Thursday, January 8, 2009

Israel and the west will pay a price for Gaza's bloodbath

Whether the current ceasefire talks succeed or fail, Hamas has already been strengthened by the US-backed assault

Seumas Milne
The Guardian, Thursday 8 January 2009

"Over the last 12 days, Israel has inflicted a bloodbath on the Gaza Strip that matches the darkest days of the Iraq war. Backed to the hilt by the US author of that catastrophe, it has killed more than 650 people in less than a fortnight, including at least 200 children, and wounded three thousand. Yesterday, after killing 50 civilians in UN schools sheltering refugees.....

But despite this gruesome demonstration of its overwhelming power, Israel once again faces the threat of political and military failure, just as it did in Lebanon in 2006. After its most pulverising assault ever on the blockaded territory, Hamas remains standing, its administration intact, its rockets reaching ever further into Israel proper. Far from turning the Gazan population against the Islamist movement, the signs are that Israel's onslaught is cementing its support......

Whichever choice they make, the war is already cutting the ground from beneath Israeli and western policy across the region. Among Palestinians, it is undermining Mahmoud Abbas - whose presidential term runs out tomorrow - and his Fatah movement, while increasing support for Hamas in the West Bank, where US-trained and EU-financed security forces have now arrested hundreds of activists and banned Hamas demonstrations.....

"Israel has made a big mistake," he told me this week, "because Hamas will become stronger and Fatah weaker as a result of the war, even if Israel re-occupies the Gaza Strip." Comparing Hamas's resistance in Gaza to the battle of Karameh that secured Yasser Arafat's leadership of the Palestinians in 1968, Khader predicted: "After this war, Hamas will lead the PLO."

The same trend can be seen in the wider Middle East, where Hamas has won powerful new supporters, including democratic Turkey, while western allies, such as the Egyptian and Saudi dictatorships, have lost more credibility by being seen to have tacitly supported Israel's attempt to crush Hamas at the expense of the Palestinians of Gaza....."

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