The founder and first prime minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, once said: "In Israel, in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles." If we stop to consider the words of Israeli leaders, we can ask and answer the question, is Israel running scared? In my opinion, the answer is yes, Israel is running scared.
The time has come to break the myth that Israel is an unbeatable force. If it were strong from within, it would not have failed over the past 74 years to complete its colonisation of Palestine. This is the first thing that frightens Israel, 105 years after the infamous Balfour Declaration, the 1917 letter written by a British Foreign Secretary, Lord Balfour, in which one party, Britain, gave away the land of a second party, the Palestinians, to a third party, "the Jewish people".
Ever since the occupation state was established in 1948, it has been unable to live in peace, despite its military offensives against, and ethnic cleansing of, the Palestinian people. Israel has nuclear weapons and is backed to the hilt politically, economically and militarily by the US and EU, and yet panic still sets in whenever it is condemned on the world stage and peaceful boycotts of its apartheid system are encouraged. Some Arab states have peace treaties or normalisation agreements with Israel, and yet these don't bring peace on the ground or peace in the mind. This is the case even though the Palestine cause is no longer the central issue of the Arab world.
In response to this fear, Israel hits out at the easiest targets: the people of occupied Palestine. Living under a brutal military occupation makes them extremely vulnerable, and Israel takes advantage of this. Hence the mass arrest campaigns; the closures on Jewish holidays; the military checkpoints; the killings; the house demolitions; the expulsions. Israeli politicians ramp up the violence prior to elections, playing with the lives and blood of the Palestinians in order to attract more votes and win parliamentary seats.
The occupation state also seeks to convince the Arabs that it is not their main enemy; that they share a mutual enemy across the Arabian Gulf: Iran. This is a diversionary tactic to take the Arab gaze away from what Israel is doing to the people of occupied Palestine as it makes itself out to be a peace-loving nation and thus more acceptable in the region.
Which country benefits most from Arab conflict and tension with Iran? Israel, because it sees in Iran a state which would not be afraid to challenge its hegemony in the Middle East. The Israelis keep saying that Iran is a threat to world peace, and that it will get worse if it acquires nuclear weapons. And yet Israel itself has weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, but doesn't let inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency get anywhere near them. It insists that Iran should comply with such international monitoring, though.
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Israel is not afraid of the Arab world waking up, but it does fear changes in the world order. The US is the occupation state's main supporter, and the only real global superpower at the moment. Moves are afoot to change this unipolar worldview, with China and Russia waiting in the wings. If one or the other deposes the US as sole superpower and chooses to be ambivalent towards Israel, then the occupation state faces losing its main backer; Washington will be too preoccupied with its own power play on the world stage to worry too much about a client state in the Middle East.
In the meantime, Israel will continue to suppress and oppress the Palestinians, and antagonise Muslims the world over with its raids of Al-Aqsa Mosque, especially during the Blessed Month of Ramadan. Why in the month of Ramadan specifically? Although it spares no effort to harass the Palestinian people throughout the year, Israel fears for its existence because it is aware of the religious factor that is too often overlooked in the talk about establishing an "independent state of Palestine". The importance of Al-Aqsa Mosque to the Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims all over the world should not be underestimated or ignored.
If Israel feels that it faces existential threats, then it indicates that the Palestinian cause is alive no matter how much Israel seeks to destroy it. The Palestinian people live on despite the military occupation and the daily existential threat that Israel poses to the demography and identity of their land. Israel's inability to achieve peace, which it outwardly boasts about, is reflected in its actions against the indigenous people and the fears and threats that the occupation state, paradoxically, generates for itself.
This article was translated and edited for MEMO and appeared in Arabic in Al-Quds Al-Arabi on 20 November 2022
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.