Radwan Masmoudi on Urgent Questions about Gaza and Global Demonstrations

Police Line at American Embassy in London
Police Line at American Embassy in London

Radwan is one of the most passionate voices for Islam and democracy in the world today. He is an important force for change in Washington. He wrote this letter to me:

Dear Marc:

I just participated in a conference call, organized by the Council on Foreign Relations, with Shibley Telhami on the situation in Gaza. I took a lot of notes, and wanted to ask several questions, but unfortunately did not have an opportunity to ask them. So, I wanted to share my comments and questions with you in the hope that they may help us to find the right solution to this very dangerous situation in Gaza and in the Middle East.

First some important comments:

1. It is very dangerous and counter-productive for the US to be always siding “unconditionally” with Israel. Yes, of course, Israel has “the right to respond”. To be fair and balanced, and therefore help bring peace to the middle east, the US must also acknowledge that the Palestinians also have “the right to respond”, and that the blockade, the embargo, the targeted killings and bombings, and incursions that Israel has been imposing on Gaza for the past two years are also “acts of war”. So the question is “who has been provoking whom?”.

2. Israel also has the duty to be responsible in its response. The rockets launched by Hamas have killed 3 people in the past seven years. They are illegal but also highly ineffective. The response of Israel has killed over 700 people and injured over 3,000 people in the past 12 days alone, most of them innocent civilians, women, children, and bystanders. This has become a humanitarian tragedy of monumental proportions and means that a cease-fire must be imposed immediately if the international community expects to have any legitimacy in the 21st century.

3. Israel has always resorted to a policy of “deterrence by force”, and in most cases by overwhelming force. While this policy may work against states and regular armies, it does not work against non-state actors who can easily hide between the civilians. A policy of overwhelming force against them inevitably means huge civilian losses, which in turn will create more hatred against the people who are killing the civilians. Israel is hoping that the Palestinians will blame Hamas and turn against them, but this is simply wishful thinking and it has never worked this way. In the short and even long run, this will only encourage more violence, extremism, and terrorism, and will not solve the problems of the Middle East or of Israel.

4. The media coverage of this humanitarian tragedy has been disproportionate too. While the Arab public has been bombarded by 24 hour coverage of the mayhem in Gaza, and not just by al-Jazeera but by over 30 Arab news and religious channels, the western public and especially the American public has been treated to extensive coverage of the damage caused by the rockets in southern Israel. This will only help to increase the schism and the hatred between the Arab and Muslim publics and the western public in general.

5. Finally, we are witnessing some of the largest mass demonstrations in the Arab and Muslim worlds that we have seen in the past 30 years. In Morocco and Turkey, for example, demonstrators have numbered into the millions. These huge demonstrations have occurred not just in the capitals but also in every city and small town. Again with very little coverage in the western media, these demonstrations clearly illustrate the exploding anger and frustration of the Arab and Muslim public, and increase the risk that they will turn against the West and also against their own regimes at any moment.

My main question, which I never got to ask, is: How do you think this war will impact future relations between the US and the Arab and Muslim world?

The answer is self-evident in my opinion, but must be asked before it is too late!
Radwan A. Masmoudi

Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy (CSID)

Radwan Masmoudi, Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy
Radwan Masmoudi, Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy
© Marc Gopin