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The Gaza Crisis: a Symbol of Civilizational Predicament

Updated: Nov 5, 2023

by Dr. Abdullah Ahsan

Dr. Abdullah al-Ahsan was a professor of Political Science and International Relations at Istanbul Şehir University. Before this, he was a professor of Comparative History in the Department of History and Civilization at International Islamic University Malaysia. He is known for his academic work documenting the Organization of Islamic Conference and addressing crises in the post-colonial Muslim world by studying the relationship between contemporary Western and Islamic civilizations.

Abdullah al-Ahsan completed his Bachelor's and Master's in Pakistan from the University of Punjab and Quaid-i-Azam University in General Studies and History, respectively. He continued his studies at McGill University, Montreal, Canada, doing a Masters in Islamic Studies. He finally gained his Ph.D. in History from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States.

Ahsan has published books, monographs, and articles on the relationship between contemporary Islamic and Western civilizations, explicitly focusing on education, politics, science, and good governance. Al-Ahsan is also a regular writer on current issues in the Muslim world. He regularly contributes to opinion outlets such as Aljazeera, Turkey Agenda, and the Turkish state-owned Anadolu agency, where he has written on Kashmir and democracy and human rights. His books and articles are available in Arabic, Bengali, Bosnian, Turkish, and Urdu.

His books are:

· The Organization of the Islamic Conference: Introduction to an Islamic Political Institution, (1988) ISBN 978-0912463131

· Ummah or Nation: Identity Crisis in Contemporary Muslim Society, (1992) ISBN 978-0860372202

· The History Of Al-Khilafah Ar-Rashidah, (2000) ISBN 978-4395106158

· Guidance for good governance: explorations in Qur'anic, scientific and cross-cultural approaches edited by Abdullah al-Ahsan, Stephen B. Young, (June 2008) ISBN 9789833855483

· Qur'anic Guidance for Good Governance: A Contemporary Perspective, 1st ed. (2017) ISBN 978-3319578729

Here, he gives his analysis of the Israeli war on Palestinians Arnold and the Western hypocrisy.

We are all witnessing the horrors of carnage that is going on in the tiny landmass called Gaza – a land squeezed between Egypt and Israel where 2.3 million people were living before the beginning of the butchery. Since 2005, when Gaza became a semi-independent entity, this is the sixth time that Israel has been conducting direct military aggression into the territory. It has led Operation Summer Rains in 2006, Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009, Operation Pillar Defense in 2012, Operation Protective Edge in 2014, and Operation Black Belt in 2019, every time declaring the destruction of Hamas as the objective. Will Israel succeed this time? The US administration has already declared unqualified support for Israel's war strategy against the advice of prominent intellectuals. Richard Haass, President Emeritus of the Council of Foreign Relations, has warned in a friendly advice in the Foreign Affairs that "Hamas is as much a network, a movement, and an ideology as it is an organization. Its leadership can be killed, but the entity or something like it will survive." In a separate article a week after the October 7 Hamas attack, Marc Lynch has cautioned that "An Invasion of Gaza Would Be a Disaster for Israel." Yet the Administration does not seem to have reflected on the overall situation. Why is this happening? Is this development unprecedented in history?

Arnold Toynbee on the possibility of the Third World War

These developments remind me of the British historian Arnold Toynbee's prediction in 1945 that "if a new war broke out, the Americans would be the aggressor." [1] Are we moving to demonstrate that Toynbee was right? Little over two decades later, he counted the United States as "one of the two malign imperialist powers in the postwar world; the other was the state of Israel." He justified his claim by saying, "must be today the two most dangerous of the 125 sovereign states among which the land-surface of this planet is at present partitioned." [2] He also suggested that "Israel's occupation of Arab territory constituted as vicious and inhuman an act as Germany's occupation of Czechoslovakia and Poland." Was Toynbee anti-Semitic? Have we even considered the question of why, after studying twenty-one different civilizations in history, he developed such a negative view of Israel and the United States? One must note that Toynbee had earlier edited the reputed Survey of International Affairs for decades.

The United States and Israel

Let us remember some events during the establishment of Israel in 1948. As soon as the State of Israel declared its independence, President Truman recognized the new state within eleven minutes of the declaration against the advice of George Marshall, the great American hero who had initiated the famous economic reconstruction program for Europe following the Second World War. As a student of history, I must recall that Marshall was the most knowledgeable person on international affairs in the Administration at the time. Marshall resigned in protest. Have we examined why Marshall was opposed to recognizing Israel?

The current situation also reminds me of the assassination of the Swedish diplomat and the Red Cross Chief Count Bernadotte. The newly created United Nations appointed him to negotiate peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. Still, the Israeli paramilitary group Lehi, also known as Stern Gang, murdered him in Jerusalem on September 17, 1948. Bernadotte had the reputation of saving more than 30,000 lives from Hitler's concentration camps. The US condemned the assassination, demanded a full investigation, and brought the perpetrators to justice. However, the whole issue died down slowly, and one of Bernadotte's assassins later became Israel's prime minister. This seems to have encouraged Israel to mock international law and all international mediation efforts in conflicts with the Palestinians and other neighboring states since then.

This also reminds me of how the policymakers have ignored prominent academics John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt's valuable work on The Israel Lobby and the US Foreign Policy. After failing to publish their initial findings in the US, they published their article in the London Review of Books. This only indicates the influence of money – the money that has corrupted our democracy. We do not realize how much we have degenerated over the decades, and now we express our horror at the murder of a six-year-old in the hands of an older man. American politicians, the mainstream media, and an influential segment of academia – have all marginalized the faculty of critical thinking. The paradox is that modern academic disciplines claim to follow the Socratic Method of inquiry, but in reality, they blatantly follow Sophistic relativistic philosophy. I became familiar with comparative civilizational studies at the University of Michigan under the guidance of Professor Stephen Tonsor, a practicing Catholic who had served in the Nixon Administration. I could quickly identify many divinely guided principles, such as universal human dignity, equality, and justice, that he used to highlight in class discussions. Tonsor used to highlight Toynbee's findings about classical Greece – how aristocrats had corrupted Greece with their money and Sophistic relativity. Following Toynbee's lessons, Tonsor unsuccessfully tried to generate 'the creative minority' among conservative Republicans in his dream to save America from money politics. He foresaw the corrupting influence of money not only in politics but also in higher education.

Bankruptcy of the American Political Establishment

The Gaza crisis has exposed the bankruptcy of the American political elite. Secretary Blinken invoked his Jewish ancestry while declaring the US' unconditional support for Israel following Hamas' October 7 attack. Was it a manifestation of good diplomacy? Was he then surprised when he had to wait several hours for a simple meeting in Riyadh with the Saudi Crown Prince? He is now facing a 'revolt' in the State Department. According to reports, the director of congressional and public affairs at the State Department's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, which handles arms transfers, resigned. Still, he seems to have been more worried about "Some of our colleagues in the region, especially among our locally employed staff, have been directly affected by the violence, including by losing loved ones and friends."

After retracting his claim of Hamas decapitating forty Israeli babies, President Biden has now claimed that "American leadership is what holds the world together." "American alliances are what keep us, America, safe. American values make us a partner that other nations want to work with," he insisted. Is he not mocking the dreams of America's founding fathers? We have witnessed mockery and lies in framing the clash of civilizations thesis, in carpet-bombing Afghanistan in 2001, in justifying the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and during the two decades of occupation of Afghanistan. President Obama, in a speech addressing Israelis in 2013, said, "Put yourself in Palestinian shoes." Earlier, he also had addressed the Muslim youth, generating a lot of hope with what he called "A new beginning." Still, in response to Hamas' October 7 attack, he came out condemning "brazen terrorist attacks on Israel and the slaughter of innocent civilians." Did he put himself in the shoes of the people of Gaza? Did he try to find out how the Gazans view Hamas? A few days later, however, with the caution that some of Israel's actions in its war against Hamas, like cutting off food and water for Gaza, could "harden Palestinian attitudes for generations."

I doubt whether anyone in the current Administration pays any attention to former presidents. We have noticed continuous deterioration of humanitarian values from President Carter to President Obama to President Biden. However, this is not the first time in history that we have witnessed a decaying power making hollow claims. Decaying powers throughout history have gone crazy in their killing spree. How terrifying is it going to be this time? I am not a military expert and cannot even conceive such a scenario, but I am afraid Israel does not seem to go a ground invasion: Israel wants Gazans to starve to death. We are already witnessing mockery in the name of allowing some trucks of humanitarian assistance to Gaza. What will happen to more than two million Gazans when every necessary item runs out? We have no idea what is happening to most families now, but most analysts are predicting the worst to come. If that happens, how will the rest of the world respond? President Biden is already claiming that America is holding the world together, but holding together for what? To force Gazans to starve? Arnold Toynbee prophesized America's future based on his studies of major world civilizations. A culture of fear and intimidation dominates the atmosphere today. Is the Gaza crisis a symbol of civilizational predicament?

Along with the climate crisis, the current situation has become even more complex. Are we very close to witnessing our civilizational collapse? It all depends on the American people whether they would subscribe to critical thinking or act accordingly or they would like to be manipulated by money politics.

[1] Arthur Herman, The Idea of Decline in Western History. (NY: The Free Press, 1997), 285.

[2] Ibid. 286.

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