The October 7 Hamas incursion on Israel is ultimately turning out to be a fresh 9/11 for the world. The narrative in the mainstream global media, barring a few exceptions, is unequivocally in sync with Israel’s pronounced with-us-or-against-us message. With Tel Aviv’s ground offensive advancing undeterred, the Palestinian death toll has sharpened public opinion against Israel and the West alike. The unprecedented public outrage in Europe and the Muslim world against the ongoing massacre of Palestinians projects a disconnect between governments and the aspirations of the people.
Hamas pronounced its invasion, murder and abduction of civilians on the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War. The news, photos and videos of the conflict circulating through mainstream and social media with generous splashes of rumors, misinformation and doctored pictures are dehumanizing the victims on the one hand and proselytizing the respective worldviews of rival camps. If one side is declaring never-again-is-now, the other is forecasting the clash of civilizations.
The fresh chain of events triggered by Hamas’ assault and Israel’s sweeping retaliation can potentially lead to exponential radicalization i.e., Arabs versus Zionists, and Muslims versus Jews. Western governments have in large part parroted statements like the ones after the attack on the World Trade Center.
In Israel, the far right has become the center. Just like during his MIT-Harvard days, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu still believes that Israel could achieve normalcy in the comity of nations by oppressing and disregarding the Palestinians. His coalition government represents the most radical supremacist executive since Israel’s establishment, and it also believes that Palestinians are fungible.
Whatever has unfolded to this point is just the front end of the conflict. Hamas’ assault not only derailed the normalization process of Israel with the Arab world but also exposed the cosmetic nature of the rapprochement. Israel is too busy to conclude that normalization with the Muslim world cannot be decoupled from the Palestinian and Arab demand for a two-state solution.
Israel must realize that Egypt and Jordan are not neighbors like Canada and Mexico and will never be. Ethnic and religious ties notwithstanding, Egypt borders Gaza while half of Jordan’s population is Palestinian. Tel Aviv is simply unable to visualize the consequences of its trigger-happy strategy just like Hamas’ decision to launch the short-sighted attack.
Betwixt the noise of war, the petition of not-in-our-loved-one’s-name from many families of hostages is mercilessly lost in the same vein as pleas for a ceasefire. The proposal of a blanket swap of hostages for Palestinian prisoners neither impresses the White House nor Beit Aghion, irrespective of how many former IDF generals and Mossad chiefs favor it. The Israeli characterization of Palestinians as “human animals” receives vital affirmation from the likes of Ben Shapiro, Gal Gadot and Sarah Silverman. The dehumanization of Palestinians began with the branding of each Gaza Palestinian as a Hamas operative or sympathizer. Paradoxically, criticism of Israel comes with the risk of being branded as antisemitic. Hence, only a few dare to take this route. It is equally fair to note that condemnation and criticism of Hamas and Hezbollah also do not come without the risk of being bracketed as pro-Israel.
In the Arab-Muslim camp, Iran champions antisemitism. With its numerous media outlets and efficacious footprint across social media platforms, a narrative of the perseverance of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah not only reinforces Tehran’s narrative but also undermines the endeavors of its Arab rivals. Israel’s carnage in Gaza is just the excuse Iran needed to play to the gallery at home and in the Muslim world at large. Hamas leaders live in safety and luxury abroad while Palestinians pay the ultimate price.
Since the start of the October carnage, info-warriors have been working overtime to disseminate their corresponding narratives, often with little regard for facts and the graphic nature of the images being forwarded. Countless pre-radicalized groups will remain in hyperdrive to spread Islamophobia and antisemitism to broaden their base, to say the least.
For the United States and Europe too, the cost of blanket support for Israel’s excessive use of brute force will have rather predictable consequences. On the one hand, the Muslim-Arab diaspora will likely be disillusioned by their governments, on the other, the Islamophobic elements, far-right camps and extremist Jews can escalate hate speech. Some may argue that the world seems better off today in dealing with xenophobia than it was over two decades ago. Spoiler alert, 9/11 was a violent rebuke of the United States’ post-Cold War policies which dwarfs in comparison with the centuries old, contested claims to the holy land (Palestine). The entire civilization, Muslims versus the rest, is being dragged into unchartered territory.
If diplomacy keeps ceding space to firepower, radical narratives will translate into vicious and deadly actions, ranging from cyberattacks to terrorist plots. Supposing the hostilities cease and an unwavering truce is achieved, the sharpened Jew-Muslim discord will require decades to thaw. Three decades later, Bosnians and Serbs are still far from healing their scars. Transitional justice is a noble idea but too formidable for some governments to accept. Else, nothing can interrupt the vicious cycle of revenge.
Opinions in this article reflect the writer’s point of view, not necessarily the view of Rasanah