Archive | June 2013

Honor Among Thieves


Not everything that takes place in the Middle East is the result of well thought tactics or long term strategy. In fact, much of what transpires in this crazy region is the result of mere chance, or a very specific chain of otherwise unrelated events.

Take for example, the missiles fired at Israel last week by Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad operatives. There could be a number of logical theories as to why this firing took place. We could for example surmise that the firing was meant to disrupt U.S. Secretary of State Kerry’s attempts to revive the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Another very viable theory could identify Iran’s long arms behind it all – as an attempt to divert world attention from the intensifying fighting between Assad and Hezbollah and the Syrian rebels.

The truth in this case is much simpler.  The real reason behind this incident is a localized case of internal fighting between two Palestinian factions in Gaza, specifically – Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The story behind this incident serves to demonstrate how changeable and volatile the environment in which Israel lives in is.

It all started two weeks ago with Raed Jundiya, a commander in Islamic Jihad’s Al-Quds Brigades, who discovered that one of his underlings stole Grad missiles from their unit’s storage, and then sold them.  After the suspected thief refused to return the stolen merchandise, Jundiya organized an armed raiding party which kidnapped the thief from his home in broad daylight.

The dishonored family turned to the Hamas authorities to complain. Hamas, which was extremely upset at this brazen challenge to its authority, sent Jundiya an official invitation to be questioned,  which he politely refused. During the inevitable attempt by Hamas to arrest Jundiya, a shot was fired, and Jundiya badly wounded. Hamas claimed he shot himself by mistake, but Islamic Jihad claimed that Hamas had shot him. Understanding that the situation could quickly get out of hand, Hamas attempted to calm things down, but Islamic Jihad made it clear that should Jundiya die, there would be trouble.  Jundiya, poor soul, died of his wounds.

During his funeral, which was attended by family members belonging to both Hamas and Islamic Jihad, a Hamas supporter ran over an Islamic Jihad attendee with his car. Hamas claimed it was an accident, Islamic Jihad screamed blue murder.  This was already too much, and the Islamic Jihad gave the green light to its operatives to punish Hamas.  And what’s the best way to punish Hamas for its sins? By firing on Israel of course! This move serves their thirst for revenge by directly challenging the Hamas’ official ceasefire policy with Israel.

This story exemplifies the current tension existing between the two Palestinian factions – Islamic Jihad is sore at Hamas due to its moves for appeasement with Fatah, and its support of the Syrian rebels. Hamas is angry at the Islamic Jihad for supporting Assad who is killing Palestinians in Syria.

It also shows the challenge extreme organizations such as Islamic Jihad and Al-Qaeda pose for Hamas’ rule in Gaza.  The attempts of these groups to break the status quo with Israel contradict Hamas’ current interest of keeping the border crossings with Egypt open and maintaining the peace and quiet. And in the middle we have Israel which finds itself involved in such crazy stories.

Israel needs to show force, but it fears a conflagration.  So it bombs empty storage rooms belonging to the Islamic Jihad. We’re happy, and they’re happy. This balancing game is extremely dangerous as it only takes one mistake on Israel’s part, or one successful missile attack by a puny Salafist organization, to blow everything up.  Hamas lost this round, but let’s hope that Hamas overcomes the next challenges to it authority.

I wonder what happened to the thief in the end?

The details of the story were depicted by reporter Alex Fishman, in Yedioth Aharonot, 26.6.2013.

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