What is the strategy of the rocket men?
To reveal before all the world the merciless barbarity of their opponents, as they render tens of thousands homeless, hundreds dead and thousands more injured, as they brutally rain down fire on residential homes and businesses in one of the most densely populated areas on earth?
Well, they have certainly achieved that, but at what cost? The obliteration of little children all dressed up for Eid? The cruel murder of bakers and barbers in cars blown to pieces? An impoverished people further vanquished?
What exactly is the strategy of the rocket men? What do they aim to achieve? Do they have strategic goals, other than to contrast their might to the feeble opponents in their territory they would have trounced in the polls had elections gone ahead as planned? Will their rockets cause their opponents to take them seriously at the negotiating table, giving them leverage they would not otherwise have had?
What do the rocketeers hope to achieve? The destruction of the occupying state? How so, when their salvos shoot most of the rockets out of the sky, and those that get through only ever seem to kill the elderly too weak to run away, or sleeping children in their beds? Victory by shock and awe, following the sunnah of Rumsfeld and Blair?
No doubt they believe they are David to their enemy’s Goliath, and God may grant them victory if He wills. Perhaps this is what they believe. Perhaps they will strike terror in the hearts of their foes, who in the end will be chased away to relinquish their claims to this land long drenched in blood, through three thousands years of conquest.
Or perhaps, if the slaughter gets too much, they may finally draw a neighbouring state, stirred momentarily by conscience, to act decisively to send fighter jets and long range missiles into the air. But that seems unlikely. To the south, the soulless Arab states have killed 20,000 civilians in Yemen themselves, leaving two million destitute, consumed by a ravaging famine. To the north and east, nations absorbed by their own catastrophes, half a million dead.
Protesters on the streets of western capitals demand that the international community, whatever that is, takes note and does something. The self-declared leaders of the faithful make suitable noises in public, liable to distract from economic woes at home, but keep the back channels open so as not to jeopardise trading ties and energy supplies. Another generation of youngsters is radicalised to lend the oppressed of this slither of land their sympathetic support: sloganeering first, then commendable charity through the aftermath.
But still nobody dares ask: what is the rocketeers’ strategy? What is it that they are actually trying to achieve? Why give an enemy seeking an opportunity to attack an ultimatum it will not hear? Get out of our sacred precinct, they demand, or we will strike you hard! Go ahead, their foes reply, armed to the teeth, and we will obliterate you. And so it proceeds.
Will the oppressed and unemployed masses of the divided territories be impressed by these theatrics? Will they be taken in by these calculations, and see the rocket men as the true inheritors of the land, so fearless and brave, standing up to the aggressors who make their lives nothing but misery? Is this latest onslaught a price worth paying for overall control of the territory, enabling their exiled leaders to return from their lives of luxury abroad and reinvest their billions in the betterment of the lives of their people?
Well I don’t know. I am a detached observer, looking in from afar, unhindered by poverty, unrestrained by oppression. Perhaps there is method in all this madness. But my heart says:
“You are not required to support the rocketeers. You have a freedom that many in their territory do not.”
No, I do not mean turn away from the dispossessed and ignore their suffering. No, no: condemn the brutality of the occupying forces, of course. That is the right thing to do. Lend the innocent your total support, to speak out against the excesses of the military offensive, ravaging the poor and vulnerable without pause.
But my heart interrogates me: must you become a mouthpiece for organisations that routinely detain and torture critics amongst their own people, for nothing more than demanding electricity or clean water? Nay, be glad that you have the freedom to speak your mind, without fear of who may come knocking, to beat you to a pulp for a hashtag you used on social media, or for a photograph you took of protests in your neighbourhood. No need to become a propagandist for men who suffocate their own people, who goad the other side to shower missiles down on the innocents amongst them, in order to cement their narrative firmly in place as true defenders of the faithful.
To be sure, you and I would not last a minute in their hands if we found ourselves in their lands. If we advocated for the progressive politics we champion at home, or spoke of the breadth of the Islamic tradition, or campaigned for better living conditions, or demanded the militias move out of residential zones, or spoke of peace, or patience and prayer, or simply said, “We want to live” — know that the judgement of sedition against us would be swift and unrelenting.
We will not learn of the dissent in the propaganda streams we disseminate, of course. No, for we have made the rocketeers a righteous army waging a holy war, praised all over despite the unending suffering they seem to bring upon men, women and children who wanted nothing more than to live their lives in safety. At this very moment in time, the territory is in the grip of a second wave of coronavirus infections. It was already suffering a shortage of hospital beds, oxygen supplies and medicines, with most of the territory declared a red zone. The last thing it needed at this moment was yet another all-out war.
There is no doubt that the corrupt politician in Jerusalem is flailing around in a last desperate bid to retain his grip on power. There is no doubt that this escalation in violence serves him well, and he will continue in kind until he commands the personal victory he demands. Corrupt men will forever seed corruption in the land. In this, the rocketeers serve him well. But then it has always been this way, ever since his predecessors carefully nurtured them to undermine the dominant political forces of the occupied territories forty years ago. Some call this blowback. Some call it a stupid mistake, a miscalculation. Some suspect that mistake continues to serve them very well indeed.
How well they serve the populations they are intended to serve, though: this is another matter altogether. Theirs is a long game, they claim. In the meantime, the innocent suffer at their enemies’ hands, made to endure another round of incomprehensible anguish.
Some men dream of sparking a new war to end all wars, setting the region alight once and for all, to remake it in their image. Some men dream that the neighbouring state will avenge those innocents in rage, so that the world’s superpowers may hit them hard, to bomb them back into the stone age. Some dream that a northern state will lash out unplanned, so that its reluctant allies may at last break with them and fracture their land into independent client states, subservient to the interests of Paris and Washington. Some men dream of resurrecting Malthusian philosophy to bring about a great cleansing of lesser peoples from the face of the earth. Some men dream of a new saviour to liberate them from their oppression and bring about an epoch of grandeur.
Ah, but no need to be a part of those men’s dreams. Men plot and plan, but Allah is the best of planners. His timetable will not be hastened by the plans of men. If the whole world were to gather together in order to harm you, they would not harm you except with what God has written.
Stand with the oppressed, the poor, the vulnerable. The men and women seeking bread to feed their children, not the religious mafia who have become nearly as oppressive as their enemy. Stand with those striving to create a healthy and safe environment for their people, not those who attack them as viciously as their sworn adversaries. Stand with the sincere, not those making risky calculations to gain and retain power amongst them, who put them in harm’s way over and over.
The truth is, corrupt politicians across the border need the rocketeers and the rocketeers need those combative nationalists. But the common man just needs bread, water and a living wage. The common man just wants to live in dignity, free to move, safe from harm, a secure roof over his head. What then is the strategy of the rocket men?