tuque /tūk/ n Canadian English, var. toque [19th c. Canadian French, from the French toque, from the Basque tauka] 1 A close-fitting knitted cap, often with a long tapering end or tassel or pompom. 2 fig Something quintessentially Canadian.
souq /sūk/ n from the Arabic سوق var. souk 1 An open-air marketplace. 2 fig A central meeting place for the circulation of news and ideas.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

That elephant in the bathtub? He speaks Persian

Q: How can you tell if there's an elephant in the bathtub with you?
A: By the smell of peanuts on his breath.

It's starting to smell like peanuts in the Middle East tub. So who's the elephant?

Israel's brutal attacks on Gaza have prompted some in the Arab media to start looking around the room.

Writing in al-Hayat, Mohammad Salah points his finger in the general direction of the elephant, arguing that ever since Hamas went down the road of dividing Palestine, the result has not been to the gain of only Israel:
"[When] Hamas took over the Gaza Strip... things became even worse; Palestinian disunity became a reality and there was no longer one Palestine, but two... Whoever hopes for the Palestinians to re-unite or rally behind a single leadership for the Palestinian people in its confrontation with Israel, peacefully or militarily, is deluded... Hamas will [not] relinquish its control over Gaza under any conditions, the PA has [no] authority to return the Gaza Strip to the rest of what remains of Palestine. Moreover, regional parties with influence over the Palestinian cause have not united behind the PA or Hamas; rather, they are divided between the two."
Who are these "regional parties"?

Jihad al-Khazen, sometimes a Hamas supporter, goes on:
"I still do not understand the reasons why Hamas - being the government - turned on itself and created an emirate for the Muslim Brotherhood in the Strip instead of trying to free the whole land then see what kind of rule people wanted in an election. Politics is not worthy of its name if it is not the politics of the possible. Hamas' policy in Gaza is suicidal."
The Arab world is becoming more divided, writes Jonathan Wright in the Egyptian Gazette, making eye contact with the elephant in the room:
"There is an Iranian plan, with Hamas and some of the Muslim Brotherhood, to stir up trouble in Palestine and Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood, [Egypt's] banned-yet-influential group with one fifth of the seats in parliament, is in close alliance with Hamas, which began as a Brotherhood offshoot."
As usual, asharq alawsat editor-in-chief Tariq Almohayed draws a complete picture, pointing out that Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah spent half his recent speech - ostensibly delivered to criticize the Israeli assault on Gaza - inciting Egyptians to turn against their government, and the other half of his speech stirring up the usual bitterness dividing Lebanon.

Comparing the course that Hamas has taken with that of Hezbollah, Almohayed suggests:
"Shouldn’t Hamas turn away from Iranian assistance to strengthen it when all this does is torture the people of Gaza and subject them to brutal Israeli force?"
What is the emerging trend here? Let's go down the list of current events:
  • Lebanon: divided (Hezbollah with Syrian elements vs nationalist factions; and factions vs factions as a result)
  • Iraq: divided (ethnic and religious factions vs each other)
  • Palestine: divided (Hamas vs Fatah vs common sense and democratization)
Who gains with this kind of division in the Arab world? Israel of course. But just Israel?

What we're increasingly seeing from the Arab media is portrayal of the fact that Iranian support of the Muslim Brotherhood, of Hezbollah, of Hamas, of certain Shi'ite groups in Iraq, is ripping up the region.

And ironically, Israel's bloodletting only helps Iran achieve its goal of permanent destabilization. Because, of course, Israel has the same objective. The Arab media is quite practised at criticizing Israel - justifiably, for the most part - but not at identifying Iran as complicit in, for example, the emerging Israel-Hamas war.

As the scope of the bloody Gaza war becomes clearer, this is changing. That elephant in the bathtub? It's Iran.


Anonymous said...

Love your blog, buddy.

Question for you: You say, "Who gains with this kind of division in the Arab world? Israel of course." What do you think Israel stands to gain in all of this? It's hard for me to see.

Ben in AA, Michigan

The Tuque Souq said...

Well, on the subject of Israel gaining from division in the Arab world, I refer to the basic balance-of-power model for Israel existing in this region.

One could look at the history of Israel's interpretation of various regional peace processes; namely that Israel has always preferred bilateral negotiation (with Egypt, with Jordan, with Mauritania, with Qatar, even with Lebanon during the civil war) rather than sitting at the table opposite the entire Arab world (such as the 1991 Madrid Conference, or the 2002 Saudi Plan).

One could also look at various analyses of the current crisis which suggest that Israel couldn't sustain its military campaign in Gaza if the popular backlash in certain Arab countries (Egypt, Jordan) got so powerful that it threatened those regimes that have made individual peace with Israel; if those regimes toppled and the peace agreements along with them (however unlikely), that would mean a more united Arab world against Israel rather than a divided Arab world.

Naturally, in this case Israel would "lose" rather than gain, so whatever they do in Gaza they'd have to stop well short this result. Come to think of it, if this Gaza offensive results in less disunity between Hamas and Fatah, in solidarity, doesn't Israel also lose?

I'm not sure what Israel has to gain in this conflict in Gaza. Certain individuals (I'm looking at you, Ehud Barak) perhaps stand to gain. But Hamas is practically begging for a fight. That's usually not the kind of fight one wants, right? After the Hezbollah war, Israel's gotta be wary of not having a winnable scenario.

I can only begin to wonder what that is.