The Middle East's Rogue Regime

The Middle East's Rogue Regime
By Patrick Seale
Middle East Online-

(Patrick Seale is a leading British writer on the Middle East, and the author of The Struggle for Syria; also, Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East; and Abu Nidal: A Gun for Hire.)

A striking feature of the War in Gaza is the extraordinary immunity Israel has enjoyed to strike and kill at will. Defence Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, leading members of the Israeli government, have not hesitated to resort to mass murder. Yet, no one has been able to stop them. To all appearances, Israel is a rogue regime, spinning out of control.

Unrestrained by the rules of international legality, and indifferent to the most elementary considerations of morality, Israel is bombing into the stone age a besieged, battered and largely defenseless Arab society of 1.5 million people. At the time of writing, it had killed at least 437 people, wounded more than 2,300, and flattened every building in sight. The final casualties will undoubtedly be higher.

How has Israel managed to get away with such behaviour? The short answer is that there is no serious countervailing pressure on the Jewish state, neither from a weak and divided Arab world, nor from the European Union, still struggling to become a coherent political entity, nor from emerging powers such as China and Russia. The total absence of any balance of power means that Israel has been able to do as it pleases.

The world is a jungle, largely because the U.S. administration of out-going President George W. Bush has made it so. Bush’s illegal war in Iraq, his unbridled ‘Global War on Terror’, his cross-border air strikes, his subversion of the rule of law and of the Geneva Conventions, his license for the use of torture and for detention without trial, all these have given Israel the freedom to do likewise.

Israel’s main asset has undoubtedly been the blind support it has enjoyed from U.S. President George W. Bush -- a support which is continuing to the very last days of Bush’s abysmal administration. Just as he backed Israel’s Lebanon war of 2006, which was designed to destroy Hizbullah, so Bush has backed Israel’s war in Gaza, designed to destroy Hamas. He has now given Barak and Livni a green light to follow up their air blitz with a ground offensive.

Instead of seeking to resolve long-running conflicts and promote peace, the Bush administration has instead fanned the flames of war. The world is praying that President-elect Barack Obama will -- immediately on taking office on 20 January -- bring about a sharp and decisive change of direction in American foreign policy.

Israel’s freedom of action is not only due to American tolerance and support. It is also a tribute to the success of Israel’s own propaganda. A huge effort and very considerable resources are devoted to putting Israel’s case to the world. Israel has managed to brain-wash a large part of the world into believing that it is a victim of Palestinian terrorism, whereas the truth is that Israel’s own state terrorism -- its targeted assassinations, armed incursions, land theft, massacres and cruel siege of the Palestinians -- has been far more lethal than anything the Palestinians have ever managed to do themselves.

The record of the last eight years shows that between 200 and 300 Palestinians have been killed by Israel for every Israeli victim of Palestinian violence.

On a visit to President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris last week, Tzipi Livni did not hesitate to declare that Israel was being attacked by Hamas’s rockets because it was “defending the values of the free world.” No, Ms Livni, George W. Bush may approve your murderous policies, but they have no place in the values which Western societies aspire to live by.

The total identification of the United States with Israel’s policies in recent years has destroyed America’s standing in the Arab and Muslim world. It has radicalizing opinion in the Greater Middle East -- and as far afield as Pakistan, Mauritania, Indonesia and elsewhere -- and is likely to expose the U.S. and its interests to attack.

There are several other casualties of the Gaza War. The most important of these is peace. The whole so-called ‘peace process’ of recent years has now been thrown into reverse. Such is the popular anger aroused by Israel’s actions that there is no hope that meaningful peace talks will be revived in the foreseeable future. Israel will be free to continue its expansion into Palestinian territory, which is what it has sought all along. The dream of a “Greater Israel” is by no means dead. But Israel and Jews everywhere will very probably have to face a wave of revenge attacks. Violence breeds violence.

A prominent victim of the war is Mahmud Abbas, the hapless president of the Palestinian Authority, who believed that concessions and surrender to Israel would win him an independent state. He has been proved wrong, and is much enfeebled.

Another victim is President Husni Mubarak of Egypt, who has attempted to walk a tightrope between support for Arab causes and peaceful relations with Israel. The crisis has pushed him unceremoniously off the tightrope. His refusal to open the Rafah crossing point, and his belated condemnation of Israel’s war, have aroused great anger in Egypt and across the region and have caused him to be widely accused of complicity in Israel’s crimes.

It is a truth of international relations that a balance of power keeps the peace, whereas an imbalance causes war, since the stronger side will always seek to impose its will by force. Until the Middle East manages to contain Israel’s rogue regime by a regional balance of power, peace will remain out of reach.

Copyright ©2009 Patrick Seale -- distributed by Agence Global