ESPECIALLY for us so brainwashed by US worldviews, the war between Israel and the Gaza-based Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) makes so stark the realities of geopolitics, from which we should learn lessons in our own dealings with other countries, especially China.
First lesson: “Might makes right,” especially in international relations. While denigrated as the credo of totalitarianism, that is simply the reality in relations between countries. Israel is poised to depopulate in the coming weeks to the brink of genocide – by sheer military might, forced evacuation, starvation, and disease – probably 500,000 of Palestinians in northern Gaza.
How can Israel do that? With a population of just 9.4 million (smaller than metro Manila) it has one of the most powerful armed forces in the world, ranked 18th. The Israel Defense Force (IDF) is indeed a standout in that the rest of the countries more powerful have populations of 50 million. It is a member of that very exclusive nuclear club, estimated to have 90 thermonuclear bombs — enough to scare its Arab enemies that surrounds it never to attempt attacking it, as they did in 1967.
Not only does Israel have a huge army, with 640,000 active and reserve soldiers (compare that to our 145,000), it has one of the world’s most technologically advanced armed forces. This is due to the fact that it is ranked 6th among the world’s most technologically advanced countries. Examples of the IDF’s technological innovations: the “Iron Dome” air defense system against missiles; the “Trophy” system that protects tanks by intercepting incoming missiles; and the most advanced drones in the world.
And of course, the country with the most powerful military in the world, the US, is backing up Israel, particularly its apparent decision, as its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced, to kill every single Hamas member. (But how would they determine who is a Hamas member, and who is a mere non-violent Palestinian.)The US was quick to send the message to other countries, obviously China and Russia, not to interfere in Israel’s coming operation to reduce Gaza City to rubble, when State Department Secretary Antony Blinken a few days after the Hamas attack himself went to Israel, repeating again and again, “We have your back.”
Second lesson: Might is economic might. How did such a small nation as Israel get to be one of the world’s most militarily powerful countries, getting to be the superpower in the Middle East?
Economic growth. Israel has grown fast since the 1967 war when its neighboring Arab nations attempted to demolish it. Israel is among the top 20 economies in the world in terms of per capita GDP $43,700 – richer than the UK, Japan, France and Korea. It is one of the richest countries in the world, a nuclear power at war with a Third World type of insurgency group not really bigger than the Moro Islamic Liberation Front was in the 1990s.
Israel’s “war with Hamas” (as the US media likes to describe the conflict) is just like, well, China at war with the Philippines, if ever – which should be a reminder to our saber-rattling Defense Secretary and Armed Forces Chief of Staff who speak as if we can fight the Asian superpower for control of the South China Sea. Indeed, we were bold from 1970 to 1978 to occupy the eight features in the Spratlys China also claims, because our average GDP per capita of $1,630 during those years was nearly five times that of China’s $337. We were then the bully. The economic realities have certainly been reversed 50 years later: China’s GDP per capita of $12, 556 (2021 data) is nearly four times our $3,460. China is now the bully.
How did Israel become rich? Certainly among the factors are the strong sense of nationalism, and will to growth, developed because of centuries of persecution which nearly resulted in their extermination by Germany under Hitler; and the resulting exodus of the most educated people and the most brilliant minds from Europe into such a small nation.
An undeniable factor however has been the military and economic aid the US has given Israel since its establishment of $159 billion, $34 billion in economic assistance, and $124 billion in military aid. The US even bankrolled with $10 million most of Israel’s missile-defense system that has proven to intercept most of Hamas’ missiles in the past week. US aid to Israel in fact is bigger than the $150 billion (in comparable dollars) it gave to 16 European nations in the so-called Marshall Plan that empowered these nation to recover quickly from their devastation during World War 2.
Because of the US role in turning it into a near-superpower in the Middle East, Israel is in fact the American fortress in that oil-rich area of the world, an extension of the elite Jewry’s power in the American mainland.
Third lesson: There is “rule of international law” only if it benefits the US and its allies. The US is fond of claiming that its global interest is merely for countries, especially a new superpower like China, to comply with the rule of international law, which assures peace and justice all over the planet. The US however has been so hypocritical in this regard, supporting Israel’s blatant violation of international law.
The International Court of Justice in 2004 ruled that the wall Israel built starting in 2002 as a “security barrier” around the West Bank under the Palestinians was illegal. It even was a de facto territorial grab as it expanded Israel’s territory beyond that agreed upon in the 1967 accords that ended its war with Arab nations. Israel rejected the ruling, and continued to expand the wall. In October 2003, the United Nations Security Council drafted a resolution aimed at prohibiting Israel from extending the wall. However, the United States vetoed the decision.
The International Committee of the Red Cross also held that the establishment of Israeli settlements in the West Bank violated the Fourth Geneva Convention.. The Red Cross also declared that the displacement of Palestinians that may occur due to the settlements also violates Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention
Similarly, in 2002 and again in 2012, the European Union reiterated its view that the settlements are illegal. In November 2019, in a statement made after the change in the United States four-decade-old position, the European Union said that it continued to believe that Israeli settlement activity in occupied Palestinian territory was illegal under international law and eroded prospects for lasting peace. Israel has ignored these international injunctions.
It was the expansion of these Israeli settlements into their West Bank that further convinced the Palestinians that the long-term Israeli plan was to totally push them out of an area that what was once – for centuries up to 1948 – called Palestine.
Fourth lesson: Emotions must not determine foreign relations. The Palestinians, 75 years after the state of Israel was imposed on them, understandably have become angry. But their leaders converted such anger into such barbarism as the massacre of innocent civilians, not just of women and the elderly, but – for the first time in modern history — of babies.
As a result, international public opinion has turned against them, although some analysts recently claim that the images of women and children killed by or fleeing the Israelis’ horrendous, non-stop bombing of Gaza have started to elicit sympathy for the Palestinians. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s call for “revenge” – one of the most powerful, primordial emotions – could be Israel’s undoing.
“What is ours is ours.” “We will not give up an inch of our territory.” “We are David fighting Goliath.” These are statements intended to provoke emotional response used by irresponsible leaders and by our ignorant military brass regarding our disputes with China in the South China Sea These will, just as in Hamas-Israeli conflict, not lead to anything good for our country.
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