By Remaining on the Defensive, Israel Continues to Lose the Battle of World Opinion

In mid-May, as the violent protests at the Gaza security fence were reaching the height of their intensity, a story circulated in the global press that eight-month-old Layla Ghandour had been killed by the IDF. But soon the story started falling apart: a doctor told reporters that she died of a congenital heart defect rather than from inhaling tear gas, as was previously claimed; the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry removed her name from its own list of those killed by Israel; and it became clear that she had died after being left in the care of her twelve-year-old uncle. Evelyn Gordon explains how Israel mishandled the fallout from the incident:

The doctor’s explanation was immediately seized on and disseminated worldwide by both official Israeli spokesmen and Israel supporters overseas as if it somehow mattered whether Ghandour was killed by tear gas or a congenital heart defect. In other words, Israel and its supporters implicitly accepted the view of the anti-Israel mob. Had the baby truly been killed by Israeli tear gas, presumably Israel could legitimately have been considered culpable.

What they should have pointed out instead is that Ghandour’s story proves just how dishonest are all the critics accusing Israel of disproportionate force. After all, ever since the weekly demonstrations along the Gaza border began in March, these critics have claimed that they don’t deny Israel’s right to protect its border. They merely demand that it restrict itself to nonlethal crowd-control measures rather than resorting to lethal force. . . . [But] tear gas is exactly the type of nonlethal crowd-control measure commonly used by law-enforcement agencies. . . .

[Furthermore], Ghandour wasn’t in a peaceful demonstration when she died. She had been deliberately taken from a peaceful one into a violent one. On [that day], as in all the preceding weeks, there were actually two demonstrations taking place. One, which was largely peaceful, was hundreds of meters from the border fence. The other, which was right up against the fence, was anything but peaceful. Members of terrorist organizations threw bombs, Molotov cocktails, and slingshot-propelled rocks at soldiers. They flew incendiary kites across the border to set Israeli fields afire. . . . They vandalized the fence and tried to break through it. . . .

Baby Layla was taken to the nonviolent protest by her twelve-year-old uncle, who mistakenly thought her mother was there. Upon discovering his mistake, he responsibly kept her in the nonviolent section until late afternoon, when she began crying. Then, wanting to hand her off to an older relative, . . . he deliberately brought her into the most violent part of the protest, where Israel was exercising its legitimate right of self-defense and where no baby should ever have been. And she died. . . . Israel cannot be held culpable for her death unless you start from the premise that it had no right whatsoever to defend its border against violent attacks of the type launched during this protest.

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Read more at Evelyn Gordon

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Hasbara, Israel & Zionism, Media

 

What Egypt’s Withdrawal from the “Arab NATO” Signifies for U.S. Strategy

A few weeks ago, Egypt quietly announced its withdrawal from the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), a coalition—which also includes Jordan, the Gulf states, and the U.S.—founded at President Trump’s urging to serve as an “Arab NATO” that could work to contain Iran. Jonathan Ariel notes three major factors that most likely contributed to Egyptian President Sisi’s abandonment of MESA: his distrust of Donald Trump (and concern that Trump might lose the 2020 election) and of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman; Cairo’s perception that Iran does not pose a major threat to its security; and the current situation in Gaza:

Gaza . . . is ruled by Hamas, defined by its covenant as “one of the wings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.” Sisi has ruthlessly persecuted the Brotherhood in Egypt. [But] Egypt, despite its dependence on Saudi largesse, has continued to maintain its ties with Qatar, which is under Saudi blockade over its unwillingness to toe the Saudi line regarding Iran. . . . Qatar is also supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, . . . and of course Hamas.

[Qatar’s ruler] Sheikh Tamim is one of the key “go-to guys” when the situation in Gaza gets out of hand. Qatar has provided the cash that keeps Hamas solvent, and therefore at least somewhat restrained. . . . In return, Hamas listens to Qatar, which does not want it to help the Islamic State-affiliated factions involved in an armed insurrection against Egyptian forces in northern Sinai. Egypt’s military is having a hard enough time coping with the insurgency as it is. The last thing it needs is for Hamas to be given a green light to cooperate with Islamic State forces in Sinai. . . .

Over the past decade, ever since Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power, Israel has also been gradually placing more and more chips in its still covert but growing alliance with Saudi Arabia. Egypt’s decision to pull out of MESA should give it cause to reconsider. Without Egypt, MESA has zero viability unless it is to include either U.S. forces or Israeli ones. [But] one’s chances of winning the lottery seem infinitely higher than those of MESA’s including the IDF. . . . Given that Egypt, the Arab world’s biggest and militarily most powerful state and its traditional leader, has clearly indicated its lack of confidence in the Saudi leadership, Israel should urgently reexamine its strategy in this regard.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy