Gulf security caught between terror threats and American political infighting

HatWRKS Nashville produced these political badges that appropriated the Nazist “Juden Star” and sparked an outrage.

Israel-Hamas conflict a proxy of American political infighting 

Commentary, Analysis 

Rachel Brooks

May 29, 2021 

Opinions expressed in this commentary are attributed solely to the author. 

Days after Israel and Hamas reached an Egypt-mitigated ceasefire agreement, headlines on the subject continued to dominate in western media. The Israel-Hamas conflict sparked a rash of intense antisemitic attacks by protesters sympathizing with Hamas-controlled Palestine’s stakes in the conflict. The rash of antisemitic attacks drew the American Jewish community into the center focus of a spiking wave of rhetoric including Jewish identity, the rights of Israel to exist, and a western left-leaning disdain for Zionism, the movement which developed around Jewish Diaspora efforts to repatriate scattered Jews to Israel. Israel’s southern district of Judea is where Jews developed their ethnic name. The Jews, as a unique ethnicity, have lived in the region in some remnant capacity for 3,000 years, see more at Tikvah Fund’s “Jewish Right to Statehood.” 

A decided shift in this discussion has manifested. Brewing political tensions came to a boil at the scene of a clash between protesters and riot police at the Al-Aqsa mosque, and from there, the Israel-Hamas conflict of 2021 sparked new debate over the equal rights of Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs and the human rights issues faced by Gazans who, as civilians under the political control of Hamas and al-Fatah, were the most vulnerable demographic of the conflict. A shift occurs where now the Jewish identity itself has been used as the fulcrum of the heat and discord in American bipartisan infighting. 

From the leftist side, the question of Jewish identity centered around a degree of separation between the Jewish State in the Middle East and left-leaning progressive Jews of the west. Liberal Americans called out Israel for “appropriating” the Magen David, which in Hebrew means “Shield of David” and is known as the Star of David in the western world, see Jewish Virtual Library. The left-leaning side of the divide believes that Zionism is a fascist movement.

Zionism debate a result of long-term Jewish community political infighting 

The Zionist movement was ideologically founded in the late 19th century. Its moral base line has been attributed to the writing of Theodor Herzl in “The Jewish State”. Herzl introduced his piece on Zionism with the “Jewish Question” an argument that describes the increasing antisemitism of the late 19th century which would see episodic rashes of violence against the Jewish Diasporas during the First World War and would lead to its ultimate climax in the Nazi Genocide, known as it relates specifically to the Jewish community as the Jewish Holocaust due to the Nazi campaign to exterminate 6 million Jews in ghettos, forced-labor internment camps, and death camps. During the Nazi Genocide, other minority groups such as Roma and Sinti people were the target of pogroms, and marginalized groups, such as the disabled or homosexuals, were targeted by pogroms. 

At the outset of the Zionism movement, the Jewish Diaspora community opposed the ideals of Zionism because they believed it would jeopardize their integration as Diasporas into host nations. Its most impassioned critics were The 1885 Pittsburg Platform, the scene of Reform Judaism’s spark, and anti-Zionist Bundists in Russia. This long-term infighting between Jews of a conservative Orthodox background and progressive Jews of a left-leaning background has shaped much of the modern criticism of Zionism among the American right and left-wing parties.

Theodor Herzl’s work on “The Jewish State” is regarded as the theological cornerstone of the movement, though it was founded at least six years earlier. Herzl argued that the solution for Jewish Diasporas to escape persecution in their host-nations was to form a well-established state in the ethnic homeland. He argued that the host nations had become too antiSemitic for Jews to continue to live in them without an alternative. 

“Let us first settle the point of staying where we are. Can we hope for better days, can we possess our souls in patience, can we wait in pious resignation till the princes and peoples of this earth are more mercifully disposed towards us? I say that we cannot hope for a change in the current of feeling. And why not? Even if we were as near to the hearts of princes as are their other subjects, they could not protect us. They would only feel popular hatred by showing us too much favor. By “too much,” I really mean less than is claimed as a right by every ordinary citizen, or by every race. The nations in whose midst Jews live are all either covertly or openly Anti-Semitic,” wrote Herzl. 

Zionism, as a solution to the Jewish Question of global antisemitism, has taken many forms of its apologists. A brief history is available on Open Democracy for more on the political background, from a left-leaning perspective, of the Zionism movement. This history describes the different philosophical groups within Zionism. At the base level, Zionists believe in the rights of Jews to self-determination and to achieve a national identity. Early Zionists at the outset of the buy-back purchase of the ethnic homeland from the British Mandate of Palestine, for example, were pro a bi-national coexistence with the Arab counterpart in the region. Arabs and Jews share a common ethnic heritage, both groups tracing the origins of their racial identity to the same ancestor, Abraham of Ur of the Chaldee. 

Branch out movements have panned from the base of Zionism, including the liberal Zionism which seeks kinship with the Palestinian movement, and demands justice from the Israeli Knesset for Palestinians of Israel, the name used politically to describe ethnic Arabs of origin in the common region of Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank. There is likewise a more aggressive form of the movement known as neo-Zionism or religious Zionism which marries the religious philosophy of the Orthodox Jews to the political debate of Israeli rights to national identity. Critics of this form of the movement refer to it as “uncompromising” and “expansionist nationalism,” wrote Open Democracy. 

 

American infighting surrounding the Jewish identity 

The American right-leaning side has been highly argumentative against the leftist opposition to Zionism and national patriotism for Israel’s founding. On Friday, Fox News reported that “Real-Time” show host Bill Maher had weighed in on the Israel-Hamas conflict and called out the left-leaning social influencers such as Bella Hadid for their rhetoric against the Jewish State. Maher was responding directly to The New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof who had accused Israel of war crimes during the conflict. 

The American right drew criticism from the left as it appropriated the Magen David symbol used in the Nazist “Juden” patches of racial identifying at the start of Nazist social pogroms for an unrelated partisan issue. The Nashville, TN-based company hatWRKS produced a patch with the words “Not-Vaccinated” printed within the shape of the “Juden” yellow patches to the outrage of the liberal left. The American right was drawing a comparison between the leftist policy of mandatory vaccination for COVID-19 and the social pogroms of polarizing and identifying Jews that led to ultimately to Jewish extermination during the Holocaust. The left especially sounded an outcry against the appropriation of the symbol to argue the American right-leaning stance that Americans should have arbitrary vaccination rights and have the socially protected right to opt-out of vaccination. Left-leaning Americans especially regarded the symbolism as an outrageous false equivalency. 

American political equivalency is a common problem of infighting in the United States and other western nations. Misappropriation of terms or regional issues has fueled sentiments that lead to heated public debates, scathing media criticism, and rashes of intercommunal violence in the western world. For context, Foreign Policy published a commentary by a Harvard professor that called for the “end of the special relationship with Israel,” that the United States has shared since the outset of the Jewish repatriation. The piece argues that the regional relationship, which is based on a foundation of regional security enforcement and economic stability, is no longer beneficial, and that the “cost” now outweighs the “benefits” of the relationship.

The argument drew direct equivalency to the recent rash of conflict between Israel and Hamas, and stated that the recent ceasefire left “Palestinians worse off and core issues unaddressed.” The issues that the western left argument has drawn this equivalency to are the fatalities of civilians and the bombing of the Al-Jalaa tower in Gaza, which was identified as a Hamas base and likewise housed the Associated Press and Al Jazeera Media’s bureau offices in the area. 

The western leftist outcry has centered around these fatalities and calls out the Israeli government for “war crimes”, “apartheid” and so on. They base these claims on the inferiority of the Hamas forces in terms of supply and technological advancement. Yet, Hamas is backed by the proxy network of Iran, including Lebanese Hezbollah. The Times of Israel reported direct coordination between Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah during the 2021 conflict, citing the claims made by a newspaper editor that is directly affiliated with Lebanese Hezbollah. The Israel defense against the Hamas incursion thus is an interregional defense against a proxy network that receives overshadowing backing from the enterprise of the Islamic Republic.

The Israeli Defense Forces report being placed in a difficult position in its need for defensive-return fire that is a common issue of conflict with Islamist militias such as Hamas. The weapons caches and armed forces of Hamas have developed directly within Gaza’s civilian communities. In 2021, Iran-back militias have posed a growing threat to the Gulf region.

Embedded in communities, the Hamas incursion has jeopardized civilian lives on its own merits. The Hamas rocket launch sites frequently misfire, falling back on the civilian settlements Hamas forces bases surround. The IDF reports that, during the 11-day conflict of 2021, Hamas fired over 4,300 rockets at Israel. Of that 4,300, 680 misfired and exploded in Gaza, resulting in “friendly fire” civilian casualties. 

Compounding this issue, Israels’ evacuation efforts are sometimes delayed by the refusal of Hamas-sympathizing Gazans to evacuate, as was proven by a recorded evacuation call notice, see Arutz Sheva 7. As for Al-Jalaa twoer, Israel reports that Hamas used the high-rise as a base of its operations. The Times of Israel wrote that Associated Press journalists were, whether “aware or not” had been “having coffee” with Hamas’ men on the ground. Additional strain to the Israeli defense against the Hamas incursion comes from the war propaganda of Hamas, which employs misinformation to guide the western rhetoric, as well as the indoctrination of civilian noncombatants to condition them to radicalism. For example, the IDF released a broadcast photo-op of Hamas-leader Yahya Sinwar posing with a child armed with an automatic rifle. 

American rhetoric, and the loudness of the leftist outcry, appear to shape a lukewarm response to the growing regional threat from Iran proxy networking in the Gulf region. The Biden administration has exercised an incoherent policy that promises continued relations between Israel and the United States, but courts Iran and sends funds to Gaza which is under the control of Hamas, see Reuters. As Americans continue to engage in political debate and outright rabble over the issue, the shadow of the Islamic Republic spreads out with the opportunity to seize upon the American attempt at solving the Israel-Hamas conflict through fiduciary and diplomatic means. The underlying driving force of the Israel-Hamas conflict, however, remains the presence of Iran as the common denominator of regional instability.

American leadership fails to execute resolute policy. As the American leadership continues to pursue tone-deaf policies toward Iran and the region, and as the civil discourse domestically continues to dissolve over the polarized misappropriation of Middle East security to the American civil rights erosion, the security risks multiply. Jewish identity, in the Middle East and the west, is in current jeopardy from the heated rhetoric’s aftermath, the integrity of Gaza is trapped under the control of Hamas as the west continues to enable radicalism through the perpetuation of propaganda for talking points, and the Gulf is faced with the prospect of Iranian aggression drawing nearer its doorstep in the collapse of prospects for international diplomatic, defensive consistency.