To Hamas, offense is defense

The following adage is attributed to George Washington, who supposedly wrote in a letter in 1799: “Offensive operations, oftentimes, is the surest, if not the only (in some cases) means of defense.”

This proactive strategy is likewise found in various military treaties written by ancient Greek and Roman philosophers. It simply means “attacking one’s opponent is the best way to protect oneself.”

These thoughts were probably playing on the minds of the Hamas military strategists before they launched the most devastating attack against the Zionist armed forces on that fateful dawn of 8 October.

Complementing the fundamental issue of the Jewish government’s bare-faced illegal occupation of Palestinian lands is the evolving dynamics in Middle East politics, which factored, to some degree, in the bloody battle not seen since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

In the past, the Palestinian issue was the centerpiece of major policy decisions on the relationship between Muslim and non-Muslim countries in the region. It was always a factor in attempts to normalize diplomatic, trade, and other relations with the Jewish state. This was because of the strong support of the Muslim countries for the Palestinians’ struggle for statehood and a return to their homeland that was occupied and distributed by the Israeli government to Jewish settlers on the puny claim that they were the booty of the war Israel won.

Unfortunately, the attention and importance given to the Palestinian issue increasingly waned. Arab countries forging a détente with Israel had gotten the Palestinians worried about their being marginalized, if not forsaken. The Abraham Accord, mediated by the United States and signed between Muslim countries United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco with Israel, which recognized the sovereignty of Israel, created doubts about the sustained support of these countries for the Palestinians’ struggle. Radical Palestinians called the Accord a sell-out. This was capped by the warming of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, who before could not see eye to eye. Iran was the only Muslim country that remained steadfast in its support of the Palestinian cause.

Hamas saw the warming of relations between Israel and formerly hostile Arab countries as nothing but a clever US-Israel maneuver to relegate their cause to the back burner, no longer a factor in regional politics. What to do? So they planned for years to infiltrate Israel, to launch a surprisingly colossal attack that would shake the Muslim countries out of their stupor. And the 8 October war happened.

With the war, the Jerusalem Post reported that Saudi Arabia informed Washington that it was “ending all negotiations” on normalizing relations with Israel. Recall that in the last days of the Trump administration, talk was rife that Saudi Arabia was next in line for a détente with Israel following the Abraham Accord. Most of the Muslim World commended this gesture of solidarity by Saudi Arabia with the Palestinians.

This political gesture of Saudi Arabia has put the Arab countries that signed the Abraham Accord in a bind. Will they decide to suspend, even temporarily, the terms and stipulations of the Accord in the face of Netanyahu’s dehumanizing declaration of a siege on Gaza and the cutting off of food, fuel  and electricity, thus weaponizing hunger which contravenes the letter and spirit of the principles upon which the United Nations was founded?

If right-wing leader Prime Minister Netanyahu has his way, he would want the Palestinians wiped from the face of the earth. But political pundits see Netanyahu’s aggressive and hawkish posturing as a smokescreen for his waning popularity at home amid the corruption cases filed against him and his wife. He is fighting for his political survival and wants the war to escalate to obfuscate the legal and political issues hounding him.

Let us pray that no Filipino will be caught in the crossfire.

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