From sinking the French navy to terminating Hamas – Chuck Stephens

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By Chuck Stephens

In the summer of 1940, Winston Churchill made a deadly decision.  France had just surrendered to Hitler’s invasion.  The French fleet, one of the biggest in the world, was likely to fall into Hitler’s hands.  That would facilitate his crossing the English channel to invade England as well.  The other option was for the British to sink the whole navy of their ally.

Churchill gave a secret order and it was carried out on 3 July 1940.  Thirteen hundred French sailors died as a result in what France still calls its Pearl Harbour.

Some call his decision a turning point in the war, others call it a terrible betrayal and a war crime.  Such is war – a lot depends on your point of view.

Not all the navy ships were in French ports.  One was in a West African port, but it was sunk as well.  One of the sailors who went down with that ship was West African.  He was from a village in the interior.

Months later, Churchill learned that when the sad news reached his family, his parents held a memorial service for their son.  The casket was empty… and it was wrapped in the Union Jack.

Read more: Chuck Stephens: Irreconcilable differences lead to divorce, not marriage

I was reminded of this story as I wondered if 100% of Palestinian civilians support Hamas and its terrorism?  I have lived in war settings, and I remember what one civilian in Angola said to me as we had dinner in MPLA territory, talking about the civil war with UNITA.  His comment to me was “They eat meat too”.  That was as close as I could get to an admission that every enemy soldier did not have horns and a forked tail.

Polarization is a problem in the world, and the events of 7 October 2023 in Israel and in the Gaza strip since have caused even more polarization.  Israel is trying to observe the conventions of urban warfare, but there is a loud cry for proportionality.  The West is accused of having a double standard between Jews and Arabs.  There are allegations of war crimes and collective punishment – on the basis of humanitarian law.  Israel’s response is that Hamas uses civilians as human shields, which is against the Geneva conventions.

One key question is whether the Gaza strip is a state or not?  Every time people say it’s time to revisit the “two-state solution”, it sounds like there are not yet two states.  Only one, with Palestinians sequestered in a territory.  Many countries have territories.  Canada has provinces and territories.  India has state and territories.  Territories tend to be ruled directly by the central government, without a provincial or state government.  So is the Gaza strip really self-governed by regional autonomy?

Here is where it gets thorny.  Only 138 nations have ratified the PLO’s declaration of independence of 1988.  There are 193 nations in the UN, so there are 55 nations that do not regard Palestine as a state.  For example, the USA, Canada and several European countries.

Furthermore, only 165 states have recognized Israel as a nation.  That means that 28 nations think that the Jews are occupying a space that belongs to the Palestinians.  Mostly Muslim countries.

Let take an obvious example.  Under the Abraham Accords, countries like UAE, Sudan and Morocco have normalized relations with Israel.  This means that they have finally accepted Israel’s right to be there.  Whereas some countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran do not yet recognize Israeli sovereignty.  Saudi Arabia was warming up to this, but Iran is fixated on “wiping Israel off the map”.

This confusion explains why there are so many opposing takes on recent events in Israel and Gaza.  Because international law can be interpreted variously.  If Palestine is not yet a state, but technically occupied by Israel since the Seven Days War in 1967, then what Hamas did on 7 October was sheer terrorism.  An act of insurrectionists.  But if you regard Palestine as a state partially ruled by Hamas on the Gaza side, then this is conventional warfare.  Hamas is not a terrorist organization, it is a resistance movement.  That invaded Israel on 7 October.

I hear arguments on TV panels expressing the views on both sides.  But they are talking past one another.  Because one is speaking from a soap box assumption that Palestine is a state, and the other believes that Israel is still in charge of the whole space until a future two-state solution is reached.  And that Hamas has stepped way out of line, obligating Israel to eradicate it like Al Queda and ISIS before it.

Numerous European leaders have visited Israel in the wake of the 7 October pogrom.  They all come from countries that recognize the state of Israel’s legitimacy.  Thus their language is that Israel has a right to defend itself, because it was attacked.

Whereas Arab states have a different profile.  They do not recognize Israel, so they think that Israelis are occupying Palestinian land, and should leave or be eradicated. 

Read more: Understanding urban warfare: The truth behind what is happening in Gaza – Chuck Stephens

We laughed when Putin said that Russia invading Ukraine was a “special military operation”.  It was his way of saying that the eastern provinces of Ukraine were predominantly Russian, so he was not at war.  The West got behind the Ukraine because it had been invaded.  An international border had been crossed.  But is there an international border between Israel and Gaza?

Egypt apparently thinks not.  It guards its own border with Gaza and refuses to take in refugees.  This seems to imply that the Palestinians and Israelis share one and the same space.  They have to work it out “internally” between them.

Recently Tigray tried to secede from Ethiopia.  This caused a bloody war.  It was not allowed to leave.  How does this line of thought align with the two-state solution in Israel?  Basically, by taking it upon itself to eradicate Hamas, Israel is doing the tillage work.  The soil preparation and the planting of a future peace is predicated in eradicating terrorism.

About the UN talk shop howling over the rising death toll in Gaza… look, in Rwanda only thirty years ago, the death toll reached 800,000 without UN intervention.  The UN has no teeth.  At the end of the day, the future is still often decided on the battlefield.  Let us just hope that World War III has not already started.

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