Hamas’ unprecedented rocket attack over Israel on October 7 destabilized peace in the Middle East, leading to a head on collision between the Palestinian armed militant group and the state of Israel. In this scenario, two different opinions appeared: the West and some other countries unequivocally supports Israel and condemned Hamas for its brazen attacks against the Jewish state. Whereas some Muslim countries expressed their solidarity with Hamas. In between were Russia and China, which called for restraint on the part of Hamas and Israel in the prevailing conflict.
While there was no official pronouncement on part of the Indian government on Hamas’ attack over Israel, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated on October 7 that India was “deeply shocked by the news of terrorist attacks in Israel. Our thoughts and prayers are with the innocent victims and their families. We stand in solidarity with Israel at this difficult hour.” Modi’s statement reflected BJP’s age-old policy to transform the Muslim majority in the Kashmir Valley into a minority, following Israel’s policy of demographic transformation by promoting the settlement of Jews in the occupied West Bank.
Palestine and Kashmir are classic examples of unresolved conflicts where the UN Security Council has passed numerous resolutions, yet the two conflicts are far from any peaceful resolution. There is a stark asymmetry when one looks at Israel and Hamas on the one hand, and India and Kashmiri resistance groups on the other. Yet, the spontaneous expression of solidarity from Narendra Modi with Israel makes sense, because his country is facing the longest movement for independence, and despite deploying around half a million troops, New Delhi has not been able to quell the Kashmiri movement of emancipation.
Gaza, which was controlled by Egypt, was occupied by Israeli forces during the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The Palestinian enclave 2.3 million people was vacated by Israel in September 2005, but it maintains its land, air and sea siege. In the last 18 years since the Israeli military withdrawal from Gaza, the territory came under the control of Hamas, after it ousted PLO and experienced scores of periodic air, sea and land attacks from the Jewish state which killed thousands of people. In the meantime, Hamas, having popular support in Gaza, decided to avenge the humiliation over the loss of Al-Aqsa mosque and decades of Israeli aggression by launching rocket attacks on October 7 and taking its conflict with Israel to the next level.
From any standpoint, Israel is a loser because Hamas, a non-state actor managed to break the myth of the omnipotence of the Israeli security forces and bring armed conflict deep inside the Jewish state.
On October 7, fifty years after the outbreak of Arab-Israeli war, Hamas executed its strategic plan to launch land, air and sea attacks on Israel. Unlike the past when Israeli security forces were heavily deployed along border of Gaza, on October 7, in view of religious celebrations in the West Bank, the bulk of Israel forces had left Gaza to participate in the festival, leaving a security vacuum which was fully exploited by Hamas. Around one thousand armed personnel of Hamas breached the border fence with Gaza and penetrated Israel, taking control of tanks, armored personal carriers and government buildings. Hamas took hostage around 100 Israeli civilians and combatants. Firing more than 7,000 rockets deep inside Israel caused havoc, killing more than 1,000 people and injuring several thousand.
Never in 1948, 1967, 1973 or the 1982 war in Lebanon has Israel experienced this degree of losses than in Hamas’ October 7 and 8 attacks. How Hamas managed to sneak deep inside Israel and cause irreparable damage shocked the Jewish state, and it failed to understand the intelligence failure that led to Hamas’ surprise attack. Equipped with the latest technology and surveillance systems inside Gaza, Israeli authorities are still unable to deduce out how Hamas carried out its coordinated and well-planned attack, causing hundreds of causalities and large-scale panic. Behaving as an injured lion, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared war against Hamas, and vowed to destroy Hamas’ control and command system, along with the tunnels which act as a source of supply of weapons and other items from Egypt. Israel also announced the cutoff of water and electricity to Gaza, and launched a ferocious aerial attack, killing hundreds of Palestinians in the process.
From any standpoint, Israel is a loser because Hamas, a non-state actor managed to break the myth of the omnipotence of the Israeli security forces and bring armed conflict deep inside the Jewish state. What are the strategic objectives of Hamas and has it not taken an almost existential risk by launching deadly attacks against Israel? Why are Arab and Muslim countries reluctant to render practical support to Hamas? What lessons can Kashmiris can learn from the Hamas-Israel armed conflict? So far countries like Iran, Pakistan and Turkey have expressed their solidarity with Hamas, but are unable to lend any practical form to their support. Hamas is confident that it can sustain attacks on Israel, and after getting support form Hezbollah, another non-state actor based in Lebanon, Israel will face two-pronged pressure - from the north in the form of Hezbollah and Hamas from south, whereas frontline Arab states like Syria, Lebanon and Egypt are unable to step in and prevent Israel from its counter attack.
One needs to analyze the prevailing Hamas and Israeli armed conflict while relating it to the situation in Jammu & Kashmir from three angles. First, it is easy to tell that there is more emotive rhetoric on the part of Hamas and its allies, instead of strategic foresight and perseverance. Israel also knows that launching a ground attack over Gaza will be a death trap and artillery, along with armor and infantry, will be butchered by Hamas. Israel is also facing pressure from Hezbollah and growing Palestinian defiance in the occupied West Bank. It will be a test case for Israel on how to liquidate Hamas and secure the release of Israeli hostages.
For that purpose, Israel will try to seek assistance from Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states as it will be rather impossible for 2.3 million people holed up in Gaza to survive a sustained Israeli blockade and the cutoff of electricity, along with the supply of food and essential medical items.
Once the myth of Israeli invincibility is broken, it will have no option but to withdraw from West Bank and Gaza, leading to the formation of an independent Palestinian state. After all, the UN partition plan of 1947 had called for a Jewish and an Arab state in Palestine.
The escalation of the Gaza conflict in the Middle East is a nightmare scenario because of unprecedented ramifications. Not only will oil prices go up, but the supply chain of essential commodities, including food items will get derailed as happened during the war in Ukraine. It is not proper here to speculate, but the need is to prevail over Israeli leadership, which is determined to destroy Gaza and Hamas.
Second, it is not for the first time in the last 17 years that Gaza is facing Israeli attacks. This time however is a different scenario. Unlike the past, when Hamas used to launch rocket attacks against Israel, this time it is Hamas which has launched a coordinated air, land and sea incursion into the Jewish state, resulting into more than a thousand deaths and the capture of Israeli hostages. The question of an Arab response if Israel launches a ground attack over Gaza and annihilates any proportion of the 2.3 million Palestinians who are holed up in the enclave is still not known. If a majority of Arab regimes don’t want to indulge in a Gaza conflict, popular sentiments reacting to the possible genocide of Palestinians will compel Arab elites living in their comfort zones to retaliate against the Israeli onslaught.
Trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea, Hamas and the people of Gaza are left with no choice than to embrace martyrdom instead of living in the humiliation of constant Israeli occupation and aggression. At the same time, Israel’s survival will be at stake, because even if it succeeds in reoccupying Gaza, it will face backlash in the occupied West Bank with Hezbollah taking the war inside Israel. Even if the United States backs up the Israeli military, there is no guarantee that the Jewish state will revert to a pre-October 10 situation. Once the myth of Israeli invincibility is broken, it will have no option but to withdraw from West Bank and Gaza, leading to the formation of an independent Palestinian state. After all, the UN partition plan of 1947 had called for a Jewish and an Arab state in Palestine.
Third, the manner in which the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has condemned Hamas’ attack and expressed solidarity with Israel proves the anti-Muslim bias of BJP, particularly when looked at in context of the persecution and violence against religious minorities, especially Muslims, and a systematic policy from the Indian state to transform the demographic complexion of the Muslim majority Valley of Kashmir by launching non-Muslim settlements, proves New Delhi is intent on following the Israeli model of turning the Palestinian majority in the West Bank into a minority. Unlike Narendra Modi, Congress extended its support to the Palestinians. The Congress Working Committee called for an “immediate cease-fire” between Israeli forces and Hamas. The resolution passed by the Congress party supported the rights of the Palestinian people.
If the American President Joseph Biden expressed unlimited support to Israel, American voices in support of Palestinians were raised by Harvard University student’s organizations. In a letter entitled, “Joint Statement by Harvard Palestine Solidarity Groups on the situation in Palestine,” the student groups made it clear that Hamas’ attack did not happen in a vacuum, because the Israeli government has forced Palestinians to live in an open air prison for over two decades.
Kashmiris need to learn a fundamental lesson from decades of Palestinian agony and plight that united struggle for emancipation is essential. The split among Palestinians when Hamas took control of Gaza from PLO in 2006 benefited Israel. Systematic persecution of Kashmiri Muslims of the Valley since the revocation of Article 370 and ending special status means India wants to establish its firm control.
Israel, under Benjamin Netanyahu and India under Narendra Modi share perceptions on liquating the Palestinian and Kashmiri resistance. Kashmiris should be mindful of the fact that although Palestine may be an international issue, their struggle for emancipation does not have much global support.