The West is facing a crisis from all sides. After the Russian attack on Ukraine, it was the turn of Hamas to attack Israel. Is our world in danger of chaos and disruption that it will not be able to face? The guest of the Dobrovský & Šídlo podcast is a former politician and diplomat, including ex-ambassador to Israel, Michael Žantovský.
Until last month, in some ways, events in the Middle East were developing relatively favorably. Not in solving the Palestinian issue, but in terms of rapprochement and establishing contacts and communication between a number of states in the region.
“In the days when the atrocity took place, these processes were supposed to culminate in an agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia. It is perfectly reasonable to believe that the strike by Hamas was directed against this agreement. And that from the biggest adversary of Saudi Arabia, Shiite Iran,” says Michael Žantovský.
Jindřich Šídlo adds: “In the nineties, we hoped for a peace process, then we found out that it was not possible, the situation continued to get more complicated. And now, for many years, we have been living with rockets flying from Gaza, followed by a harsh reaction from Israel. Can anything be changed? Or only for the worse? How to get out of this trap?’
“I’m a lifelong optimist, so I won’t accept the fact that it’s not possible,” answers Michael Žantovský. “We just haven’t found the way yet. But it doesn’t exist in the Middle Eastern landscape itself or just between the two communities.”
Žantovský is of the opinion that, as after the Second World War, it will be necessary to turn to a system of international supervision in this area, including military and security elements. Given the outcome of the Hamas rule in Gaza, there is no other solution.
“I’m a skeptic,” responds Jan Dobrovský. “The Concept of International Supervision? Let’s remember the UN missions, it’s not usually a hit parade. Either they witness something they can’t intervene in, or they fail completely and help some trouble. I am afraid that the UN is an institution whose radius of action is very small. This was also shown in the conflict with Russia.”
However, Michael Žantovský is not referring exclusively to the activities of the UN. Rather, a group of countries that are interested in solving the situation.
The Middle East has changed tremendously. There are states today that are as interested in stability and defeating terrorism as we are. And Hamas attacks not only against Israel, but also against the stability of the entire region, in conjunction with its sponsors from Tehran and Moscow. It attacks the international order as such.
The Dobrovský & Šídlo podcast also talked about how to deal with the asymmetry of the conflict, when a state and a terrorist organization are facing each other, which has involved practically the entire civilian population in the territory it controls. Or at least he automatically uses his own people as hostages and human shields.
“If we tolerate intolerance, we commit suicide. But if we do not commit it and do not show that tolerance, then in the eyes of some critics, we are committing a violation of ethical principles,” says Jan Dobrovský.
Michael Žantovský notes: “International law prohibits attacks against the civilian population. Which is exactly what Hamas is doing. Israel does not target civilian targets. But it is very difficult to distinguish between civilian and military targets in the densely populated Gaza Strip. I’m afraid it mainly affects young men. And let’s not forget – every young man, and even every child, is under the control of Hamas. Gradually trained, indoctrinated and used for that fight.”
The forbidden word terrorism
Hamas attacks on Israel are one thing, our difficulties with terminology are another. For example, Jindřich Šídlo considers the procedure used by the British BBC in its reporting on current events to be incomprehensible.
Why does an icon of journalism and public service refuse to call Hamas a terrorist organization? To me, this is a denial of journalism. It’s shocking. So, according to this pattern, there was a plane crash with a larger number of victims on September 11th?! It illustrates the depth of the problem we are in.
Michael Žantovský adds: “I’m afraid that we just ignored it for a long time. The ban on the use of the word terrorism in the BBC is long-standing, it was applied in the 2015 attacks on the stadiums in Paris, in the attacks on the subway in London in 2005 and so on. The BBC does not know the word terrorism. They are radicals, fighters, but they are not terrorists, because everyone is also an alleged hero of the national liberation struggle or similar nonsense.
Žantovský also reminds us that in the last 25 years in Europe, we have been trying to displace anything similar to the term enemy from the vocabulary: “There are no enemies, only victims. It is a culture of victims of mistreatment or natural conditions.’
“But unlike us, Hamas and its supporters know that they are our enemies,” adds Jindřich Šídlo.
Is it possible to distinguish between a civilian and a gunman in the Gaza Strip? How to punish a crime that means to Israel what 9/11 means to the US? How can you fight when you don’t have a state against you, but terrorists who do not recognize the right to life and spread the culture of death? And even in their own ranks? Listen to the entire 73rd episode of the Dobrovský & Šídlo podcast produced by Paměti národa in the player at the very beginning of the article.
Dobrovský & Šidlo. The Memory of the Nation Podcast
Your favorite podcast produced by Pámě národa. A regular dose of opinions, memories, information and sentiment. From the nineties to the present. What did we go through and how did we survive? Politics and history in a unique mix.
Listen to it on Seznam Zprávách, Podcasty.cz and in all podcast applications.