Israel and Hamas, and the role of SA - Politicsweb

It’s now over one hundred days since 7 Oct, when 3 000 Hamas fighters raided the border villages (kibbutzim) of the Gaza Strip to rape, burn and murder Israeli citizens: young and old, male and female – some celebrating a Jewish holiday of rejoicing. But this was also a moment for rejoicing for the raiders as captured in the ecstatic telephone conversation of a young terrorist:

Mike Berger 

It’s now over one hundred days since 7 Oct, when 3 000 Hamas fighters raided the border villages (kibbutzim) of the Gaza Strip to rape, burn and murder Israeli citizens: young and old, male and female – some celebrating a Jewish holiday of rejoicing. But this was also a moment for rejoicing for the raiders as captured in the ecstatic telephone conversation of a young terrorist:

” Hi, Dad—open my WhatsApp now, and you’ll see all those killed. Look how many I killed with my own hands! Your son killed Jews!”

Dad “May God protect you”

Son “Dad, I’m talking to you from a Jewish woman’s phone. I killed her, and I killed her husband. I killed ten with my own hands! Dad, ten with my own hands!…Open the phone, go. Dad, I killed ten. Ten with my own hands…Put Mom on”

Dad “Oh, my son. God bless you!” Mother “I wish I was with you.”… And on and on.

In case you were looking for it, the word Zionist was not mentioned once, only Jews. He was nothing out of the ordinary. Israel has collated a record of the depravity of those hours, using cell phone evidence including video, eye-witness reports, DNA analysis and careful forensic investigation only available to a high-tech state. Some of this is available for public record here and here. Of the approximately 240 hostages taken back into Gaza, 105 have been released and 132 remain, of whom 19 are confirmed dead.

Numbers are important but not central. What is central is the savagery of the killing, the identity of the victims and the intent. Most victims were Israeli civilians, plus a smattering of foreigners including Americans, Thais, and other workers in Israel on temporary visas. Some were in isolated, unprepared IDF defence outposts. These included female soldiers, many of whom were shot or stabbed through their vaginas.

Equally depraved

The intent was equally depraved: to commit a crime of sufficient magnitude to provoke an Israeli response and to weaponise the inevitable suffering of their own citizens for propaganda purposes. The ground had been prepared over decades of lies and half-truths. This savage but simple strategy, built up over time, based on fundamentalist Quranic interpretations, borrowing liberally from Nazi and Soviet ideology and propaganda techniques and piggybacking on the recent victimology doctrines of the neo-Marxist, Western Left, proved devastatingly effective, certainly in the short-term.

Literally within hours of the raid, before Israel had even retaliated, mobs were out on the streets in Europe, UK, the USA, Australia, and elsewhere, screaming threats and insults against the Jews and demanding an immediate ceasefire to prevent a genocide – not against the Israelis but the ‘innocent’ Palestinians. It takes a remarkable degree of wilful stupidity and malice to fall for this, but the useful idiots around the world were up to the task.

Some of this can be fleshed out further in due course, but it’s useful to outline the main elements of the current Middle East conflict and to set it in its historical context.

A convenient starting point is the collapse of the already ailing Ottoman empire in the early 20th century under the onslaught of mainly Western colonial power competition for influence and resources.  Part of the Turkish caliphate in the Levant was divided under the umbrella of the League of Nations, mainly between the British and French, with the British being responsible for the region broadly known as Palestine and France for what is now Syria, Lebanon, and part of Southern Turkey.

Immediately following the mandate, Britain allocated the land East of the Jordan river, representing about 75% of the original mandatory territory, to form the Hashemite Kingdom of present-day Jordan. The remaining 25% west of the river remained to be partitioned between Palestinian Jews and Arabs.

Dominant force

Arabs had been the ethnic majority and the dominant force in the region since the early Muslim conquests of the 7th century. Jews of course were indigenous to the region following the rise of Judaism around 1000 BC, and remained a presence there throughout the succeeding millennia, constituting a majority in Jerusalem by 1850. European Jewish immigration into the region started in the late 19th century shortly before the final dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, driven by increasing European anti-Semitism, especially theDreyfus Affair in France and pogroms in TsaristRussia, and bottom-up Zionist socialist-spiritual ideals.

To complicate matters further, massive reserves of oil had been discovered under the sands of the Middle East (though not in Palestine). This, along with its strategic position at the crossroads of both sea and land routes, ensured that the region would remain an on-going focus of great power rivalry.

The combination of a political-power vacuum, religious rivalry between Sunnis and Shiites, ethnic (Jewish-Arab) conflict, oil, geopolitical strategic importance, and an arid ecology was an incubator for political-religious extremism and dictatorships. The whole of the Middle East plus adjoining North Africa (the MENA region) became the stage for incessant warfare, starvation, xenophobia, religious fanaticism, and failed development.

Here religious fanaticism found natural allies in the Western totalitarian doctrines of Nazi fascism and Soviet communism, which emerged in the form of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood founded by Hassan al-Banna in 1928. Hamas is an offshoot of that movement which arose initially in Egypt but was pan-Islamic in scope. Similarly, the Shiite Islamist movement, spearheaded by Iran following the 1979 overthrow of the Shah, has recruited allies/proxies across the region in Hezbollah in Lebanon, in present-day Iraq, Syria, the Houthis in Yemen and the Sunni Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

While Sunni-Shiite tensions are real, the Jews and the Palestinians represent a convenient local issue to bring radical Islamic factions into alignment, first against Israel and then against the West. The Israel-Palestinian issue also taps into great power politics pitting Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran, plus their proxies, against the West.


Israel is in an extraordinarily vulnerable position: a tiny, Western-oriented, democratic enclave in a sea of Arab-Muslim and Islamist hostility, it can only survive in the long term with the backing of local Arab-Muslim allies or Western support, preferably both. Anti-Jewish hostility has historical and religious resonance in both the West and in Muslim societies.  Israel’s conspicuous economic, military and technological success breeds envy and resentment everywhere grievance can be mined. Above all, its vulnerability is an irresistible attraction to predatory political actors.

Israel in the Middle Eastern cauldron is an ideal target for the radical extremists of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to externalise the frustrations of the Iranian population on to outside enemies and to boost their hegemonic ambitions in the region (and globally). Their spider-web strategy is two-pronged: military and propaganda.

Iran has cleverly outsourced the military component to proxies ringing Israel (Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, Iraq, the Houthis in Yemen) while using its near-nuclear status as a bargaining chip to keep the West in line. In this strategy it is backed financially and militarily by Turkey, Qatar, and by the Russian-Chinese-North Korean axis which stands to benefit from Iran’s adventurism.

This is financially and militarily an extremely cost-efficient strategy, and so far, Iran has escaped serious punitive military action in response. Its propaganda warfare has been even more effective.

Borrowing liberally from Soviet Cold War techniques and using Muslim migration to the West, the Islamist movement has penetrated both the elite institutions of the West (notably academia and the media) and the Western street. It effectively depicts Israel as an Apartheid, genocidal, settler-colonial oppressor of the Palestinians. It has read and exploited the faultlines in the West brilliantly, as depicted in the following passage from a conversation between a Jewish and Arab activist 25 years ago.

“And now, Gary Wexler,” he sat down, “let me give you more direct answers.”…

“Just like you were a Zionist campus activist, we will create, over the next years, Palestinian campus activists in America and all over the world. Bigger and better than any Zionist activists. Just like you spent your summers on the kibbutz, we will bring college students to spend their summers in refugee camps and work with our people. Just like you have been part of creating global pro-Israel organizations, we will create global pro-Palestinian organizations. Just like you today help create PR campaigns and events for Israel, so will we, but we will get more coverage than you ever have.” …

 “You wonder how we will make this happen, how we will pay for this? Not with the money from your liberal Jewish organizations who are now funding us. But from the European Union, Arab and Moslem governments, wealthy Arab people and their organizations. Eventually, we will not take another dollar from the Jews.”

And so it came to pass. The full story has yet to be told, but in a way, Iran has been fortunate, catching the tide in global politics which sees the fracturing of Western democracy by internal forces and external pressures. Unless the West gets to grips with the underlying trends which have brought us to this point, the future is both uncertain and bleak.

The role of South Africa

This could not have come at a better time for the African National Congress (ANC). Severely pummelled by its inability and lack of interest in carrying out the basic duties of good governance, its addiction to corruption and its lack of funds, the Hamas invasion was a lifejacket. The ANC immediately signalled its allegiance to the Iran-led, anti-Israel consortium in the Middle East (which came as no surprise to anyone remotely aware of ANC proclivities) and was enthusiastically enlisted as one of Iran’s proxies in the propaganda theatre.

It role has been brilliantly summarised  by Dr Frans Cronje in a brief but telling interview with Chai TV.  South Africa’s  ICJ case served essentially as a propaganda function, irrespective of whether the Court acts on the arguments in order to limit Israel’s ability to counter the genocidal threat from its neighbours.

South Africa’s day in court was mainly intended to supply further ammunition to the host of social and legacy media influencers across the globe eager to throw mud at Israel. The longer-term blowback may not be to the ANC’s advantage, and is certainly not in South Africa’s interest which is, in any case, far from the top of the ANC’s list of priorities.

The Hamas-Israel conflict has another local side-benefit, besides burnishing the ANC’s diplomatic credentials amongst its fellow-travellers and attracting a very welcome influx of funds into its coffers. The conflict provides a potential electoral windfall in the Muslim population, especially in the Western Cape, which hitherto was hardly enamoured of the ANC policies or performance. 

This poses a dilemma for the Democratic Alliance (DA) which is caught between a rock and a hard place, and also for the wider Muslim population which will have to decide whether they really want to rally around the Islamist faction.  The way the DA responds will be a foretaste of its ability to marry principle, public relations and political necessity. For South Africa it is a further explosive distraction in an already divided society.


There is no doubt that the Islamist strain within Islam is a serious threat, not only to Israel but to the West and to the global prospects of civilisational advance.  Medieval and even more ancient cultures are being repurposed for the post-modern world by merging a religious (sacred) moral authority with new secular ideologies and a ruthless Machiavellian exercise of power. In this project, the small, relatively successful Jewish community is the perfect scapegoat.  

This represents a potent threat to any hope of advancing civilisation both in the Middle East and globally. Given the size, demographic profile, and wide distribution of the Muslim community, Islamism in its various manifestations is destined to be a powerful and seriously disruptive force for the foreseeable future. It will be a challenge for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

The immediate test lies within the Middle Eastern theatre, and the manner in which Israel and the West respond may be decisive. But it demands from the West a deep rethink of its model of democracy and how to counter the advance of authoritarian, atavistic and criminal states globally.

Mike Berger is a retired academic, and regular commentator on the Middle East

This article was first published on the Daily Friend.