For Many in Muslim Lands, a Bloody Christmas

From Nigeria to Pakistan, Christians have been suffering persecution, intimidation, enslavement, and murder at the hands of Muslim neighbors and rulers. During this past Christmas season, writes Raymond Ibrahim, the chaos sweeping through Syria, Iraq, and parts of Africa unleashed new waves of bloodshed; in other places, like Iran, persecution is simply a fact of reality. An example from Kenya:

Gunmen from the Islamic organization al-Shabab launched an early-morning raid on quarry workers while they slept in their worksite tents near the city of Mandera, along the Somali border. Christians and Muslims were separated before the Christians, 36 of them, were beheaded or shot dead. Afterwards, al-Shabab posted a statement condemning the “crusaders”—a standard jihadi reference to Christians—and added: “We are uncompromising in our beliefs, relentless in our pursuit, ruthless against the disbelievers, and we will do whatever necessary to defend our Muslim brethren suffering from Kenya’s aggression.” The killings occurred ten days after al-Shabab’s attack on a bus and the massacre of 28 of its non-Muslim (primarily Christian) passengers. Again, Muslim passengers were singled out and left unharmed.

Read more at Gatestone

More about: Africa, Iran, ISIS, Middle East Christianity, Muslim-Christian relations, Politics & Current Affairs

What Israel Can Achieve in Gaza, the Fate of the Hostages, and Planning for the Day After

In a comprehensive analysis, Azar Gat concludes that Israel’s prosecution of the war has so far been successful, and preferable to the alternatives proposed by some knowledgeable critics. (For a different view, see this article by Lazar Berman.) But even if the IDF is coming closer to destroying Hamas, is it any closer to freeing the remaining hostages? Gat writes:

Hamas’s basic demand in return for the release of all the hostages—made clear well before it was declared publicly—is an end to the war and not a ceasefire. This includes the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip, restoration of Hamas’s control over it (including international guarantees), and a prisoner exchange on the basis of “all for all.”

Some will say that there must be a middle ground between Hamas’s demands and what Israel can accept. However, Hamas’s main interest is to ensure its survival and continued rule, and it will not let go of its key bargaining chip. Some say that without the return of the hostages—“at any price”—no victory is possible. While this sentiment is understandable, the alternative would be a resounding national defeat. The utmost efforts must be made to rescue as many hostages as possible, and Israel should be ready to pay a heavy price for this goal; but Israel’s capitulation is not an option.

Beyond the great cost in human life that Israel will pay over time for such a deal, Hamas will return to rule the Gaza Strip, repairing its infrastructure of tunnels and rockets, filling its ranks with new recruits, and restoring its defensive and offensive arrays. This poses a critical question for those suggesting that it will be possible to restart the war at a later stage: have they fully considered the human toll should the IDF attempt to reoccupy the areas it would have vacated in the Gaza Strip?

Although Gat is sanguine about the prospects of the current campaign, he throws some cold water on those who hope for an absolute victory:

Militarily, it is possible to destroy Hamas’s command, military units, and infrastructure as a semi-regular military organization. . . . After their destruction in high-intensity fighting, the IDF must prevent Hamas from reviving by continuous action on the ground. As in the West Bank, this project will take years. . . . What the IDF is unlikely to achieve is the elimination of Hamas as a guerrilla force.

Lastly, Gat has some wise words about what will happen to Gaza after the war ends, a subject that has been getting renewed attention since Benjamin Netanyahu presented an outline of a plan to the war cabinet on Thursday. Gat argues that, contrary to the view of the American and European foreign-policy elite, there is no political solution for Gaza. After all, Gaza is in the Middle East, where “there are no solutions, . . . only bad options and options that are much worse.”

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security