Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mordechai Kedar: What's Really Going on in Gaza?

by Mordechai Kedar

Read the article in the original עברית
Read the article in Italiano (translated by Angelo Pezzana)
A week of missiles was supposed to change the focus of interest in the Middle East from Homs to Gaza, from Syria to Israel, from Asad to Netanyahu. This was the plan of Iran and its few followers in Gaza. But it didn't succeed, and for the usual reason: the sociological factors of the Middle East.

In my words from this distinguished stage, I have emphasized again and again the dominance of tribalism within Middle Eastern culture, and the important role played by traditional frameworks of relationship - such as ethnic, tribal, religious, sectarian - in private as well as in communal life. I downplay the influence of foreign ideologies that have been imported from Europe, from communism to democracy, and from nationalism to liberalism, which have all failed in the effort to formulate a culture of public domain in the Middle East. Dictatorship is the practical expression of the failure of these ideologies.

What remains is only the person, together with his family, extended family, clan and tribe. This is the only thing which is real, alive and kicking, that functions as it always has, and the only framework that is capable of bestowing on an individual identity, a sense of belonging, a livelihood, and physical defense and security.

One of the foundation stones of tribal culture is the antagonism between the tribe and the modern state, a state which was imposed upon the tribe by foreign colonialism and its local derivatives. States have always tried to impose themselves upon the individual and upon the tribe; including their symbols, values, laws and leaders, and have tried to substitute these in the hearts of the people instead of those of the tribe, and its symbols, values, leaders and laws. In Arab societies that have undergone dissolution and turned into more individualistic societies - Egypt and Tunisia for example - the state has succeeded to settle in the hearts of the people, and uproot the loyalty to the tribe. In tribal societies, in most of the other Arab states, the state is forced to yield part of its sovereignty and to accept the existence and limited authority of the tribe. In order not to confront the tribe, the state compromises and comes to an understanding with the tribe, in an effort to placate its members.

The Gaza Strip is no different from the rest of the Arab world, so tribal culture is alive and kicking in the Gaza Strip too. Ever since the Hamas movement took control of Gaza trip in 2007, it has transformed itself from a gang of jihadists into a ruling organization which has a state, government, advisory council, legal system, police, military and economic bodies. Thus, Hamas has turned into a standard Arab state, which is attempting to impose its agenda upon the tribes and the clans that live in the Strip. The State of Hamas serves the interests of the group that leads it, and therefore it is in constant conflict with the tribes and the clans and must reach agreements with them.

The minor movements - Islamic Jihad, the PRC (Popular Resistance Committees), the Salah-a-Din Division, the Army of the Nation, the Army of Islam and others - function like tribes, challenging the authority of the state, which is in the hands of Hamas. Today, these groups are doing to Hamas what Hamas did to the PLO twenty years ago when the PLO was in power. The widespread corruption among the top echelons of Hamas strengthen the influence of the small organizations that oppose Hamas. What encourages these organizations is the fact that Hamas has "hung up the gloves" and is trying to reach a calm with Israel. Hamas has not become a Zionist organization, and has not changed its covenant or its sole goal: to eliminate Israel and bring an end to the "occupation" of Jaffa and Acre, not only Hebron and Nablus. However, in the present historic phase it is suspending its battle against Israel in order to establish a state which, when the time comes, will be the basis from which the war of the destruction of Israel will be waged. The small organizations do not accept this suspension of jihad and call Hamas derogatory names such as "The Israeli Border Guard" and the "South Lebanese Army".

From a practical point of view, Hamas is capable of eliminating the organizations, just as it dealt with the Army of Islam, of the Dughmush clan in August of 2008, and as it eliminated Sheikh Abd Al-Latif Moussa's Islamic Emirate of Jerusalem in cold blood in August of 2009 in a mosque in Rafah, murdering him, his wives and children and 24 followers. As of today, in the year 2012, Hamas refrains from imposing itself on the small organizations by force of arms so that it will not become the "Israeli Border Guard"in the eyes of Gazans, and prefers to come to an agreement with them; to compromise with them and to calm them down.

This is the reason that Hamas functioned during the last round of rockets as a moderating and calming force, not because they have turned into Zionists, but because they have become a state, and the state must, in one way or another, impose its agenda on the bodies that consider it an illegitimate organization because it has suspended active jihad against Israel.

Iran, which would like Gaza to be a constant battlefront, no longer supports Hamas, and has transferred its support to organizations that undermine the hegemony of Hamas in Gaza. Right now, when the world is focused on the slaughter of citizens in Homs, Syria, and voices in favor of military intervention are beginning to be heard, Iran is encouraging its underling organizations to stoke the fire in Gaza. The assassination of Kaisi, commander of the Popular Resistance Committees, was just the excuse to ignite the Gazan arena.

The determination of the IDF, the great operational success of the Iron Dome, the success of the IDF in eliminating missile launching groups and the fact that not many citizens of Gaza were injured, allowed Hamas to stay on the sidelines, without becoming involved in the fighting, and to bring the organizations to a calm, at least until next time.

The organizations are licking their wounds, drawing operational conclusions, cursing Hamas and waiting for the next opportunity to undermine the authority of the state, just as any tribe in the Middle East does. The State of Hamas must find its way between the hammer (the accusation that it has become a collaborator with Israel) and the anvil (its desire to build a standard Arab state, with a reasonable life for the people of Gaza and luxury for the corrupt upper echelons of Hamas).

Israel need not tamper with the Gazan social structure or try to re-engineer the tribal map and its interests. The State of Hamas - with all its problems of terrorism and jihadism - serves the interests of Israel, because it breaks the Palestinian dream into pieces, and also proves to Israelis who are captivated by the dream of peace, that what's happening now in Gaza may happen again, but in a larger, more dangerous version, in Judea and Samaria, if Israel transfers control of that area to Middle Eastern culture. Many of the Israeli cities of the center are within range of the mortars, the kassams and the missiles that might be launched from the hills of Judea and Samaria. Therefore, Israel must find a solution that will free us from the majority of the Arab population in Judea and Samaria but allow us to remain in the rural areas. The eight-state solution, which is based on the tribes living in the Arab cities in Judea and Samaria is the only solution that is based on the extant social framework of the Middle East, and will provide Israel with security. Not absolute peace, because there is no such thing in the Middle East, but relative peace, that will need some maintenance from time to time.

In the Middle East, only the invincible can have peace because only if a group is strong, will the other groups leave it be.


Dr. Mordechai Kedar ( is an Israeli scholar of Arabic and Islam, a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and the director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. He specializes in Islamic ideology and movements, the political discourse of Arab countries, the Arabic mass media, and the Syrian domestic arena.

Translated from Hebrew by Sally.

Links to Dr. Kedar's recent articles on this blog:

Source: The article is published in the framework of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. Also published in Makor Rishon, a Hebrew weekly newspaper.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


salubrius said...

Dr. Kedar is quite right. It is the Soviet dezinformatsia that invented the Palestinian Arab People and the notion that they had a passion for self government. If you look closely at the preamble of the 1964 charter of the PLO drafted in Moscow, you will see its reference to the Palestinian Arab People for the very first time that that collective noun has been employed to describe Arabs local to Palestine. It also asserts they have a passion for self government. So it was that the Arab-Israeli conflict commencing as a product of religious jihad, was reframed into a conflict caused by secular nationalism that Arabs in Palestine had formerly found to be too abstract to be of interest in the 20s according to Professor Porath. To get new membership in the Arab Executive that was anti-Ziionistic but not nationalistic, Haj Amin al Husseini spread the false rumor that the Jews were taking over Al Aqsa mosque and got a massacre instead of new members. Jihad is not a foreign ideology nor is Islam.

It is time to annex Judea and Samaria and take back Gaza. This would result in a lawful one state solution that surprisingly would not result in an Arab majority and therefore not risk the loss of Israel's Western values.

It is a pity that Harvard would not allow this one lawful state solution to be discussed at their March 3,4 conference that was dominated by a one (Arab) state solution. There are in fact three solutions, like a three legged stool. One ends quickly the collective and exclusive political rights of the Jews, that were based on a democracy with a majority of the electorate being Jews, that would be lost if both the West Bank and Gaza would quickly be annexed. A two state solution would lose Israel much of its Jewish heritage and give up much Christian Heritage too, and would also fail in the long run, but there is insufficient space on this page to discuss why. However the third soltion, a solution based on the San Remo Agreement of 1920 and the quick annexation of Judea and Samaria would not lose Israel its majority. It would still have a majority as the Arab population in the West Bank is much smaller than that reported in PA statistics. Some say this is because they want to get more welfare from the UNRWA. Requiring Muslims, Christians and Jews to take a oath of fealty before being awarded citizenship would likely result in retaining a comfortable margin. The rest might remain as permanent residents unless they violated the law. Annexation would be lawful because of the grant at San Remo of political rights to the Jews, intended to vest when the Jews were in the majority according to Arnold Toynebee and Winston Churchill if the Arabs position at UNSCOP is to be believed.

Then there is Jordan. It was part of what was granted in 1920 but taken away in 1922. But England was then a fiduciary, having those political rights in trust according to Article 22 of the League of Nations Covenant.
Read those first two paragraphs of Article 22 and you will be convicned it unmistakeable that the designed of what was called a "mandate" was based on the British legal concepts of trust and guardianship. And England violated its fiduciary relationship when it gave Transjordan to Abdullah for its own political reasons. But Israel gave up the Jews rights to TransJordan in 1994 in exchange for a quitclaim to CisJordan.

Then finally there is Gaza, but this web page won't let me talk about it. It is telling me I am too wordy, so I will continue later. Harvard presented the one state soltuion and Professor Dershowitz with likely sponsor a conferenc with the two state solution, so the students will ultimate get a two legged stool, but without much balance.

Anonymous said...

excellent article.I wonder if such articles are getting published in the international press,even translated in other languages of countries where Israel'image could be boosted.

Sally Zahav said...

Dr. Kedar's articles are translated to Italian by Angelo Pezzana, and appear at
Sometimes Dr. Kedar's articles are available in French (translated by Danielle Elinor Guez) at

Eliyahu said...

The "palestinian people" notion was invented by British psychological warfare experts, not by Soviet specialists. What proof does Salubrious have that the notion was invented by Soviet specialists?
By the way, the PLO was founded in Cairo in January 1964, not in Moscow.

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