Conflict sending shock waves around the world


Conflict sending shock waves around the world

Conflict sending shock waves around the world
A Labour politician John McDonnell joins Gaza siege protesters in London on Oct. 31, 2023. (AFP)
Short Url

All those I have spoken to in political and diplomatic circles recently believe that what we are seeing in Israel and Gaza following Oct. 7 is a complete game changer. There is no “patch up” or going back to some form of status quo after the ferocity and nature of the attacks by Hamas and the reprisals we are witnessing.

However, the shock waves of the events may already be deeper and further reaching than in the region itself. The first efforts to contain the impact were quite rightly directed at the risk of the confrontation spreading to neighboring states. Diplomatic time was immediately put in seeking to reduce the chance of escalation in Lebanon and with Iran. There must be some chance of success.

The hopes for a Middle East looking forward rather than back, building on recent regional diplomatic initiatives, developing the economies envisaged in Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, and working collectively with the rest of the world toward energy diversification on the back of COP28 are catastrophically ruined by a new outbreak of war. But no matter how common sense this might be, everyone also knows that the rise in the number of civilian casualties in Gaza might outweigh such considerations.

It is the other risks that should worry us just as much.

Western and Arab states have been bitterly and angrily divided, at a time when the cooperation needed to realize the future of the region should be at its height. There can be no disguising the support of Arab states and their populations for the people of Gaza, and for a narrative that all the events being witnessed have their origin in the oppression of Palestinians, and the failure of the West to recognize and respond to the more recent Israeli military incursions on the West Bank, the rise of settler violence, or the threat to Al-Aqsa from the more extreme Israeli protagonists.

But many Western states are shocked that the brutality of the Oct. 7 attacks, and the ideology from which they sprang of hatred for Jews, is not more widely condemned. This sharp division is of comfort only to those who want to see that new opportunity for the Middle East destroyed, so that the old can hold back the new. The longer this division goes on, the worse it will be. Repair should be starting now.

Truth is no longer a universal commodity, but only selective and partisan. This will not end well

Alistair Burt

Common belief in the truth of events, the fundamental of our understanding of history and the world, is another casualty. The world is different to 1967, 1971 or 2006. The ability to see the most shocking images of war has changed out of all recognition, as has the skill in dissemination of false images and information. Both are combining with the febrile context of Israel and Palestine to make a binary interpretation of events the most common one, infecting public and private opinion globally.

Commentators are reporting the difficulty in expressing the view that the nature of the attacks on civilians by Hamas on Oct. 7 were barbaric and unjustifiable, while at the same time being able to say that there is a legitimate Palestinian cause against occupation of Palestinian territories and for political progress outlined for decades. It is either the one or the other — as the UN secretary-general found out. Truth is no longer a universal commodity, but only selective and partisan. This will not end well.

Two further consequences are worth noting. One is the evidence of a rise of antisemitism in European societies. In Britain, the Jewish community is horrified by the ripping down of posters of kidnapped children; the vehemence of pro-Palestinian demonstrations; and the casual expression of threats to their lives uttered either knowingly or ignorantly by some who mix with others marching for a peaceful, just resolution of the crisis. And, second, Western politics are being affected.

In the UK, the Labour opposition, seemingly on a glide path to power, has been rocked by a surge of anger over Israeli attacks in Gaza and a demand for a ceasefire from many members, being resisted by a leadership scarred by recent controversies over antisemitism. This is in a country with a growing Muslim population, whose presence in key seats at a close election might be crucial. And in the US, Muslim support for President Joe Biden in key swing states is falling as anger against US policy rises. Elections loom in 2024 for both countries.

There are many reasons why the conflict in Gaza should come to an end now so that politics can begin again, as they inevitably will as the world calculates yet again what has been gained or lost by the violence. Repairing shattered lives in Israel and Palestine will not be the only thing that requires attention.

Alistair Burt is a former UK Member of Parliament who has twice held ministerial positions in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office — as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State from 2010 to 2013 and as Minister of State for the Middle East from 2017 to 2019. Twitter: @AlistairBurtUK

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view