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Middle East Report – Dr James M. Dorsey

Azra Hoosen |
12 April 2024 | 13:30 CAT
2 min read

In war-torn Palestine, Syria, and Yemen, successive generations face bleak prospects with little hope for the future.

According to Dr James M. Dorsey, award-winning journalist and scholar, “Palestine is a pressure cooker”. He believes that discontent is mounting and could explode anytime in countries like Jordan, Egypt, and Iran.

He stated that Gaza’s youth have grown up surrounded by war and blockades. After each conflict, they must rebuild their shattered lives. Across the region, people are getting fed up with their governments and their situations. Dorsey emphasised that Palestine could become a focal point for widespread unhappiness, turning despair and frustration into militant action and it’s not a matter of if, but when this frustration will boil over into something bigger.

A recent Israeli air attack on a Gaza refugee camp resulted in the devastating loss of three sons and four grandchildren of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

“Even though Ismail Haniyeh has said the loss he suffered would not influence Hamas’s negotiating position, he also said it could strengthen Hamas’s resolve, which could mean Hamas is not going to back down from its demands in the ceasefire negotiations,” said Dorsey.

Dorsey thinks this could complicate negotiations, but points out that there have been some positive developments from both Israel and Hamas sides.

“We are talking about the two or three-phase ceasefire that would last anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks with a staged release of hostages in exchange for Palestinians held in Israeli prisons. Hamas said it would accept stages, which would mean the permanent ceasefire that it wants would only start in the second phase, and Israel has increased the number of displaced Palestinians in the south of Gaza who would be able to return to the north without Israeli security checks,” he said.

Dorsey points out that the loss of Haniyeh’s family or the Israeli attack on them could lead to tighter security around Hamas leaders in Gaza, which could make it harder for negotiators to communicate with Hamas leaders inside Gaza.

“There are two separate issues: Israel is going through the motions, albeit to a limited degree but nonetheless, to bow to demands put forward by US President Biden and that is particularly true on two counts, on Humanitarian aid supplies and military operations. On the humanitarian aid issue, we have seen in three days, 1200 trucks loaded with aid, whether fully loaded or not, go through Rafah and Kerem Shalom in Gaza,” he said.

Dorsey stressed that the absence of significant aid flowing into Gaza for the past six months is due to Israeli blockades, and this challenges its narrative that international ‘organisations can’t cope’, or ‘Hamas is looting’, or there is a ‘breakdown of law and order’.

“On the issue of military tactics, what Israel has demonstrated with the bombing of the Israeli embassy in Damascus, the killing of various Iranian operatives in Syria and the killing in January of Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri that it can very precisely target and they can do so with minimal damage and with relatively low collateral damage, without the deaths of innocent civilians, contrasting starkly on what we’ve seen happening in Gaza over the last 6 months,” he said.

Dorsey stated that the primary goal of the military operation has shifted away from achieving specific outcomes to focusing on the number of casualties inflicted. This shift largely explains the situation we’re witnessing in Gaza.

Dorsey also noted that Israel is preparing for a potential Iranian retaliation following the bombing in Damascus.

“Whether that comes from Iran itself or from Iran’s non-state allies, on the other hand, Iran doesn’t want an escalation, although it needs to show it needs to defend itself to avoid losing credibility. Furthermore, Iran, in a sense, is looking for a way out despite much of the rhetoric coming out of Tehran. So you see Iran saying they don’t need to respond if the International community responded with the condemnation of Israel, for example, of the bombing in Damascus, or they would not need to respond if Israel and Hamas agree on a ceasefire,” he said.

Dorsey emphasises that Palestine is undeniably a significant issue across the Arab and Muslim world, serving as a major source of motivation.

“The issue is, keeping in mind Jordan and Egypt are the ones closest to the conflict, and more importantly, Palestine or the Palestinian issue was frequently the lighting road to the expression of social and economic discontent that has nothing to do with Palestine and what we are seeing now is that the Middle East without Gaza already has significant discontent and frustration bubbling at the surface, but potentially the Gaza war and Palestinian issue could serve as a catalyst,” he said.

LISTEN to the full interview with Ml Junaid Kharsany and award-winning journalist and scholar, Dr James M. Dorsey, here. 


Dr. James M. Dorsey is an award-winning journalist, scholar, and Senior Fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute. He is the author of ‘The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer’.


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