage, pulls down the pillars of the temple, chorus explains ‘the hideous noise’

Noise call you it, or universal groan,
As if the whole inhabitation perished?
Blood, death, and dreadful deeds are in that noise,
Ruin, destruction at the utmost point.

‘Now I see what I’ve made me do’

It would be wrong to quote from the poem without acknowledging Milton’s religious beliefs, although his genius transcends the context of his writing, as it transcends our everyday notions of good and evil. For me, it points us to the wider issues of human folly in pursuit of victory. Milton helps us approach the condition in which any leader has to say ‘Now I see what I’ve made me do’


Sampson Agonistes is now interpreted as only peripherally associated with it’s author’s blindness. John Milton created a different fourteen lines of poetry which captured his rage at his own sightless condition, and his ultimate resolution of it.