Israel’s Pyrrhic Victory In Gaza

Israel has destroyed Hamas' ability to defend Gaza, making it challenging for them to force Israel out of Gaza. In this sense, it could be asserted that Israel has achieved victory in the conflict

Israel’s Pyrrhic Victory In Gaza

Israel is on a rampage in Gaza, claiming disingenuously to be acting in self-defense. By now, it’s clear, except to the ideologically poisoned, that Israel is not at war with Hamas, as advertised. It’s not even fighting a war in the conventional sense of the word since the Palestinians do not have an army, air force or navy. Israel’s goal is to decimate Gaza. The number of Palestinian casualties outnumber Israeli casualties by 23:1. Seven of ten killed are women, children and babies.

As if that was not enough, Israel has destroyed half of the buildings in Gaza, including apartments, schools, hospitals, clinics and shops. The desolate and war-torn landscape of Gaza resembles Dresden in Germany during WWII.

More than 60,000 Palestinians have been injured and 1.9 million displaced, with many living in makeshift shelters in the dead of winter. There is no safe place in Gaza anymore.

Water, food and energy have been turned off, medicines are hard to come by, public sanitation has ceased to exist. Infectious diseases are spreading. The World Health Organization says that 180,000 people are suffering from respiratory infections, 140,000 are suffering from diarrhea, and another 55,000 have lice or scabies.

Further, Israel has arrested thousands of civilians including children, beaten them, stripped them down to their underwear, blindfolded them and taken them to unknown locations to be further humiliated, tortured and possibly killed.

Most people are subsisting on a single meal a day. Gaza is living on the edge of famine. Even the environment has not been spared. According to Joshua Frank, Israeli soldiers are laying pipelines to flood the vast network of underground shafts and tunnels that supposedly Hamas has built. The objective is not just to dismantle Hamas’s military capabilities, “but to further degrade and destroy Gaza’s imperiled aquifers (already polluted with sewage that’s leaked from dilapidated pipes). Israeli officials have openly admitted their goal is to ensure that Gaza will be an unlivable place once they end their merciless military campaign.”

The Israeli onslaught is showing no signs of slowing down, despite exhortations from Joe Biden, making one wonder if a game of “good cop, bad copy” is being staged. Netanyahu has said repeatedly that this will be a long war. He has equated Gaza with Amalek, and invoked a biblical provision calling for the death of every Amalek man, woman, child or animal.

Israel’s president, Isaac Herzog, has gone a step further. He says everyone in Gaza is responsible for the October 7 attack because they voted for Hamas, not realising the absurdity of his assertion: half of the population is underage and cannot vote.

Recently, Israel’s ambassador to Britain stated on British TV that Israel “had to lay waste to Gaza because every school, every mosque, every second house was connected to a tunnel used by Hamas”. If that is not an argument for destroying the whole of Gaza, then what is?

Given the death and destruction that it has levied on Gaza, world opinion has strongly turned against Israel. Anti-Israel rallies are being held regularly around the globe, even in the US and the UK. At the UN General Assembly, 153 nations have called for a ceasefire, leaving Israel and the US isolated on the global stage with just a handful of other countries.

Even if the ICJ caves in to the US pressure and does not find Israel guilty of genocide, Israel stands condemned on the world stage. Worse, because of its barbaric actions in Gaza, which are reminiscent of the Dark Ages, Israel will have created more Palestinian militants than existed before October 7.

South Africa, a nation with a painful history of apartheid, has filed an 84-page brief before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague, accusing Israel of violating the Genocide Convention that it signed in 1948. More than 60 countries in the Global South are supporting South Africa’s filing including several non-Muslim countries and many Muslim countries, including Bangladesh, Malaysia, Pakistan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. The filing is meticulously documented with references to original Israeli sources.

On January 11, South African lawyers presented their oral arguments. Referring to the Hamas attack, “[N]o armed attack on a state territory, no matter how serious… can provide any justification for… breaches to the convention” on genocide. They showed a video of Israeli troops dancing and singing, “there are no uninvolved civilians.” It argued that Israel’s “genocidal intent” was “rooted in the belief that… the enemy is not just the military wing of Hamas… but is embedded in the fabric of Palestinian life in Gaza.”

The lawyers argued that Israel had carried out a series of genocidal acts. The first was the mass killing of Palestinians in Gaza. The second was inflicting serious bodily or mental harm on Palestinians in Gaza. They presented evidence showing that “Israel’s political leaders, military commanders and persons holding official positions have systematically and in explicit terms declared their genocidal intent.”

In Pavlovian fashion, Israel rejected the South African arguments, saying they were under the influence of Hamas. The world now waits for the ICJ to arrive at a decision, which may take months. In the meantime, South Africa is asking the ICJ to impose a ceasefire so the mass slaughter of innocents may come to an end.

Israel has annihilated Hamas’ capability to defend Gaza, let alone go on the offensive and drive Israel out of Gaza. In that sense, Israel may be said to have won the war.

But it will prove to be a pyrrhic victory at best. Even if the ICJ caves in to the US pressure and does not find Israel guilty of genocide, Israel stands condemned on the world stage. Worse, because of its barbaric actions in Gaza, which are reminiscent of the Dark Ages, Israel will have created more Palestinian militants than existed before October 7.

Israel fails repeatedly to learn from history. When it laid waste to Lebanon in 1982, killing 17,000 civilians, it created Hezbollah, an enemy more powerful than the PLO which it was trying to exterminate. In 2006, Israel set out to “eradicate” Hezbollah. It totally failed. Hezbollah emerged stronger and today, it is stronger than ever, armed with more than 150,000 rockets.

Dr. Faruqui is a history buff and the author of Rethinking the National Security of Pakistan, Routledge Revivals, 2020. He tweets at @ahmadfaruqui