Well founded concerns

Al-Ahram Weekly Editorial
Tuesday 23 Apr 2024


Since the start of Israel’s revenge war on the Palestinian people in Gaza over six months ago, Egypt has been warning that the continuing military escalation and failure to reach an immediate ceasefire would cause regional conflict and tension on a greater scale.

The latest exchange of attacks between Iran and Israel, unprecedented in the history of confrontation between the two declared enemies, and the first of its kind by any power since Israel’s creation in 1948, is ample evidence that Egypt’s deep concerns are well founded.

On 14 April, Iran sent over 200 drones filled with explosives and over 100 cruise and ballistic missiles towards different targets in Israel, including a military base which Iranians believed that had been used to direct the attack against its embassy in Damascus on 1 April, in which seven Iranian Revolutionary Guard officers were killed, including two senior Quds Force commanders. Israel responded on 19 April with a targeted attack not far from vital Iranian nuclear installations in Isfahan, sending a clear message to the Iranians clearly that it has the ability to beat their air defence systems with ease.

Yet even before this extreme and dangerous escalation, the Lebanese and Yemeni fronts had been in turmoil. The frequent exchange of fire between Lebanon’s Hizbullah and Israel is growing more deadly by the day, amid repeated, reckless warnings by Israel’s generals that Lebanon is likely to become the next Gaza once the war there is over.

The attacks which the Houthis in Yemen have maintained in the Red Sea for months, targeting ships owned by or linked to Israeli businessmen, as well as other American ships, in an act of solidarity with Gaza and to demand an immediate ceasefire, have caused tremendous harm to international trade and to the income of countries like Egypt, which depends on the revenue from hundreds of ships going through the Suez Canal.

What is sad, however, is that the United States and key European nations have happily agreed to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to prevent the Houthi attacks and bring the situation in the Red Sea under control, exerting tremendous efforts to prevent the outbreak of war between Israel and Lebanon, while ignoring with the root cause of all these ongoing tensions: Israel’s insane aggression and the war crimes the occupation army has been carrying out there since Hamas attacked Israeli army posts and settlements near Gaza on 7 October last year.

It is a stain on the modern world’s record that the so-called advanced Western countries have not only tolerated the daily Israeli massacres against Palestinians but were actual partners in crime because they continued to provide Israel with the weapons it has been using to mercilessly kill innocent Palestinian civilians, over 34,000 in total, including 14,000 children and 10,000 women. According to Palestinian health officials, at least 10,000 other Palestinians are feared buried under the rubble following Israel’s indiscriminate bombing and destruction of nearly 80 per cent of the buildings in northern Gaza, and more than 50 per cent in the rest of the narrow, overpopulated Strip.

There is no doubt that world public opinion, as well as that of key Israeli allies and backers, topped with the United States, Britain and Germany, has gradually grown more vocal in its critique of the Israeli war conduct in Gaza, describing it as “over the top” or admitting that “far too many Palestinians have been killed.” Yet this was not translated into any real action to stop the madness, or to work seriously towards a day-after strategy to reach a permanent settlement.

On the contrary, the current US administration missed one opportunity after another to join the near world consensus that Israel’s war must stop immediately by vetoing and blocking resolutions making this demand at the United Nations Security Council. Adding to the irony is the fact that, while top US officials, starting with President Joe Biden, keep talking about the two-state solution as the only way to guarantee permanent peace in the region, Washington ordered its envoy to the Security Council last week to veto a resolution recognising the state of Palestine as a full member of the United Nations. Twelve out of the 15 Security Council members voted in favour despite the tremendous pressure Washington exerted on its allies in the council to vote against the resolution and prevent it from gaining the minimum nine votes needed in order to avoid using its embarrassing veto power. Two countries, Britain and Switzerland, unsurprisingly abstained.  

The United States, Britain and France rushed to help Israel counter the Iranian attack ten days ago. Yet it is equally significant that they exerted pressure on Israel to deter its current extremist government in order to avoid pushing the entire region to the brink.

This is not difficult to understand. While allowing Israel to continue its massacres against Palestinians can be tolerated — since Gaza does not produce oil, and the daily killing of Palestinians whether in Gaza or the West Bank has been the norm for many years anyway — a regional war would certainly harm US and European interests by raising oil prices and probably dragging them directly into the war. 

There could be nothing worse for the region’s future than such a racism and double standards. It is this kind of disregard for Palestinian lives that fuels the rise of the influence of radical groups in the region, as well as Iranian claims of championing the cause of the resistance against Israeli occupation and Western injustice. Ending the Israeli genocide in Gaza is the only way to calm the region and avoid dangerous escalations such as what has happened between Israel and Iran.  

* A version of this article appears in print in the 25 April, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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