O’ Jerusalem! Old players, and a new script, pit non-Arabs against Arabs

The week-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict, beginning May 10, has little new to write home about. The issues are familiar, the players are also the same, and even the Palestinians continue to be the Muslim geopolitical fodder. It may soon lead to yet another ceasefire…until the next conflict.

Only the script is new, however—and that makes the difference.

Around 150 people, including some 140 Palestinians of Gaza Strip, have died in the latest conflict which apparently began with the militant ruling group of the city, Hamas, attacking Jerusalem with missiles. In retaliation, Israel also launched a fierce attack on Gaza….As in the past, there will be routine condemnations, highfalutin Muslim-friendly speeches, angry reactions from morally-high horsemen, assurance of much aid with little real one to the victim Palestinians, et el. Once again.

Under pressure from within the global non-Arab Muslim community, Saudi Arabia, which headquarters the 57-member Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) is hosting a virtual meeting of Foreign Ministers on Sunday (May 16, 2021) to discuss the issue. In all likelihood, Riyadh would try to push the issues under the red carpet.

But more important is Turkey’s role.

On May 13, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Israel a “terror state” after its police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades at Palestinian protesters at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque. He also asked the Muslim nations to “take a clear stand” on this matter.

His communication director Fahrettin Altun condemned Israel on May 15 for targeting the 11-storeyed building in Gaza that housed offices of The Associated Press, Al Jazeera, and other media outlets. Nobody said what Israel said: the same building also allegedly housed Hamas group’s command centres and  “terror infrastructure”. If true, it is yet another proof that the terrorists have been successfully using the short-sighted and news-hungry media groups as a camouflage, everywhere.

Israel said that Hamas, which is ruling Gaza since 2007, has created ‘terror tunnels’ across the city’s residential areas having schools and other civilian facilities to protect itself from Israeli attacks. Jerusalem has often accused Hamas to intentionally follow this strategy and use human shields against Israeli attacks. But this time, the Jewish Army decided to teach Hamas a lesson, an official said.

Behind this Hamas strategy is the support it gets from Turkey and Iran which are out to corner the Arabs, led by Riyadh, within the OIC. Ankara wants to wrest the Sunni Muslim leadership from the Saudis; the Shia Tehran supports it. Both these communities coexisted for five centuries when Turkey was centre of the Ottoman Empire and the Caliphate until 1924 and Iran’s was also an empire, whose last dynasty was the Pahalvis until 1979. Tehran wants the Turks to subjugate the Arabs and cause a split within the Sunni ranks.

Disintegration of the Ottoman Empire and the Caliphate in 1924 by Turkey’s progressive leader Mustafa Kemal “Ataturk”, changed the power equations. As many as 22 Arab sheikhdoms mushroomed on the corpse of the Ottomans. While Erdogan wants to resurrect the Ottoman Empire, the Arabs are resisting it as they no longer want to be re-assimilated by the Sunni empire.

That was why Turkey and Iran sponsored Hamas to provoke Israel into attacking Gaza, knowing well that Jerusalem will counter-attack. It will force the Arabs to condemn Israel with which they have been trying to be friendly. Turkey and Iran were incensed against the Arabs since September 2020 when then US President Donald Trump organized a meeting of three Arab countries and Israel to sign up a peace deal.  The UAE signed it, with subtle support from the Saudis. Other Arab nations were also being lined up to sign these “Abraham Accords.” Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu even paid a not-so-secret visit to Saudi Arabia, sending clear signals which way the wind was blowing.

To corner the Arabs, Turkey and Iran apparently incited Hamas to stir the pot and provoke the Arab masses against their own rulers for signing the deal with an Israel which is ‘crushing’ the innocent Palestinian Muslims.

That is why seven years after the 2014 Israeli-Hamas conflict, the Levant region in the Middle East is burning, yet again. It is little of an Arab-Israeli conflict and more of the Turkey-Iran combine pushing the Arabs against the Jewish state.

As part of its strategy to resurrect the Ottoman Empire, Turkey is planning to pit 35 non-Arab nations—including Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia etc.—against the 22 Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia. This split in the Muslim Brotherhood, Ankara believes, could encourage the Arab masses to overthrow their Sheikhdoms in what it thinks could be the second “Arab Spring”.

This America and Europe want to avoid. That is why, President Joe Biden has supported Israel’s ‘right of self-defense’ and respond to the Hamas missile attacks.

Ever since Erdogan became Turkey’s President in 2014, he has transformed this progressive country into a regressive one, from a secular to an Islamist. He has also been trying to fish in troubled waters of other countries, such as France, inciting Muslims against various causes, in a bid to create an international support base for his dream project.

But there is a problem: the Ottoman Empire, until a century ago before it died in 1924, extended to the Balkan areas of Central and Eastern Europe, which is now part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Interestingly, even Turkey is its member (against Russia).

The last week’s mayhem stemmed from Hamas attacking Israel with hundreds of missiles, forcing the Jews to run for cover as nearly 10 of them died. Then the Palestinians demonstrated against the Jewish government at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, prompting the Israeli police to react.

The Israeli action at this mosque is an emotional issue for all the Muslims everywhere. The mosque compound, which also houses the revered Dome of the Rock, is believed to be the place from where Prophet Muhammad had started his nocturnal journey to meet Allah. It is, therefore, considered the third holiest Muslim shrine after Mecca and Medina.

Clearly, Hamas, and its sponsors Turkey and Iran, are inciting the Muslims and challenging the Arabs to condemn and break up with their ‘new friend’ (Israel), and dump the Abraham Accords, or risk alienation within the OIC before their possible expulsion.

The situation is, simply, complicated!

Watch this space…