New York, Oct 15 (IANS) The Hamas terrorist attack on Israel has parallels to the Pakistani terrorists’ assault on Mumbai, but the scale of the onslaught is much bigger and the reverberations have a far wider global impact.
The 26/11 attack by just ten attackers coming by dinghies and boats kept Mumbai locked down for four days in 2008 and killed about 170 people – including six Jews in a targeted attack on their religious centre – could be the template for a lo-tech mayhem like the 7/10 (or 10/7) onslaught by the Hamas on Israel.
And anti-Semitism was a common thread.
The 7/10 attack was on a much larger scale with 1,500 terrorists catching Israel’s much-feared intelligence and military unawares, overrunning Israel’s highly sophisticated security apparatus with bulldozers, paragliders, and drones.
They took hostages back and left behind a horrific carnage of mass killings, babies among the victims.
Neither the much-admired Iron Dome anti-missile defence system nor the array of surveillance and weapon systems along the Gaza border were ultimately a match for the primitive Hamas arsenal.
That gives rise to fears of copycat attacks, massive lo-tech invasions by suicidal terrorist armies scattered in the volatile region, in Africa and beyond.
While 26/11’s repercussions were contained because India and Pakistan are nuclear powers and there were no dangers of a regional spillover or global impact, 7/10 was carried out by a non-state actor — the euphemism for terrorists — from a non-country but at the centre of a region already fraught with upheavals and important to the world’s economy because of its hold on energy supplies.
World Bank President Ajay Banga told The New York Times that if the conflict were to spread, “then it becomes dangerous” and could lead to “a crisis of unimaginable proportion”.
As the sole nuclear power in the region and its adversary running a territory not recognised as a nation, Israel is able to mount a mighty retaliation of bombardments, a total blockade, and a possible ground invasion of Gaza, although it is complicated by the hostages held by Hamas that upends the strategic scenario there.
A surprise behind 7/10 is the monumental intelligence failure of Mossad, which is credited with the pinpoint killing of nuclear scientists inside Iran and the hunting of ex-Nazis hiding in Latin America.
As for the US intelligence services, they were possibly distracted by monitoring what they assume to be diplomatic conversations within Canada.
Regardless of whether Iran was involved in the planning of the attacks as Israel asserts or not – Secretary of State Antony Bliken has said there was no definite evidence yet – it stands to gain from the chaos after 7/10, along with Hamas and Hezbollah, the other aligned group in the North along Lebanon.
Its proxy Hamas’s suicidal ideology that sends its cadres into self-destructive conflagrations sees the 7/10 attack as a means to provoke Israel into launching a massive retaliation where civilians could be unintended victims.
Targeting just the Hamas fighters in a densely populated Gaza, some of them using hostages and civilians as human shields is a risky undertaking.
Hamas hopes the retaliation and the vivid images of it can be manipulated to allow the smouldering sympathy for Palestinians to flare up as challenges from the ruled to the rulers in the Arab world with a potential for destabilising the region.
That is if even the Palestinians are collateral victims unlike the old and the very young targeted by the Hamas.
“Every Hamas member is a dead man,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Netanyahu said of the scale of the threatened retaliation.
Sounding a note of caution, US National Security Adviser John Kirby said: “If you’re an innocent civilian, you didn’t cause this. You didn’t ask for this, and you shouldn’t be having to fear for your life. Nobody wants to see that happen.”
The fears of Israel’s retribution have created at least a hiccup in the rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Israel and put a chill on the Abraham Accords of peace with Israel that brought together the United Arab Emirates and three other Arab countries with Israel – both of which are the keystones of US approach to the Middle East.
Hamas and other Palestinian groups were alarmed by the prospects of losing their priority with their patrons, especially if more countries were to reconcile with Israel, and theirs could become a lost cause.
For Iran, stability in the region, more so if it is promoted by the US and pivots on Israel, is anathema.
Add to this, the Ukraine factor: Any rearranging of the geostrategic scenario in the Middle East and the needs of Israel could move Ukraine from the front burner to the advantage of Russia, the ally of Iran and its protector at the united Nations Security Council.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said: “Russia is interested in triggering a war in the Middle East, so that a new source of pain and suffering could undermine world unity, increase discord and contradictions, and thus help Russia destroy freedom in Europe.”
For India, the fallout of the 7/10 throws up many challenges, although its ties to Israel are no longer seen as a contentious domestic issue.
But India has to balance its growing defence to Israel ties – New Delhi buys billions of dollars of military equipment from it and they have signed onto a 10-year “India–Israel Vision on Defence Cooperation” plan – with the energy dependence on Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries, where an estimated 9 million Indians work.
The future of the I2U2 cooperative group of India, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and the US launched last year and the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor announced during the G20 Summit last month rests on continued good relations between the Arab states and Israel.
Within Israel, 7/10 has led to an unexpected turn of events for Prime Minister Netanyahu who confronted a national upheaval because of his policies that pitched the secularists against religious primacists.
After his government dependent on the support of religious fundamentalists – described in the media as “ultra-orthodox” – passed a law to limit the powers of the Supreme Court in July, the rightward drift was met head-on by the secularists and with disapproval by President Joe Biden’s administration.
Thousands of military reservists – on whom the country’s defence forces depend – threatened to resign in protest against what they called the erosion of democracy.
Underlying it is the tension between the secularists who form the bulk of the military and are the force behind the economy and the ultra-orthodox, who get exemptions from military service to continue their indefinite religious education, while limiting their economic productivity, and who are behind the contentious settlements in the Palestine areas.
However, the ultra-orthodox wield considerable influence as a solid voting bloc, with their own political parties that can determine who forms the government in Israel’s fractured polity.
The 7/10 attacks brought the opposition leader Benny Gantz, a former general and Defence Minister who is a moderate, into a national unity government with Netanyahu and the wartime cabinet.
Israel, for now, has set aside the debilitating polarisation and come together to face Hamas.
US President Biden, who ostracised Netanyahu for what he considered his authoritarian ways and had refused to meet him at the White House where he instead welcomed President Isaac Herzog, now has publicly backed him.
The 27-member European Union, too, stands solid behind Israel, despite the mix-up of stopping aid to Palestine and then reversing course.
Any long-term settlement of the Israel-Palestine problem is problematic, even if the EU, the US and the rest of the world back a two-state solution because Palestine has been unable to govern itself as shown vividly in Gaza.
Israel withdrew from there, destroying its settlements, but the Palestine Authority could not hold it as the de facto power slipped to the Islamist terror group Hamas amid internecine killings there and on the West Bank with a toll that could rival that of any from Israeli actions.