May 26, 2024

Baria Alamuddin: Extremists of all varieties have exploited the Gaza violence to go on the offensive — from Daesh and Al-Qaeda to Hezbollah and the Quds Force, to violent racists around the world and radicalized Israeli settlers, threatening to unleash new epidemics of carnage even worse than the appalling bloodshed we’ve witnessed to date.

Last week’s killing of two Swedish citizens in Brussels was the first Daesh attack on European soil in three years. Among the victims of assaults on Jews and Muslims in the West was a six-year-old Palestinian American boy in Chicago, who died after he and his mother were stabbed by their landlord as he yelled: “You Muslims must die!” Those who speak out conscientiously about the slaughter of civilians on both sides have faced a barrage of death threats and hate mail. Western intelligence agencies warn that far worse is to come.

Al-Qaeda jubilantly described Hamas’s mass murder of Israeli pensioners, women and children on Oct. 7 as “the jewel of all Islamic battles of our modern history,” implying that it was of greater significance than 9/11 in the jihadist pantheon. Contrary to Benjamin Netanyahu’s  insistence that “Hamas is Daesh,” in fact Daesh hates Hamas, denounces them as “nationalist apostates” and commands its fighters to refrain from fighting alongside them.

 

Daesh and Al-Qaeda have nevertheless turned the taps of their propaganda channels on full, exploiting gruesome images of the mutilated corpses of Palestinian babies to attract angry misfits to their diabolic cause. Daesh’s Al-Naba newspaper demanded the targeting of Jewish people and places of worship “all over the world,” and attacks on Israeli and Western embassies. Alongside images of bereaved orphans and body-strewn Gaza ruins, shadowy Telegram channels provide QR codes for Bitcoin donations to the global jihadist cause.

 

World leaders such as Joe Biden, Rishi Sunak and Ursula von der Leyen are themselves producing word-perfect jihadist propaganda material. They appear blissfully ignorant that every expression of love, devotion and unconditional support for Israel, and pledges of weapons and funds, are replayed back through jihadist social media channels to remind supporters that the West has never ceased waging “crusader wars” against the Muslim world, and browbeating them about their “obligation” to embark on jihad against citizens of these “infidel nations.”

 

Such ruthless terrorist propaganda capitalizes on the justified frustration and disenchantment felt throughout the Arab world that the West’s longstanding biased and racist attitudes toward this issue remain unaltered. The jarring failure of some Western leaders to balance their comments with acknowledgment of the slaughter of Palestinians contrasts with more compassionate positions adopted by figures such as Canada’s Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly, who spoke out passionately about the “dire humanitarian situation in Gaza” and the need for “rapid and unimpeded humanitarian access.”

 

Iranian proxies are also exploiting Gaza tensions to escalate attacks against Western targets in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. With the US shooting down drones and cruise missiles fired from Yemen across the region, the Houthis clearly aren’t acting on their own spontaneous initiative. Militant-aligned figures have alluded to threats to global energy security, perhaps in reference to Tehran’s access to economic choke points such as Hormuz, through which 20 percent of the world’s oil flows.

 

Tehran-backed militias have relocated to Israel-Syria-Lebanon border areas and are said to have established a transnational joint operations room overseen by Quds Force officers for coordinating with Hamas. Among senior Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi leaders sighted at the Lebanon border are Kata’ib Sayyid Al-Shuhada commander Abu Ala Al-Walai. With bitter memories of 2006, Hezbollah is clearly hesitant to throw Lebanon fully into this conflict. Consequently, pro-Tehran factions have exploited their posture in Syria’s Golan region with the goal of widening out the northern front against Israel. But let’s disabuse ourselves of the fantasy that Israel would miss the opportunity to exact massive revenge against Lebanon directly in the event of any significant incursions from the north.

 

Netanyahu’s impossible objective of eradicating Hamas will only create embittered new generations implacably resolved to seek futile vengeance. As the Palestinian politician and scholar Hanan Ashrawi has articulately warned, the Gaza invasion primarily undermines moderate Palestinians who have long argued for dialogue and mutual understanding, while offering an immense boost to radicals everywhere.

 

Even if Israel critically weakens Hamas, the force that has been imposing some level of dysfunctional order throughout Gaza over the past 20 years, what manner of entities do they expect to replace it if not infinitely more radicalized factions? Nevertheless, it must be unflinchingly said that Hamas, through its own bloody actions, shares responsibility for the horrendous situation facing Gaza.

 

Israel can endlessly dispossess, barricade and bombard the Palestinians, but it can’t simply make them disappear — any more than Hamas can make Israel disappear. Over 25 years at the pinnacle of Israeli politics, Netanyahu disregarded warnings that if he blocked off all paths to Palestinian justice, peace and self-governance, Israel stood to reap the whirlwind of despair, in turn unleashing apocalyptic extremist atrocities upon the wider world.

 

All the while, a radicalized Zionist settler movement eager to resort to terrorist violence has year-on-year devoured thousands of hectares of Palestinian land. Settler vigilantes have embarked on a vengeance campaign since the Hamas attacks, killing nearly 100 Palestinians and displacing entire villages — and Israeli generals say they are just getting started.

 

At the height of the second Palestinian Intifada, Arab and Western leaders prioritized the goal of a just and mutually beneficial two-state solution as a necessary prerequisite to regionwide peace and defusing decades-old geopolitical tensions. That Netanyahu and his extremist ilk vigorously thwarted these objectives does not make them any less necessary and correct.

 

Just as violence breeds violence, justice and hope breed justice and hope. Israel’s abandonment of the two-state solution made current and future rounds of bloodshed inevitable. As participants in the Cairo peace summit on Saturday vigorously argued, the route to ending these ongoing cycles of carnage is blindingly obvious: all parties grasping the path to a peace with both hands within the framework of the rejuvenated two-state-solution.

It meanwhile appears that the world must painfully relearn the lesson that Palestine isn’t an inconsequential, far-off issue, but rather a gaping wound of soul-destroying injustice and inhumanity, with ramifications for fomenting boundless worldwide tensions and dragging Western capitals back into the crosshairs of terrorist groups.

 

Writer: Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.

 

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