The strategy of the western powers in the Middle East is in tatters writes Lindsey German

Photo: Steve Eason

Is this the week the conflict in the Middle East breaks into a wider war? The signs are ominous. Israel is increasing its bombardment of Gaza in preparation for a ground invasion. In an interview with The Mail on Sunday Nir Barkat, Israel’s Minister of Economy said they would cut off ‘the head of the snake’ and wage war on Iran which would be ‘wiped off the face of the earth’ if there are further attacks from the Lebanon-based Hezbollah.

Israel is also bombing Syria, and this weekend hit its two main airports again. It has also hit a mosque in Jenin and continued its assaults elsewhere in the West Bank. And 10,000 assault rifles have been issued to citizens including right-wing settlers.

In a little-reported event on Thursday, Houthi rebels in Yemen fired four cruise missiles towards Israel which were shot down by USS Carney in the Red Sea, along with multiple drones in a nine-hour operation. Bases where US military are present in Syria and Iraq were targeted by drones on Wednesday and Thursday.

Firing the anger in the Middle East and wider world is the hideous assault on Gaza. Israel is denying water, food and humanitarian aid to the people there at the same time as bombing them daily. The bombing of the Al-Ahli hospital last week brought the disaster into focus and, despite Israel claiming it was the result of an Islamic Jihad rocket, there is serious evidence that it was indeed an Israeli airstrike, with hundreds of casualties.

All the major western powers have seen their leaders visit Tel Aviv to support Israel in the last week, refusing to condemn the bombing and attacks on civilians. They claim that in private they are urging caution and de-escalation on the Israeli government. If that is so, it isn’t working. Binyamin Netanyahu has every interest in taking a hard line in the conflict because he is already deeply unpopular and any de-escalation would threaten his position.

And while the deliberate targeting or punishment of civilians is regarded as a war crime in international law and stated us such when carried out by Russia in Ukraine, politicians who support Israel have made no such criticism, instead arguing that the country has the right to defend itself. But what Israel is doing is not defence but aggression against the whole of the Palestinian people.

The strategy of the western powers in the Middle East is in tatters. The US and British governments have given Israel a green light for the worst possible assault on Gaza, but now fear the consequences. These include a wider Middle East war, which brings in many of the regional countries; the overthrow of some of those governments who support the west; and a new increased threat of terrorism.

The increasingly right-wing governments of Israel have been aided by US support for the Abraham Accords which aimed to ‘normalise’ relations between Israel and its neighbouring Arab states. Particularly prized has been the prospective agreement with Saudi Arabia which is now in abeyance.

The truth is that anger in the Arab world is at boiling point and the repressive governments there know it. The prospects look increasingly like either wider war, with devastation for the people of the region – Jews, Muslims and Christians like. Or the solidarity movements across the Middle East can be channelled towards revolutionary overthrow of their own governments and in the process help reshape the region for the benefit of working people. In the meantime the plight of the people in Gaza will only worsen and our solidarity is more important than ever. Time is running out, and peace with justice and equality will not be achieved by the governments who have led us to this situation in the first place.

24 Oct 2023 by Lindsey German

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