‘Hard to see how Hamas can be defeated’

‘The purported claim that Israel can defeat Hamas and everything ‘would go back to normal’ is completely absurd.’

“Israel’s security paradigm has been challenged to the core. The idea that Israel can just go on with building settlements, keep a brutal siege on Gaza and continue stealing land in the occupied territories has been fundamentally challenged,” asserts Dr Bashir Saade, lecturer in Religion and Politics at the University of Stirling, UK.

Dr Saade has previously held posts at the University of Edinburgh and at the American University of Beirut. He has a PhD in War Studies at King’s College and an MSc in International Politics from the London School of Economics.

He is also the author of the book Hizbullah and the Politics of Remembrance.

“The idea of a two State solution will only continue breeding divisions,” Dr Saade tells Rediff.com‘s Archana Masih in an e-mail interview.

What do you think is likely to happen in Gaza after the war and devastation? What do you see as the future of the people of Palestine?

This is a very difficult question. We have reached a point of no return, but we also have no idea where compromise can be reached.

The divide is so great that only bold moves can save the situation.

One thing is sure Israel needs to re-assess its colonial policies and that’s something very tough to see materialise without international and regional pressure.

What role can Saudi Arabia in bringing about some sort of settlement between Israel and Palestine?

Saudi Arabia can definitely play a role in pushing Israel to halt its settler policy in exchange of brokering a deal with Palestinian political forces, but this will only happens in a larger context including Iran.

Can there ever be a possibility of Palestine and Israel co-existing side by side or are Israel-Palestine relations beyond reconciliation?

In my opinion, the only possibility for reconciliation is for Israel and Palestine to become one pluralist State, as it happened in South Africa.

The idea of a two State solution will only continue breeding divisions.

The idea of a ‘Jewish’ State will always involve some kind of second class citizenship for those who are not Jewish, a desire to encroach on neighbouring land and perceive the immediate environment as hostile.

What is the future of the Palestinian Authority? Can it be revived and does it have the ability to become the voice of the Palestinian people?

Very few people in Palestine consider the Palestinian Authority as the legitimate power. Most people are with ‘The Resistance’ whether it involves Hamas or other groups that are willing to stand in the way of Israeli policies.

The only way a Palestinian Authority can emerge as legitimate is if it endorses a stronger stand towards Israel in the hope of reaching a more just/equitable situation (return of lands, refugees, etc).

If Hizbullah opens a front on Israel’s the northern border and confrontations with the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza escalate, would that pose severe military challenges for Israel, the likes it has not seen before?

Yes, it is possible it would do so. It is also one reason why the skirmishes around the Lebanese border have been very restrained.

I think in the case of this battle, Israel won’t be able to redo what it tried in the summer of 2006 where it bombed most of Lebanon’s infrastructure, but without really being able to inflict any damage to Hizbullah as an organisation and military infrastructure.

In a sense it does pose a challenge to Israel which is one of the reasons it hasn’t escalated yet and why Israel has been seeking (in vain) US backing for this.

Can Israel overcome these challenges or will it pose a dire threat to the Jewish homeland?

After the events of October 7, there is definitely no turning back to the situation that existed before.

Israel’s security paradigm has been challenged to the core. The idea that Israel can just go on with building settlements, keep a brutal siege on Gaza and continue stealing land in the occupied territories has been fundamentally challenged.

It also means that Jews or those thinking to emigrate to settlements will now think twice before doing so. In that sense, expansive Zionist ideology is being challenged.

Why, in your opinion, has Israel not undertaken its ground invasion, which was expected in the week after the Hamas attack?
Was it delayed by the US advising restraint so that humanitarian challenges of Gaza could be addressed first?

It is possible and it is very difficult to figure out what is going on in the corridors of decision-making processes. But from what is being leaked, it looks also like Israel is dreading a ground invasion, first because they haven’t fought any war ‘on the ground’ since 1973, they tried in 2006 and failed dramatically.

Secondly, because there’s a growing dissatisfaction among the military with the current ruling government and the war cabinet formed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But to be very honest, I don’t think either the US or Israel bother much with humanitarian questions so I don’t think this enters the equation.

Or was the invasion also held back by inadequate information about the hostages? Will this delay and complicate what Israel hopes to achieve militarily in Gaza?

Since the start of the hostilities Israel hasn’t shown it has much regard other than the hostage question. We know now that they have already killed some through crossfire and in bombing Gaza, and the recent release of the two elderly hostages took place DESPITE the fact that Israel refused at first to accept the release of these hostages.

The Israel Defence Forces have long prepared for urban warfare. In your estimation what military challenges does a ground invasion in Gaza, with its miles of underground tunnels, pose for the IDF?

I’m not sure to what extent Israel is prepared for urban warfare. The IDF is expert in fighting and policing low scale threats, sporadic popular unrest or loose militant elements, but not in confronting a fully-fledged mobilised guerrilla movement such as al Qassam’s Brigade that have miles of tunnels prepared and of which Israel has very little concrete information.

What are your thoughts on the world’s response to the Israel-Hamas war?

I think the world rushed to condemn Hamas and to legitimate any of Israeli actions against it, thereby opening the door to an explosion of destruction and mass murder.

I think this was horribly irresponsible. To be clear, no one glorifies killing people. And the events of the 7th of October were a human tragedy. But not understanding where they came from is basically playing ostrich politics. And what Israel did in response to it is unnecessarily deadly and amount to multiple war crimes and violation of human rights with no concrete results.

In reality, so far Israel killed around a dozen of Hamas officials, among more than 5,000 people killed (of which more than 2,000 are children). Imagine for one second how effective their military campaign is.

The Western world is worried about Israel’s right to defend itself when it should be worried about why did we come to this kind of violence being unleashed. Not addressing the structural problem of Israeli or Zionist colonialism will always reach the same result.

Hamas will come back, through one form or another, or other groups will emerge. No people will accept being repressed like this.

Hamas, and any militant group of this kind, and the Palestinian people who support this cause, are not after ‘killing Jews’ (Unlike what most Western leaders said) but want the occupation to stop, they want the brutal siege of Gaza to stop, for settlements to stop expanding on more and more land being stolen.

Can Hamas be defeated and finished?

Hamas is an organic part of Palestinian society, it was voted in democratically. A majority of Palestinians support Hamas. It is also definitely more popular than the Palestinian Authority.

One can be critical of their methods, but it is hard to see how it can be defeated. The purported claim that Israel can defeat Hamas and everything ‘would go back to normal’ is completely absurd. Again, the same was true with Hizbullah in Lebanon, in 2006.

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Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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